Coffee and crime? Count us in!

Grounds for Murder’s tongue-in-cheek title alone gives us a glimpse of the fun to come when reading the novel. Somehow, author Tara Lush manages to do it all in her playful first book in her Coffee Lovers Mystery Series starring a formidable (yet relatable!) heroine, Lana Lewis.

We were delighted to ask Lush some questions while we await the next installment. In this interview, she tells us about the Sunshine State, how she storyboards her books, and her favorite takeaway from the experience of writing this multifaceted murder mystery. If you’re interested in learning more about the book, read our review here.

Q: With Grounds for Murder, you manage a clever juxtaposition of thriller and beach read. How did you set about creating the perfect balance?

A: I knew I wanted the protagonist’s voice to be light and funny, but I also wanted a legitimate mystery. So, before writing, I heavily plotted the book with lots of clues and red herrings. I aimed to keep the reader guessing — while laughing.

Q: Did you have to do any fun research to get those details about the coffee-shop environment so spot-on?

A: The coffee research was the best part of writing this book! In my city of St. Petersburg, Florida, there is something called the Craft Coffee Tour, where a coffee expert takes people to various cafes around town and explains the brewing process and different blends. I went, drank tons of coffee, and later talked with the tour host about the issues that a cafe owner would face.

Q: Florida itself is such a colorful character in this novel. Does your home state inspire you in other ways?

A: Florida is inspiring in every way, from the beautiful beaches and sunsets to the weird crime and strange news. Almost all of the “weird Florida” moments in the books are either things I’ve written about as a journalist or read about in newspapers.

Q: What came first in the brainstorming process, the twists and dramatic ending or the world-building and character arcs?

A: The dramatic ending came first! I needed to know where I was headed with the writing. I first decide who the victim is, then who killed the victim and why, and then I plot backward from there. For Grounds for Murder, I knew I wanted to set the series in a coffee shop on a Florida island, so everything was also built around that context.

Q: One thing we loved about the book was the generous sprinkling of humor throughout. Do you consider yourself a particularly funny person? After reading, it’s hard to picture you otherwise!

A: I think my friends would say that I’m funny, yes! I’ve found, though, that humor is really difficult to write in fiction. This is the first book in which I feel like I’ve approached a level of passable humor. It’s definitely a learning process.

Q: Can you give us any hints as to what to expect from Lana in her next adventure?

A: The next book is called Cold Brew Corpse and will be out in late 2021. It begins right after Grounds For Murder ends. Lana must grapple with her budding relationship with Chief Noah and a new homicide that’s quite close to home.

Buy this book!

About Tara Lush:

Tara Lush is a Florida-based author and journalist. She’s an RWA Rita finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow and the winner of the George C. Polk award for environmental journalism. Since 2008, she’s been a reporter with The Associated Press in Florida, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters and politics. She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations under the name Tamara Lush. Tara is a fan of vintage pulp fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, 1980s fashion, tropical chill, kombucha, gin, tonic, seashells, iPhones, Art Deco, telenovelas, street art, coconut anything, strong coffee and newspapers. She lives on the Gulf coast with her husband and two dogs.