Interview // Tina deBellegarde, Author of Winter Witness

Winter Witness Book Cover Winter Witness
Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, Book 1
Tina deBellegarde
Mystery Thriller & Suspense
Level Best Books
September 29, 2020
Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours

When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun’s closest friend, and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

However, Bianca’s meddling complicates the sheriff’s investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

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We love when authors stop by and share details about writing and what it means to them. Enjoy!

When was the moment that you knew writing would become part of your life?

About five or six chapters into writing Winter Witness I finally told my husband what I was doing. It was consuming my thoughts and I wanted him to know what was so important in my life. I felt like I was keeping this big secret from him. It was that decision, to say out loud “I am writing a novel” that clinched it for me. 

What was your most satisfying moment while writing Winter Witness?

About two-thirds of the way through, when I realized that I had it all figured out, it dawned on me that I could write the entire book. Up until then I had had a plan but I wasn’t completely sure I could execute it. Then one moment it all clicked and I knew that nothing would stop me from finishing. It would be just a matter of time. 

Did you find Winter Witness stayed along your chosen path or developed into a completely different book once completed?

I am definitely a plotter, not a pantser. That is, I am not one that writes without plotting in advance as many very successful writers do. I make a pretty clear outline, so the book definitely went along its planned path. But what did change was that the characters developed in ways I hadn’t envisioned up front. Whenever I was writing a particular part, I found that the characters often would make decisions and behave in ways that were “in character” and yet not planned. They showed a depth I hadn’t yet understood about them. It was like getting to know a new friend. 

How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?

First, I read … a lot. Then I stretched my writing muscles. I put Winter Witness aside so I could catch my breath. I wasn’t ready to face pitching to agents and editors. While Winter Witness sat on my desk it couldn’t be rejected. I wrote and submitted short stories and flash fiction instead. Some were accepted and won prizes. It boosted my confidence. Then I started pitching my book. 

If you only had one sentence to capture a new reader for your books, what would it be?

“He cried for the village that died with her that morning.”

Do you have a favorite genre you like to read?

I love my traditional mysteries, but besides those I love a particular type of literary fiction. Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Strout, and Gail Godwin are women writing about women. They are all masters of character development. I have always felt that even if their books had no plots, I would read them anyway. Also, I’m enjoying Japanese contemporary literature right now. Since my son lives in Japan I am immersing myself in their literature (and occasionally trying my hand at learning the language too.) I love Japanese literary sensibilities. The slice of life, the slow burn. I just love it. Haruki Murakami, Yoko Ogawa, Hiromi Kawakami, Aoko Matsuda, Mieko Kawakami, Sayaka Murata. So many good ones and I’m still investigating. I mention them by name in case someone is interested. It’s hard to jump into foreign literature without a bit of guidance. 

Can you tell us your favorite book and why?

The Man with the Load of Mischief by Martha Grimes is my favorite traditional mystery. It was after reading this book that I knew I could have an audience for Winter Witness

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is one of my favorite literary pieces. Her ability to develop character and relationships under the extraordinary circumstances of a hostage taking was spectacular.

On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a poetic novel. You “feel” every word. There are so many small perfect nuggets in that book that it ushered me into writing flash fiction.

I guess that’s not one book…

What author has inspired you the most in your writing?

Anne Tyler’s ability to craft characters. As I said earlier, I don’t need a plot when I read her books. 

What one book do you recommend that every mystery lover read (not including your books)?

The Richard Jury series by Martha Grimes that begins with The Man with a Load of Mischief would be my choice. It has all the traditional mystery elements we all love but with well-developed characters as well as a cozy village life for that touch of warmth. 

What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing? 

Write and submit and hopefully get published. I love writing short stories and flash fiction. Just writing them is immediately satisfying. Getting them published is icing on the cake.

Of course, we have to know, what is in-store next – books, events, etc.?  

Dead Man’s Leap, Book 2 of the Batavia-on-Hudson series, is due to my editor after the New Year and will be released September 2021. It’s a story about renunciation, letting go and moving forward. 

Book 3, tentatively entitled Zen Fall, will release in 2022. This book has Bianca traveling to Kyoto, Japan. I will head out there again as soon travel returns to normal. Make sure you follow my social media. You can’t take a bad picture in that beautiful city.

On the back burner I have a collection of Japanese themed interrelated stories, as well as a novella-in-flash. Hopefully I can get some time to work on those. 

I’m on a fabulous virtual book tour now with Partners in Crime. You can check my website for the schedule of remaining stops as well as visiting the past stops for archived blog posts. 

I am scheduled for upcoming conferences, some are still planned for in-person, others virtual. So far I will be at Malice Domestic 4/30/21 to 5/2/21 and New England Crime Bake 11/12/21 to 11/14/21 –  just two weeks after my second book releases. Can’t wait!

Thank you, Tina, for stopping by and sharing your love of writing! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tina deBellegarde. There will be 6 winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Gift Card. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) physical copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde (U.S. addresses only) and two (2) winners will each win one (1) eBook of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020, and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Winter Witness is the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son, Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Click here to view Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde Participants via Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.