Joanne Phillips talks about keeping a series fresh (and a giveaway!)

joanne phillipsJoanne Phillips lives in Shropshire, England with her husband and young daughter. Since leaving school she’s worked as a hairdresser, an air hostess and a librarian, but now divides her time between writing novels and freelance indexing. She’s the author of commercial women’s fiction Can’t Live Without and The Family Trap, and the Flora Lively Investigates series of cozy mysteries. Can’t Live Without was an Amazon top 100 bestseller in 2012 and her books regularly appear on category bestseller lists. Joanne is doing a guest post today as part of her Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour and I’ll be reviewing MURDER AT THE MAPLES below. Joanne will be giving an ebook to one person who leaves a comment below and there will be an Amazon giftcard for one person who enters HERE. Welcome, Joanne.

Keeping A Series Fresh

When I embarked on my first cozy mystery series featuring Flora Lively I knew I wanted to get at least five books out of her, if not more! I’ve read a lot of series where there is practically no character development at all, so I also knew that Flora would need to grow and change as the books went on. This meant I had to give her quite a few potential problems and issues on a personal level, as well as the necessary mysteries that make up the plotlines of the books!

This is perhaps the most fun part of being a writer – dreaming up a history for a character, piling problems on their shoulders and seeing how far they go before they crack under the strain. Flora was adopted as a baby, but has never sought out her birth parents. Her adoptive parents, both lovely people, died 18 months ago, and Flora is left in charge of the family business while struggling with her sense of responsibility and guilt. Of course, this leaves it open for her birth parents to try and find her in future stories, or vice versa, as well as opening up myriad possibilities for Flora’s psyche.

Then there’s Marshall (my personal favourite character). I grew up watching Moonlighting with a young Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd. I loved their will they/won’t they romance, and I decided to give the Flora Lively series this romantic edge. Marshall and Flora clash all the time, but underlying their working relationship is a real – if very hidden! – affection and regard. To round things out I decided not to abandon Flora completely without family so I gave her a sage old uncle to help keep her grounded – and Uncle Max is a great character in his own right, adding a lot of light relief.

Although each book in the series will be a stand-alone mystery, I do have a rough outline of how Flora’s character will develop and what path her life will take. The Flora we see at the end of book 5 will be a very different person than the woman we meet at the beginning of book 1. And that, to me, is the point of a series – not just a number of books connected by a theme or a character, but each being part of a whole with its own character arc and journey.

Thank you so much for being on my blog today, Joanne. Readers will find my review below along with all of Joanne’s links and the list of the tour participants.

BLURBmurder at the maples cover

A tragic death. A reluctant sleuth. A childhood prank that went horribly wrong.

When Flora Lively inherits her father’s business she’s totally out of her depth. Shakers Removals is in trouble, and manager Marshall isn’t helping one bit – the ex-pat American delights only in winding her up. But Flora has other things on her mind, like Joy: surrogate grandmother and resident of the Maples Retirement Village. When Joy’s pet pug has a brush with death, Flora is pulled into a series of bizarre incidents at the Maples, where fear is starting to take hold.

Could harmless old Mr Felix really be the boy from Joy’s past, determined to exact his revenge, or is it Joy’s guilty mind playing tricks on her? And what about the Captain’s death? Accidents happen, even to the most careful people, but Flora’s not convinced the old man simply fell down the stairs … Playing detective seemed like a good idea at first, but before long Flora realizes the stakes are far higher than either she or Joy imagined.


I enjoyed reading this book. But for much of the book, I didn’t think it was much of a mystery. I thought it leaned more toward the romance category. The unrequited type. The mystery seemed to be entirely in the head of Flora’s elderly friend, Joy. As she was investigating, even Flora thought most of it was just in Joy’s head and a guilty conscience over a childhood incident. Flora seemed more concerned with her business, her rather wishy-washy boyfriend, her attraction to her business manager – Marshall, and her daydreams about her green eyed business rival. But then Flora discovers the Captain left everything to a rather dubious charity the day before he died. Suddenly the pace quickens until a very nail biting climax. But wait, it’s not done yet! Quite a surprise at the end. I will look forward to the next book in this series. ♥♥♥♥½

Author Links:






Tour Participants

October 7 – My Devotional Thoughts – – Guest Post

October 8Traveling With T – Interview

October 9Socrates’ Book Review Blog – Review, Guest Post

October 10 readalot – Review

October 11Shelley’s Book Case – Review

October 12Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – Review, Guest Post

October 14 –  Queen of All She Reads – Review, Guest Post

October 15Chloe Gets A Clue – Interview

October 16rantin’ ravin’ and reading – Review, Guest Post

October 17Brooke Blogs  – Review, Interview

October 18StoreyBook Reviews – Review

October 20A Chick Who Reads – Review

October 21THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK – Review

October 22Dru’s Book Musings – Guest Post

Published by Kate Eileen Shannon

Artist, Crafter, Writer, purveyor of ephemera and bagatelle

9 thoughts on “Joanne Phillips talks about keeping a series fresh (and a giveaway!)

  1. Thanks so much Kate for your lovely review, and for having me on your blog as part of my tour. Next time I promise to plunge Flora right into the heart of the mystery from page 1 🙂 – A Date With Death will be published next year. I love your blog and I’m really interested in She Writes – I’ll be checking that out very soon. Great to meet you, Jo x


  2. This post and review was fantastic. I would love this book. Thank you for the chance of a giveaway.


  3. Sounds wonderful! I always enjoy a love interest in a cozy mystery. For me, the ups and downs of the relationship becomes a fun thread that draws me on from book to book.


  4. I guess I never really thought about what it would take to plan out a series of books. One would have to have a ‘back story’ for each character, and really have an idea about the main characters personality, habits, direction, etc. One would not want to have a character have several siblings in one book, then in another have no family. Or, in other ways contradict the stories.
    Having said all that, I do think Flora is going to be a delight to read about. It will be interesting to see where you (Joanne) take her character. And if she will finally come to terms (and have a real romance) with Marshall. [BTW, I enjoyed watching Moonlighting as well.]


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