Through the years, Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers is the first in her cozy mystery series, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries. She also writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series set in Virginia.
Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Deadly Southern Charm, and Murder by the Glass, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series. Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
You’re getting ready to release a new cozy mystery series that features “glamping.” What inspired you to write this series? What other books have you written?
My husband does a lot of restoration projects (vintage cars, boats, and room remodels), so we watch a lot of renovation shows. We landed on one where a team refurbished vintage trailers, and I thought this would be a cool twist on a traditional campground. Jules Keene owns the Fern Valley Camping Resort full of posh trailers that she and her father saved from the scrapheap. It’s so much fun coming up with cool amenities for “glamorous camping.”
I write the Jules Keene series. This is the first. The next two are FILM CREWS AND RENDEZVOUS, and CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND CAT FIGHTS. I also write the Delanie Fitzgerald series. She’s a sassy PI from Central Virginia who gets into way more trouble than I do.
Describe a typical writing day for you.
I still have a day gig in IT, so I try to write every day. I start at 5 AM, and I write until works starts at 7:30. Then I write during lunch, and if I didn’t hit my word count, then I’ll do some more in the evenings.
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?
There are so many. My mystery habit started out with the Nancy Drew series and Agatha Christie. I’m still an English major at heart, so I love Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Austen, Hitchcock, and Dickinson, but I always gravitate back to mysteries and thrillers. My favorites are Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, S. A. Cosby, K. L. Murphy, Kellye Garrett, Ellen Byron, Laura Childs, Libby Klein, Sherry Harris, Louise Penny, Diane Kelly, and Bree Baker (to name just a few).
What things influence your writing?
I’m a C. K. (cop’s kid). I thought everyone talked about murder, mayhem, and crime at the dinner table. (I was shocked to find out that they didn’t.) One of my first jobs as a kid was to pick up the shell casings on the range after my dad practiced. He’s retired now after 46 years on the force, but he’s still my best resource. There are just some things that you don’t want to Google like, “hey dad, what’s a meth lab smell like” or “how long would a body stay submerged if I weighted it down with a cinderblock.”
I think the people around me are big influencers, too. They all have great stories to tell. I listen to dialogue, and I’m always jotting down ideas that often make it into a story.
What do you want readers to experience when they read your work?
I would love for them to experience a fun story and be challenged by a mystery with a lot of possibilities. I also want them to see that it’s not always about the murder or the crime. It’s about justice and fair play winning in the end.
What kind of research do you conduct for your books?
I actually do a lot of research for fiction. I want to make sure that things I mention are real or plausible. For VINTAGE TRAILERS AND BLACKMAILERS, I did a lot of research on classic campers and tiny houses. I am fascinated by both, and people have done some really creative things. Jules Keene decorates each trailer with a theme, so I do research to make sure my history and details are correct.
Describe a book that changed your life.
That’s a tough one because I learn something from every book. I like books that inspire me and that generate creative ideas. Going back to elementary school, I was fascinated with the Nancy Drew series. My friend and I raced through the whole collection at the school library and later at the public library that summer. Nancy was teen who was able to solve crimes that the adults couldn’t. She had great friends, a cool car, and the freedom to sleuth. I loved that she was a normal teenager, and that was inspiring to a little girl in the fifth grade.
If your books were to made into films, who do you see in the major roles?
Jules has long red hair. I could see Chloe Grace Mortez, Florence Pugh, or Hayden Panettiere as my sleuth. Tyler Posey or Taylor Lautner could play Jake, and I see Kyra Sedgewick, Mary Steenburgen, or Helena Bonham Carter as Jules’s aunt, Roxanne.
I’m a Gen-Xer who loves pop culture, so the book does have some movie allusions. Jules’s name came from Demi Moore’s character in ST. ELMO’S FIRE, and Jake was named after Jake Ryan in SIXTEEN CANDLES.
What book do you think everyone should read?
I think people should read everything they can get their hands on. Read lots of genres and different authors. Read different cultures and points of view. To be a good writer, I think you need to be well read. (And you can never have too many books.)
What book are you recommending right now?
It’s always the book that I’m reading at the moment. There are so many good books out there. I’m reading the Louise Penny Gamache mysteries right now. I just finished THE NATURE OF THE BEAST. Next up is S. A. Cosby’s RAZORBLADE TEARS. I loved his first novel, BLACKTOP WASTELAND.
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There is nothing like finding a dead body, clad only in a red satin thong, on your property to jolt you from a quiet routine. Jules Keene, owner of the posh Fern Valley Camping Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is thrust into the world of the Dark Web when one of her guests, Ira Perkins, is found murdered in the woods near her vintage trailers. Jules quickly discovers that the man who claimed to be on a writing retreat was not what he seemed, and someone will go to any length to find what he left at her resort. Jules, along with her Jack Russell Terrier sidekick Bijou, has to put the rest of the missing pieces of a blackmailing scheme together before her business is ruined.
Jules’s resort, set in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville in the quaint town of Fern Valley, offers guests a unique vacation in refurbished and upcycled vintage trailers. Hoping to expand her offerings, she partners with her maintenance/security guy to create a village of tiny houses, the latest home DIY craze, but a second murder of a reporter interrupts Jules’s expansion plans. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she steps up her sleuthing to find out what Ira Perkins was really up to and what he was really hiding at her resort.
Apple Books: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers on Apple Books