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?
Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Number of Pages: 282
Series: Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads | Oblong Books and Music
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.
Q&A with Tina deBellegarde
What was the inspiration for this book?
I moved to the Catskill Mountain region a few years back. And after a few weeks taking beautiful walks like my protagonist Bianca St. Denis does in Winter Witness I realized that there were so many places to stage a murder! I love murder mysteries and I love well-developed characters. In my new home in the Hudson Valley I had found a setting that I could be immersed in for long periods of time, as well as interesting neighbors itching to be developed into characters for my fictitious village of Batavia-on-Hudson.
What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?
By far the biggest challenge has been finding a way to balance work, family obligations and my writing. Before I was contracted for Winter Witness, or had any of my short stories published, I found it hard to believe my writing deserved a space. That it was okay to take time away from other important sections of my life and to give writing it’s equal share. Publication was very validating and helped me bridge that difficulty.
What do you absolutely need while writing?
A cup of coffee and some jazz music! It’s not absolutely true…but I prefer it that way. In fact, I have specific music I associate with certain pieces of writing. For example, Winter Witness was written while listening to Cannonball Adderley’s album Somethin’ Else. Once I started those tracks, I was immersed in my village and my story, and the writing flowed. Book 2 of the Batavia-on-Hudson series, tentatively entitled Dead Man’s Leap, is being written while listening to Workin’ by the Miles Davis Quintet.
Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?
I try to have a writing routine. Coffee in the morning with my husband. or some reading, some exercise and then my writing. I will write for a few hours and then move on to other demands. Nowadays, those demands are mostly promotion related, but it would normally be errands and chores. I find that as long as I am writing on a regular basis, the ideas keep flowing. Sometimes I have to shelve ideas for later because they are flowing so well. That’s one of the reasons I find reading is so important. It’s when I break from my routine that ideas get stifled. The regular writing engenders more ideas and more writing.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Besides Bianca my protagonist, whom I know so well because I spend so much time with her, I’d have to say Lester Quirke. He’s a near centenarian. He’s a not-so-retired lawyer and owns the Bait and Tackle shop by the lake. He is fun. He is also wise and has so much insight, but he doesn’t take himself very seriously either. He’s the kind of friend everyone should have.
Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?
Before I decided to kill off Sister Elaine on the first page of the book, when she was scheduled to be killed later, I realized that she was the least flawed character and as a result, the least interesting. She was delightful, sweet, generous, perfect to a fault. Someone you could always count on. On the surface the most likable but the least interesting to write.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?
This wasn’t meant to be the first in the series. I had sketched out about five concepts and this one was scheduled to fall around book four. But when I analyzed the situation, this story was the most clearly imagined in my mind and therefore my strongest at that time. So I decided to develop it first. I had wanted to wait because I wanted the victim to be someone we knew more intimately before the murder. I wanted the reader to feel the impact as much as possible. In the long run, I am happy about my decision, but I still have the same desires for my writing. I don’t want my victims to go without leaving an impact.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Keep on reading! I’ve got six stories planned out so far. I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I spent 17 years as a middle school foreign language teacher. Before that I was a paralegal, and before that I worked for an exporter, which necessitated trips to Paris and Morocco. I thought that was pretty wonderful at 21. (An aside to my former students: See what knowing a foreign language can do?) Most recently I worked at the Catskill Public Library which I have always said was The Best Job Ever.
I recently did my graduate studies in history… just because.
I have a son Alessandro who lives in Kyoto, Japan, just like Bianca’s son does. He has made an interesting life for himself there, and it has given me the opportunity to visit several times. What an amazing place. I’m in love with it! I still have family in Italy and try to get back as often as possible. Other than Italy and Japan, one of my favorite trips was a 750-kilometer bicycle trip across the north of Spain on the Camino de Santiago.
What’s next that we can look forward to?
I am working on Dead Man’s Leap, Book 2 of the Batavia-on-Hudson series. It will be released September 2021. It’s a story about renunciation, letting go and moving forward. I’ve really enjoyed the process of working out this book.
Book 3, tentatively entitled Zen Fall, will release in 2022. This book has Bianca traveling to Kyoto, Japan. I can’t wait to get back there and do the research. Pay attention to my social media for my photos. Kyoto is a beautiful city.
I’m also stealing some time to work on a collection of Japanese themed interrelated stories, as well as a novella-in-flash.
And of course, I’m on a fabulous virtual book tour now with Partners in Crime. Check out my website for the schedule of upcoming stops. And sign up for my newsletter so you can stay up to date!
Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde:
tinadebellegarde.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!
Read an excerpt:
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Enter To Win!:
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) Amazon.com 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 copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.