Mysteries in the Garden

2013-08-06T12:08:00Z Mysteries in the GardenJane Ammeson nwitimes.com
August 06, 2013 12:08 pm  • 

Linda Tsourtsouris dashes off novels the way many of us write grocery lists. Tsourtsouris, a Valparaiso resident who writes under the pen name Kate Collins, is the author of the popular The Flower Shop Mysteries series whose protagonist, Abby Knight runs Bloomers, a floral shop – that is when she isn’t solving mysteries. And for some reasons, homicides seem rampant in the charming town of New Chapel (think Valparaiso) where Abby lives.

This week, Seed No Evil, (Signet $7.99) the 14th in the series, is being released and Collins has already completed her next Abby Knight novel, Throw in the Trowel, due out this coming February.

“I'm currently looking for a good title for book #16 in the series, which I'll begin writing this month,” says Collins, “I can't wait to see what new mystery awaits Abby. It's always a surprise to me.”

Born and raised in Hammond, graduating from Morton High School, Collins has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Purdue University in elementary education. She taught at Frank H. Hammond Elementary in Munster until her first child was born.

“I then retired and looked around for some way to scratch my creative itch. It took many attempts at crafting—I learned all of them—seriously, even rug hooking before I saw an ad for a course in writing stories for children and teenagers,” she recalls. “When I finished it and sold my first short story, I knew then where my future lay.”

Before her prolific output of Flower Shop Mysteries, Collins authored seven historical romance set in Indiana and Illinois in the 1800s.

“All my romance novels had mysteries in them,” she says. “My editor at the time told me that I had to tone down the mystery aspect.”

Rather than do that, Collins instead decided to write mysteries with a romantic aspects.

In Seed No Evil, Abby finally marries her long time boyfriend, the sexy Marco. But what’s a wedding without homicide? Particularly if you’re Abby Knight.

“Let me say first how excited I am about this particular book,” says Collins. “Fans have been waiting for this one for a long time and it's finally here. The wedding. Of course Abby has to get involved when she finds out her local animal shelter is going to switch from a no-kill to a kill. She'll fight tooth-and-nail to stop that, which gets her involved in quite a murder case.”

When Collins decided to stitch from romance to mysteries, she thought about having her main female character be an attorney. When her editor discouraged that, saying it had been done to death, Collins, an avid gardener, came up with the idea of a flower shop. Now, besides working on her next Flower Shop Mystery and re-releasing four of her seven historical romances (which are available through links on her website: katecollinsbooks.com) with plans to transfer the other three to digital in the near future, she is at work on her new garden.

“I am in love with my new garden,” says Collins. “My former house was nearly in the woods, so for the 15 years I lived there, I had just a tiny spot on the deck to grow tomatoes, and then only in pots. You should see my tomato plant here! It's humongous! It could be a horror movie: Night of the Living Tomato Plant. I also have a banana pepper plant, which I thought was just a banana pepper plant until I bit into it. Now I know it's a hot banana pepper plant. My basil plant is so big I could keep an Italian restaurant supplied. My grape tomatoes are as big as plums. My petunias, in my favorite combination of bright pink, dark purple and white, are beautiful. I get lots of southern and western exposure, so it's the ideal place to grow things. Nirvana.”

Some of her readers not only ice the mysteries but also the flower arrangements Abby designs, witting Collins to say they’re planning to make the flower arrangements mentioned in her books.

Besides flowers, one of the trademarks of her mysteries is the play on plant words in the title. Nightshade on Elm Street was a New York Times Bestseller. Other titles include A Rose from The Dead and Sleeping with Anemone. The title of her newest book ties in with a character in the novel, an abused and sad looking dog named Seedy.

“Her puppy is called Seedling,” says Collins. “Readers will love them both.”

Collins also used a touch of whimsy when choosing her own nom de plume.

“I picked the name Collins because it represents my Irish and English heritage,” she says noting that her maiden name was O’Brien. “And also because it puts me next to Michael Connelly on the bookshelves and that’s a good place to be.”

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