The ExPat Returneth

Friday, November 9, 2012

LOWCOUNTRY BOIL Character Interview: Boats, Crazy Debs, and Madlibs

Today we're welcoming Blake, brother to PI Liz Talbot and chief of police on the low country island of Stella Marris. Blake took a job as a patrol officer in Stella Maris right out of college because it was one of only two openings in town, and he wasn’t qualified to teach Jazzercise. Five years later, Charlie Jacobs retired and the town council offered Blake the chief’s job. He was flabbergasted. He may be an accidental police chief, but he's a good one. You take care of what you love.

Let's see how Blake does under a little boil of our own.

1. You live on a boat. What's up with that?

I like to keep things simple. If you have a lot of space, you accumulate
stuff. Boats are small, less room for stuff. Women tend to want to help you
decorate if you have a house. They come to visit once or twice and start
leaving things "by accident." I spot that kind of thing real quick and can
nip it in the bud on a boat. And I like living on the water. Anytime I want,
I can motor out to my favorite fishing spot.

2. If I had to write a singles ad for you, what would it say?

It would say, "Forget this one ladies. He lives on a boat." I got nothing
against women, you understand. I just don’t want another one trying to
polish me like some damn-fool diamond in the rough. I've got a mother, two
sisters, and an administrative assistant all working on that. I figure
that's about all the polishing I can handle. Tell you what, you could put
this: If you like fishing, would be okay with a man who works all hours and
plays in a band if he gets a few spare minutes, and you would be interested
in living on a houseboat, give Blake a call. Oh, and "must have high
tolerance for crazy family." Be sure you put that in there.

3. Pirate or drunk debutante having a bad hair day?

Say what? Are you asking which one I'd rather hang out with? That would
definitely be the pirate. Debs are high maintenance to begin with, but one
with a snoot-full and cranky to begin with on account of she doesn't like
her hair? That'd be any man's nightmare right there.

4. You’re invited to a party. When you arrive, the house is dark, the
driveway deserted. You know the address and time are correct and when you try to call the host, you realize you’re in a wireless pocket. No bars. What do you do?

Well, if it's within a few weeks of my birthday, I ring the bell and act
surprised. Otherwise, I'd do a perimeter search--look around the yard, in
the windows. If there's still no sign of anyone, I'd approach the front
door, stand at one side and ring the bell. If no one answered, I'd try the
door. If it was locked, most likely I'd drive back a mile or so until I had
signal and try calling. If no one answered, and I couldn't reach anyone else
who was supposed to be there, I'd call for backup and a warrant and we'd
have a look inside the house. My suspicions would be sufficiently raised to
believe someone was hurt inside.

5. If your home island of Stella Maris voted to become a "dry town," you would...

That's about as likely as folks from Jupiter relocating to Stella Maris and
parking their spaceships at the marina next to my boat. In the unlikely
event such a thing happened, my biggest worry would be protecting the folks
that voted that in, and keeping the peace during the recall elections.

Ha! I guess you'd be forewarned enough to hide your stock of Guinness anyway. Although on a boat, you're options for storage are probably pretty limited. 

Let's play Mad Libs! Give me the following words (keeping it clean for the kiddos):
pet’s name:    Rastus
verb:           pick (as in, pick guitar strings)
holiday:         Memorial Day
gerund verb:  grilling
architectural term:   beam
location: beach
favorite alcohol: tequila

And your Mad Lib sentence is:

I found Rastus that Tuesday morning right where he picks every Memorial Day at eight:
grilling through the beam of the beach, the island’s tequila.

Ok that was really silly! I stole that sentence from Susan's first line in this excerpt from LOWCOUNTRY BOIL. Learn a little more about Blake in his natural surroundings in the excerpt below. First a little about LOWCOUNTRY BOIL and her author, Susan M. Boyer.

Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her. 

Website   Amazon     B&N     Fiction Addiction

Susan M. Boyer has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense recipient and an RWA Golden Heart® finalist.

I found Blake that Tuesday morning right where he is every morning at
eight: walking through the front door of The Cracked Pot, the island’s 
diner. I slipped behind him and followed him inside.

Moon Unit Glendawn owns the place. She greeted him as the door 
closed behind us. “Well, good morning, Blake. How are you this bright
sunny day?”

If she had been any more bright and sunny herself, she would have 
spontaneously combusted on the spot, leaving us to pour our own coffee.
“Doing great, Moony. Could use some coffee.” Blake hung his cap on 
the coat tree.

Moon Unit caught sight of me behind him. “Well, Liz Talbot, as I 
live and breathe. Welcome home.” She rushed out from behind the 
counter to hug my neck. Moon and I graduated from Stella Maris High the
same year.

Blake turned and stared at me as if he’d been hoping my presence in 
town was just a bad dream and was now dismayed by the contrary.
Moon swooped back to the other side of the counter and went about 
the business of getting us fed. “Coffee. Coming right up. Hash browns or

“Grits,” Blake said. “With red-eye gravy.”

My mouth watered. “Me, too, please. And could I have my eggs 
scrambled with cheese?”

“Sure thing.” Moon tore off the ticket and spun it back to the kitchen.

This was the first time I’d been inside since Moon Unit bought the 
former Stella Maris Diner and transformed it into something that was 
part small-town diner and part tropical café. She’d kept the white 
and pink ceramic-tiled floor but added skylights and live plants. 
The most striking feature was the far wall. It was paneled in white 
beaded-board and cov-ered in photographs.

Blake slid onto a stool and I took the one to his right.

I leaned in to him and spoke in an almost whisper. “When’s the last 
time you spoke to Merry?” I reached into my purse for my hand 
sanitizer and squeezed a generous dollop onto my hand. I offered it to
Blake, but he waved it off.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Day before yesterday? Why?”

Before I could launch into how our sister lost her mind, Moon walked 
over and poured our coffee. “I hear you got trouble brewing.” She 
replaced the pot on the warmer and slid onto the stool behind the 
counter. Her inquisitive hazel eyes jumped from me to Blake and back 
as she slid the cream and sugar within reach.

“What?” Blake measured precise amounts of cream and sugar into his

She leaned closer and lowered her voice, “A little bird told me 
Merry’s gonna build an orphanage over on Devlin’s Point.”

Blake stirred his coffee. I gulped mine.

“If you ask me,” she said, “there are way better places for an

First hurricane blows through here, all the orphans will have to go 
stay at a shelter.”

Moon leaned closer, in imminent danger of sliding off her stool. 
“That is, if you could get permission to put one up there in the 
first place, which everybody knows is never gon-na fly.”

“Camp.” Blake took a long sip of coffee.

“What?” Moon Unit and I both drew back and squinted at him.

He set down his cup. “It’s not an orphanage. It’s a camp for 
inner-city kids. Not a bad idea, you ask me.”

Moon looked horrified, and for possibly the first time in her life, 
was absolutely speechless.

I wasn’t. “Is there an outbreak of crazy here?”

“Relax,” he said. “It’s not what you think.”

Moon crossed her arms. “I’m just tellin’ you, that’s not what Tammy 
Sue Lyerly was tellin’ over at Phoebe’s Day Spa.”

“Yeah, well, more than hair gets twisted over there,” Blake said.

Coffee sloshed out of my cup as I sat it down. “I got the story 
straight from Merry, and—”

Blake put his hand on my leg and squeezed and I shut up.

No one squeezed Moon Unit’s leg. “Everyone is still in shock over 
poor Emma’s untimely departure for the hereafter, and she must be 
spinning in her grave already.”

Blake pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, some kids’ll camp on 
the beach for a couple of weeks each sum-mer.”

Clearly Blake had missed the part about the kids being felons from 
rival gangs. And the high-rise, state-of-the-art facility. Merry 
gave Blake, Mamma, and me each a different story. What the hell was she
up to?

Moon Unit grabbed our breakfast from the ledge and handed us hot 
plates. I let the first smoky bite of biscuit soaked in red-eye 
gravy melt on my tongue.

“Eh law.” Moon shook her head slowly, switching sub-jects. “I don’t 
think my mamma will ever get over finding Emma Rae like that.”

“I need a little more red-eye,” Blake said.

We had less than a minute of peace while Moon went around to the 
kitchen and came back with a bowl of gravy. She chattered on, and we 
both ate way faster than usual. Half a dozen bites later, I realized 
I’d missed a chapter in Moon Unit’s monologue.

At least she was carrying on about her family and giving ours a rest.

“Speaking of Little Elvis, I’m surprised he’s not following you 
around already this morning, Blake. Isn’t he late?”

Blake drained his coffee cup. “Since Elvis doesn’t work for me, he 
can hardly be late.”

“Well, he sure thinks he does,” Moon said. “Whizzing around with a 
walkie-talkie in one hand, steering his bike with the other. 
Patrolling, he calls it. All day long. Some of these smart-assed 
teenagers around here have been making fun of him again.”

Little Elvis Presley Glendawn was two years younger than me, but was 
developmentally challenged.

Blake looked at her and nodded once. “I’ll handle it.”

“He’s smarter than those punks in every way that matters. He just 
won’t grow up much more inside, is all.” She softened and gave Blake a
grateful smile.

“Probably gets on your nerves a lot, following you around, reporting 
in and all that. It’s real good of you to put up with it like you do.”

“Sometimes he tells me things I need to know.” He grinned. “Kinda 
like you do.”

He ducked as she swatted at him with the morning pa-per.
“Heck, Moony,” he said, “with you and Elvis around, I could cut a 
position from the patrol force.”

“I don’t know why I put up with you, I declare I don’t,” Moon said.
Blake looked at me. I drained my coffee cup as I stood. He laid a 
ten on the counter. “Breakfast was great, as always.”

“It was fabulous,” I added as we moved towards the door.
Outside, underneath the pink and white striped awning, I inhaled a 
therapeutic lungful of salt air. I looked at my brother. “What 
exactly do you mean, ‘It’s not what you think?’”

Blake took his time settling his cap on his head. He massaged his 
neck with one hand and gestured at me with the other. “I’m not 
getting in the middle of this.”

“You already are.”

“Just talk to Merry, okay?”

“I already have.”

“Try again. Tell her I said she’d better tell you the truth or I 
will. And remember, she means well. That’s all I’m saying. Except 
this: stock up on Guinness—Extra Stout.”


“For years, this family has done everything short of dragging you 
home by your hair. Now, when you should have stayed in Greenville, here
you are.”

His eyes locked on mine. “You’ll be seeing a lot of me. And I drink 
Guinness now.”


  1. Thanks for the fun, Susan and Blake! I'm glad I got to introduce you to Mad Libs, Susan. I so loved Lowcountry Boil and can't wait to read the next Liz Talbot and see if she keeps enough Guinness on hand for Blake's liking;)

    1. Larissa, this was such a fun blog! I can't imagine how I missed Mad Libs. Maybe I just forgot about them--who knows? Things keep falling out of my brain these days.

      Thank you so much--I'm delighted you liked Lowcountry Boil. I doubt Liz will be troubling herself with making sure she stocks enough Guinness to suit Blake, but we'll see.

      As you know, I'm a huge Cherry Tucker fan, and can't wait for her next adventure. Portrait of a Dead Guy is SUCH a fun read!! :)

      Thanks for having Blake over!

    2. I was glad to host Blake! I like the strong, silent, owning a boat type;)

  2. That was a really fun intereview to read! Now I have to check out the book!

    1. It's a great read Jayne! You will enjoy Lowcountry Boil. A delectable Southern mystery with a family of Steel Magnolias.
      And if any of your Blonde Leading the Blonde characters ever want to play Mad Libs, let me know;)

    2. Wonderful! Thank you, Jayne! Fingers crossed you like the book! :)

      Larissa, thanks so much!

  3. Oh my, I'm sure debutantes all our Charleston are just crying their poor little eyes out this morning, Blake.

    Puhleeze! Mamma, Merry, Nell and I have far better things to do with our time than ponder how to make you acceptable to the rest of the female gender.

    1. I meant to say, "Debutantes all over Charleston." I need to stop by The Book & Grind for another cup of coffee.

    2. LOL! Pleased to have you here, too, Liz! And Mama Talbot!

  4. What a cute post! I LOVE the Madlib and might steal it--not that exact one, just the idea of A Madlib. Thanks! (If I do use a Madlib, I'll wait a good long time.)

    1. Steal away Kaye George (& if you have a character who would like to play, let me know). Mr. Blake was very much the gentleman to play along with my silly game!

    2. I know Hortense, Imogene's mother and a retired librarian, would LOVE to play. She likes words.

  5. Great interview w/ Blake. And I love the Mad Libs!