Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Interview & Excerpt ~ DEATH IN CASTLE DARK by Veronica Bond

Death in Castle Dark (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery, #1)
by: Veronica Bond
Series: A Dinner and a Murder Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Publisher: Berkley Books
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Actor Nora Blake finds her dream job when she is cast in a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. When she stumbles upon a real murder, things take a nightmarish turn in this first book in an exciting new series.

Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe's intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale-like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora's second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig--or to be the next victim--Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.

Hi Veronica. Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
I am doing well! I lost some of my vision in November, but I am adapting quickly to the new normal.

I’m REALLY sorry to hear that. But I’m happy you’re adapting. In case people don’t know, your actual name is Julia Buckley. Veronica Bond is your newly created pen name. How did you come up with the name?
My grandmother’s name was Julia, but her middle name was Veronica, so I thought this was a nice way to honor her. And because Veronica has so many syllables, I thought I’d use a one-syllable last name.

Your A Dinner and a Murder Mystery series revolves around dinner and theatre. Have you ever been to a dinner/murder mystery before? If so, please tell me what you liked/loved about it.
There are wonderful theaters all around Chicago, but there was one (now closed) called the Candlelight Dinner Theater. I went there many times and saw musicals like South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, Evita. They seated you at a round table with everyone in your group, and you were served a three-course meal while you watched the musical. I loved the whole experience, and I miss that theater. Pretty much from the first bar of music I was already crying. 😀

Death in Castle Dark is your first book writing as Veronica Bond. What can readers expect from it?
I like to think of it as Cozy-Gothic. It has definite cozy elements like animals, fun characters, beautiful places, romance. But it also has some Gothic elements: creepy dark hallways, hidden passages, scary encounters with monstrous things . . . It all ends up blending pretty well.

Please tell me about your protagonist Nora Blake.
Nora Blake is 28. Since graduating from college, she’s worked as an actress in Chicago. She is a singer, a musician, and a stage actress, and her talent has kept her working fairly regularly, although she’s had to take some odd jobs here and there. She has parents and twin brothers in Chicago, and an older sister in New York. She is reluctant to take the job at the castle because it’s more than an hour away from her family, but she does so because of the lure of free room and board, along with a paid gig.

Can you tell me a little about some of the secondary characters we’ll see in the book and series?
Nora is hired by the castle’s owner, Derek Corby. He and his brother Paul run the castle, which was built after WWI by their eccentric great-great-great uncle. She is welcomed to the castle by an ebullient twenty-something named Connie, who is one of the actresses in the troupe. She soon meets the other actors who live in the castle, including Garrett, Renata, and Elspeth, who is also the costume manager. Another actress in the troupe lives in town with her husband. Some sub-characters include Jade Balfour, whose parents run the local bakery, and Jay and Luke Blake, Nora’s twin teenage brothers, who make an impact wherever they go. There is also a mysterious gardener named John who will become more important as the novel goes on.

What’s the favorite part of a cozy mystery to write?
I like a lot of parts. Beginnings are fun because ideas pop up like popcorn while I’m creating, and I can say, “Oh, yes, I’m going to make this detail important,” or “I think this character will have a limp,” or “This character is tone deaf, but always wants to sing.” But I do love building up to those big, dramatic moments. Those revelations are lots of fun, especially the dialogue. The hardest parts are the little connective bits between the important touchstones of plot.

Are you a plotter or panster?
I’m a hybrid. I write a general outline, but I am more creative if I just plunge right in and make some decisions on the fly.

You know me. Is there any romance on the horizon for Nora?
And I think you know my writing well enough to know that I myself am a big softie of a romantic. I’ve had readers complain that I put too much romance in my novels, in fact, but more of them like the love relationships. Nora will have a romance; I just finished book two, and there’s a particularly romantic scene in that one, but you’ll get your fair share in book one. 😀

Thank you. If Nora was a real person and I could sit down and talk with her, what do you think she would say about you?
If Nora told you about me, she'd probably find me similar to her friend Renata, in that I'm twice her age and sometimes feel maternal toward her, but I can also be a fun and creative companion. She'd probably also note that I am far more fond of sitting around and doing nothing as opposed to going on adventures with her, but we compromise in that I write the adventures, and she experiences them. 😀

What’s next for you?
The answer to that depends on whether my two series are renewed or not. If they are, I’ll be writing more books in those series. If they are not, I’ll be plowing into some new projects. I’m toying with a romance idea that I had, and I’m working toward a self-published book that I’m contractually allowed to do, so that will be on the drawing board, too. If I find time, I’ll write another Writer’s Apprentice short story. I have one on Amazon already.

Veronica/Julia, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me.

On Wednesday I drove out of Chicago in my elderly Saab, hopped onto the toll road south, then took an exit that led quickly into farmland and some wooded subdivisions. After that came more scenic vistas of just grass and sky, and the air became intoxicating with the scent of sweet summer grasses (and a hint of manure). Finally I saw a sign that read: Now Entering Wood Glen. Not much later I saw a giant billboard dominated by a picture of a castle. The top of the billboard read: The Most Mysterious Fun You’ll Ever Have! And along the bottom was just the web address CastleDark.com.

Derek had told me that the billboard was surprisingly effective; many people drove past and then looked for the site on their phones.

I followed Derek’s map, worrying that I wouldn’t find the “subtle opening” that would take me down a wooded dirt road and then up the long driveway to the castle itself. But Derek surprised me: I saw a red balloon staked into the ground in front of a stand of pines, and a sign that read: Welcome, Nora.

“That’s a cute touch,” I murmured, slowing down, then turning onto a road carpeted by fragrant pine needles. I assumed that “castle” was a euphemistic way of referring to some big banquet-hall type of place. The website sported some impressive interior pictures, but not that many outdoor shots of Castle Dark, which had made me suspicious.

Still, when I reached another gap in the trees marked by a sign that read: Entrance to Castle Dark. I felt a little flutter of anticipation. The driveway was long and curving, flanked by magnificent summer bushes with flowering blooms—I thought the rich pearly pink blossoms might be gardenias—and the sweet scent lifted my spirits.

“It’s like going to Manderley,” I said to myself, and when I steered around a slight bend, there was an opening in the wall of foliage, and before me was a real, bona fide castle with turrets and gray stone and mullioned windows. It was enchanting and surprisingly large. How in the world did Derek pay for the upkeep of this place?

I followed a sign that pointed to a parking area, then got out and stretched. The air was fresh here, and a cool breeze wafted over me as I contemplated a gray-stone-and-brick wall. For just an instant I had a feeling that I had traveled back in time and across the sea, where castles were more plentiful and dotted country landscapes just like this one. . . . But of course that was the effect the builders had been going for. I walked up the pebbled parking area, then turned left and stepped onto a brick walkway that led to the main entrance and its massive wooden door. I lifted the gold knocker and let it fall; a moment later the door opened and a blond woman peered out at me. She was pretty and young, probably in her mid- to late twenties, and she wore an eager expression. “Oh, are you Nora? God, you’re perfect for Carly’s role. All that dark hair. Very dramatic. Elspeth will have a field day doing your makeup.”


She laughed and reached out with both of her hands to pump one of mine in welcome. “I’m Connie. I’m in the cast. I play Derek’s cheating wife. Derek says if you take the part I need to walk you through your lines and the basics of our mystery and of course the castle itself.”

“Okay, great.”

She grinned. “I suppose I should invite you in.”

“I am pretty curious, now that I’ve seen the outside. It’s a real castle.”

Connie opened her pretty blue eyes wide. “Right? I thought the same thing—that it would be some tacky old casino-looking junk heap in the woods. You’re going to be impressed, Nora, really.”

From DEATH IN CASTLE DARK published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Veronica Bond.

Purchase Death in a Castle Dark from:

Veronica Bond is the pseudonym of a beloved Julia Buckley who has taught high school English for twenty-nine years. She has loved reading and writing since childhood. Julia is still a sucker for a great story, and, like any bibliophile, she loves libraries, Scholastic Book Fairs, the smell of ink, pads and pens, typewriters, and books you can't put down. Julia lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband Jeff, a giant dog named Digby and three spoiled but wonderful cats. She has two grown sons and a beautiful daughter-in-law.

Places to find Veronica Bond/Julia Buckley:



  1. Great interview and look at the excerpt! I really have only read the basic synopsis online, so fun to learn more! I pre ordered it, hope my copy arrives soon!

    1. Thank you! The book is definitely on my reading list. I hope you enjoy.


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