Sharon Hartley and I are members of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Over lunch one day we got to talking about growing up in Miami and so naturally I had to have her on my blog. Beyond being a bird nerd (which has me fan-girling) , she writes killer romantic suspense novels. I think you will fall in love with Sharon and the Miami Beach police detective character she writes.
1. Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.
I grew up in Miami and went through the Dade County public school system from the first grade through the 12th, and then stayed in state to attend the University of Florida. Funny, but typing that reminds me of a great Miami story. Our county used to be called just “Dade” until 1997 when voters added “Miami” to preserve that old name because there was real fear the City of Miami could, well, disappear due to federal oversight. (Something about misuse of taxpayers’ money by politicians.) Of course, the city managed to survive, but the county name change stuck. I think this anecdote is typical of our Miami craziness.
Since I’ve lived in Miami all my life (except for six years in Atlanta where it was way too cold in the winter, so I love this city. What I find most delightful is the weather and the subtropical environment. One of my favorite places in the world is Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where I lead volunteer bird walks on weekends during the migration seasons (I’m a bird nerd!) and also work with students on field trips from their schools. It’s amazing to me how some of these kids have never been to a botanic garden or a park like Fairchild, perhaps because of too much time playing video games or surfing the Internet, or, sadly, because of lack of opportunity. But seeing the excitement on their young faces while they learn about something new is inspiring to me.
I am fully aware many people find Miami too hot or too humid in the summer, but I’ll take heat over cold any day.
2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?
This one is hard for me, because I’m a big fan of the novels of James W. Hall and his character Thorn. But my favorite Florida novel is “The Orchid Thief”, by Susan Orleans. The reason is simple: I am an orchid fanatic. My orchid collection has gotten so large (over a thousand plants) that I’m in rehab. Sigh. I’ve had to stop going to orchid shows – at least temporarily. “The Orchid Thief” is partially based on people that I know in the commercial orchid community in south Dade County. (Oops – Miami-Dade County). The names have, of course, been changed to protect the guilty. I have even hiked out into the Fakahatchee Strand in search of the elusive ghost orchid referred to in the book’s title. Yes, we found it, but I was with an expert who knew where to look. However, my group did not steal the orchid from its home. The plant won’t survive long in cultivation. “The Orchid Thief” is a great read, made into a fabulous, movie, “Adaptation,” although the movie is definitely different from the book.
3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.
My latest novel is “Her Cop Protector”, published June 1st by Harlequin Enterprises. “Her Cop Protector” is a romantic suspense set in – yep – Miami. All of my published books so far (four) have been set in Miami. June Latham, the heroine, is dedicated to saving tropical birds smuggled into this country for the illegal pet trade. Most people aren’t aware of the fact that animal smuggling is a huge and profitable business, third after drugs and guns. Unfortunately, 75 to 90 (estimates vary) percent of the birds die, either from stress or horrific conditions, before they reach market.
The hero is Miami Beach homicide detective, Dean Hammer, who has two dead bodies on his hands, and just one connection: an activist named June Latham. June insists she has no knowledge of the murders, but can he believe her? As Dean unravels the mystery of June’s troubled family, he realizes she’s also in danger
I want to share with the readers something interesting about the cover of this novel, which I hope I’ve managed to include here. Please note the rather prominent mountain in the background. As I said, the story is based in Miami, and we, um, really don’t have any mountains. Readers may think I’d be upset, but I actually love that this happened because of the bird connection. John James Audubon, the famous bird illustrator, created a magnificent set of drawings of the birds of Florida in the 1800s, which were recently on display at History Miami, a museum in downtown Miami. What’s fun is in Audubon’s drawing of the Reddish Egret, which was drawn in the Florida Keys during April of 1832, the printer added a volcano in the background. (Again, no mountains in the Keys!) So I like to think we’re just following that Audubon tradition with a mountain on the cover of “Her Cop Protector.”
I’m having a contest to name the mountain. Please go to my website: https://sharonshartley.com to leave a comment and suggest a name. The winner will receive a signed print copy of “Her Cop Protector.”
4. Would your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?
As both my hero and heroine in “Her Cop Protector” are Miami natives, they easily swim with the sharks. In fact, June has been a competitive swimmer since high school.
So, now that you too are a Sharon Hartley fan. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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