Well-known journalist Annabelle Carlyle is stunned by the personal twist of her latest assignment: her best friend Vanessa is missing. Annabelle goes undercover in the Old South to search for answers. Full of thick accents and a way of life rooted in the past, Charleston is as foreign and strange a place as any Annabelle’s visited. And before she finds a single clue, she runs into a sexy man she can’t shake.
Tall, dark and charming, Mark Dering is happy to show the gorgeous Yankee his hometown. He’s captivated by the quick witted, quick tempered redhead. But when they’re shot at, he realizes she’s far more than just another tourist. Soon they’re knee deep in a mystery that goes all the way back to the Civil War. For once Annabelle is in over her head. Desperate to find Vanessa, she reluctantly accepts Mark’s help. It isn’t long before romance blooms right alongside the magnolias.
The stakes grow higher when a body is discovered. Someone is willing to kill to keep a century old Confederate secret hidden. With her best friend missing and a killer on the loose, it’s the worst possible moment for Mark to try and unlock Annabelle’s heart. Or is love exactly what her life’s been missing?
Carolina Heat released yesterday, and author Christi Barth was kind enough to stop by for a chat today.
DE: Talk a little bit about the genesis of CAROLINA HEAT.
CB; I was on vacation with my husband in Charleston, walking down a cobblestone street lined with magnolias and oozing history. We stopped to look at listing headstones at a church. All of a sudden it hit me what a great setting the city would be for a novel. At the time I was on a romantic suspense kick, so I decided to write one (as with most things, the idea was far simpler than the actualization). Given the rich history of the area, I knew it had to tie in to the Civil War in some fashion. Ever since then, every time I go someplace on vacation, I’m struck by inspiration for a new book. I think soaking up the different atmosphere just kicks my brain into overdrive.
DE: Did you do a lot of onsite research? How did you get to know the city, if you didn’t already? How did you research any procedural elements?
CB: Complete lack of onsite research, except for my memories of a plantation tour we took and a long walk along the Battery. But the feel of the city stuck in my brain, so when I got home I started plotting. When I needed specifics, I consulted the Internet (and an old copy of an AAA guidebook!). I do my research as a problem unfolds. For example, I needed to poison somebody. From years of reading Agatha Christie, I knew there were plenty of garden plants that could be used, rather than going to the drugstore and trying to purchase poison in these security-conscious times. I fired up the Internet and hunted for botanical poisons. Have to say, it’s a little frightening how easy it would be to poison somebody (getting away with it – not so easy, however).
DE: Do you find that you work first from character or from plot?
CB; I usually start with a one sentence idea for a plot. Then I immediately worry how to stretch it into 95,000 words! I find I can’t plot very well until I have character names – I don’t have to know much about them, but I do get quite a bit of their personality from their names. After that, the plot and characterization roll out together.
DE: Is this book a stand-alone, or do you see more stories with Annabelle and Mark?
CB; This book is a stand alone. Originally I had a sequel in mind, but once I realized I couldn’t squeeze everything I wanted to say into a 60,000 word book, I beefed up the secondary characters and threw it all into one. Don’t discount seeing them pop up somebody in a brief visit, but you can consider them living happily ever after.
DE: How has your theatrical experience enhanced the writing? (As a fellow theatre professional, I’m always curious)!
CB; My 2nd book is set in a theatre, so my background enhanced that one quite a bit! Honestly, I have a well-developed flair for the dramatic, a strong belief in suspension of disbelief and an addiction to happily ever after. Those qualities were just as much in play with my performing as with my writing. My years of hearing ‘thank you, but no’ at auditions definitely thickened my skin to help me deal with rejections from agents and publishers. I do wish someone would give me a standing ovation when they finish reading Carolina Heat, but I think I’ll get just as excited just by knowing people are purchasing it. I hope, just like a musical, when you spend a few hours with my book it is an enjoyable escape from everyday life.
Christi Barth spent years performing in musicals, singing about love and giving people a happy ending in every performance. Then as a wedding planner she spent every day immersed in romance. Now she writes it! After winning 1st place in the 2008 Heart to Heart contest, and 1st place in the 2009 Emily contest, she is thrilled to be able to share Carolina Heat with the world. She lives in Maryland with the absolutely best husband in the world (sorry ladies, its true!).