Ellen Byron’s second novel in the Cajun Country Mysteries series won a Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery. Her debut book in the series was a USA Today Bestseller and was nominated for multiple awards. Her latest book in the series, A Cajun Christmas Killing, takes us to Louisiana for the holidays.
How A Cajun Christmas Killing began
Byron said A Cajun Christmas Killing grew out of the tradition in several parishes north of New Orleans called Bonfires on the Levee. “Participants build giant bonfires that they light on fire Christmas Eve amidst much partying and fanfare. There are many theories about the origin of this tradition, but now locals like to say that the bonfires exist to light the way up the Mississippi River for Papa Noel so he can find his way to all the Cajun children’s homes.
“I’ve always been fascinated by this uniquely Louisiana tradition and thought it would provide a great entrée into one of my Cajun Country Mystery books. I got to experience it myself with my family in 2015. A storm threatened to postpone the event, but luckily for us it went on, even under a gentle rain. I’ll never forget the sights, sounds and smells of that evening – all of which you’ll find in A Cajun Christmas Killing.”
Beneath a plot that moves quickly and offers up plenty of quirky characters, there’s actually a bit of what Byron likes to call stealth social commentary. “What I mean by this is that I’m very subtly addressing an issue. In this case, I actually address two issues: racism and anti-Semitism. Ione Savreau, a black co-worker and friend of my protagonist Maggie Crozat, is demoted as general manager of the historic site, Doucet Plantation. She’s replaced by Tannis Greer, who’s young, blonde and white. When a man is found murdered in the plantation’s manor house, Tannis immediately points a finger at Ione.
“As to addressing anti-Semitism, Emme Harmon, the widow of the murder victim, is an upscale native New Orleanian from a family with storied Southern genealogy. She’s in love with the victim’s brother, a practicing Jew, which horrifies her bigoted old-school mother and brother. I believe my readers will root for Ione’s vindication and Emme’s happiness. In doing so, they’ll be striking a blow against racism and anti-Semitism, possibly without even realizing it.”
Byron feels she’s had a wonderful career as a writer. She’s had plays published and produced, published hundreds of magazine articles in national publications, and has written many hours of television shows along with a TV writing partner. With all that success, she still feels books are best. “I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun than I’ve had writing mysteries and being accepted into this most generous community. And I’m eternally grateful to everyone who reads my books.”
Ellen Byron Contest Code: #CajunHoliday
In fact, Byron must enjoy writing books immensely because she wrote A Cajun Christmas Killing while working a full-time job writing animation for Nickelodeon and parenting a teenager. “I’d drive my daughter to school at 7 a.m. for a zero period class, come home and write for a couple of hours, go work a full day as a different kind of writer, then come home and work on the book some more. I’m not kidding when I say some of the craziest typos of my career were in that first draft. There were sentences that seemed to be written by a delirious person or someone on drugs.”
Differences between TV and books
While writing books is a very solitary profession, working on TV is not. And where there are coworkers, there are opportunities for a little fun. Byron recalled one opportunity from her last season on the sitcom Wings. “Our bosses sold a series starring Jenny McCarthy to NBC. Jenny was famous for being a Playboy Playmate of the Year, and a calendar featuring sexy shots of her came out around Christmas of that year.
“As a joke present for our bosses, twelve of us women who worked on the show took one of the calendars and had our faces superimposed over hers. For example, my face—glasses, brown hair, and all — replaced Jenny’s in a provocative pose on a bearskin rug. Our bosses and fellow writers thought this was hilarious. Then we went on the set, where we were greeted by winks and the occasional whistle from some crew members — who thought we’d actually posed for the sexy shots in the calendar!”
Learn more about Ellen Byron and A Cajun Christmas Killing at ellenbyron.com.
Book & a Latte Contest
What: This month, Ellen is giving away one of three books. The winner may choose a hardcover copy of Plantation Shudders (first in series), a softcover copy of Body on the Bayou (second in series), or an e-book copy of “A Cajun Christmas Killing.” I’m adding a $5.00 Starbucks gift card. One random entry will be chosen as winner. Winner will receive a book and a gift card.
How to enter: Choose one or more of the options below. Each option gives you an additional chance to win.
Who can enter: This contest is open to anyone over 18 years of age. (Only e-book will be sent out of continental US.)
Winners: Selected winners must claim prizes within 72 hours of notification. Verification of entries: All winning entries are subject to verification