Author Interview // Heather Webber & the Midnight at the Blackbird Café

I am pleased to be able to welcome and interview Heather Webber on her new book Midnight at the Blackbird Café which will be released July 16th, 2019!

Heather Webber's Midnight at the Blackbird Café is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southerntown her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

Heather Webber is the author of more than twenty mystery novels, including the Nina Quinn series, and has been twice nominated for an Agatha Award. She's a homebody who loves to be close to her family, read, watch reality TV (especially cooking competition shows), drink too much coffee, crochet, and bake (mostly cookies). Heather grew up in a suburb of Boston, but currently she lives in the Cincinnati area with her family and is hard at work on her next book.

Welcome Heather! Let’s kick off the interview by asking what are five words that would best describe your new book, Midnight at the Blackbird Café?

Hi! The five words would be: Love. Grief. Friendship. Forgiveness. Magic.

You tend to write stories surrounding mysteries like with the Nina Quinn Mysteries series or you have a mystery embedded into a story like with your romance series, the Lucy Valentine Novels. What has attracted you to write books centered around mysteries?

I grew up watching Quincy, M.E., and for a while I wanted to be a medical examiner until I realized it was the mystery—the puzzle—element of the episodes that I loved, not necessarily the medical aspect. I love puzzles! I’m an empathetic person who bristles at injustice in the world, so I often use my writing as therapy. My books allow me to create fictional escapes where readers know that by the book’s end good will triumph over evil and love will conquer all.

Can you give a hint of what is so mysterious about the blackbird pie everyone in town is so interested in?

I was inspired to write Midnight at the Blackbird Café after hearing the Beatles’ “Blackbird” for the first time. I was obsessed with the song and started wondering what the blackbirds could be singing about in the dead of night. I then twisted that to what I’d most want to hear from them. What kind of message? The answer to that is what’s baked into the blackbird pie.

You live near Cincinnati, Ohio which is a major city in the U.S. Why did you decide to set Midnight at the Blackbird Café in a small southern town?

When I first visited Alabama in 2007 it was to attend two book events in different towns. On the drive between the two, I had the window down, and somewhere on that long drive, I bonded with the land. It felt like home. I still don’t fully understand why, but that feeling hasn’t changed in all the trips I’ve taken since. One of my friends simply said, “It’s your place.” Everyone has that one place they feel especially attached to, and for some unknown reason, Alabama is mine. Since I couldn’t move there, I decided I could visit often through my books. I have a mystery series (written as Heather Blake) set there as well.

Image by Priscilla Du Preez
You enjoy baking cookies. What recipes inspired you while writing this story?

In my world, baking is love, so it was natural to include baking in this story. For this book, I was focused on pies. All kinds of pies! I’ve yet to make a mulberry pie, but as I write this, the mulberries are ripe on the trees outside the kitchen window…

One of your 50 facts about you on your website is that your grandmother taught you math facts by playing blackjack for spare change. The main character in Midnight at the Blackbird Café, Anna Kate, comes back to her hometown after her grandmother passes away. Has your relationship with your grandmother influenced the experiences of Anna Kate in the story?

As a writer, I take all my life experiences to shape a story. Sadly, both my grandmothers have passed away, so I understand Anna Kate’s grief in that aspect. One of my grandmothers I wasn’t especially close to, so I also understand Anna Kate’s sadness when she realizes all she missed out on by not growing up near her father’s side of the family.

What was your favorite scene to write in this story?

Oh, that’s a tough question! There are so many to choose from. One of my favorites early on in the book is when Anna Kate meets Natalie for the first time. The sense that their worlds just changed forever—and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing—tells so much about the both of them. And, of course, it includes Ollie. I adore Ollie.

What would you like readers to take away after reading Midnight at the Blackbird Café?

There are a couple of feelings I’d like readers to take away when they finish Midnight at the Blackbird Café:

-Everyone grieves—and heals—in their own way. There’s no right or wrong.

-There’s a little bit of magic everywhere if you look hard enough for it.

-A little kindness goes a long way.

-Most of all, I hope that when readers close this book, they feel comfort from the belief that when someone dies they're not really gone, whether that feeling comes from a treasured memory…or from a dream that seems very, very real.

Do you have any future writing plans in the works? If so, what are they about?

I’m currently finishing up another southern women’s fiction / magical realism novel, tentatively titled Just South of the Buttonwood Tree. It should be released next year.

In the book, the discovery of a baby girl just south of the magical Buttonwood Tree is the start of a series of events that will alter Blue Bishop’s and Sarah Grace Fulton’s lives forever. As the police try to find the baby’s birth mother and a custody hearing looms, both women are forced to fight for what they truly want in life and for who they love. In doing so they uncover long-held secrets that reveal exactly who they really are—and what they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of family.

And that's a wrap! Thanks so much to Ms. Webber for letting me interview her on her new book and for Wunderkind PR for contacting me about the interview. You can find Ms. Webber on Goodreads, her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can find Midnight at the Blackbird Café on July 16th (or you can preorder) at a bookstore near you including Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Amazon, and more! Or you can add Midnight at the Blackbird Café on Goodreads.