Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with fellow mystery/suspense writer C. Michele Dorsey to talk about our mutual affinity for the Caribbean and her recent release set there.
GIVEAWAY: Be sure to comment below. Michele will be giving away all three books in her Caribbean series to a commenter, randomly chosen from all of the commenters to this post.
Here’s our chat:
Penny: I love the fact that we both have mystery novels set in the lush tropical islands of the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands to be specific. A lot of people vacation there. But you found your way there and ended up staying longer than most. How did that come about?
Michele: I accidentally discovered St John in 1986 during a day excursion on a cruise I hated. But I fell in love with the island. After more than three decades of going to St. John, I never tire of its beauty. More than three quarters of the land is owned by the National Park Department, which saves it (largely) from being spoiled. There is something about being on St. John that makes me feel at peace with myself.
Penny: How has the time you’ve spent on St. John had an influence on your writing?
Michele: When I was super busy practicing law, teaching part-time, and raising a family, the only time I had to write was on weekends and while on vacation. After we discovered St. John, we returned several times a year until we began spending winters there in 2015. Writing on St. John was bliss. What could be better than soaking in silky warm aqua water, then sitting on a beach chair with your toes in powdery white sand with your laptop on your lap, playing make believe? In the beginning, I wrote stories based in Massachusetts where I lived, but then one day when I was sitting at the dining room table in my favorite vacation villa staring at an empty hammock, I imagined a man being shot while lying in it. And that’s how my first Sabrina Salter mystery was born.
Penny: Tell me more about your protagonist Sabrina and how she made her way to St. John like the author who created her.
Michele: Sabrina is an exile from Massachusetts, who was acquitted of murdering her husband by a jury but was convicted and vilified by the press. Her career as a television meteorologist in Boston is over, so she flees to St. John to start over. Many people who live in St. John have come to start over after colorful pasts, so Sabrina meets many interesting characters, including her partner Henry with whom she begins a villa rental business. Between the tourists who come to visit St. John and those who have defected to the island, there is no shortage of stories.
Penny: Have you ever been on island during a hurricane or tropical storm? Have you been back since the horrific one-two punch of the two Cat 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria (termed Irmaria by locals) in September 2017?
Michele: Funny, you should ask. Tropical Depression, the third book in the series, which was recently released, is set during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Tropical Depression was challenging to write because I wasn’t there during the hurricane, but I interviewed a number of people who were and had seen the damage firsthand during a visit shortly after the storm. The cottage we had been renting was uninhabitable and our efforts to relocate long term thus far have been unsuccessful. It was a devastating hurricane, far more so than earlier ones we had seen the damage from. Maria was the second punch that added insult to injury. Islands are fragile, even with perfect weather. The effects of two Cat 5 hurricanes back-to-back will be felt for years.
Penny: What are the challenges of living an extended period of time on an island?
Michele: Living in paradise is not perfect. It’s hard for those of us who live in variable climates like we have in New England to imagine perfect weather nearly every day. I’m a little like my protagonist, Sabrina. I love weather. I admit I can find it monotonous.
There can also be a sense of isolation on an island and a feeling of cultural deprivation.
There’s plenty of art and music, but not the variety we have in the states. It can be a little like living in a pandemic when all you want to do is crawl through a bookstore or watch a movie in a theater with the smell of popcorn surrounding you.
Penny: Interesting parallel between living on an island and enduring a pandemic with all its limitations. I can see it.
Shifting to characters, how much are you pulling from your past with Sabrina’s character? Are any of your other characters inspired by people you know?
Michele: Even though the Sabrina stories are mysteries set on a gorgeous Caribbean Island, they are really stories about broken relationships. Unfortunately, some of them lead to murder. My characters are often composites of people I’ve met.
Penny: Historically, you have split your time between a cooler climate in the summer and a warmer one the rest of the year: Cape Cod and St. John. Are any of your mysteries set on the Cape or New England at large? Or do you envision setting a mystery in New England at some point?
Michele: I have written several mysteries set in New England. Stay tuned.
Penny: Oooh, I am looking forward to that. Have you or will you ever write outside the mystery genre?
Michele: I’ve taken a stab at romantic comedy. I enjoyed writing it, but the editing is going oh-so-slow.
Penny: Romantic comedy? Well, that’s ambitious. Good for you. I look forward to reading it.
Can you share more about the storyline for Tropical Depression?
Michele: Sabrina Salter returns home to St. John in the Virgin Islands after a disastrous vacation in New England where her grandmother rejected her and her boyfriend, Neil, betrayed her. She discovers an employee at her villa rental agency has been murdered and her best friend and business partner, Henry, is the prime suspect. If that isn’t enough, Hurricane Irma, a category five-plus hurricane is racing toward St. John and her grandmother is on island to make amends. Reluctantly, Sabrina must enlist Neil and his rusty legal skills to save Henry and help find the murderer while a killer, a massive hurricane, and her grandmother are charging her way.
Penny: I look forward to following Sabrina on her next escapade on St. John. Can you tell us how we can get a copy of Tropical Depression?
Michele: You can find it on Amazon.com at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1736557726
Be on the lookout for the fourth Sabrina Salter mystery, which is scheduled to be released June 1, 2022. In Saltwater Wounds, Sabrina and her octogenarian grandmother enter a truce while they set off to find out what happened to Sabrina’s mother when she disappeared thirty years before.
Penny: Good luck with the release of Tropical Depression. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Looking forward to Saltwater Wounds!
C. Michele Dorsey is the author of the Sabrina Salter series, including No Virgin Island, Permanent Sunset, and Tropical Depression. Michele is a lawyer, mediator, former adjunct law professor and nurse, who didn’t know she could be a writer when she grew up. Now that she does, Michele writes constantly, whether on St John, outer Cape Cod, or anywhere within a mile of the ocean.
GIVEAWAY: Comment below for a chance to win all three books in Michele’s Caribbean series. She will be randomly choosing a winner from all of the commenters. Good luck!
62 thoughts on “A Chat with C. Michele Dorsey”
Enjoyed the interview Penny! Always looking for new mystery authors. Michele’s background is impressive.
Thank you Penny .. You know I love all your books I would be so excited if I win Michelle’s books. I love the Caribbean. Michelle I know I would love your books too. I’ve had the privilege to meet up with Penny twice and would love to meet you to Michelle..Thank you for this opportunity LINDA 🦋
You would enjoy them Linda! And thank you for your kind words. You’ve always been so supportive. Thanks!
Wonderful interview! I love these mysteries, but the locations make them extra-special. I’ve spent more than half of my life in New England, and I’ve always wanted to visit the Caribbean. I don’t know if I will ever physically get there, but Penny’s books and now yours will bring me there in spirit. Thank you both for enriching my life!
Linda, it would, no I should be positive and say, it WILL be nice to meet you once we are gathering in person at book events.
Thanks, Judy. I appreciate the compliment!
Michele, your background is fascinating. You’ve done so much, including writing the Sabrina Salter series. I loved Tropical Depression and can’t wait for the next one in the series!
I love the Caribbean and am SO ready to vacation there again!
These sound intriguing and I’ll put them on my TBR list. What a lifetime of adventures!
The nice thing is, Tracey, you can do it vicariously! It’s not quite the same, but a quiet afternoon in a comfortable chair on a snowy day can transport you to the Caribbean through a book.
I love the Caribbean. Would love to win
So cool! My college roommate was from the Caribbean! Jamaica specifically. These books sound awesome!
Always enjoy reading author interviews. Thank you!!
I love finding new to me authors, especially when there’s a series, especially when there is a strong female, and especially if there is the promise of a tropical setting while I’m sitting in a foot of snow and temps in the teens! Thanks for the great interview!
You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it, Candee.
A foot of snow will definitely do it, Candee.
Love this post, a perfect break from today’s freezing New England weather–one can imagine. I especially enjoyed reading about the hurricanes and island isolation. Thanks for this introduction to mystery author C. Michele Dorsey.
I love the twists and turns you mystery writers weave. I too love the water and beaches both in New England and in warm climates. I have only been to the Caribbeans once when in college. The VIs are on my bucket list as the pandemic loosens up. Would definitely look forward to a new adventure in St. John’s to add to those in St Thomas!
You’re welcome. Glad we could send some warmth your way!
Kathryn, so nice to meet you through Penny’s generosity. Your comment made me think about how different pandemic isolation is from island isolation. I’d choose the island type any day.
Nice interview and thank you for sharing!
Love the story ideas and the local. Thanks!
You are a new-to-me author. I love mysteries and these books sound intriguing. Thank you for the chance.
Thanks, Barbara. I hope you’ll give Sabrina a try,.
What a wonderful interview! Michelle is a new author for me. I love to find new authors!
I love to find new readers too, Lori.
What a wonderful interview. I love finding new authors. Thank you for the opportunity!
Hi, you are a new author to me, very nice to meet you. I enjoyed this interview and I loved hearing about your books, I love mysteries and thrillers. Thank you so much for sharing about your books, they sound very intriguing. Have a great week and stay safe.
Hello, I am so glad to have read your interview with Michele. It’s so interesting to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes and I enjoyed learning that her stories are true! They’re from real people and the stories of their lives in a place that’s supposed to be paradise. How intriguing!! I would love to win!! Thanks for the chance! 😊
Nice to meet you, too, Alicia.
I have never been on a cruise or visited any of the islands. The closest is a day or two visit to a beach. Therefore I enjoy reading about them or seeing the beautiful pictures. Thank you to those who give us a chance to visit and dream.
Michele’s Caribbean writing journey clearly shows us that “writing what you love” can be even more fruitful than just writing what you know! Very encouraging! Thank you for an interesting interview!
You’re right, James. Writing what you love is pure joy.
Thank you for your comment, Linda. It really gives a writer great satisfaction to think she can transport her readers to a world they haven’t experienced.
Congratulations Linda!! You are the winner of Michele’s 3-book Caribbean Series. Lucky you! PM your mailing address to me and we’ll get the books out to you. Congrats!
What a fun interview. These books sound fantastic and like something I would enjoy reading.
I love everything that you write, post, or share with us, Penny. You always have something of intrigue and/or value for any and all. You are a gifted writer with an amazingly creative mind, and I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you!
Connie, thank you for your kind words. Your ongoing support means a great deal to me, especially since it’s coming from someone as caring and compassionate as you are, and a talented and engaging writer in your own right. Thank you!
Michelle is a new author to me and I LOVE finding/meeting new authors. Thank you Penny for introducing us! One of my bucket list items is to go on a Caribbean cruise! Maybe one day
They sound like they would be great beach reads
In the meantime, you can read all about the islands and decide which ones you will visit, Lisa.
I would love to imagine being there through the book series!
Such a wonderful interview, Ladies! Having lived in Puerto Rico twice, once in the 70’s, & once in the 90’s, there were many day trips to St. Thomas & St. John on business for Otis Elevator. The islands never lost their charm & attraction & we would return for vacations after moving from P.R. Now after the passing of my husband, it would be so difficult to physically return, but I so enjoyed Penny’s books & will enjoy reading Michelle’s series to bring back some of my fondest life memories.
These books sounds so interesting. I love a good mystery, one set on an island even better.
That’s very sweet, Karin. I hope you enjoy.
Since I love Penny’s books, and she loves your writing, I plan to add you to my TBR list.
Karen, that’s quite an endorsement. I am very flattered. Thank you!
The Books sound exciting, I love a good starting over story.
I love a starting over story as well. The feelings of hope and expectation are quite a hook.
Need to Add to myTBR list, This Interview was lovely , makes me wish I was on a Carabbiean Adventure!
Michelle is a New Author to me as well 🙂
Penny, I liked this interview. We have chartered sailboats in the Virgin Islands twice for 10 days each, and it really is paradise. But I can see that paradise could be isolating. I look forward to sharing Michelle’s perspective through her books.
I hope you enjoy, Victoria, and are transported back to those visits while you are reading.
I have fibromyalgia which consists of a bunch of symptoms. I am 99% without symptoms when I am in the Caribbean. And since we haven’t been able to travel for the last 2 years, I am anxious to get back down there.
Patricia, I hope you can return to the Caribbean where the healing comes naturally just by being there.
Love meeting New Author’s and Thank you for the wonderful post I Love reading mystery books and these sound amazing Love the covers please enter me in this amazing giveaway!
Thanks for mentioning the covers, Sarah. An artist developed them from photos I took in St. John, so they are very special to me.
Special thanks to Penny for her warm welcome and great questions. Her love of the Caribbean is apparent in the terrific series she has set there.
Michele, it was my pleasure. You’ve got such an interesting background which shines through in your captivating stories. I enjoy your books and chatting with you about them. Whoever wins the set will be so lucky! Hope we can collaborate on another project soon.
AND THE WINNER IS . . . . Michele has pulled a name out of her hat. Thank you all for entering. This was a fun post and you all were so engaging. Of all the commenters, the winner of Michele’s 3-book Caribbean Series . . . is Linda Tucker. Congratulations Linda! Please PM your address to me and we’ll get your books in the mail. Soon, you’ll be on your way to a mid-winter tropical escape. Enjoy!
Thanks for the chance!