Dorothy St. James and Flowerbed of State

FLOWERBED OF STATE by Dorothy St. James
Berkley Prime Crime

Cassandra "Casey" Calhoun's passion for gardening has carried her to President's Park on which sits the White House. But when she finds a dead body in a trash can, Casey has to root out a killer before she ends up planted herself.

My interview of Dorothy St. James:

Marilyn: Tell me a bit about your background.

Dorothy: Although I grew up in a quiet suburb—You know the neighborhood. All of the houses are brick ranches. They’re all set the same distance from the street. And you have to get into the car to get anywhere.—I battled the worst kind of mustache twirling villains, uprooted spies, and traveled with aliens into outer space. There was always, and I mean always something exciting happening on my street. And I seemed to be the only kid who knew anything about it.

You see, I lived most of my childhood lost in a fantasy world of my own design only coming back into the real world to read a novel or comic book or to watch a movie on cable. When I graduated from high school, I left the world of killers and spies behind me, trading them in for the real world and the very real pressures of college and then work. I have a bachelors in Aquaculture, Fisheries and Wildlife biology and a master in Public Administration with an emphasis on urban planning. I dedicated myself to my work as an environmental urban planner, helping communities imagine their futures. The more imagining I did, the more I began to remember...the adventures. I missed them. I wanted to solve mysteries, fight evil and uproot spies again. So I sent a job application to the CIA. Unfortunately, the demand for biologists in the spy biz is quite small. Nonexistent, in fact.

That’s when I decided to return to the world of my childhood, the world of dreams. The day I quit my government job to write full-time was the best day of my life. Even though I felt as if I was stepping off the edge of a cliff, I knew I could fly.

Marilyn: When did you first know you were a writer?

Dorothy: I think I sprang from the womb with the desire to write. Some of my earliest memories are of the little books I’d written with such clever titles as: “Help, the Purple People Eater Is Here” and “Cows Go Moo.” Yep, I was born with that writing bug burning in me and absolutely no skill (or apparently originality.)  Luckily, writing is a skill. It can be learned. I’m still beating my head against the know...learning.

Marilyn: What is the story behind this particular book? (In other words, what made you decide to write this one?)

Dorothy: I’m a biologist by education and a public administrator (bureaucrat) by profession. Combining the two seemed like a natural fit for me. It was my editor at Five Star/Gale who actually saw the connection. Knowing my background, she came to me with the idea of the White House Gardener Mystery series and asked me if I was interested in developing it. Was I? Well, I played it cool for oh, five seconds and then jumped at the chance to take on the challenge. I wrote a three-book proposal that was then sold to Berkley Prime Crime.

Marilyn: What was your path to publication?

Dorothy: Long and winding, I’m afraid. I wish I could find straight paths, but I think I’m destined to take the long route in life. Hopefully, that bodes well for my longevity. I started out writing mysteries. Did miserably at it. Probably because I was just learning the craft. I then switched to romance. I learned many, many lessons on building a strong plot, developing compelling characters and how to pull that together within individual scenes. The Romance Writers of America do a super job with workshops and craft sessions. If not for them, I’d probably still be trying to finish that first manuscript.

I sold my first manuscript, a romance, to Signet Regency in 2004. It was a dream come true! I was just finishing up the second book for them when they cancelled the Regency line. I floundered a bit (a lot), trying to find a new path. I dipped my toes into e-publishing. Even tried my hand at erotica. (I blush as I write that.) Then in 2008, I sold a historical romance with a strong mystery sub-plot to Five Star/Gale. That sale opened the door to my return to the mystery genre and my sale to Berkley Prime Crime. I hope my career stays on this path for some time to come.

Marilyn: What are your plans for promotion?

Dorothy: I’m visiting several blog sites, like yours. In addition, I’ve become a regular on Killer Characters, a group blog where the characters from cozy mysteries come to life. I have bookmarks that I’ve been handing out in droves. And I’m talking to everyone I know, hoping to get the word out about the new book. Sometimes it feel impossible, and other times the promotion work is exhilarating. Berkley Prime Crime has assigned me a publicist who really knows her stuff. So I feel as if my book is in good hands with them.

Marilyn: Is there anything you'd really like my blog readers to know?

Dorothy: If your readers are interested in learning more about gardening at the White House, seasonal tours or gardening hints and tips, I invite them to visit my facebook page ( or my website ( It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.

Marilyn: And thank you for visiting my blog. That was very interesting.

Here's Dorothy's official bio:

Mystery author Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, tiny little dog and fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.

Switching from government service and community planning to fiction writing wasn't as big of a change as some might think. Her government work was all about the stories of the people and the places where they live. As an urban planner, Dorothy loved telling the stories of the people she met. And from that, her desire to tell the tales that were so alive in her heart grew until she could not ignore it any longer. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and pursued her dream of writing fiction full-time.


Hi Marilyn,

Thank you for inviting me to visit with you on your blog today! I'll be available to answer any questions your readers might have about me, my writing process or the research I put into writing Flowerbed of State.

I'm also running a contest on my website where I'm giving away White House collectibles and a $50 gift certificate. Come on over and enter!
I loved this interview, Dorothy. Thanks for stopping by.


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