Sneaky Interviews Smoky from The Moonshine Shack Murder, the First Southern Homebrew Cozy Mystery by Diane Kelly

Hi, Kitty. Welcome to my blog, and thanks for joining me for an inter”mew.” What is your name and your author’s name?

My name is Smoky. You can probably guess that I’m gray. I’m named after the Smoky Mountains near Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I live. My author’s name is Diane Kelly.

Mice to meet you. I’ve never been to Tennessee. I’m a New York State cat. I live in the fictional, small town of Cobble Cove. We have a mountain that overlooks water, but I spend most of my time in the Cobble Cove Library because I’m a library cat.

What book(s) have you appeared in? Please list them and their genre.

I’m in The Moonshine Shack Murder. It’s the first in Diane’s Southern Homebrew moonshine series, and it’s a cozy mystery. Next year, I’ll be in book #2, The Proof is in the Poison. There will be a third book the following year. People just can’t seem to get enough of me. But who could blame them? I’m a pretty cool cat.  

I’m sure you are. I’m a cozy mystery cat, too, and there are 5 books in my series so far and also 4 stories.

Are you in a series? If so, please give information about it.

Yes, I’m in a series called the Southern Homebrew series. My human, who is named Hattie Hayes, learned to make moonshine from her granddaddy. She’s decided to turn the family moonshine recipe into a commercial enterprise. She makes pure rotgut, but she makes a bunch of fruity flavors, too. She runs a store called The Moonshine Shack in the riverfront district of Chattanooga, Tennessee. She can’t get by without me, so takes me along to work with her. My favorite spot is in the front window, where I can watch the street and take naps.

Very interesting. I like to nap in the library’s bay window.

Are you based on a real animal such as your author’s? If so, please give further details.

Partly. My author’s male cats have all been docile sweeties, but I’m not. I’m more like her female cats, who are more demanding and moody. She’s had many, many cats and dogs over the years, but currently she has three dogs and two cats, plus two kittens she’s fostering. They’re disgustingly cute. 

Your author sounds like a cat lover, like mine. Debbie has three cats. I was based on her Siamese Oliver who has since gone to Rainbow Bridge. Then she rescued two kittens who are now three years old.

Can you share an excerpt from one of your books that features you in an important scene? If so, please include it.

I circled around to the alley, parked, and hopped out to unlock the back door that led to the storeroom. My gray cat, Smoky, named for the nearby mountains, lay atop the wooden desk in the corner, watching me with his firefly-green eyes as he lazily licked a paw. The cat weighed upward of sixteen pounds and, unless food was in the offing, rarely moved, more cinder block than companion. I greeted him, as always, with an affectionate scratch under the chin and a “Hey, boy. Did you miss me?” His yawn told me that my absence had not affected him in the least. Hurtful, sure, but I’d long since accepted that ours would be a one-sided relationship.

Even with help from a dolly, moving the cases from the van to the storeroom proved to be backbreaking work. The muscles in my arms strained and shook, unused to being punished so severely. Smoky cast me a look of disdain each time I groaned or grunted. Next batch, I’d box the moonshine in smaller cases of six jars rather than twelve.

As I rolled the dolly outside to round up more moonshine, my ears picked up an unexpected sound. Clop-clop-clop. I turned to discover a mounted police officer riding up the alleyway on a beautiful chestnut mare. The horse’s reddish-brown coat gleamed in the sunshine as she tossed her flaxen mane. The officer wore his uniform with black riding boots, a helmet, and mirrored sunglasses. Despite being built like a sculpted boulder, he rode with a graceful athleticism, at one with his steed.

Clop-clop. When they reached me, the officer pulled back on the reins and spoke to his horse. “Whoa, Charlotte. Let’s find out what this little filly is up to.”

It took me a moment to realize I was the “little filly” he spoke of. Standing a mere five feet, I was undeniably small. But I made up for my stature in tenacity and sass. I looked up at the officer to see a set of broad shoulders, a strong jaw, and myself looking back, reflected in his sunglasses. I angled my head to indicate his horse. “I see you’ve got a thing for leggy blondes.”

He sat silent and unmoving for a few beats before his lips spread in a slow smile. He ducked his chin and reached up to ease his sunglasses down, gazing at me over the rims, his amber eyes lit up like lightning bugs in amusement. His focus shifted to the logo on my van and the cartons of liquor before returning to my face. “A bootlegger, huh? I suspect you’ll cause me no end of trouble.”

“I can’t make any promises, Officer.”

In a swift, smooth move, he slid down from his horse to stand directly in front of me. He towered over me by at least a foot, putting him around six feet, two inches tall and putting me on eye level with his rock-hard pecs and his name badge. M. LANDERS. Why does that name sound vaguely familiar?

Officer Landers removed his glasses and tucked them into the collar of his uniform. “I’ll give you a hand. Charlotte needs a rest, anyway.”

With my back and biceps screaming for mercy, I wasn’t about to turn him down. “Thanks.”

He tied his horse’s reins to a water pipe before reaching up to remove his helmet. When he did, he released a cascade of loose, short curls the color of buckskin. He ran his hand through his hair and it settled into a contemporary pompadour, short on the sides, longer on top. He resembled a rockabilly artist, or a blond version of Elvis from his early years. I felt the heat of a blush warm my cheeks.

He grabbed a case from the back of the van and tucked it under one arm before grabbing another. As he turned to carry them through the back door of my shop, he spotted Smoky standing sentinel in the doorway. “Is your guard cat going to attack?

“Smoky?” I stepped over and scooped my precious pet up in my arms. “He’s harmless.” Smoky stiff-armed me, pushing his paw against my chest, playing hard to get. Three years into our relationship and I was still trying to win the furry guy over. Maybe someday.

The cop eyed my cat and shook his head. “That there is why I prefer horses. They show some affection now and then.”

Pawsome! Thanks for sharing that purrfect excerpt.

What do you like most about your role in your authors’ books?

That I get to be where the action is. It satisfies my cat curiosity. Also, that I get to be loved on by Hattie. (I’d never let her know this, but I kind of love her, too.)

Awww. How sweet. I love Alicia, too, and I like most of the other Cobble Cove library staff members.

Are you a talking cat in your books or just a silent one like I am who just meows occasionally?

I’m silent, but I find other ways to communicate my thoughts. Clawing, spitting, and hissing are quite effective. So is a purr, though I use my purr sparingly. Wouldn’t want Hattie to think she’s got me wrapped around her finger. The position of my ears and tail are more subtle communicators that I use.

(MOL) Meow Out Loud. Good point. I use similar non-verbal clues with Alicia, but in the later books and stories of the series, readers can now see my thoughts, as can the other pets.

What advice would you give other cat characters?

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, but don’t lick it, either. No one likes a mooch or a suck-up. Always sleep in the sunny spot. Bugs aren’t as delicious as they might look, and it’s hard to swallow when they’re wiggling in your mouth. Stick to what’s put in your bowl.

Great advice for all us cat characters.

Do you have any new books coming out? Please give dates and details.

Yes, my very first book came out July 6th. It’s called The Moonshine Shack Murder. It’s a great tail – I mean, tale – if I do say so myself.

Concatulations to you and your author. I’m sharing your blog tour below. Best whiskers to you and your author on this fun series.

The Moonshine Shack Murder (A Southern Homebrew Mystery)
by Diane Kelly

About The Moonshine Shack Murder

The Moonshine Shack Murder (A Southern Homebrew Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Berkley (July 6, 2021)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 0593333225
ISBN-13: 978-0593333228
Digital ASIN : B08KPKD22T

In this intoxicating new cozy mystery series, the future for modern-day moonshiner Hattie Hayes looks bright–until death darkens the doorstep of her Moonshine Shack.

The Hayes family has made moonshine in Chattanooga since the days of Prohibition, and Hattie is happy to continue the tradition, serving up fun, fruity flavors in mason jars for locals and tourists alike. All signs indicate her new ‘shine shop will be a smashing success. What’s more, mounted police officer Marlon Landers has taken a shine to Hattie. For the first time ever, the stars seemed to have aligned in both her work and romantic life. But when a body ends up on her store’s doorstep alongside a broken jar of her Firefly Moonshine, it just might be lights out for her fledgling business.

The homicide detective can’t seem to identify the person who killed the owner of a nearby bar. The only witness is Hattie’s longhaired gray cat, and Smoky isn’t talking. When the detective learns that the victim and Hattie had a heated exchange shortly before his murder, she becomes her prime suspect.

Lest Hattie end up behind bars like her bootlegging great-grandfather a century before, she must distill the evidence herself and serve the killer a swift shot of justice.

About Diane Kelly

Diane Kelly writes stories that feature feisty female lead characters and their furry, four-footed friends. Diane is the author of over 30 novels and novellas, including the Death & Taxes, Paw Enforcement, and House Flipper mystery series. In 2021, she’ll launch two new series, the Southern Homebrew moonshine series and the Mountain Lodge Mysteries. Find Diane online at, on Twitter and Instagram @DianeKellyBooks, and on Facebook at her Author Diane Kelly page.

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