SHATTERED AT SEA is the fifth installment in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery series, which Kirkus Reviews has called “mystery with a touch of romance and interesting tips on glassmaking.” In the latest entry, a Mediterranean cruise gives glass shop owner Savannah Webb a chance to demonstrate her expertise—and fire up her skills when it comes to foul play.
When Savannah signs on to perform glassblowing on a cruise ship, part of the appeal is that she’ll get a chance to reconnect with her boyfriend Edward’s family. An added bonus is Edward’s cousin, Ian, will be joining them on board. But when Ian disappears at the beginning of the cruise, the ship’s authorities initially consider it suicide.
Savannah tries to balance her growing suspicions with work on her shows, but her relationship with the other glass artists begins to crack. And she can’t let love color her judgment when Edward suddenly jumps to the top of the suspect list. His fate is in Savannah’s hands, and she’ll do everything she can—on land and sea—to clear his name.
I caught up with Hollon for a wide-ranging discussion about books, characters, glassmaking, and of course, her latest novel. Asked how SHATTERED AT SEA continues the arc of the ongoing series, Hollon says, “As Savannah’s management and organization skills grow in running her business, her increasing confidence allows her to take risks as a professional glass artist. It’s also a chance to challenge her growing relationship with Edward. Travelling together as a couple stresses the strength of a bond. It could ruin them forever.”
Hollon says she and her husband are avid cruisers, having just ticked off a bucket-list item: a transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2. When she discovered Celebrity Cruises had three ships with glassblowing classes, Hollon, a glassforming enthusiast, booked in a heartbeat—all in the name of research, of course, for the novel that became SHATTERED AT SEA. On board, she met with the glassblowers and discussed the challenges of living aboard a cruise ship while being neither guest nor regular crew.
When we discussed the theme for the book, Hollon revealed that she had become fascinated with the way past secrets can endanger future happiness. She expanded on the theme for her latest novel. “What happens to a family when a destructive environment threatens to destroy not only your future, but the future of your children as well?” she wondered. This gave her the opportunity to explore Edward’s past and reveal how those events affected his deepening relationship with Savannah.
This focus on Edward’s history and family is a natural fit for the series, which has placed an emphasis on the replacement family for Savannah since the death of her father in the first installment. I asked Hollon how she saw the definition of family evolving in novels as well as society.
“There has been a broadening of the meaning of family recently, which is reflected in fiction as the untraditional family becomes normalized,” she says. “I have friends who have crafted families from thin air that suit them very well. I want a warm, dependable, engaging family for Savannah. We’re getting there.”
Hollon says her background in a technical field has raised interesting left brain/right brain challenges, but she’s found that the skill set she used as an engineer applies very well to the business side of her writing career.
“Planning, scheduling, and promoting are second nature to me,” she says, also noting that the more creative arts of writing and glassforming offset the heavy demands of stressful engineering projects.
Why glass fusing? I asked. While it’s a personal interest, I haven’t found many people who also pursue the art form. Hollon says her husband is a “serial hobbyist” who becomes interested in a craft, develops the skills, acquires the tools, and produces gifts and treasures for several years before switching to a new craft. (When pressed a bit, she admits she does the same thing.) During the fused-glass period, her husband needed her help purchasing glass because he’s partially colorblind.
“He sucked me into the whole thing, and before I knew it we had a small glass studio with two fusing kilns in the outbuilding behind the house,” Hollon says.
Their shared interest in the craft has certainly provided fodder for the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries. Look for the next book in the series to be released from Kensington Publishing in July 2019. The title is Down In Flames, and the back-cover copy starts with: “A fatal hit-and-run in front of Savannah Webb’s glass shop proves to be no accident . . .”
Cheryl Hollon writes full-time after an engineering career designing and installing military flight simulators in England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. Living the dream, she combines a love of writing with a passion for creating glass art in the small studio behind her house in St. Petersburg, Florida. Cheryl is President of the Florida Gulf Coast Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Novelists, Inc.
To learn more about Cheryl and her work, please visit her website.