Real locations in storytelling by Laura Wharton #Mystery @Goddessfish

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Thank you for having me on your blog!

Today I’d like to talk about using real locations in a story, or what I like to call writing a location-centric tale. I’ve done this for all my novels, covering locations such as New Bern, Oriental, Carolina Beach, Wilmington, and other coastal towns in North Carolina, where I live.

In my new mystery, IN JULIA’S GARDEN, the story is set in contemporary Winston-Salem. The mystery, though, is set in the run-down garden of a historic home located in South Carolina. Why choose different time periods and locations to tell this particular story? I wanted to try something different from all my other books, and this book is the result.

IN JULIA’S GARDEN is the first in the Lily McGuire Mystery series. My lead character, Lily McGuire, is a landscape architect specializing in historic garden restoration. In each of the subsequent stories, a garden will be involved.

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I could have stayed right in Winston-Salem, which is a lovely and old medium-sized city whose history was based on a footing of tobacco. At the turn of the last century, the Reynolds family had tobacco warehouses all over the city. Many of these have been converted over the years into eateries, offices, and condo buildings. Local readers will recognize the coffee shop where Lily heads for her daily brew, or to the Arts District for an evening out. There are some truly marvelous gardens here, too, along with mansions of various descriptions from exciting time periods. When I was thinking about story development though, I knew I wanted for Lily to have to take a road trip: she needed time in the car to think about the mystery before her—and she needed time to better understand a male character who could potentially be a love interest for her in subsequent books in this series.

The other reason I chose an out-of-state property for the mystery is that of the historic gardens I’ve seen in the Winston-Salem area, none of them are as neglected as I needed this first one to be. The neglected garden where the mystery is also provided me with a great deal of research material because it’s attached to a historic mansion that has undergone restoration. This particular site had a masterplan of its garden restoration, a plan which was helpful to my research. When I visited the gardens, the property didn’t resemble the plans for its future nor its historic self, which made it all the more fun for me. In a sense, I took the place’s reality and altered it for my purposes, adding various structures to the setting that were needed to move the plot along from the past to the present. There were, however, several striking features of the garden which were very much intact: a fountain, a wall topped with wrought-iron, and a clear view from the back of the property to the mansion’s upper-story windows where part of the storyline comes into play.

I used these features in the plot, offering a description of the property from several viewpoints for readers to “see” what the main characters (both past and present) were able to see. The description of the garden is a key clue for Lily to sort out along with the readers, and I think readers will have fun learning about the garden and the clues as Lily does.

Thank you for having me here today!


Other Information about the book you may want to include (though not original):

LauraWharton.indd“In Julia’s Garden: A Lily McGuire Mystery” Now Available

Laura S. Wharton’s Eighth Novel Marries Contemporary Setting with Mystery Set in History

Lily McGuire has her plants and her work as a landscape architect in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. What she doesn’t have (a man to date or an adventure to have) is just fine with her, thank you very much. Yet her whole world turns as chaotic as the grand old mansion’s garden she’s restoring when a stranger presents her with the gardening journal of a 1940s socialite-gone-missing. Snarky and somewhat misanthropic Lily must search its pages for clues to the young beauty’s disappearance and a potentially deadly mystery despite the warning that she should tread carefully: the journal was the cause of Lily’s best friend’s death, assures the stranger. Appearances aside, the old man doesn’t seem trustworthy. But then again, Lily doesn’t trust anyone, so why should he be any different?


The book will be .99 during the tour.

Available at Amazon


leaves on roadIn Julia’s Garden: A Lily McGuire Mystery is a contemporary mystery set in Winston-Salem with roots firmly planted in a historic southern garden in Columbia, South Carolina. Readers will recognize many of the places mentioned in the book (Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery, Krankie’s Coffee, Sweet Potatoes, 6th and Vine, etc.), so they can stroll along with Lily as she hunts for clues.

In the first of a series, Lily McGuire pieces together clues she finds in the missing socialite’s journal to discover what happened to Julia and to find closure on the death of her best friend who ran the small landscape architectural firm where Lily works. Lily also must tend to her own past, a landscape riddled with an emotionally draining failed marriage to a two- (or is it five, now?) timer who will be at their son’s upcoming college graduation, and attractive—but pesky—coworker Jack Chapman who is definitely not her type. Maybe.

Wharton’s other award-winning titles for adults and mysteries for children written with children, include Deceived: A Sam McClellan Tale, Leaving Lukens, The Pirate’s Bastard, Monsters Below, The Mermaid’s Tale, Mystery at the Phoenix Festival, and The Wizard’s Quest. Deceived is the first in a series. In Julia’s Garden is available through Wharton’s website,, independent bookstores and online booksellers (, B& It is also available online for e-book fans.


“Why did you use the word, ‘kill’?”

“Huh?” Jack leaned forward and put his arms on my desk.

“You said you didn’t think there was anything in here worth killing for. Macy wasn’t killed, Jack. She died of a heart attack, according to Dr. Tesh. Mr. Evans used the word, ‘die’…you are the only one who used the word, ‘kill.’ Why?”

“Didn’t you know? Julia Norton vanished. Her disappearance was never solved, and she was presumed dead. I got curious and perhaps a little nervous for you when I thought you might have something that could have led to Julia’s disappearance and possibly to Macy’s death. As I said, though, I didn’t find anything mysterious or titillating in there.” Jack pushed himself out of the chair and walked to the door.

“Jack, how do you know Julia Norton went missing?”

“I researched it online,” he responded, pointing at my computer. “It’s all there: archived newspaper stories and a page or two from a magazine featuring a socialite’s column about her. That’s what I was doing this morning. I was researching. Seems Julia was a popular young lady. Very popular. She came from a good family whose fortunes dwindled during the Great Depression. When the war began, her family did what it could for the war effort, and her father was rewarded handsomely by the city of Columbia for his ability to put people back to work making parts for airplanes. As the war came to a close, the family’s finances stabilized, but Julia went into a tailspin over something. One article said she began turning down invitations to big parties after the boys came home. Another reported that rumors about a secret marriage made her go into hiding. Anyway, there wasn’t anything about that in the journal. Just notes about parties when she was young, plants she liked…stuff like that was in the pages that I did manage to get through. Like I said, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the whole thing.” Jack stood up and slung his backpack over his shoulder. “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, Lily. Anyway, I’ve got your back, just in case.”



Laura Wharton will be awarding a copy of In Julia’s Garden (U.S.) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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About the Author:

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_InJuliasGardenNorth Carolina author Laura S. Wharton writes sea adventure/ suspense/mystery novels for adults and mysteries for children. Her love of history, gardening, and mystery often collide in her tales of adventurous people who rise above challenges in stories that twist and turn along the way toward satisfying—though not expected—endings. A technical writer by trade, Wharton has held every conceivable position in the communications and journalism fields. Wharton lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, teenaged son, three cats and one extremely tolerant dog. She is a recovering sailor who could backslide at any moment.



Books are available through independent bookstores and online at

I love to hear from readers, too! I’m on Facebook, GoodReads, and LinkedIn.


Quick Book Facts

Title: In Julia’s Garden: A Lily McGuire Mystery

Author: Laura S. Wharton

Distributor: Ingram

Publishing Date: December 2015

ISBN (Print): 978-0-9904662-9-1

Library of Congress Number: 2015913704

Paperback (available in ebook, too)

Pages: 244 (including cover)

Genre: Adult Mystery

Cover Art: Canadian artist Francois Thisdale



Laura S. Wharton



4 thoughts on “Real locations in storytelling by Laura Wharton #Mystery @Goddessfish

  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. Thank you for having me here today.

  3. Rita Wray

    I liked the excerpt.

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