May 23, 2021

Tara Lush

Tara Lush

In this episode, Linda Hengerer talks with Tara Lush about Grounds for Murder, the first book in her new Coffee Shop series, coffee, a coffee tour in St. Petersburg that helped Tara with research for her cozy mystery series, and writing as a journalist versus as a fiction author.

In this episode of Tart Words, Linda Hengerer talks with Tara Lush. 

Tara Lush is a Rita Award finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow, and a George C. Polk Award-winning journalist. For the past decade, she's been a reporter with the Associated Press, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters, and politics. She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations. A fan of vintage pulp-fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, and 1980s fashion, she lives with her husband and two dogs on the Gulf coast.

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Visit to find out more about Tara and her latest books.


Here's a link to the coffee tour mentioned in the episode:

Get to know Tara - The Tart Words Baker's Dozen:

1.   Plotter or Pantser? Plotter

2.   Tea or Coffee? Coffee

3.   Beer, Wine, or Cocktails? I rarely drink, but when I do, it's champagne

4.   Snacks: Sweet or Savory? Savory

5.   Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid? Hybrid

6.   Strict Writing Schedule: Yes

7.    Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? Strictly computer

8.    Daily Goal: Yes

9.    Formal Track Progress: Yes

10.  Special Writing Spot? Sofa or coffee shop

11.   Writer’s Block? No

12.   File of Ideas: Yes

13.   Favorite Author(s)? Cleo Coyle, Carl Hiaasen, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Diane Mott Davidson

Like this episode? Leave a review or rating! 


Transcribed by; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos or grammar errors J

Episode 225 - Tara Lush



Linda 00:00

Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words. In this episode, I’m talking with Tara Lush.


Tara Lush is a Rita Award finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow, and a George C. Polk Award winning journalist. For the past decade, she's been a reporter with the Associated Press, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters, and politics. She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations. A fan of vintage pulp-fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, and 1980s fashion, she lives with her husband and two dogs on the Gulf coast. Visit her website at where you can sign up for her newsletter and get a free book and find out all about Tara. Welcome to the podcast, Tara. I'm really looking forward to talking with you today.


Tara 01:16

Thanks for having me.


Linda 01:17

You're welcome. Tell me about your latest book.


Tara 01:20

My debut novel, Grounds for Murder, is a Cozy Mystery and it came out in December. It is a Cozy Mystery set in Florida which is where I live, and it's about reporter, a journalist who was laid off from her job in Miami from her newspaper in Miami and she goes home to the fictional island of Devil’s Beach, Florida. She runs her family's coffee shop and one of her baristas is found dead. That is the whole premise of the book and the series is about her. The second book in the series comes out in December of 2021.


Linda 01:52

Now is Devil’s Beach standing in for a real part of Florida?


Tara 01:57

Sort of loosely based on where I live in Florida, which is the Gulf Coast. It's a little bit if you're familiar with Florida or if your listeners are familiar with Florida, it's a little bit like Sanibel Island, Amelia Island, Treasure Island, which is really close to where I live in St. Petersburg. So it's a little bit like those places. It's an island in the Gulf of Mexico.


Linda 02:18

I've been to Sanibel. I live in Vero Beach which is on the Atlantic coast. But I've been to Amelia Island also and the island communities do seem a little – not isolated, but you definitely get a feeling of other. Part of Vero Beach is separated by the Intracoastal. So people refer to the beach side and it's technically an island, but it's not an island in the way that Sanibel or Amelia Island are.


Tara 02:44

Yes, exactly. Those sorts of places that are set apart from the mainland are good settings for quirky characters, and quirky stories, especially Florida stories.


Linda 02:56

Anytime you're on the beach, you're talking about high-end real estate and exclusivity and a finite amount of land, which gives you a limited amount to work with.


Tara 03:07

Absolutely. In my book, the island used to be kind of this sleepy sort of hippie enclave. And then it has turned into a real fashionable tourist location. So there's a little bit of push and pull between those two things, the old Florida and the new Florida


Linda 03:22

Now do you love coffee? Is that why you wanted to set your story in a coffee shop?


Tara 03:27

I do love coffee. I had written romance prior to this. I still do write romance. I was thinking about where to set my mystery. And I thought that a coffee shop would be a good setting for it. I did do a lot of research and not just by drinking coffee. But here in St. Petersburg there's a couple who run a business called the craft coffee tour. And it's this wonderful tour where you go to different cafes all over the city and you've learned about coffee from somebody who's an expert, and so I relied on him - the person who did the tour and runs the tour – to give me a lot of information insider information on what it's like to run a coffee shop and the ins and outs of brewing a good cup of coffee.


Linda 04:08

I always like to learn how things get to be the way they are. I like the TV show How It's Made. But I like to do the behind the scenes tours at different venues too, just because I like knowing how things work. I like to see how the sausage is made. I like drinking coffee, too. So I am looking forward to reading your book. Where did the idea for your main character come from?


Tara 04:29s

Until very recently, until the beginning of March, actually I was a journalist. I've been a journalist since my early 20s. I've written a couple of romances with journalist heroine so it was a natural to write an amateur sleuth who is a laid off journalist. I was not laid off, I decided to quit my longtime job with the Associated Press and become a full time fiction writer, but I know a lot of journalists who have been laid off and it's a real reality. I decided to base the heroine on that.


Linda 04:53

I'm interested in your journalism background because I know from talking to other journalists turned fiction writers, it's a different muscle. It's writing, yes, but you are trying to get the facts out when you're a journalist. And when you're a fiction writer, you're making things up, even if it's based in reality, but you're also not so brusque with the narrative. With journalism, you have X amount of words to get the who, what, where, why, and how. And with a novel, you have the space to explore it. Did you find that difference a challenge?


Tara 05:31

I did, yes. And I still do, I think that the emotion, writing with emotion, which obviously in romance is a pretty big deal, that does not come easy to me. And so that's something I have to overcome. I was fortunate in certain points of my career, I did longer form narrative journalism for an alt weekly. So I wrote longer, much longer pieces – 6 to 10,000 word pieces. So I had to structure it a little different than the average news story. That said, it is a challenge. And it's a challenge because and another way to because especially at my most recent job at the Associated Press, everything had to be done so very quickly, we were on deadline, constantly updating stories and writing about breaking news. And that creates this sense of urgency about literally everything. When you're a fiction writer, especially if you are publishing traditionally, it's a lot of waiting. And it's a lot of time. I finished my second cozy in the end of last year, and then I've been in edits for it, and it won't come out until December. And that's pretty quick for traditional publishing. But sometimes it takes a lot longer and waiting to hear back from your agent and waiting to hear back from a publisher on a proposal. It just takes a long time. And so that takes a lot of adjusting and getting used to as well.


Linda 06:50

I bet it does. It's not uncommon for the life of a book from contract to publication to be two years.


Tara 06:58



Linda 06:59

How did you get the idea for, I know you said your main character is a journalist. But what else about her did you create or what else about her is based on your own life or a life you wish you had led?


Tara 07:14

I wouldn't say that anything that she's like me at all in really any way except I would say that the things she has covered and the things she encounters on the island are oftentimes things that I have covered or have read about in Florida, the weird Florida things like somebody's reporting that they found a chicken nugget shaped like a manatee and things like that, like little quirky things. And some of the news stories mentioned or the crimes mentioned in the book are things that I have covered in real life.


Linda 07:44

That's interesting. Florida does seem to have more than its share of peculiar and unique individuals.


Tara 07:51

That is very true. It's ripe for the picking for journalist and fiction writer.


Linda 07:55

It's really a terrific place to live if you're looking for inspiration for writing.



It is.



Do you have a writing routine or schedule?


Tara 08:03

Now I do, yeah, because I don't have my day job. I generally get up, have breakfast and go for a walk every day because I realized that if I'm not healthy, I can't write. So I need to be pretty diligent about exercise and eating. Well, that's a top, top priority for me. That priority is put first before everything else. That is a promise I made to myself when I left my day job, that would become the top priority. And then I write. I try to write about 2000 words a day. Then after that I either do edits, I'm currently in edit on a romance novel that's being published in 2022, or I also have freelance copyediting jobs that I do those in the afternoon.


Linda 08:41

That certainly takes up quite a bit of working time.


Tara 08:44




Do you outline?



I do outline. I use a software called Plottr (Linda – Yes!) PLOTTR. Yeah, I love it. I love Plottr. In fact, I was just prior to this podcast, I was just going over the plot. I'm actually starting a new cozy series. And I'm exploring that plot and the characters and trying to get it all down so that I can get it straight and continue to write.


Linda 09:07

Oh, I'll have to have you back when you have more information about that.


Tara 09:11

It's also based in Florida.


Linda 09:13

Do you have a creative outlet that helps with your writing? Or is coffee drinking enough of a break to give you a creative respite?


Tara 09:21

I think really walking and yoga are my creative respites. I need to move my body. And then I also cook. Those are things that I need in order to be creative.


Linda 09:29

I agree with you about the cooking, that helps me too. And I find that sometimes when I'm driving because my brain is engaged in the drive, my subconscious is working on any little story problems or plot problems. I will get a good idea for a story problem that I'm having or just an idea about a future story in general.


Tara 09:50

Yeah, that's definitely true. When I used to travel a lot for my job, I would often think of stories when I was on the road.


Linda 09:56

Do you have any recipes in your books? Are they that sort of cozy?


Tara 10:01

I do not. They are in some ways that sort of cozy. In Grounds for Murder and the second book in the series, Cold Brew Corpse, the heroine does provide a few snacks for her coffee shop. She's kind of a coffee purist, so she doesn't try to do everything. She does provide some snacks and all of the snacks have five ingredients or less. So I have put some of those recipes in my newsletter for some five ingredient snacks.


Linda 10:27

I like that. I like having snacks that are very few ingredients because they're generally fast and easy.



Yes, exactly.



Where is the best place for people to find you? Is that at your website?


Tara 10:38

Yes, you can find me at – T A R A L U S H .com – or on Instagram @authorTaraLush is just the handle on Instagram. And my books can be found wherever ebooks are sold. Or if you are in Florida, a lot of the libraries here are carrying them and your local library may carry Grounds for murder as well, a lot of them do, or you can ask for it. You can request it and it's also an audio book.


Linda 11:04

Terrific. And I'll have the links to your website and to your Instagram in the show notes. Thank you for coming on. This has been really fun and interesting.


Tara 11:12

Thank you for having me.


Linda 11:14

Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit Before you go, Follow or Subscribe for free to the podcast to receive new episodes when they're released. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for Bakers, Readers, and/or Writers at Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.


Tara LushProfile Photo

Tara Lush


Tara Lush is a Rita Award finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow, and a George C. Polk Award-winning journalist. For the past decade, she's been a reporter with the Associated Press, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters, and politics. She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations. A fan of vintage pulp-fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, and 1980s fashion, she lives with her husband and two dogs on the Gulf coast.