Edith, writing up a storm north of Boston
I’m pleased to have fellow New England author Linda Reilly visit today. She and I had been online friends, and I was delighted that she drove all the way to Salem, New Hampshire this summer when I was signing at the Barnes and Noble there, just to meet me in person. Take it away, Linda! (Oh, and she’s giving away a copy of her debut mystery, Some Enchanted Murder, to a commenter.)
Writing what I know . . .
First, I’d like to thank Edith Maxwell for inviting me to guest blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors! I live in New Hampshire, but I’m an old Massachusetts gal from way back, so I feel right at home here with everyone.
As a lover of psychological suspense, I’d never pictured myself writing a cozy. For years I’d been devouring the books of authors such as Carlene Thompson, Wendy Corsi Staub, and Joy Fielding. Their heart-stopping novels kept me glued to the pages, so why would I want to write anything else? On my part, it was very short-sighted.
I first discovered that I wanted to write a cozy when I landed on a charming mystery many cozy lovers are familiar with, about a New Hampshire town in which everything is designed around books. The main character owns a mystery book store, and is surrounded by quirky characters in a delightful little village. By the time she solved the murder and wrapped up all the loose ends, I was completely and irrevocably hooked. I wanted to read cozies! More important, I wanted to write cozies. Thinking back to my teen years, I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Back when paperback mysteries cost seventy-five cents, Agatha Christie had been a huge favorite of mine. She evoked such enchanting visions of quaint English villages that I longed to travel to England, a dream I later fulfilled.
Okay, so now I wanted to write a cozy. Ah, but what to write about? We’ve all heard the old saw write what you know, but was it really the best advice? Well I wasn’t sure, since I’d read opposing views, but writing what I was familiar with sounded awfully good to me.
To write what I know, I had to rely on my job. In my day gig I work as a paralegal/title examiner for a title insurance company. Wait . . . don’t nod off yet. Examining titles in the Registries of Deeds, where evidence of land ownership is recorded, is a huge part of my job. So my main character would be a paralegal, I decided, and an expert at examining titles. Except that she would work for a tiny law office, not a big company; and she would live in a fictional town called Hazleton, New Hampshire. And because she needed a sidekick, I gave her a sixty-something aunt—a Realtor who tools around in her dead husband’s old gas guzzler and played Beatles music almost around the clock.
It was the concept of creating the perfect clue that intrigued me the most. Once I’d latched onto the idea that the secret to the killer’s identity had to be hidden in the weighty volumes of the Registry of Deeds, I couldn’t let it go. The Rockingham County Registry worked perfectly for me. I needed my clue to date back to the early 1950s, and the Rockingham County indices stretch back to 1629.
I still wasn’t sure I could make any of it work, but after a lot of false starts the mystery finally came together. A detailed rejection from one insightful editor set me on the path to a better story. I was grateful that I’d taken the advice to write what I know, because late in 2011 Five Star Publishing accepted Some Enchanted Murder for publication. The mystery debuted in March of 2013, and was a finalist for the 2014 Silver Falchion Award in the category “Best First Novel: Cozy, Traditional and Historical.”
I’m currently writing a cozy series for Berkley Prime Crime called Deep Fried Mysteries. My main character is restaurateur Talia Marby, whose recently acquired fish and chips shop in the Berkshires morphs into a “deep fried” eatery. Talia and I are both new at the job, so together we’re experimenting with tasty recipes . . . all while solving murders, of course. The first book in the series, Fillet of Murder, will debut in May 2015.
Anyone who leaves a comment will be entered in a drawing for a hardcover copy of Some Enchanted Murder.
Readers – Questions for Linda about examining titles or deep fried food? Or anything else?
Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examination, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. Her dream of one day having a story published happened in 1995 when a national magazine published her short mystery Out of Luck. Since then, she’s had over forty short stories published in Woman’s World magazine. Linda lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband, where she is currently working on her new Deep Fried cozy mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her at www.lindasreilly.com
Linda, I love the story of how you came to write cozies and found it very interesting how you came to decide on the story, setting, and characters for Some Enchanted Murder! Yes, it was very logical yet also seems serendipitous. So glad you were here today to talk some about your process and your books. I look forward to reading both. 🙂
Thank you, Reine! For a long time, I really didn’t know if I could make the story work, but sometimes the universe cooperates and helps you pull it all together. Thanks for stopping by on this chilly Monday morning!
I’m so glad Linda decided to write cozy mysteries. I’ve been a long time fan of her Woman’s World mysteries and absolutely loved SOME ENCHANTED MURDER. I can’t wait to meet Talia and see how she handles running a restaurant and solving crimes. When does the first Deep Fried mystery release?
Susan, so glad to see your post! You are very kind. Fillet of Murder is due for release early in May 2015. I’m very excited about your Georgia Peach Tree series debuting with Berkley Prime Crime next year. I am so anxious to read it!
Interesting job and interesting cozies. Thanks for writing 🙂
Thank you, Gram. Most parts of my job really are interesting. I love reviewing deeds and plans, looking for the slightest little glitch in the title. Good luck with the drawing!
i LOVE this cover!!!
as a kid, I used to always draw hearts with an arrow through it (I wasn’t that creative or ingenious to draw a sword!!! LOL!!)…..
thank you for the giveaway!!!
Thank you, Cyn! The cover was done by my wonderful publisher, Five Star. I thought they captured the antique valentine, which is also a clue in the mystery, quite perfectly. The sword or dagger through the heart added just the right touch of menace for a cozy. Thank you for commenting today!
Sounds like a wonderful book and I look forward to reading it.
Thank you for commenting, Rebecca. Good luck!
This was a great blog entry. I appreciated the ‘how’ behind the scenes. I have so many stories to tell – this will help me keep going! Thanks
Thank you, Lorraine, and keep telling those stories! Good luck in the drawing.
I look forward to reading Some Enchanted Murder and the new Deep Fried series!
Thank you for commenting, and good luck with the drawing!
Thanks for joining us today! I love how you used your job for Some Enchanted Murder! And “deep fried eatery” sounds delicious!
Sherry, thank you all for hosting me. I’m looking forward to reading Tagged for Death. I love new cozy series!
Your picture of those bound volumes of deeds is so familiar: I’ve spent a lot of time in the Hampshire County Registry in Northampton looking up old deeds and wills for my families there, including the one that lived in the house I write about. I’ve always said that kind of research is terrific training for writing mysteries. I’ll have to read your book (no, you don’t have to enter me in the drawing!).
Thank you, Sheila! That photo of the deeds volumes came from Edith, and I appreciate her diligence in seeking it out for this post. I’ve read all your Orchard books, and the amount of family research you did really shone through. I’m hooked on the Orchard series, and I’m looking forward to reading Picked to Die ~
Another quick note about the Registries of Deeds — they’re a great place for writers to find fun names from all different eras!
Enjoyed your story of how it all came to be. Best wishes
Thank you, Margaret. Best of luck in the drawing!
Loved reading the article! So excited about the upcoming mysteries!!
I miss you, Cousin Nancy!! Love you!!
Looks like a great cozy mystery
Thanks so much, Kiki. Wishing you luck in the drawing!
Welcome, Linda! I’m so glad you could come by the Wicked Cozies. I used to be a title examiner, too, (back in the misty dawns of time) and I agree it would be a great profession for a cozy protagonist. Five Star was my first publisher, too, and they have been great to me.
Barb, I’m honored to be here. I didn’t realize you’d had books published by Five Star (what fabulous folks they are to work with), but I read your first Clambake cozy and loved it! Examining titles is so different now, with most of the research being done online. Sometimes I do miss those old days trawling among the dusty volumes. Thanks for stopping by!
So glad you enjoyed Clammed Up!
I love fish and chips. You can fry ice cream for dessert.
Raquel, thank you for the suggestion. I’m always on the alert for “deep fry” ideas! Thanks for commenting.
Thanks for visiting the Wickeds, Linda! Your series both sound like fun. I look forward to reading them and to meeting you in person sometime since we are in the same general area!
Jessie, I hope to meet you, too! I loved your first maple syrup cozy but haven’t gotten to the second one yet. Thanks for hosting me today.
Linda, don’t put my name in the hat, because I already own a copy of Some Enchanted Murder, a very well-written mystery! And also impressive — all those Women’s World short stories, a tough market. I’m really looking forward to the deep fried series. Congratulations!
Karen, I’m so pleased to see your post! Karen is a fellow Five Star author whose debut mystery COLD FEET was released about a month before Some Enchanted Murder. It was a great book, and I sure hope the sequel is coming soon!
Love your story! I would love the read Some Enchanted Murder…sounds interesting. Your new series sounds good also…there is nothing more exciting to me than a brand-new cozy series!
Thanks for posting, Christi. I love new cozy series as well–I only wish I had more time to read all the books I’d like to read! Good luck in the drawing!
Both of your books sound like very entertaining reads. I suspect most cosy readers have the same experience you describe. You can’t stop at one cozy.
Thank you for commenting, Nancy. In my humble opinion, cozies are the best!! Good luck in the drawing.
A clue hidden in registries from the 1950’s? That’s definitely intriguing.
Thank you, Mark. I love those nifty 50s! Good luck in the drawing.
Both look like fun new cozies. Congrats
Thank you for commenting, bookwoman! Best of luck in the drawing.
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