by Barb, in sunny, warm Key West (don’t hate me)
Regular readers of the blog will remember my friend author Lea Wait was here in September. Then she talked about the latest book in her Shadows Antique Print series, Shadows on a Maine Christmas. At the time, she mentioned her new Mainely Needlepoint mystery series was coming soon. Well now the first book in the series, Twisted Threads, is here and we’ve asked Lea back to answer some questions about it.
About Twisted Threads: Angie Curtis had a rough Maine childhood, which only got worse when she was ten and her mother disappeared. At eighteen, Angie took off for any place other than Maine and ended up working for a private investigator in Arizona. Now she’s 28, her mother’s body has been found, and Angie returns to Haven Harbor vowing to find her mother’s killer. When she finds her grandmother’s needlepoint business is in trouble, she also agrees to help out there. She doesn’t know “helping out” will mean solving another murder, and confronting some of her childhood fears.
Barb: While you’ve always written more than one thing, because you write for children and adults, Twisted Threads is the first book in your second mystery series for adults. How did you think about creating a second series? Was it a very different experience than creating the world of the Shadows mysteries?
Lea: When I started the Shadows series I hadn’t been published. Truthfully, I wrote the first in the series (Shadows at the Fair) to prove to myself that I could sustain a book-length manuscript. I was focused on writing one book at a time. For fun, I made each Shadows Antique Print mystery reflect a different classic mystery tradition, from the Gothic house mystery (Shadows on the Coast of Maine) to the academic mystery (Shadows on the Ivy) to the wedding mystery (Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding) and the Christmas mystery (Shadows on a Maine Christmas).
I was a beginner: I didn’t think through my decision to set different books in the series in different places. (Maggie Summer is an antique print dealer who travels to do antique shows and visit friends.) Some readers who grew attached to various characters, like Maggie’s best friend, Gussie, wanted their favorites to appear in every book in the series. I’d consciously hoped to avoid the “Cabot Cove” syndrome in which eventually everyone in the village seems destined to die. But, instead, I set up a different challenge.
I know a lot more about writing mysteries now than I did when I set up the Shadows series!
Barb: Angie Curtis in the Mainely Needlepoint series is a very different protagonist than Maggie Summers in the Shadows mysteries. They’re different ages and have vastly different backgrounds. Because of this, the challenges they deal with and their goals are very different as well. How did you create Angie Curtis? Was it a conscious goal to keep her so far away from Maggie?
Lea: Yes! Angie is a high school graduate who grew up in Maine. She’s single and street-smart and 28. She’s worked for a private investigator, she knows how to shoot, she’s been known to drink too much, and there have been more men in her life than she’s willing to admit to anyone but herself.
Maggie, on the other hand, grew up in suburban New Jersey, has a doctorate and is both a professor and an antique print dealer. She’s a widow in her late 30s who is hearing her time clock tick … she wants to be a mother. She has issues, too: she’s sometimes too focused on her jobs or on solving a crime to think of other people. And after a poor marriage, she has trouble trusting men.
Maggie can be brave; Angie can be reckless. Maggie wants to settle down; Angie needs to resolve issues left over from her childhood.
The Shadows books are from Maggie’s point of view, but written in the third person. The Mainely Needlepoint series is written in first person, so we see the world through Angie’s eyes.
As a writer, I wanted to challenge myself by choosing a heroine who was very different from Maggie. And I’m having a lot of fun learning to know Angie!
Barb: Twisted Threads takes place in a harbor town in Maine, a setting I know you know a little something about. How did you create Harbor Haven and how is it both different than and similar to your real Maine town?
Lea: Hmmm. Yes. You do have a bit of knowledge about Maine harbor towns. I love both your home in Boothbay Harbor … and your books set in Busman’s Harbor!
The Shadow series does include a Maine community. Weymouth, a fictional village, is on a tidal river, very similar to real Maine towns like Bath and Wiscasset and Damariscotta. Again, in setting up a new series I wanted a new setting. Haven Harbor, Angie’s home town, looks out to sea. It has a working waterfront, a few tourist areas, and its own lighthouse and islands. (But no clam bakes!) It is more similar to your Boothbay Harbor, and to Belfast, and other towns in Down East Maine.
Barb: What are you working on now?
Lea: Kensington, the publisher we share, wanted a new Mainely Needlepoint book every six months (!) So this month I’m celebrating the publication of Twisted Threads, doing copy edits on Threads of Evidence, which will be published next August, and writing Thread and Gone, the third in the series. When I hit a rough spot or really need a break I work on the next Shadows book … Shadows on a Maine Morning. So – not bored in Maine this winter!
Readers–do you have a question or comment for Lea?
Biography: Maine author Lea Wait writes the 7-book Shadows Antique Print Mystery series and historical novels for young readers set in 19th century Maine. She adopted her four daughters as a single parent; now she’s the grandmother of eight, and married to artist Bob Thomas. For more information about Lea and her books, see her website www.leawait.com, and friend her on FB and Goodreads.