A Wicked Welcome to Molly MacRae

A few years ago I was at Malice Domestic, sitting through Malice-Go-Round. Malice-Go-Round is a Friday morning session where pairs of authors go around from table to table and pitch their books in two minutes. It is tough to do, and even tougher to stand out. But Molly MacRae made me laugh, and I went right to the bookroom to buy her first book in her Haunted Yarn Shop series, Last Wool and Testament. Two years ago I moderated a panel a Malice, and Molly was one of the panelists. She was funny and gracious. I’m so thrilled to welcome Molly to the Wicked Cozy Authors today, so she can tell us about the debut of her new Highland Bookshop Mystery series. Plaid and Plagiarism debuted this past Tuesday.


Any Questions?

plaid-and-plagiarism-finalMysteries are all about questions and answers. Everyone involved in a mystery story is either asking questions and looking for answers, or they’re busy hiding answers—often with wicked intent. And by “everyone,” I mean to include the writers as well as the characters. In fact, especially the writers. The characters almost have it easy. They deal with the classic who, what, where, how, and when of a mystery. But the writer has to ask the bigger question—what is the theme of this story, in other words, what is this story about? Part of my process in planning a story is figuring out the answer to that question.

For instance, a theme running through my Margaret and Bitsy short stories is familial interactions. More specifically, it’s watching the dance grown siblings do in their interactions with each other. In those stories, Margaret Welch is a laidback bookseller. Her sister, Bitsy, is . . . not so laidback. A theme frequently found in small town cozy mysteries is the character as a fish out of water. It’s one of my favorite themes. Kath, my protagonist in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, is a fish out of water when she goes to live in Blue Plum, Tennessee. Geneva, the ghost in that series, is a fish totally out of the water. She should be dead and buried but finds herself living in a yarn shop. The fish out of water theme is a great way to create immediate tension in a story.

In my new series, the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, there are four main characters—four women who pool their money and buy a bookshop in a town on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands It’s a retirement/change of career scheme for them, and as three of them are Americans and the fourth is a Scotswoman who’s been living in the Illinois for the past few decades, they are all fish out of water. But there’s another theme running through the first book, Plaid and Plagiarism, and the series. It’s a theme you’ll also find in a song by the late Steve Goodman: “The I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, But I’m Going Nowhere in a Hurry Blues.”

Each of the women, Janet Marsh and Tallie Marsh, Christine Robertson, and Summer Jacobs, came to a point in her life where she no longer knew where she was going and wanted to change that. Janet’s husband left her for one of his students. Christine’s husband died. Tallie is a burned out law professor. Summer is a newspaperwoman in an age when print newspapers are disappearing. But they all love Scotland. They all love books. They all have a sense of adventure. The bookshop they buy is thriving and located in a tourist town. The women have a new direction, new leases on life.

My four new characters might not know exactly what’s in store for them with their new venture, but that doesn’t bother them. They’re in Scotland. The Highlands! That they don’t know what’s in store doesn’t bother me, either. That’s because it gives me, the one of the best questions of all to play around with. What can possibly go wrong?

Oh, let me count the ways.

Where do you look for themes for your stories?


molly-and-catThe Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” In addition to writing the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, Molly is the author of the award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries from NAL/Penguin and the stand-alone mystery novels Lawn Order and Wilder Rumors. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she’s a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Molly and her family live in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children and books at the public library.


Website: www.mollymacrae.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molly.macrae.9

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/MollyMacRae/

Twitter: @mysterymacrae

37 Thoughts

  1. I’ve had this book on my library list since I saw the first review..Dru’s Musings maybe???

    1. Thanks, Gram. Speaking as someone who works in the public library – libraries rock! I’m glad yours has the book and happy it’s on your list.

  2. Welcome, Molly! What a fun premise for your new series. PLAID is waiting on my kindle right now and I can’t wait to dive in. Research question: have you spent a lot of time in the Scottish Highlands? Or is series this excuse to start doing exactly that? :^)

    1. Thanks for having me here, today, Edith! The answers to your research questions are a qualified yes and an absolute yes. I lived in Scotland for one blessed year, in Edinburgh, so not the Highlands. But I’ve spent time in the Highlands and in towns like the one I invented for the series. And I absolutely want to go back – often!

    1. Thank you, Stormi! I hope you like this one as much. I’m having a lot of fun writing it. Thanks for stopping by the blog today.

  3. Thanks for joining us today! It sounds like you have a wonderful set up for your new series — four women, who are friends, and living in a new place — I can’t wait to find out what goes wrong!

    1. Thanks, Sherry. Something always does go wrong in our books, doesn’t it? Our poor, dear characters. And they so rarely see it coming. 🙂

  4. Thanks for visiting, Molly! This series sounds like such fun! I would love to know if you have each of the four women functioning as point-of-view characters and if so, is that a challenge for you or a pleasure or both?

    1. Nice to be here, Jessie. Good question, too. No, although there are four main characters, the stories are told from Janet’s point of view. I considered using all four as point-of-view characters, but decided to stick with one. Someday I’d like to do an ensemble point of view, but it really would be a challenge to get it right.

  5. This book is hitting my doorstep today and I am saving for my Christmas break! I can’t wait to read it!

    And I LOVE the cover!

  6. I loved your other series! I am very excited to check this new book out! It has such an interesting premise!!!

    1. Thank you! Launching a new series is always scary. It’s nice to have people cheering it on.

    1. I enjoyed writing it. Working hard on the second one . . . Thanks for stopping by today.

    1. Dru Ann is a treasure. Give her a hug for me the next time you see her, will you?

    2. Dru Ann is a treasure! Give her a hug for me the next time you see her, will you?

  7. Sounds like a fun new series. Congrats!

    Theme? That’s one thing I rarely pay attention to in cozies, I must admit. I really should work on changing that, shouldn’t I?

    1. I love working on a theme, and what I hope is that the theme will add to the tension and conflict, help inform the action, and then lead everything towards a satisfying conclusion. Sounds good on paper, anyway. 🙂

    2. Give it a try! My hope is that a theme will add to the tension and conflict and help make the conclusion more rounded and satisfying. Sounds good in theory, anyway. 🙂

      1. Oops – sorry for the duplicate reply. The first one didn’t seem to go through. (Glad, at least, that I didn’t contradict myself.)

    1. No kidding. I work in the public library – no way I can possibly read all the books that call out to me.

  8. Welcome to the Wickeds, Molly! I have only been to Edinburgh, never to the highlands, but it is on my bucket list. Best of luck with the new series!

    1. Isn’t Edinburgh a nice city? I lived in a walk-up flat around two corners from where Ian Rankin’s character John Rebus lives. It would be fun to take a cozy mystery tour of Scotland, wouldn’t it? Thanks for having me here, today.

  9. Great news on your new series Molly. For me a cozy read is not a cozy without humor! I will be checking out your Yarn Shop series first as I tend to go to a series that has several books out already to binge on 🙂

    1. Thank you, Lorraine! Starting with the Yarn Shop is a good idea. There are five books in the series, and I think you’ll find the humor you’re looking for.

    1. Go! You’ll love it. It’s wonderful even in the rain. Thanks for having me here, Susannah!

  10. Wow I still can’t get over that you lived in Scotland that close to Ian Rankin’s character Rebus. I would have loved to live in Scotland for a year…a month anything…sounds heavenly.

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