A Wicked Welcome to Molly MacRae!

The first time I saw Molly MacRae I was sitting at a table during Malice Go-Round, where authors go from table to table and pitch their books. It is exhausting for authors and for folks at the tables listening in. But when Molly came by and talked about her Haunted Yarn Shop series, she made laugh. I ran right to the book room to buy it. Later, when I got to know her, I was struck by how funny she is all the time. More than that, she’s very kind and a lovely person to get to know. I’m so glad she’s visiting the blog today.

Make it So? Writing as Wishful Thinking 

Fabricating is fun. Both in the sense of creating tangible things—with needles, yarns, and threads, or with woodworking tools, or with mixing bowls and baking pans, and in the sense of producing something out of whole cloth—with words, ideas, and a keyboard. There’s nothing quite like the kick I get out of dreaming up characters, setting them down in a place I’d like to live, and then complicating their lives with problematic families and friends. Even more fun, I like dropping the poor things into “situations,” putting words in their mouths they’ll probably or ought to regret, and then stepping back to see what happens. Having fun at their expense might sound mean-spirited, especially knowing that I write crime fiction, but the crimes I write about are cozy, so the characters are fairly safe. Except for the occasional dead body. There’s almost always a dead body. Or two (and sometimes three). Apparently it can’t be helped.

I know I’ve done my storytelling job well when readers tell me they want to visit the towns I’ve created so they can hang out with my characters. One reader said, after reading the Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries, “I want to live in your books.” But when another reader wrote to say she’d taken a trip to Scotland, and been confused and disappointed when she couldn’t find Inversgail, I felt terrible. Inversgail, the town in my Highland Bookshop mysteries, is pure fabrication. Darn, because I’d like to go there, too. I want to sit on the harbor wall on a sunny afternoon, then browse through Yon Bonny Books, stop for a wedge of Mull Cheddar in the cheese shop, and finish the day at Nev’s with a half pint of Selkie’s Tears. Darn.

But that reader’s disappointment (and my own) set me to wondering. What else have I fabricated for the yarn shop and the bookshop mysteries that I wish existed in real life? 

Selkie’s Tears, for starters. It’s an ale you’ll only find in Inversgail. The local poetry form, too—Skye-ku. I’d like to find a volume of those poems at the library, or an illustrated edition for children that I could send to my grandsons. And then there’s the Haggis Half-Hundred. It’s an annual bicycle challenge/fun ride mentioned in Thistles and Thieves, the Highland Bookshop Mystery coming out in January. You ride fifty miles through the Highlands, with stunning views all around, and you’re rewarded at the end with a plate of haggis. I’d sign up today, if I hadn’t made the whole thing up. 

Some details in the two series are only half-fabricated. They’re things I borrowed and modified. In the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, Joe Dunbar’s watercolors are really my husband’s beautiful little paintings. And Mel’s on Main, the café down the street from the yarn shop, is really the Main Street Café in Jonesborough, Tennessee. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop there for lunch. I plan to the next time I’m in town. I also borrowed the row house the yarn shop occupies, but the Weaver’s Cat itself exists only in the books. I know how the shop is laid out, though, how the wool feels and smells, how the window in the kitchen sometimes sticks, and how a particular step on the way up to the study in the attic squeaks, and I wish I could climb that stairway myself. 

What I wish existed most of all, though, is not what, but who—Geneva, the ghost who haunts the Weaver’s Cat. I’ve never met a ghost, and I don’t believe in them, but I’m glad Geneva popped into the books, and I do wish I could meet her for real. 

In thinking about real and unreal, and how wishing—or writing—doesn’t make it so, I reaffirmed for myself why I like mysteries, especially cozies. They might be fabrications, and they might be unrealistic, but they satisfy my need to set things right after upheaval, and to prove goodness does exist.  

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” Thistles and Thieves, book 3 in Molly’s Highland Bookshop Mysteries, will be out in January 2020. She recently signed a contract for two more in that series. Crewel and Unusual, book 6 in her award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, came out in January 2019. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she is a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her at www.mollymacrae.com and www.killercharacters.com

21 Thoughts

  1. I see this with my students who want to live, not in cozy mysteries, but at Hogwarts so badly. I think that’s why some of them tend to read the books over and over because they want to feel that setting again. Thank you for the post! 🙂

    1. Hogwarts, yes! There are so many wonderful places in children’s literature that I’d like to spend time. Sitting in the barn with Fern, listening to Wilbur and Charlotte, visiting Pippi Longstocking, the abbey in the Redwall series – especially during a feast. Thanks for stopping by, today, Amy!

  2. I know the feeling. There are several series I read where I’d gladly visit – or even live – in their fictional settings.

    1. Yup. And characters I wish were part of my own family (or families I’d like to join). 🙂

  3. Welcome to the Wickeds, Molly! I get emails and Facebook posts from readers who have visited the real Cabbage Island Clambake and had a blast. Even though my Snowden family and their island are very different from Cabbage Island, I am happy to point visitors toward my inspiration.

    1. That’s a wonderful part of writing, isn’t it, Barb? I’d love to visit Cabbage Island, by the way. Someday!

  4. I love living in the many imaginary places that cozies introduce to me. Even with the murders, they are safe places to vacation from my sofa. As you Sky-ku – why don’t you write your own book of them? It’s not unprecedented. Terry Prachett wrote Where’s My Cow which is book one of his characters read to his son every night.

    1. I love taking vacations from my sofa, too. It’s a convenient way to travel when you can’t get “there” any other way. I’m not sure my poetry skills are up to snuff for a book of Skye-ku, but I’ve been toying around with the idea. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Love this, Molly! After I finished my first mystery, Mr. Right and I were headed over the mountains to visit my mother for her birthday, and I wanted to take her a small something. I thought “I’ll just pop into the Merc and see what they have.” Then I remembered I’d made it up. Either I’d done a really good job, or I’d gone ’round the bend. (The jury is still out.)

    Raising a glass of Selkie’s Tears to you!

    1. Ha! I love that story about the Merc. Raising a glass of Selkie’s Tears to you, too, Leslie!

  6. This is a great post. I like why you write cozies. I love this picture of this adorable kitty being your quality control kitty. He is on the job.

    1. Neko was a wonderful editor! He loved either sitting on my lap or being snuggled in the baby wrap. Thanks for stopping by, Lori!

  7. My favorite series are indeed the ones where I want to visit in real life – at least between the murders. Every time a book comes out, I can’t wait to get back and visit the characters again.

    1. Ha! Between the murders is the key! The characters probably feel that way, too. 🙂

  8. I’ve met Molly, and one of the reasons I love her books is because I enjoy being with her so much, in real life or through her fiction. I would love to go read aloud to Geneva. You know what I’d read her: The Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries! lol

    1. Oh, Marian. Thank you! Wouldn’t it be fun to spend an afternoon with Geneva for real? If I ever figure out how, I’ll let you know.

  9. I love the settings in cozies. They’re really another character in the story & yes, I want to visit them in real life.

    1. I’m right there with you, Jana. Cozies are a great way to travel.

  10. Thanks, so much, for the warm welcome, Wickeds! Hope to see you at Malice in the spring!

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