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New Beginnings — Writing a Novella an Interview with Edith

We are celebrating Edith’s debut novella “Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse” in Christmas Cocoa Murder from Kensington (written as Maddie Day, because it’s in the Country Store Mysteries series). We are asking Edith questions about how writing a novella was different from writing a full length novel.

Sherry: Did writing a novella make you cut down on the number of characters? Was it harder to introduce new ones?

Edith/Maddie: Good question, Sherry. Yes, the whole scope had to be tighter. I relied on my usual cast of characters, introducing only two new ones, bringing a minor character back from a previous book, and getting to know two who had been mentioned but whom we hadn’t yet met (Abe’s parents).

Jessie: How does writing a novella differ from writing a short story?

Edith/Maddie: I asked myself the same thing! The longest short story I’ve written was five thousand words and my editor asked for twenty-five thousand for the novella, so there’s one difference right there. I used the structure of a novel rather than that of some short stories, which lead you astray and surprise you with a twist – or two.

Liz: Did you find it easier or harder overall to write this kind of story? Not a short, but not as long?

Edith/Maddie: At first I was daunted. Could I fit a whole book into 25000 words? Being a pantser, I just barged ahead. I found I was relieved not to have to worry about getting up to my word count, as I usually am (Barb knows what I’m talking about, we of the Sparse First Draft Club).

Barb: Laughing. I am dealing with a too sparse first draft right now. And I loved writing novellas for just that reason. My question is about the novella collection. Did knowing two other authors would be writing on the same topic effect how you approached your novella in any way–inciting incident, weapon, crime, anything?

Edith /Maddie : Great question, Barb. You might recall that when we were at Boothbay Harbor on our 2018 Wickeds retreat, several of us brainstormed with the group and it was time for me to start thinking about the novella. The black Labrador puppy named Cocoa came out of that session at Jessie’s suggestion. She said, “Everybody’s going to have poisoned cocoa. You need something different.” A brilliant idea – and thanks, Jessie!

Julie: The 25,000 words intrigues me! Did you start to explore a subplot and decide to save it for the next novel? Is this a separate entity, or will it have repercussions on the novels moving forward?

Edith /Maddie: I don’t think I purposely excluded a subplot, Julie, and I’m not sure what you mean by repercussions. This novella slid perfectly into book time. Strangled Eggs and Ham took place in August, and book seven, Nacho Average Murder occurs in February, so sliding a Christmas book into slot 6.5 was easy, and Robbie harks back to those events in later books. Book #8 will also be a Christmas book – and you all get to hear the title first here: Candy Slain Murder!

Readers: Do you have a preference in how long a story is? Do you like epic novels, short stories, or something in between?

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