Author Clea Simon on the Case…and a #giveaway

News Flash: Debra Pruss is the lucky winner of Edith’s ebook.

Author Clea Simon is New England-based and a friend of the Wickeds (FOW). She visits us most years when she has a new release. Today she’s here in support of her latest book, A Cat on the Case, the third book in her Witch Cats of Cambridge series.

In her post, Clea reflects about writing her book in a pre-pandemic world, and then going through the publishing cycle and launch in our current reality. This is my situation as well so I read with great interest.

Clea is giving away a copy of A Cat on the Case to one lucky, U.S.-based commenter below.

Take it away, Clea!


Clea Simon

When we read, especially cozies, we enter anothe, better world. Sometimes, I’m finding, that world is one that once existed – and maybe one day can again.

When the pandemic first began shutting everything down last March, I was nearly done drafting A Cat on the Case. That timing – and the fact that this is the third in my “witch cats of Cambridge” series – made what we writers call world-building easier. Authors just starting new projects as our society closed down had to struggle with whether to include this new reality in their fictional settings. I not only had most of a book already in place, I had it in an existing series universe, a place where people could interact without masks. Without fear of anything, really, except, you know, the odd murder, missing heirloom, or strange stalker glimpsed as a shadow on a dark street corner.

At first, writing a novel set in the “open” world seemed quite normal. With the exception of one wise friend who warned me, “we’re entering the Twilight Zone,” nobody I knew thought this whole COVID thing would last long. Certainly, I never imagined the pandemic would still be raging when my book came out. Then, as the lockdown lengthened and my manuscript moved into edits and revisions, I became grateful for its normalcy. “Becca ducks into the conservatory,” one of my notes read. “Visits realtor.” Even as my fingers itched to have her cover her face, to question whether an unannounced visit would be welcomed, I reminisced about such spontaneity. In-person interactions – indoors and without sanitizer…  imagine that!

Now that vaccines are on the way, I’m finding this nostalgia bittersweet. Here in the Greater Boston area, the colleges – including the two music schools I based the book’s conservatory on – are already at least partially re-opened (though many classes are still online). But little shops like Charm and Cherish, where Becca works? Many of them have closed for good and will live on only in books like mine. In some cases, these were already gone, victims of gentrification or what locals call the “mall-ification” of places like my beloved Cambridge. Many, many more have gone out of business over the past ten months, victims of the pandemic-blighted economy. While these closures do not compare in any way to the loss of lives – more than 400,000 nationally – I mourn these places, too. These local independents were not simply commercial ventures. The bookstore where the clerk knew your tastes? The coffee shop that always saved you an iced lemon scone? They were our gathering places, the heart of our cities, and also the employers of so many of my friends and neighbors.

Maybe there’s a silver lining in all of this. Maybe, once we are free to socialize again, new ventures will spring up from the ashes. People who have lost jobs – or simply stayed too long in positions they once considered “safe” – will seize the moment, launching new shops, restaurants, music venues, and more. Now that we have rational leadership in Washington, I am hopeful that there will be economic assistance for such projects.  There would certainly be a market. I firmly believe that after nearly a year of visiting so many of our favorite places only online – or in books, like mine, set here in my home city or in many of the other places worldwide that I love – the appetite for browsing in person, shopping, and sipping will surge forth. If that happens, maybe soon we can begin our real world-building, creating places to gather and read, to meet and laugh once again.

About the Book

A stranger comes in from the storm…

When a panicked stranger shows up at Charm and Cherish seeking advice – and maybe something more, Becca Colwin knows it’s her duty to help. The aspiring witch detective understands how challenging the city can be for a young woman alone, especially as the New England winter tightens its frigid grip. Plus, with her apartment building going condo, Becca needs all the clients she can get in case she has to find a new home for herself and her three cats.

But when that stranger disappears, leaving behind her heirloom violin, the case grows complicated – and the discovery of a dead body right next door puts Becca in danger from the law… and maybe a murderer as well. Although Becca’s cats don’t want her to get any more involved, they know their person won’t abandon the young musician who seems likely to be framed for the crime. The three littermates – bossy Harriet, manipulative Laurel, and gentle Clara, the calico baby of the litter – may squabble like all sisters, but each of the magical cats must use her particular skill if they’re going to keep Becca safe. Together the three felines must untangle a web of deceit and intrigue complicated by the history they share with the person they are sworn to protect.

The third “Witch Cats of Cambridge” cozy mystery continues the larger story of Harriet, Laurel, and Becca in a standalone adventure. “Fans of feline cozies will be charmed.” – Publishers Weekly

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1951709268

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781951709266

About Clea

A former journalist, Clea Simon is the Boston Globe-bestselling author of nearly 30 mysteries. These alternate between cozies like her new A Cat on the Case, the third witch cat of Cambridge mystery, and darker psychological suspense, (Hold Me Down, coming Oct. 5). She can be reached at www.cleasimon.com

Reader question: How do you feel about reading about a pre, during, or post-pandemic world? Are you nostalgic for the past, or want to see your current reality reflected, or longing for a better, different future? One lucky U.S.-based commenter will win a copy of A Cat on the Case.

52 Thoughts

  1. Welcome, Clea! I would much rather read about a pre-pandemic world. I get enough exposure to the pandemic in real life, and I read mostly to escape. Love the cover of your latest!

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  2. Hi, Clea! I’ve got my toes in each choice: although I do miss pre-pandemic days; i.e. traveling, shopping, not being terrified around possibly infected people, I do believe this all can create a calmer, more family-oriented world. Well, at least I’m hopeful for that! Your calico cat reminds me of my very first cat, Dolly, who didn’t mind at all when I dressed her in doll clothes lol.

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    1. Dolly sounds like a very tolerant kitty! And, yes, I think you may be right – this period may make us value the basics a bit more (and hugs! It will certainly make me value hugs a lot more).

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  3. Welcome back to the blog, Clea! Fingers crossed for getting back to a safe, open world. I’ve written several contemporary novels this year, and I set them all in vaguely post pandemic, dropping only two or three mentions about that person who never got back into the habit of shaking hands, or that time when nobody could travel.

    Best of luck with the new book!

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  4. I can read all but prefer a world where there was no pandemic. I am missing my family so much and just being able to travel. Thank you for a chance at your giveaway!! pgenest57 at aol com

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  5. Although I liked to read before the current world situation, I find reading an escape from it now and enjoy the “normalcy”. I would really rather the pandemic not be focused on in the books I read. As it is now, you can’t watch TV, read a paper or magazine or even talk to friends where the subject isn’t up front and in your face. Although I know we need to be informed, when that is all you seem to hear, it gets very depressing and worrisome. Maybe after everyone is back on their feet and we can lead a some what normal life, I won’t mind it mentioned in books as a fact of the past.

    “A Cat on the Case” sounds like a fabulous books. I know I would greatly enjoy having the opportunity to dive in between the covers. Can’t wait to read Becca and the cats adventures in whodunit solving. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected. Thank you for the chance!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  6. Congratulations on the new release. The cover cat reminds me of one of mine.

    I read to escape and I write stories that hopefully allow people to join me in that escape. I would prefer not to read, or write, about the time of pandemic and I join you in your hope of a local merchant renaissance when we finally come out of the darkness.

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  7. Your book sounds like fun, Clea! There was recently a thread on a Sisters in Crime group asking the same question about pre- versus post-pandemic and it was hands down that people want to escape from it, especially in cozies! You can imagine that 10 or so years from now, assuming that things go back to normal in the meantime, people may be more likely to look back and want to read stories set in the trying times of the pandemic. Think about how many books have been written about the Spanish Flu. I also hope that there will be a local merchant renaissance post-pandemic!

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    1. I read that thread! I think a lot of those books about the Spanish Flu were written after the fact, though – it will be easier when we have some distance!

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  8. Your name, Clea, is really lovely and best wishes with the new book. I do read to escape into another reality, but will read both pre-pandemic and pandemic included books.

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    1. Thank you, Judy! I’m actually named after a fictional character (from Durrell’s “The Alexandria Quartet”). But you are named for a Biblical heroine! I’m glad you’re open to reading different types of books, too. Thanks for commenting!

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  9. Welcome, Clea! Since I read to escape, I’d rather not read about the pandemic – at least not yet. As a writer, I’m with Lee Child. He said he wasn’t even going to try and reflect the pandemic and I feel about the same.

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  10. I’m in agreement with everyone here. I read cozies to escape. Too much of the real world invades my time as it is. And, like some others, if sometime in the future, the pandemic is mentioned in a book, that’s OK, but I wouldn’t be interested reading a whole book about it.

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  11. I do not want to read gritty pandemic stories but figure it will appear in books. I miss just wandering around looking for a bargain and look forward to the new normal.

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    1. If it’s far enough in the past, maybe it will seem fun? But I’m with you – I miss shopping in person. Without masks! Some day again… (Thanks for commenting)

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  12. Hi,

    I don’t want to read about the pandemic. Maybe years in the future when it’s historical fiction I’d be okay with a book set during the pandemic.

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    1. It is true that time makes even the harshest times into something merely interesting… (I’m thinking of the Brother Cadfael novels, etc). So, yes, maybe in the future! Thanks for entering!

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  13. I’d rather read about a pre-pandemic world. Thanks for the chance! JL_Minter(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Julie! And YES I could see it! The sleuths (perhaps a bunch of author bloggers) all witness different things when the guest speaker suddenly disappears…. one has the transcript from the closed captions, another took a screen shot… hmmmm…

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  14. I think I would prefer reading about a better, different future. The pandemic is a reality that has touched all of us and I have no doubt that it will be reflected in books of the future – but as far as cozies go, since they tend to be more of an escape, I’d like to see that pandemic downplayed or not mentioned at all. Congratulations on your new release! aut1063(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot, especially as new TV shows are making the same decisions about whether to use or ignore the pandemic in their scripts. I would probably not use the pandemic in books that are in progress, think about whether to write pandemic themed books when there’s time to look back on the entire timeline after everyone has access to vaccines. Historical writers have it easy, they can ignore it completely or write a book set during the Black Plague or the Influenza pandemic to be topical!

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    1. Perhaps one day historical fiction writers will choose to set a book during COVID? It could be a good plot complication, but … maybe not yet. Thanks for writing!

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  16. Hi your book sounds like a great read. Well, the pandemic is here and it is real, I think I would read a book about it, maybe about all the mistakes alot of people are making at this time, fiction or non fiction , I think it is a Great idea.

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    1. I bet there will be a lot of books, especially once it is over. A lot of analysis of what we did wrong, so we don’t repeat our mistakes, don’t you think? Thanks for commenting!

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  17. Pre-pandemic not worried about much in general.
    During-pandemic worried about staying healthy and for my kids, mom, grandkids to stay healthy. I watched 2 grandsons 10 hours away for 5 months so both parents could work from home. I also assessed my assets and am grateful for the pause in the hurried way I used to live.
    Post-pandemic I’m hoping to keep up with my health journey and to read more books.

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  18. I prefer to read in a pre or post pandemic world. When I read, I want to escape what is happening in my life. Reading about a time with the pandemic just keeps in the the present.

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  19. I’ve been reviewing ARCs of an ongoing-pandemic (without specifying disease) lockdown and, sadly, I feel it is our future because too many people do not recognize the necessity of healthcare for all, not just the well-off.

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      1. Even when we finally get COVID-19 under control, there will always be another pandemic in the offing, much as one would like to ignore the probability. It comes with the territory of having so many people so close together. Basic epidemiology.

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