by Julie, decking the halls in Somerville
Today I’m thrilled to welcome Cynthia Kuhn to the blog so that we can all celebrate her new series!
Day by Day
How to Book a Murder is a rather cheerful book, which is surprising, all things considered. It’s a cozy mystery about Emma Starrs, a bookseller/literary event planner trying to save the family bookstore in Silvercrest, Colorado—but when a murder mystery dinner party turns murderous, she takes on the role of amateur sleuth to protect her beloved aunt, a famous author accused of the crime.
I started writing it right before we all went into quarantine. Many people took a break from work when the world shut down—and understandably so. We were overwhelmed and scared. Nothing was certain. Publishing opportunities were unclear. Some people did amazing things with their time—they found new talents and hobbies, they made and shared content, they imagined new ways of connecting with loved ones. Kudos to them! But I didn’t have that kind of energy. Initially, all I could do was spin out (oh no! what if? oh no!) and watch the news with my laptop open, cursor blinking.
There were times, watching the nonstop reporting of heartbreaking awfulness, when I longed for the distraction of writing, but it was difficult at first to focus on an imaginary cast of characters who were blithely going about their lives in a world where there was no Covid. Not to mention that cozy mysteries typically have a lighthearted tone; I certainly wasn’t feeling capable of producing that. Yet I kept coming back to the file. I started putting more words on the page. Slowly I discovered that if I stayed in the writing session, the momentum of storytelling could take over and lull me into a zone where it was okay to be lighthearted in the moment. So I kept going. Little by little. Day by day. With no sense of deadline, just a desire to create something.
There were some necessary adjustments: I couldn’t bear the thought of putting a pandemic into the book, but I also found myself removing a lot of hugs and handshakes, which didn’t feel quite right while, in the real world, we were trying to stay at least six feet apart and not even touch our own faces. At some point, I also had the sobering realization that we might never have large gatherings again, and here I’d just written (and would be trying to sell) a story about someone who threw a huge bash at her store that was attended by everyone in town. Eventually I was calmed by the idea that we’d either reach some semblance of normal where parties were back on the schedule or this book could serve as an homage to a not-too-distant past.
In any case, as the manuscript took shape, Silvercrest—where beloved books line every shelf and banter prevails—became a sort of haven. Inside the book was a positive, lighthearted space to counter the negativity that was going on outside. And now, if How to Book a Murder manages to generate a little lightness for someone else while they read it, I would be overjoyed.
How has reading, writing, creating, or doing something else lifted your spirits during the pandemic?
Cynthia Kuhn writes the Starlit Bookshop Mysteries and the Agatha-Award-winning Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. Her work has also appeared in Mystery Most Edible, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD, and other publications. She is past president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado and currently serves on the national board. Originally from upstate New York, she lives in Denver with her family. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.
ABOUT HOW TO BOOK A MURDER
To help save her family’s floundering Colorado bookstore, Starlit Bookshop, newly minted Ph.D. Emma Starrs agrees to plan a mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy, well-connected high school classmate Tabitha Baxter. It’s a delightful evening of cocktails and conjecture until Tabitha’s husband, Tip—hosting the affair in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin—winds up murdered.
In a heartbeat, Emma and her aunt Nora, a famous mystery writer, become suspects. Emma is sure the party’s over for Starlit events, until celebrated author Calliope Nightfall, whose gothic sensibilities are intrigued by the circumstances, implores the bookseller to create a Poe-themed launch event for her latest tome. Throwing a bash to die for while searching for additional clues is already enough to drive Emma stark raven mad, but another shocking crime soon reveals that Silvercrest has not yet reached the final chapter of the puzzling case. Someone in this charming artistic community has murder on the mind, and if Emma cannot outwit the killer, she and her beloved aunt will land behind bars, to walk free nevermore.
How to Book a Murder (Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1) is available now: https://bit.ly/3hvzCgw
Reading was an escape from the world outside.
We were definitely on the same page about that.
So many congratulations, Cynthia! I can’t wait to read this new series. I’ve found writing a great respite ever since the pandemic hit. It didn’t slow me down. If anything, I had fewer distractions, and I loved how I could escape into the book I was working on.
Thank you, Edith! Fewer distractions = such a silver lining!
Can’t wait to read “How To Book A Murder” and start this wonderful sounding new series.
During this time, I’ve found three things that have helped me – reading, baking and photography. Reading helps me escape into a “normal” and exciting world. Baking helped me to get rid of pent up energy and to share the bounty of my kitchen with many who weren’t able to get out at all. With the help of our many daily critter visitors, I was able to spend time outdoors while staying at home photographing them as they went about like all was right with the world.
On thing that helps us was that we are retired so we are use to being home – just not quite as much. We didn’t have to worry about how to do our jobs and stay safe. And we actually love to be in each others company and sharing things from chores to hobbies.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Kay, thank you–and all three of those activities sound absolutely wonderful. Sounds like a very happy home too! 🙂
Sounds like a great story! Reading is my escape from the madness, slows down my mind. Plus long walks in the fresh air.
Ooh, long walks too–great add. Thank you, Kathy!
Reading for me has always been my “go-to” in both good times and hard times. I am so grateful to authors who create a place for readers to go and get away from everyday life. Besides, reading a book is FUN! I consider favorite characters and the authors who create them to be friends. So, thank you for continuing to write. In my opinion it is much better not to continually watch the news these days, write a book or read one instead!
Judy, love that idea of characters and authors being friends! Thank you for reading!
Congratulations on your new series! I’m so happy for you. I read a ton during the first few months of the pandemic. It was a great escape, plus writing.
Thank you so much, Sherry! Agree–we all really needed that escape.
Staying at home just gave me a lot more uninterrupted time to read. Greatest of escapes.
More time to read = hooray!!
Congratulations on the new series, Cynthia. Like many people reading – and writing – was an escape from a world I couldn’t control. And while I wondered about how to bring the pandemic into my contemporary series, or if I should, I then learned that contemporary writers completely ignored the Spanish Flu pandemic when it came to their books. If that’s good enough for Hemingway, it’s good enough for me!
Thank you, Liz! That’s so interesting about the Spanish Flu. Now that you mention it, I vaguely remember a footnote to a Hemingway story that said something about the flu…can’t remember which story…but it didn’t hit me back then with the same kind of intensity that it would now…it’s strange to think that we probably understand that era, on an emotional level, much more now than say a decade ago.
I’m not a writer but am an avid reader! Being an active almost retiree, it was hard staying home for a year. I ordered groceries online and tried some cooking kits, learning new recipes and methods of cooking. Our extended family kept in touch via the computer. We had online birthday parties, a college graduation party, holiday gatherings, etc on our computers! I learned how to Zoom for club Board meetings where it was so nice to actually see people! Being an accountant, I already did most of my work at home anyway. My sofa became my office! My Kindle is full of so many books, but I keep adding more as you writers publish! Thanks for the escape to different places, meeting new characters, solving mysteries and living other lives through books.
It sounds like you made such excellent use of digital connections!
Thank you for this > “My sofa became my office” > because SAME here. Love that. I am going to refer to my sofa as my office from now on.
Super congratulations on your series, Cynthia! I feel lucky that the pandemic seemed to provide a perfect environment for me to be really productive with my writing. There was something about cocooning with family and shutting out the wider world that was good for me creatively. I know that isn’t how it was for many people and I am really grateful for the way I experienced it.
Thank you, Jessie! That is such a positive take and I’m so glad you experienced it that way!
Reading has been my escape. It gets me away from the stress of the real world and the stress of my job. I’ve needed it so much, so thanks to the writers who have created the wonderful escapes for me.
Thank you, Mark–and I’m so very glad that the reading helps to counter stresses!
Thanks, Mark, for supporting us! Everyone here has said what I always feel, pandemic or not. Reading is a wonderful escape on every level. As was writing. Congratulations, Cynthia! I have my copy of the book and can’t wait to read it!
Excellent point, El–pandemic or not, reading is an escape. And thank you kindly!!
Thank you to the Wickeds for letting me visit today! And thank you to everyone who left a comment too! So nice to chat with you–much appreciation all around. ❤️
Congratulations on your new series, Cynthia. It sounds fantastic. I have had a love-hate relationship with writing during the pandemic, but then I do most of the time. If anything, I’ve been a little embarrassed about how little my work life has changed.
Thank you, Barb–and I’m so glad that things haven’t been utterly disrupted in your work life!
Congrats, Cyn! I’ve had readers and booksellers share about how people crave escapist reading during this time. Happy launch week!
Thanks so much, Jen! And hooray for escapes! I often think about how many people turned to books, television, and film during quarantine…underlines the importance of storytelling… 🙂
Congrats on the new series! I spent a good part of 2020 finding, interviewing for, and accepting a new job, then selling our house and relocating for that job. It was exhausting but didn’t leave much time or energy for existential dread. Now I have more time to write every day, because my commute is short, and I work at home 3 days/week. But I still haven’t managed to create a new series, darn it.
Comments are closed.