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