Welcome to our guest Amanda Flower. Consistent with the trend for the month, this is also Amanda’s fourth visit with the Wickeds. We really need to get going on those five-timer’s jackets soon.
Amanda is here to celebrate Because I Could Not Stop for Death, the first book in her new Emily Dickinson Mystery series, which features the poet as the sleuth. The book was released in trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats on September 20. The buzz on this book has been terrific. The Wickeds are very excited.
Take it away, Amanda.
When I signed with my literary agent well over a decade ago, I said I will write just about anything if it’s mystery. The mystery genre has always been my first love. I love to read it, write it, and talk about it. Other than maybe cats (if you follow me on social you know I obsessed with cats) it’s my favorite subject. And honestly cats and mysteries go paw in hand as we all well know about the tropes of the genre.
My favorite subgenre in the mystery world is cozy, and I’m proud to say it. I adore them, and I have written and published over forty in my career. I hope to write them the rest of my life. My latest one is Peanut Butter Panic, book seven in my Amish Candy Shop Mysteries.
However a few years ago, I was ready for a new challenge. Many of my cozies have a historical element because I find history and its impact on the present day fascinating. I decided I would write a historical mystery. The only problem was I wanted the right hook. That’s not as easy. I know 19th century American History the best, but honestly with slavery and the American Civil War, that’s a pretty tricky time period. I was nervous! I wanted to write about this time, but I knew if I wrote about it I would have to include the turbulence of the country during this period. It would be irresponsible to ignore it.
I needed the right point of view, and a view I can understand is that of a writer. Immediately, Emily Dickinson came to mind, and I was shocked to discover that no one had written a mystery with her as sleuth. I checked and double checked, and it was true. I got that buzzy feeling that we writers have when we know we are onto a big idea. I immediately spoke to my agent and pitched the idea.
Now, the first book from the Emily Dickinson Mysteries, Because I Could Not Stop for Death, is out in the world. It’s set in 1855 Amherst, Massachusetts, and Dickinson is the sleuth. I also tackle those big issues of unrest that lead up to the American Civil War and included the Dickinson family perspective on slavery. As Whigs, they wanted compromise, which as we know is impossible with an immoral institution like slavery. At my request, two authenticity readers, one hired by my agency and one hired by my publisher, read and commented on the manuscript to ensure that I treated the issue accurately and with sensitivity. As you can imagine, the book is heavier than my typical cozies, but I believe the story is important. I’m excited it is out in the world.
After finishing the novel, I loved jumping back into writing cozies for a little emotional respite, and now, I think I have found a great balance of writing both subgenres and staying true to myself as a writer. Honestly beyond cozies and historicals, I don’t know what I will write next, but what I do know it will be a mystery!
Readers: Do you enjoy books that feature real historical figures as the sleuth? Why or why not?
About the book
Emily Dickinson and her housemaid, Willa Noble, realize there is nothing poetic about murder in this first book in an all-new series from USA Today best-selling and Agatha Award-winning author Amanda Flower.
January, 1855 Willa Noble knew it was bad luck when it was pouring rain on the day of her ever-important job interview at the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts. When she arrived late, disheveled with her skirts sodden and filthy, she’d lost all hope of being hired for the position. As the housekeeper politely told her they’d be in touch, Willa started toward the door of the stately home only to be called back by the soft but strong voice of Emily Dickinson. What begins as tenuous employment turns to friendship as the reclusive poet takes Willa under her wing.
Tragedy soon strikes and Willa’s beloved brother, Henry, is killed in a tragic accident at the town stables. With no other family and nowhere else to turn, Willa tells Emily about her brother’s death and why she believes it was no accident. Willa is convinced it was murder. Henry had been very secretive of late, only hinting to Willa that he’d found a way to earn money to take care of them both. Viewing it first as a puzzle to piece together, Emily offers to help, only to realize that she and Willa are caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse that reveals corruption in Amherst that is generations deep. Some very high-powered people will stop at nothing to keep their profitable secrets even if that means forever silencing Willa and her new mistress….
Amanda Flower is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning author of over thirty-five mystery novels. Her novels have received starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Romantic Times, and she has been featured in USA Today, First for Women, and Woman’s World. She currently writes for Penguin-Random House (Berkley), Kensington, and Sourcebooks. In addition to being a writer, she was a librarian for fifteen years. Today, Flower and her husband own a farm and recording studio, and they live in Northeast Ohio with their five adorable cats. Because I Could Not Stop for Death is her 45th published book.