News Flash: Janet Lehner is our lucky winner! Congratulations, Janet, and please check your email.
Edith/Maddie here, still north of Boston, and still writing!
Following is my first Wicked (Cozy) Authors post, where I was interviewed by Jessie. I add my current reflections in italic. Keep reading for a special giveaway!
I’m here with a few questions for our own Edith Maxwell. Edith is a busy writer with two series, multiple short stories and a day job. Without further ado, here’s Edith.
So when did you know you wanted to be a writer? I’ve always been a writer. I wrote goofy poems and short stories as a child. I remember my mother telling me, “Edie, you’re a good writer,” when I was in about fourth grade, and I took it to heart. I was in journalism in high school and college, wrote academic papers and a dissertation as part of earning my PhD in linguistics, did more free-lance journalism, and then made my way into a mid-life career as a technical writer even as I was getting my fiction career going by writing short stories and then my mystery novels. But writing mystery fiction is my true love.
Nothing has changed in that answer. But crafting stories full-time (see elsewhere in this post) has confirmed that I now, finally, have my dream job.
Which authors do you look to for inspiration? Oh, my. How much time do we have? I admire Sheila Connolly so much for writing three successful concurrent cozy series. I’ve long been a fan of Katherine Hall Page and Sue Grafton, and more recently have fallen in love with Julia Spencer-Fleming’s, Louise Penny’s, and Deborah Crombie’s books. And of course I will read anything by my mentors Hallie Ephron, Kate Flora, Roberta Islieb (aka Lucy Burdette), Susan Oleksiw, and Hank Phillippi Ryan!
We lost our beloved Sheila, alas. Lately – pandemic influence, perhaps – I have been reading darker works than I used to. Many are historical, such as Karen Odden’s Inspector Corravan Mysteries, Jacqueline Winspear’s The White Lady, and both of Wanda Morris’s amazing tales of black women in the sixties south. But I also eagerly snap up new Alaska suspense novels by Paige Shelton and anything by Kellye Garret. So I guess I’m inspired by them. Will I write something darker myself? I’m not sure.
Which events in your work or home life influence your writing? All of it? I write about Quaker Lauren Rousseau, a well-traveled linguistics professor in a small town much like Ipswich where I used to live, where video forensics is used to help solve the murder. I’m a Quaker and world traveler, and formerly wrote technical manuals for a video-editing software company. I write about a geek-turned-organic farmer in a town much like West Newbury, where I was owner-farmer of a small certified organic farm. I’ve written short stories located in hi-tech companies and in Japan.
All still true. Now I also draw from my twice-yearly retreats on Cape Cod for the Cozy Capers Book Group series, and my upbringing in California and my relatives’ knowledge of northern CA to help out on my new Cece Barton Mysteries.
How are you connected to New England? I have now lived longer in the Boston area and on the North Shore than I did in my home state of California. I appreciate the seasons, although summer could be a little warmer for my desert tastes, and I love a quiet cross-country ski on a sunny winter day with fresh snow.
All also still true. Except we don’t get enough snow anymore for regular skiing, plus a couple of physical glitches also hold me back. I’ve published seven novels and a collection of short stories set here in my small city of Amesbury, and I so appreciate living here and being immersed in the local history.
What’s your favorite thing about New England? See above about skiing! Coming from southern California sprawl, I am still enchanted with the small towns surrounded by woods and fields. Head north from Boston and you’ll see what I mean.
I adore the summer growing season. There’s nothing like the first asparagus in the garden, a vine-warmed tomato when you can’t get good ones the rest of the year, or gathering armfuls of ripe blueberries into a bucket hung around my neck. Don’t even get me started on the sweet corn! I think people who grew up here might not appreciate the distinct seasons as much as an import like me.
Is there anything people might be surprised to learn about you?
Like my black belt in karate (1983) or my (slow) finish of the Boston Marathon in 1998? Or maybe my year-long stays in Brazil, Japan (more like two years), France, Mali, and Burkina Faso? Or the fact that I worked as an auto mechanic for a year?
These days I think people are surprised when they hear I sleep, because I do so much writing. But I do sleep! Usually around seven hours per night, which is enough. Sometimes I sleep fewer, unfortunately, and occasionally I get caught up by grabbing eight.
So which projects are you working on right now? I’m polishing the second Local Foods mystery, ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, which will be out next winter and thinking about the plot for the following book. I’m designing a historical mystery series set in my town in the late 1800s, with a young Quaker woman who works in the textile mill and solves mysteries. And I’m itching to get back to the second Lauren Rousseau book.
My first entirely new answer. I’m madly typing away at Murder in the Rusty Anchor, Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries #6. Next up is the second Cece Barton mystery, as yet untitled. And I’m brewing up a short story for the San Diego Bouchercon anthology.
Why cozies? Do you write anything else additionally? I love reading cozies. And having a contract for a cozy series helps! My first mystery, Speaking of Murder (published under the pen name Tace Baker) is a traditional mystery but is a little darker than a cozy. I have written and had published a couple of non-mystery short stories, but traditional and cozy mystery is where my heart lies.
Wow. I now have seven historical novels in print and two more completed (in a different project), plus about twenty published short crime stories. But I am still in the traditional and cozy realm, so that’s a constant.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which five literary figures, dead or alive, would you want with you, and what meal would you choose (appetizer, dinner, dessert, drink)? Dorothy Sayers, Nevada Barr, Simone de Beauvoir, Anais Nin, and Barry Eisler. We’ll dine on stuffed mushrooms on bed of greens, a fresh seafood bouillabaise, triple-chocolate mousse, and a fine Cabernet Sauvignon.
I’m happy with those first four and the meal, but I’d like to now swap in Greg Herren for Barry Eisler. Greg is a brilliant writer, doesn’t abide fools, and is a really fun person to be around.
Which are the top five books are in your to-be-read pile? I’m currently reading Deb Crombie’s latest, Sound of Broken Glass. Next up, our own Liz Mugavero’s Kneading to Death, then Hallie Ephron’s There Was an Old Woman and Lucy Burdette’s Topped Chef. I want to read Kaye George’s Eine Kleine Murder and James Mongomery Jackson’s Bad Policy, their new releases from Barking Rain Press, catch up on Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series, read some more Joe Finder and Barry Eisler. So many books, so little time!
The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks. The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver. Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust by Mindy Quigley. It. Goes. So. Fast. – the Year of No Do-Overs by NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly. And Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay (which is printed in a special dyslexia-friendly font by request of the author, since her heroine is a dyslexic chef).
Now, in 2023, I’m going to ask myself – and answer – another question: what were your biggest changes in the last decade?
I left the day job to write fiction full time, and no work has ever made me happier.
I joined the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen blog. And served as President of Sisters in Crime New England and co-chair of the New England Crime Bake (two years each).
I received eight Agatha Award nominations and Charity’s Burden won the teapot for Best Historical Novel.
I learned I could write a first draft in about two months and then need another month or two to polish it, which enables me to write three or four books a year. That’s good, because in that decade I wrote all seven Quaker Midwife Mysteries and started all three of my ongoing Maddie Day series: the Country Store Mysteries, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries and the Cece Barton Mysteries.
I added a paragraph to my most recent manuscript about how I wrote the book without AI assistance in the ideas or words. I never thought I’d have to do that. (Read my recent post about it here.)
On the personal side, I saw each of my sons happily marry their perfect partner. We buried several senior cats, tried out a kitten we ultimately had to give back because of his incurable biting habit, and have settled in nicely with a big, sweet, calm adult cat named Martin. I made it through several surgeries, and Hugh and I and all our family members survived the pandemic.
It’s been quite a decade!
Readers: what has been your most momentous decade, or the one with the most changes?
I’ll send one commenter a mousepad picturing one of my latest shelfies, and your choice of any of my published books.