I’m so delighted to welcome mystery writer Edith Maxwell as a guest on my blog today. For any writer aspiring to a professional career, Edith is a superb example of an author whose disciplined work habits and approach have resulted in several outstanding mystery series. Below are her responses to my interview questions, followed by her bio and contact information:
First off, congratulations on No Grater Crime, the ninth novel in your Country Store Mysteries written under the name of Maddie Day. Can you tell us about your new release and the series and its inspiration?
Thanks so much! I love writing this series, which was inspired by the five years I lived in lovely, hilly southern Indiana. I made up the town of South Lick as well as Pans ’N Pancakes, protagonist Robbie Jordan’s country store breakfast and lunch restaurant, which becomes the hub of the community.
Robbie is a transplanted Californian – like I also am – and a puzzle master. She discovers she has a facility for solving murders, especially when her dear ones or her livelihood are threatened. No Grater Crime ends with a special treat – Robbie’s marriage to her long-time boyfriend Abe!
What books/authors inspired you as a child? As an adult?
I loved reading series, digging my teeth into the Mushroom Planet books, the All-of-a-Kind-Family series, the Borrowers, the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and of course, Nancy Drew. I also read biographies of strong women like Jane Addams and Clara Barton, so it’s no surprise I write strong female main characters in my own stories.
As an adult, I still love reading that kind of book. I read Sara Paretsky. Sue Grafton. Sheila Connolly. Julia Spencer-Fleming. Hallie Ephron. Lucy Burdette. Any of my Wicked Authors blogmates. I want a book about a heroine who is smart, strong, and brave.
At the age of nine, you won a short story contest. But much of your adult professional career was spent as a technical writer and free-lance journalist who earned a doctorate in linguistics along the way. What led you back to writing fiction?
I’ve always read mysteries, and when my younger son went off to kindergarten, I tried my hand at writing a cozy set on a small organic farm like the one I had for a few years. John David is thirty-two now, and it took me years of study and practice, but this is my last and best career. I’ve had twenty-five books traditionally published in nine years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In addition to the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, also written as Maddie Day, you’re the author of the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. To say that you’re a prolific mystery writer is the understatement of the year! Tell us about how you manage to be so productive as a writer.
I treat my writing as my day job. I am working by seven every morning except Sunday, and sometimes on Sundays, too. I write or revise for four or five hours, go for my walk, eat lunch, and do other authorly things in the afternoons. I won’t make doctor or other appointments in the mornings – it’s my sacred writing time. When I find myself dithering, I ask myself in a stern voice, “Are you a professional writer or not?” I also don’t watch television…
How do you approach research for your novels, particularly the historical ones?
That’s a whole blog post! Historical series need research about buildings, transportation, clothes, how people talked, how they cooked their food, attitudes, what was in the news, health care methods, police procedure, even weather events. I love it, but it’s extensive.
For contemporary books, I still need to research particular topics. In this book, for example, poison mushrooms were much on my mind.
Tell us about your writing process: Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in-between?
Pretty much in between. By nature I write into the headlights, but I usually plot out three or four scenes ahead of myself.
What are the special joys and challenges of writing a series?
When I set up the world and characters for the first book in a series, I get to imagine a new place, a new protagonist, who is in her inner circle, who will cause her trouble. It’s SO much fun. Then with each additional book, I come up with a new victim. A new murder method. New suspects and a new villain. Which is also fun!
The challenge always is to briefly catch up new readers who jump in at book four and yet not bore the continuing faithful who have been with the series from the start. It’s not easy, but I’ve gotten compliments on how I do it, so I guess my method is working.
What’s next for you writing-wise?
I’m working on a new historical project I don’t have a contract for. It’s set in 1926 Boston and features a youngish lady PI solving crimes with Amelia Earhart. Fingers crossed! I also have a Country Store Christmas novella to polish and the eleventh in the series to write.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m a vegetable gardener during the warm half of the year here in New England, and I love cooking with local produce in the summer and with anything in the winter, including bake bread and sweets. I read a lot, of course, and occasionally sew a baby quilt. My beau and I do crossword puzzles constantly and enjoy watching art films.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your novels—or questions I didn’t ask that you wish I had?
My third Cozy Capers Book Group mystery, Murder at the Lobstah Shack, will be out at the end of November, and the fourth, Murder in a Cape Cottage, will release a year later. I hope readers will find me over on the Wicked Authors blog most days, and on Mystery Lovers Kitchen every second and fourth Friday. And sign up for my newsletter on my web site. If you’d like an autographed copy of any of my books, please order it from Jabberwocky Books and I’ll run over and sign a copy for you. The new book is also available wherever else books are sold, including here.
Maddie Day pens the bestselling Country Store Mysteries and Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. As Edith Maxwell, she writes the Agatha Award-winning Quaker Midwife Mysteries and short crime fiction. She’s a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America, and lives north of Boston with her beau and crazy teenage cat, Ganesh. Find her (and Maddie) at her web site, at Wicked Authors, at Mystery Lovers Kitchen on the second and fourth Fridays, and on social media under both names.