Why do you write cozy mysteries?
It’s one of my favorite genres to read. I like writing clean, accessible, not-terrifying stories where justice is restored to the community in the end. And I like reading books with strong, adventurous female protagonists, so that’s what I write.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
I spent five happy years in a PhD program at Indiana University in the next county from where I set the Country Store Mysteries. I knew I wanted to involve fictional academics in at least one of the books but bring it local to South Lick. In book time, the year had rolled around to winter, and I’d had the idea for a body in the ice long ago. I also live in antique New England houses that my boyfriend renovates (yes, while we’re living in them…) and he’s always discovering old things in the walls he opens up. That’s what inspires the item Robbie finds in one of the upstairs walls of her building – an object that gets her and her boyfriend Abe in some pretty hot water!
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
Studies show that most cozy mystery readers are women over forty, and some much older, although I know some younger readers and also quite a few men who love the genre. I learned to read Agatha Christie and other mysteries from my mother when I was quite young, and she would not tolerate books (or movies) with swearing, sex, or gratuitous violence in them. So in a way I’m writing these with Mommy in mind, even though she passed away five years ago right before my first book came out.
Please describe your writing routine.
I am at my desk in my upstairs home office, writing by seven every morning but Sunday. I work all morning, then take my plotting walk, have lunch, and work on promotional business in the afternoons. I left my day job as a tech writer four years ago, and I treat fiction writing as my job, which it is! Except now I’m my own boss and my commute is thirty seconds long.
What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
The most important thing to do is write the best book you can. You can’t revise words you haven’t written. And keep studying your craft – take workshops, read books on writing, and study writers in your genre whose books you admire. Then find your tribe. Join Sisters in Crime if you write crime fiction, or the online or local group in your genre. Their advice and friendship will be invaluable.
More about When the Grits Hit the Fan:
Despite the bitter winter in South Lick, Indiana, business is still hot at Robbie Jordan’s Country Store restaurant. But when another murder rattles the small town, can Robbie defrost the motives of a cold-blooded killer? Robbie and her friend Lou go snowshoeing and find a contentious academic frozen under the ice. Police suspect Lou might have killed him after their public tiff in Pans ‘N Pancakes the night before. To prove her friend’s innocence, Robbie absorbs local gossip about the professor’s past and develops her own thesis on the homicide — even if that means stirring up terrible danger for herself along the way.
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