HALLIE EPHRON: Edith Maxwell, aka Tace Baker (author of the Lauren Rousseau mysteries), projects a cheerful, calm presence to the world. But behind the scenes I imagine she’s a whirling dervish, expert multi-tasker since she’s now writing three mystery series and producing about three books a year! She’s here to talk about her new Lauren Rousseau mystery Bluffing is Murder, which she writes as Tace Baker.
Okay, we know Lauren Rousseau isn’t you, Edith, but your character Lauren is a linguistics professor and you hold a doctorate in linguistics. So how does linguistics figure in your mysteries?
EDITH MAXWELL/TACE BAKER: When I started the series, I thought Lauren would do more forensic linguistics, and she still might in her future. But so far it's more that she has a good ear for the languages she speaks and the ones she has had contact with -- Japanese, Bambara, Farsi, Russian, French, Portuguese -- and sometimes picks up identities of hidden speakers or otherwise solves pieces of the puzzle based on knowing the language. Linguistics is far broader and deeper than merely speaking languages, of course.
In Bluffing is Murder, she thinks she's going to have her first quiet summer not teaching, since she finally landed tenure, but she's wrong.
HALLIE: Another “coincidence” is that Lauren is a Quaker and so are you. How does that affect her character and the choices she can and can’t make?
EDITH/TACE: Hey, write what you know! I've been a member of the Society of Friends for more than twenty-five years. When I started writing book one, Speaking of Murder, I thought a Quaker protagonist might be a good niche in the mystery field, and I was right.
Lauren takes time for silence in her life and holding a person or situation in the Light, especially when things get tough. She has a strong sense of fairness and justice, but struggles with not finding peace or answers in Friends worship occasionally, as we all do. I've also written a Quaker protagonist into my 1888 historical mystery series, but that's another topic.
HALLIE: And, got to ask, is there any resemblance between the coastal town of Ashford where Lauren lives and the town where Edith/Tace lives?
EDITH/TACE: I wrote these two books when I lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and Ashford is only a very thinly disguised version of Ipswich, which is a beautiful town on the salt marshes north of Boston. Ipswich and Ashford both have their share of quirky characters and place names (my favorite walking route was going the length of Labor in Vain Road), but all the people in my books are fully fictional, unlike those apparently in the stories of a more famous previous resident of Ipswich, John Updike.
What inspired you to write Bluffing and can you give us a hint about the significance of the title?
EDITH/TACE: Well, until a couple of years ago, Ipswich had the country's oldest land trust, which was managed by the Feoffees of Little Neck. All rents and proceeds from the properties on Little Neck were to go to educate the children of the town, since 1660. Except the Feoffees were a secretive group not accountable to the public, and they hadn't paid the school district for the last decade or more. Feelings were high in town on both sides.
It was a lot more complicated than that, but I thought the situation could have been fertile ground for murder. So I fictionalized the whole thing - and I was very careful to learn nothing about who the actual Feoffees were or what they looked like. I called the land trust The Bluffs and made the Feoffees into the Trustees of the Bluffs. One of whom, of course, is murdered. But bluffing also involves language, and doesn't every killer try to bluff his or her way out the crime? So the title works in several directions.
HALLIE: And, for all the writers out there like me who struggle to put out a book every year (or two), what’s your secret??
EDITH/TACE: Since I quit my day job a year and a half ago, writing fiction is my new day job. I can't afford to be retired, and I want to get this new career off the ground. So I'm very serious about spending every morning either writing or revising, starting at seven, and the afternoons doing the business aspect: writing blog posts, arranging promotional events, and doing research. I fit lunch and my daily walk into the middle. I watch virtually no television and spend way too much time on Facebook, with reading saved for evenings and vacations.
I have three books due next year, so I have to be serious about my writing. Panic is a great motivator!
HALLIE: What's next for Edith and Tace?
EDITH/TACE: I just turned in Flipped for Murder, the first Country Store mystery (which will appear under the name Maddie Day) two months early and am back in the middle of Compost Mortem, the fourth Local Foods Mystery. The third book in that series, Farmed and Dangerous, releases in May, 2015.
I'm living my dream and, despite all the work, I love it.
HALLIE: You know, I'm living my dream, too. It's a good thing to be reminded of every once in a while.
Today Edith is giving away a copy of Bluffing is Murder to a lucky commenter, so please weigh in: What's your dream, seriously. Are you on your way, are already there?