|Photo by Jean Fogelberg|
So today I am thrilled, tickled, and delighted to welcome Katherine Hall Page to Jungle Red.
KATHERINE HALL PAGE: Before I talk about my new book, The Body in the Birches, which is the 22nd in the series and goes on sale May 12th, I’d like to muse about how this whole writing thing has changed.
Back in the day, you wrote the book, there was a bit of back and forth with the editor, copy editor, then voila you had the tome in hand. A small window followed the pub date in which you went on tour to brick and mortar stores, libraries, a convention or two. Following this whirlwind, you had a break to think about the next one, eventually chaining yourself to the desk to write the damn thing. There was a certain leisure to the whole process now long gone.
Just as the holiday season starts roughly on Labor Day and keeps going in various forms, it is always book-selling time. I am happy to blog (thank you Jungle Red!), post on my site and Facebook. Yet I miss the face-to-face contact with fans and booksellers. Even more I miss the down time.
At the moment—as has been true for some years—I am publicizing a book while writing the next one. Possibly a sign of age, but I find this bifurcation increasingly difficult. Wait! Is Faith Fairchild in Maine? Aleford? Savannah (next book)?
Pause now for general harangue about the crazy busy way we live.
When I talk to students at my undergraduate alma mater Wellesley about what it was like when I was there, their mouths drop open in disbelief at many of my foggy reminiscences: “You couldn’t have a car! You had to wear a skirt for dinner! You had to sign out and had curfews!", but there’s always one part of the past for which they express envy. More free time. I saw a bumper sticker on campus that said, “Wellesley We’ll Sleep When We’re Dead” and thought how sad. Since we had sit down dinners every night, (if you didn’t go you didn’t eat), we were given time to be part of a community and break bread with our friends.
Doesn’t happen now. And it’s the same in the book world. At conventions and other events, there’s little time to gather and chat. Have to sell those books! Network!
Okay. The Body in the Birches. I start this book with one of Oscar Wilde’s gems: “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations” as an epigraph and families are what this book is all about, aside from murder and food, of course. So many possible configurations. So many complications. A dance that can be a waltz, a tango—or the Twist.
I find families endlessly fascinating, in fact and in fiction. Especially fact, as what goes on in a family is almost always harder to believe than any fiction. You cannot make this stuff up. Particularly when it comes to inheritance.
In this case the object is a “cottage” on the Maine coast. We’re back on Sanpere Island. The Birches has been in the Proctor family for generations and is beloved by the current one.
They arrive just before the 4th of July for a sort of audition. The childless late Priscilla Proctor has stipulated that only one of her nieces and nephews can inherit and assume responsibility for the ark of a place. Her husband, unrelated to them and unbiased will choose. Faith is conveniently next door at a similar pile while her own cottage that really is a small cottage is being renovated.
I’ve given her husband Tom’s poor mother in Massachusetts a heart attack to get him out of the way, leaving Faith unencumbered by spousal qualms, free to find not one but two corpses. I’ve also added a new main character, who will be appearing in my next number, as a kind of sidekick for Faith. Sophie Maxwell, the Fairchild’s former babysitter, is all grown up and in her twenties now. She’s a Proctor niece and arrives with a broken heart. She’s not thinking about real estate—at first.
There’s some nice summer food and as usual the recipes are at the end so the narrative isn’t interrupted —Faith stumbling over the body in the birch grove followed by a brownie recipe.
In many ways, this was an easy book to write (well, not actually write—always hard—but plan) as I simply would mention that the plot revolved around inheritance and people poured their horror stories out me—“Grandma promised that cameo brooch to me!” Whether we’re talking Brooke Astor’s estate or literally a teapot that divided a family I know, the emotions are the same. Suffice it to say where there’s a will, there’s a way—to murder.
Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-two adult mysteries in the Faith Fairchild series and five for younger readers. Small Plates, a collection of short stories was published in 2014 and her series cookbook Have Faith in Your Kitchen in 2010. She received the Agatha for Best First (The Body in the Belfry), Best Novel (The Body in the Snowdrift), and Best Short Story (The Would-Be Widower). She has been nominated for other Agathas, the Edgar, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, the Macavity, and the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Her books are available as E- Books, large print, audio and other forms. A native of New Jersey, she lives in Massachusetts and Maine with her husband.
But to get to Katherine's earlier point. Has time to loll about and smell the roses, as it were, evaporated from your life?