JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hank and I are co-hosting today's guest(s), the amiable and energetic Edith Maxwell and her friend Maddie Day. If you've spent any time on JRW, you know Edith, and if you like Edith, I can guarantee you'll like Maddie. Both these ladies are the type of author to make me want to retire to my fainting couch - between them, they write FOUR wonderful cozy series, as well as Agatha-nominated short stories. How does the magic (and mystery) happen? Well, it helps if you have broad, well-traveled background full of all sorts of jobs and experiences. You definitely need to be well-organized and disciplined. And I'm quite certain a good sense of humor is a must. Please welcome Edith Maxwell and Maddie Day!
Hank and Julia, thanks so much for inviting me and my best bud Maddie Day for a chat on the front part of the blog today! I thought we could interview each other for a bit, since our books are coming out within ten days of each other (from two publishers).
E: Maddie, why did you pick southern Indiana as a setting for your Country Store Mysteries?
M: It's such a gosh darn sweet part of the country. I lived in Bloomington for about five years a couple (okay, four) decades ago, and I loved the slow pace of life and the friendly folks. The next county over, Brown County, is real hilly, full of artists and quirky folks, and it just seemed like a place readers might like to hang out in for a while. Also, some parts seem more Kentucky than Indiana, so I have a whole slew of colorful southern phrases my police lieutenant Buck Bird can say. How about you? Why do you set your books in New England?
E: I moved to the Boston area in the early eighties, and then headed up to the North Shore at the end of the decade. There are still lots of small farms in the area – in fact, I owned and ran one of them for a while – so I thought it would be a great setting for a cozy series like the Local Foods Mysteries. Then when I got intererested in history and discovered Amesbury, with its rich past of thriving carriage and textile mill industries, I wanted to place a series in that era. I was already a Quaker, and learning that John Greenleaf Whittier served on the building committee for the historic meetinghouse where I sit in silent worship every Sunday just clinched the deal. Have you ever thought of writing a historical mystery?
M: Not yet, although I have included a bit of the history of my protagonist's building in When the Grits Hit the Fan. It was built in the second half of the nineteenth century, and since Robbie Jordan is a carpenter and is renovating the second floor of the restaurant to create bed-and-breakfast rooms, she makes some, shall we say, intriguing discoveries in the walls. What's the most fun thing you've done in your historical research?
E: I have to say riding in a historic carriage from the late 1800s. We have a Carriage Museum here in Amesbury, and one of the board members knows just about everything there is to know about the carriage industries. She owns antique vehicles and a horse, and she took me out one morning last summer along trails in a local park and fields that didn't look much different than they would have in 1888. I wore a long homespun linen skirt to get the feel of what it would be like. Uh, hard to climb into, a bumpy ride, and hardly anything to hang onto! But I picked Susan Koso's brain for over two hours. It was fabulous. So tell me how you got to Indiana in the first place? Are you from there, like Hank is?
M: No, I'm a fourth-generation Californian on my mother's side (San Francisco firefighter Flahertys), but my great-great-great grandfather founded what became Indiana University. Maxwell Hall is one of the original buildings and I discovered both a Maxwell Street and a Maxwell Lane in Bloomington, so my roots go way back. Even my dad was an undergrad there, so it was a treat to continue the legacy... Oh, wait. I think I just let the cat out of the bag.
E: LOL, you mean the one-author-two-names cat? I guess you did! Okay, readers, Maddie and I are exactly the same person. But you probably already guessed that, right? We get asked a lot, “Why the pen name?” Tell 'em, girlfriend.
M: When our Kensington editor, who was already publishing Edith's Local Foods Mysteries, offered a contract for the Country Store series, he stipulated a pseudonym. “Why?” we asked our agent, who said Kensington wanted the series to look like it was by a debut author in the bookstores. Okay, we said, not wanting to turn down a contract for a minor name issue. Turns out the series has done pretty darn well, so I guess the strategy worked. Edith, what's next for you on the writing front?
E: First I have to get Called to Justice launched, and attend a flurry of events in April celebrating Sisters in Crime's 30th anniversary (I'm President of the New England chapter, after all). Then there's Malice Domestic, where I am nominated for not one but two Agatha Awards (for Best Historical Mystery and Best Short Story). At the end of May Mulch Ado About Murder, the fifth in the Local Foods series, comes out, so I'll have more launch activities. It probably won't be until June until I start writing Quaker Midwife #4 (possibly titled Seeking Unity), because Midnight Ink has renewed my contract for two more books. Yay! How about you?
M: Right now I'm almost done with the first draft of Murder on Cape Cod in my new series, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. I'm having a lot of fun setting up a crew of new characters in a new fictional Cape village, and I recently returned from a super productive solo retreat week in West Falmouth, where I did lots of both writing and research. After that I need to get started on Country Store #5, tentatively named Death, Over Easy. Never a dull moment!
E: I know the feeling. But we're living our dream, right?
M: You bet. And to celebrate we're giving away a copy of our new books to two commenters today (one book each)!
E: This has been fun. And please find us on Facebook and twitter (@edithmaxwell, @MaddieDayAuthor). We love being in touch.
Readers: Do you find author pen names confusing? Do you like your mysteries set in the here and now, or do you enjoy immersing yourself in an older era? (Both, we hope.)
National best-selling author Edith Maxwell is a 2017 double Agatha Award nominee for her historical mystery DeliveringtheTruth and her short story, “The Mayor and the Midwife.” She writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies, and she is honored to served as President of Sisters in Crime New England. A former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens, and wastes time as a Facebook addict north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors. Find her at www.edithmaxwell.com , on Twitter as @edithmaxwell, and on Goodreads.
In Called to Justice, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is enjoying the 1888 Independence Day evening fireworks with her beau when a teenaged Quaker mill girl is found shot dead. After a former slave and fellow Quaker is accused of the murder, Rose delves into the crime, convinced of the man's innocence. An ill-mannered mill manager, an Irish immigrant, and the victim's young boyfriend come under suspicion even as Rose's future with her handsome doctor suitor becomes unsure. Rose continues to deliver babies and listen to secrets, finally figuring out one criminal―only to be threatened by the murderer, with three lives at stake. Can she rescue herself, a baby, and her elderly midwifery teacher in time?
Despite the bitter winter in South Lick, Indiana, business is still hot at Robbie Jordan’s Country Store restaurant in When the Grits Hit the Fan. 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.