Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blithe Spirit

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 5

Mayhem is on the rise at the Witt’s End Resort, especially Cabin 14, where no guest ever leaves alive.

Okay, is that a great hook or what? And the book is about--a death coach. Who solves murders.

To add to it, the reason the guests never leave Cabin 14 is not that they're murdered. It's that--well, that would give it away.

But let me just ask: have you ever heard a strange noise--when you know there's nothing there? A kitchen cabinet is open--and you now you didn't open it? A voice seems to whisper to you..but you know you're alone?

Or are you? (Cue scary music.)

Beth Solheim does not seem someone who believes in...well, whatever. Let her tell it.

HANK: When you first started At Witt's End, how did you describe it to yourself? Or did you?

BETH: I started with an idea I thought was unique and fun and ran with it. I simply called it a mystery. Unfortunately, that was before I knew what true writing entailed. That was also about the time I joined MWA and Sisters in Crime and a few of the subgroups. I slanted my writing style toward cozies after participating in the loops and after taking several writing classes. At last I had a niche! I can’t express enough how valuable these groups are to emerging writers.

HANK: In the writing process, were there ideas you had that you had to eliminate because they weren't "cozy" enough?

BETH: Yes. A bit too much cussing. A friend who reviews for Cozy Library said that At Witt’s End was a great mystery concept, but not quite a cozy. She recommended removing a few words. I did. Now it adheres to cozy norms of no blatant violence, sex, or cussing—and of course, features a pet, Belly LaGossa, a dog of questionable heritage.

HANK: Some authors are trying to escape the "c-word," preferring to call themselves "traditional." What do you choose for a label? Or do you have to choose?

I like that, the ‘c-word’. One thing that still amazes me is when friends or new acquaintances ask what I write and I reply cozies, I get a blank stare. I’ve learned to say I write mysteries. It makes everyone happy. I think the writing/publishing community uses that word more than the public, but I often add ‘gentle’ mysteries.

I also learned to drop cozies from my queries to agents and publishers. When I secured an agent, she recommended we use the word mystery and let the publisher decide the genre category. Alas, that agent decided to close her agency and released her clients. When I queried Echelon Press, I used the term cozy.

HANK: At Witt's End has such a wonderful quirky premise. Tell us the set up.

BETH: Witt’s End is a typical resort in northern Minnesota where vacationers vie for available cabins, but there’s one thing they don’t know. Any guest who checks into Cabin 14 never leaves alive. There’s also an occasional ghost who wanders over from the mortuary next door and insists that Sadie Witt, a death coach, help them solve their murder. Shenanigans unfold as Sadie tries to untangle a murderous web and prevent an unscrupulous sheriff’s deputy from shutting down her lakeside resort.

HANK: Now really, Beth, how did you think of this? Is there a part of you that believes this is how it works? It's actually kind of a comforting thought.

BETH: Have I seen a ghost? No. The plot idea came from a comment on television about a deceased woman who didn’t cross over. This could be quite a predicament, especially if she didn’t understand why she was held back. Who would guide her? What would she have to accomplish to cross over? Thus, a plot idea developed!

Do I think ghosts exist? Possibly. I have experienced a few episodes that defy the norm. One with my car door slamming shut suddenly with such force it could not have been the wind. I wasn’t parked on a slant, either. I was moving boxes into a house we had built on an old vacated homestead. Was it an angry being who didn’t want us living there? Maybe.

The other event involved my precious cat, Ranger. Ranger passed away in my arms after sixteen years of celebrating life in our household. He had been rescued from a food cage in Korea as a scrawny white kitten. A few days after his death, as I began to slip into sleep, the weight of tiny footsteps crossed my bed and I received six thank-you licks on my cheek.

HANK: Ah. I see. And--that's lovely. So do you look at people differently now? Wondering if maybe....?

BETH: I’m fairly grounded in tradition, but let’s say I’m open to possibilities.

HANK: And we are, too, of course. Anyone? Ghosts? Any unexplained encounters?


Like the main character in her Sadie Witt mystery series, Beth Solheim was born with a healthy dose of imagination and a hankering to solve a puzzle. She learned her reverence for reading from her mother, who was never without a book in her hand.

By day, Beth works in Human Resources. By night she morphs into a writer who frequents lake resorts and mortuaries and hosts a ghost or two in her humorous paranormal mysteries

Raised and still living in Northern Minnesota, she resides in lake country with her husband and a menagerie of wildlife critters. She and her husband are blessed with two grown children and two grandsons.


  1. Waving at Beth (since I had a chance to read her book early!).

    I think if we allow ourselves to remain open, we'll sense a lot of things that aren't quite there. I know my late grandmother visited me once, when I was passing through her former hometown, where she was buried--I could smell her perfume.

    You have to choose to believe. Oh, right--that sounds like reading mysteries, doesn't it?

  2. I love the premise for your series! I can't wait to read "At Witt's End." It sounds delicious!

  3. Yet another book to add to my shopping list. This sounds wonderful...right up my alley.

  4. Welcome Beth,
    I think people loves ghosts because they validate the a possibility of the afterlife. That makes them comforting, even the bad ones -- so I think its a terrific premise for a cozy.

    Also my husband grew up in Minnesota and his grandmother lived in Osakis (sp?)-- so he's been telling me about those northern lakes for years. A lovely setting.

  5. I'm pleased you like the concept of At Witt's End. Leaving our minds open to possibilities invites new adventures. I can't wait to see what's in store.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!


  6. Hi Beth, welcome to Jungle Red! Sheila, you are right--it does sound like reading mysteries:).

    Seems like you have survived another in a long line of publishing adventures Beth. Did you look for another agent when the first went out of business? Any tips for newcomers from your war wounds?

    Best of luck with the new book!

  7. Hi Beth - welcome. Ah the c-word. A lot of us have a love-hate relationship with it, although as long as readers are finding us, I don't suppose it matters what they call us, right? Look forward to - ah, checking in..with your new book.