Friday, September 4, 2015

It All Happens at the Library!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You can only do it once—have a debut novel. I was honored to be an Edgar judge for Best First last year, and plowed though dozens and dozens and dozens of debuts. The Edgar nominees glistened like jewels among them. It was amazing how they stood out.

Ashley Weaver
One was Ashley Weaver’s chic and clever Nick and Nora-ish  mystery Murder at the Brightwell—words like lavish and viscount and champagne and playboy and gala and cloche occur, as do jewelry and resort and chauffeur. You get the picture. We all loved it!

And now, Ashley Weaver takes her characters to a new adventure. (And you can only do that once, too—write your second novel!) Where does she come up with this stuff? You’d never guess. First, she had a dream…

ASHLEY WEAVER: I’ll be the first to admit: as a mild-mannered librarian, I’m not exceptionally daring in my day-to-day affairs. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love to travel, to see new places and have adventures. But I’m also a big fan of good old routine. Most days will find me happily sitting at my desk, ordering or cataloging books and drinking large quantities of coffee from my favorite sassy (but true!) mug.

While public libraries aren’t exactly as quiet as the old stereotype suggests, there is something soothing about being surrounded by books, and the library was always one of my favorite places long before I thought of working there. What better place for a writer to flourish, after all, than surrounded by rows and rows of beautiful books!
(The library, my natural habitat.)

Yes, I enjoy a quiet life . . . until I get home at night, that is. My evenings are filled with drama and danger. Of the fictional variety. When it comes to books, the more mayhem the better! For as long as I’ve been reading, I have loved mysteries. I love the thrill of the unknown, of being caught up in the hunt for clues that will make everything clear. I love the moment when I’m reading a book and the scene becomes so intense that I have to close the pages for a few moments before I can face it.

It’s no surprise, then, that when I started writing, it was always mystery stories that I wanted to tell. My Amory Ames Mysteries came about when I had a dream with my character’s name. That was it. There were no other details in the dream. But I knew right away who she was and what kind of story she belonged in, and everything just unfolded from there.

I discovered as I mapped out Amory’s adventures that writing a character’s risky behaviors is perhaps even more fun than reading about them. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about being a writer: getting my characters into trouble that I would be sensible enough to avoid! I would never, for example, visit disreputable pawnbrokers in disguise to haggle over stolen jewels or confront a killer I’d caught red handed. But Amory would, and does, and shows no sign of learning her lesson!

Of course, that’s the stuff that heroines are made of.  A bit of recklessness and the willingness to put oneself in jeopardy is what gets mysteries solved, after all. And what makes reading them so enjoyable!  I suppose it is inevitable, then, that Amory will keep sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong and getting into all sorts of mischief. I will be enjoying every minute of it, and I hope readers will too!    

So, despite my quiet day job, I live a life of mystery. As both a reader and a writer, I love the idea that characters are up for a challenge and can meet undauntedly whatever calamities come their way, solving the crime and saving the day.

That’s not to say my day job doesn’t have its own exciting moments. There was that especially lovely one last year when my love of libraries, mysteries, and writing combined, and I got to put my first mysterynovel on the library’s shelf. As a librarian, I can’t image a much bigger adventure than that!

HANK: So, in honor of Avery, let’s do a library shout out!  What’s you favorite library, or the one that changed your life, or the one you frequent these days?

(And you do remember, just saying, the paperback of TRUTH BE TOLD is now on sale, and I do mean sale! $5.03…and I have a very VERY special offer for you right here!


AshleyWeaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University. She lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.

Following the murderous events at the Brightwell Hotel, Amory Ames is looking forward to a tranquil period of reconnecting with reformed playboy husband Milo. Amory hopes a quiet stay at their London flat will help mend their dysfunctional relationship after their unexpected reconciliation. However, she soon finds herself drawn into another investigation when Serena Barrington asks her to look into the disappearance of valuable jewelry snatched at a dinner party.

Amory agrees to help lay a trap to catch the culprit at a lavish masked ball hosted by the notorious Viscount Dunmore. But when one of the illustrious party guests is murdered, Amory is pulled back into the world of detection, enlisted by old ally Detective Inspector Jones. As she works through the suspect list, she struggles to fend off the advances of the very persistent viscount even as rumors swirl about Milo and a French film star.

Once again, Amory and Milo must work together to solve a mystery where nothing is as it seems, set in the heart of 1930s society London.


  1. Ashley, I enjoyed “Murder at the Brightwell” and I’m looking forward to reading Amory’s newest adventure.

    When my children were small, the library was a convenient two blocks away from our house and we spent lots of time there. Summer reading programs for the children were a big hit. It was a special time for our family and the library continues to be one of my favorite places . . . .

  2. These books sound fabulous! Will check them out (quite literally - at my library).

    These days I hang out at the Amesbury, MA library, a few blocks from my house. It's full of history, in a building built in 1890, and stocks all my books. What would we do without libraries?

  3. Loved Murder at Brightwell and can't wait to read this one! I'm a fellow librarian (at HS) and certainly feel a kinship b/c of that link. Keep writing!

  4. Ashley, welcome to Jungle Red - I need to read Murder at Brightwell... it sounds terrific. Libraries, especially my local library (Yay, Dan Haacker and Shirley Pyne...) is thriving (brand new addition a few years ago is spectacular) and like all libraries changing with the times. Go in there any day and it's packed with people, with events, sharing its computer and research resources, and oh yeah lending books. I do miss our branch libraries. That whole idea seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

  5. Love your story Ashley--that must have special, placing your own book on the shelf! Did you have an audience?

    And how in the world do you juggle a full time day job with writing?

  6. looking forward to reading your books. The local branch of the Cincinnati/Hamilton County library system is jumping: tutoring, public access computers, story hour, book clubs, tablet tutorials. In a rootless culture, the hub of the community.

  7. Welcome Ashley! LOVED Murder at the Brightwell and was so proud to write a blurb for it... So delighted to see it nominated for an Edgar! Can't wait for the latest! And I had no idea you're a librarian, that's so great!

    Shout-out to the North Tonawanda Public Library, near Buffalo, NY. Librarian Mrs. Elizabeth Lewin took me under her wing and showed me the world... She's retired now, but I will NEVER forget her....

  8. Yes, I had no idea you were a librarian either! SO amazing. How did you decide on that job--if we ever "decide" anything in our lives?

    As a reporter pre-internet, libraries were always crucial to my stores. ANd I fear I called librarians in Boston ALL the time to get stats and info. ANd my secret--when I was working late and the Boston libraries were closed, I sometimes called librarians in California-where it was three hours earlier! SO thank you, librarians--you saved the day many times!

  9. Good thing it's a three day weekend; although (and I am very sad about this) the libraries will be closed, I can get to a bookstore and look for your book - it sounds like my kind of story! - and all the others that JRW introduced us to this week.

    My all-time favorite library is the Ferguson Library, the public library in Stamford CT, where I grew up. I spent HOURS there, first in their bookmobile, and later in the main library downtown after school. I still miss it.

  10. Libraries are closed this weekend? Oh, that's too bad--although librarians need to have fun, too!

    The Newton Public library, near our house but not walking distance like lucky Edith, is gorgeous… Light-filled and open, but still cozy (er, traditional) and private. And they have all kinds of fabulous programs, --I love speaking there!

    Yes, MArgaret, it;s interesting--with fewer bookstores, do you think people are congregating at libraries?

  11. Congratulations on the series, Ashley! I will have to search them out--through my local library. The Berlin Township Public Library is my local library--started in a one-room Victorian building with squeaky wooden floors--awed by the books, scared of the dragonkeepers--uh, librarians! These days, the librarians aren't above making a bit of noise themselves--you should've seen their celebration when the final HP came out--great fun for all ages! And, with the new technology--my little library is now part of a consortium of 30-40 libraries--anything in one library is available to everyone--and delivered to your home library--it's been amazing!

    And then there was The Ohio State University's library system at the mothership, er, main campus. Not only is the main library fabulous--floors and floors of books, reading rooms, libraries within the library--but the other libraries, scattered around campus--loved the Arts library where going into the stacks, you felt you should leave a trail of crumbs to find your way out again (although I had the feeling some lost, starving grad student would probably devour any crumbs I left), the Geology library, the Engineering library, the Medical Sciences library where you gave cards to the desk attendant and watched the stacks rotating behind and above them--wonderful, magical places!

  12. I haven't read the first book yet, but it sounds like so much fun. Must add it to my TBR list.

    I grew up coming to a library in my home town built with money donated by Andrew Carnegie. It was from the early 1900's, and it was so much fun. You could feel the history in it. They built a branch within walking distance of the house where I grew up when I was just starting at the local community college, and I liked that, but it never had the same appeal for me.

    I've now moved from that town, and I'm using my local libraries much more right now since I've started listening to books on tape to help get some of the best sellers I've always meant to try off my TBR list. I've really been enjoying that and am so thankful I don't have to buy these audio books.

    Truly, libraries are wonderful!

  13. Ashley, the cover of Murder at the Brightwell caught my eye when it came out, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. But, it's still calling to me, and with your appearance here on the blog, I'm thinking it was meant to be. So, I will definitely be reading it before long. Your new novel, Death Wears a Mask, has another beautiful cover, and no matter how much people might try to deny they choose a book by its cover, great covers do ensure the pick-up and perusal in the bookstore and library.

    Libraries have always been an important part of my life, and I think that there is a special attachment to those libraries from our youth. The small elementary school library where Miss Donna Root was the librarian of my dreams and who many, many years later still inspired me to get my Masters in that field. The public library in my hometown, the old one, where I had my first guilty pleasure with books, looking at the crime novels and their somewhat bold covers. As an adult, the greatest library thrill I have had is sitting in the reading room of the Library of Congress and ordering up some books concerning my ancestor Daniel Boone. It was fairly simple to obtain a reader's card for the library that gains you access to the reading room. I was in complete awe as I sat in that beautiful room looking around and up at books and gorgeous architecture. So cool!

  14. My childhood library wasn't an Andrew-Carnegie-sponsored one, but it had the feel of one: all dark wooden bookshelves, half-staircases leading to crannies stuffed with books and, of course, the room filled with the card catalogs. Today, I'm fortunate to have four (!) libraries within two miles of my home. And while I'm regularly at the Encinitas one, my heart belongs to the Del Mar branch as it's housed in a former church and retains all the dark wood of my childhood library, including an "ornamental" card catalog drawer. When I travel, I'm always amazed at the access granted to me at the local libraries; who doesn't love a library/librarian?

    I was lucky enough to receive Ashley's first novel through Stop You're Killing Me! giveaway and will now look for the second. Congratulations, Ashley!


  15. Flora, I'm setting part of my new book in a college I am devouring your descriptions!

    Yes, MArk, Andrew Carnegie was the Johnny Appleseed of libraries, right? (How are you liking the books on tape?? It's such a different experience..)

    Oh, my goodness, KAthy--what a wonderful experience! And you are related to THAT Boone? You'll have to write a blog for us about it, okay?

  16. Tricia, I LOVE card catalogs. (Why is that?) I keep thinking it would be fund to have one. They're sort of --treasure maps. ANd I am in love with the Dewey Decimal system. SUCH beautiful order. And imagine the brain that conceived of it!

  17. I hadn't seen Ashley's books come across my desk before; I adore the British between-wars period and will rush out to get MURDER AT BRIGHTWELL now!

    Libraries have played such a huge role in my life. Moving from post to post, state to state and country to country, the local library was always my mother's first stop. Nowadays I volunteer at The Very Small Library in Hollis, ME.

    My most important involvement with libraries, however, is the Smithie, who is on her last semester of graduate school, getting her MLIS. Like Ashley, the Smithie has been working or volunteering at libraries since her early teens, and at this point has experience in small rural, mid-sized suburban and large urban public libraries, as well as college ILL and The Bookmobile! Fingers crossed, all that will help her get her first career position after she graduates in January!

  18. My favorite library was the Old Library in Vacaville, California in the 1960-1970's. Grand old building, with a broad series of stone steps leading up to the heavy doors. I think it might have been an Andrew Carnegie library. The rooms were quiet and air-conditioned. It was my favorite hang out in the summer. Last I heard, it was a restaurant. My favorite librarian was in high school, a crusty old lady whose name I unforgivably have forgotten. She let me whisper; she liked me.

  19. Hank, the coolest part at OSU was the old elevator in the main library which gave access to the upper library stacks--it was slow and creaky and, if you wanted, you could take the stairs instead--these were 1-person wide and wound around the elevator shaft somehow. You could literally run down the winding stairs--14 floors, quicker than the elevator. But the stairs were spooky, too, and when you pushed open the door, you'd wait to see if you heard any footsteps coming your way before you started down. And many times, you'd come across a door to one stack level wedged open--they were hard to push--and I always thought someone was in the stacks who was afraid of the elevator and afraid they wouldn't be able to get the stair door open again!

    And Julia, please tell Smithie to watch for an opening for library director here--our 'system' consists of 2 libraries--a remodeled Carnegie in Milan and the 'branch' in Berlin Heights. I think we've had 5-6 directors in the past 10 years. Both communities are hugely supportive, but we've either had ineffectual directors or those who use us to move on to bigger places. We would love to have someone who a) wants to be here, and b) really loves the libraries!!

  20. Hi Ashley!!! You know how much I loved Murder at the Brightwell--I got to read an ARC and was tickled to be asked for a quote. I'm going to order Death Wears a Mask right now! Can't wait to see what Amory and Milo are up to:-)

    Libraries, love libraries. From the time I learned to read my grandmother took me to the Richardson Public Library--it was the highlight of my week. (Richardson, where I grew up, is now a very large suburb of Dallas but it was tiny in those days, and the original library was a branch of the Dallas County Library.) The current library opened in 1970. I've spoken there a number of times and it's a very nice feeling to give something back.

    Years later, when I lived in Dallas, I began volunteering at the Oak Lawn Branch of the Dallas Public Library, and I kept it up even when I moved forty miles away. I wrote A Share in Death during that time, and that branch was also my daughter's first introduction to libraries. Sometime during that period I heard P.D. James speak at the main downtown Dallas library, and I think those two things were the jump starters for my own writing. Yay, libraries!!!!

  21. P.S. Favorite libraries/coolest library experiences: I was invited to the National Book Festival several years ago and the authors were given a dinner at the Library of Congress. I was speechless, it was so amazing. Book tour before last I got to speak at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco--now that is a cool library, with its beautiful spiral staircase. But my favorite library is--can you guess?

    The British Library! I was proud when I got my reader's card.

    The London Library is wonderful as well but one has to be a member to use it and it's quite expensive.

  22. I have such fond memories of walking or riding bikes to the little library that shared space with Overland City Hall, checking out as many books as I could, and leaving the cool air conditioning to go home for lunch in the heat of a St. Louis summer noon.
    My now-favorite library is McClay branch of the St. Charles libraries, about a five-mile drive, but ideally located near FHN and right on the way home when I still taught. My library is generous and accommodating, ordering books I suggest because I lack $$ and space for all the books I want to read. They also host book club (in an hour actually), craft groups, and our storytelling Story Swap on the 2nd Monday of every month.
    I do have a fondness for the Kansas City Library, with the painted mural of giant books on the outside wall, and lovely hosting of much of the Story Celebration every fall.

  23. SUch fun to hear these of my scenes (which I should be writing RIGHT NOW) takes place in the room where the students' dissertations are shelved. Such perfect timing to have all these juicy descriptions--winding staircases, rickety elevators, doors wedged open. Lovely!

    My sister and I used to go to the library in Zionsvlile, Indiana. ALL the time. I don't remember ONE thing about the inside of it. That is--weird.

  24. Say hi to your book club from us all, Mary!

  25. Thanks so much to the Hank and the Jungle Red Writers for having me! You ladies are fantastic! Susan and Deborah, I appreciate your comments! I was thrilled to get blurbs from both of you (as well as from Rhys) for Murder at the Brightwell! And Hank was kindly blurbed Death Wears a Mask. You have all been so gracious!

    I’m loving all these fabulous responses! It’s so fun reading all the different library stories and sharing the great memories. That’s one thing that’s so fabulous about libraries. They come in all shapes and sizes, yet they always seem to be able to accommodate the shifting needs of their communities. They truly are magical places!

    Thanks so much to everyone for the kind comments on Murder at the Brightwell. Being an author has always been a dream of mine, so it’s so exciting for me to have people reading and enjoying what I’ve written! I hope you enjoy Death Wears a Mask just as much!

    Lucy, in answer to how I juggle a full time day job with writing, I stay up VERY late! I’ve always been a night owl, though, so it works out well. Plus being a librarian gives me great access to research materials!

    Hank, I got an after school job at the library my freshman year of high school, and the rest, as they say, was history. I kept working in libraries all through high school and college and then decided I might as well pursue the graduate degree in Library and Information Science. I knew I couldn’t possibly enjoy a job more! Plus it’s a perfect complement to life as a writer!

  26. So excited to read Murder at the Brightwell and Death Wears a Mask. I have debating about these purchases, but as the author has been nominated and y'all say it's a great read, I am ordering from amazon today! I loved my hometown library because it was over 100 years old and very Victorian in architecture, and a little spooky. I had a library card as a teenager and could wander for hours or choose up to three books to take home. Exciting. Made me feel mature and smart!

  27. Ashley, your books sound wonderful -- more to add to the to-be-read mountain. My favorite library is in my hometown of Avon, NY. It was the source of hours of delight when I was a child (does anyone else remember a series of biographies for kids that all had orange covers?) and where I fell in love with mysteries. And, when I was a bit older and started working there after school, the wonderful library director, Bernice Freiburger, took me under her wing and set me on the path to my MLS and a career in libraries and research. Now I get to give back with volunteer time.

  28. I loved the first book and can hardly wait for book two of Amory and Milo's latest adventure. When I was a kid I visited the county library that shared the grounds of my elementary school. It was tiny but it had Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, all the mystery "classics" that the city library would not carry. I did go to the big city library in downtown Houston when my dad would drop me off. That was a magical building; I found out years later it is supposed to be haunted. Everytime I've moved, one of the first things I do is get a library card. I have fond memories of libraries in Texas, Ohio, and Minnesota.

  29. I carried your greetings and one of your bookmarks to our group, and our leader is now considering adding one to the request list for book club sets (much trickier than adding single titles).
    We were discussing _Tell the Wolves I'm Home_, very compelling book, very lively discussion. It's a fun phenomenon, libraries as gathering places. The Spencer Library renovation included a large meeting room and many small ones.

  30. The Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, IN is the one I went to as a child. And still do. From its history to the fountain outside, it's a great place to go and read. They now have a genealogy department across the street and a teen library two doors down. They have great historical things, authors, book clubs, and other events. :D

  31. Chelty, so great to see you! Where are you from?

    A haunted library, Pat D? I love it!

  32. Mary, how wonderful! (And you can of course explain they all work as stand-alones.) Happy to send a stash of bookmarks and loot! Just tell me where. And oh, thank you.

    Ann, are you a fellow Hoosier? I did not know that!

  33. Chria R-so lovely that you give back! xoxo

  34. The library branch in Tumwater, WAS was the first place I was allowed to walk alone. I was twelve and the branch was in a little strip mall. I loved it. It was weird and cramped and kind of dark, and no judged what I checked out. I tended toward the adult section, biographies in particular. But the best part was that the grocery store in the same strip had an old-fashioned lunch counter. I would take my book and go get coffee. :D Tumwater has a very nice "new" 20 year old library, but no coffee.

    I love my current library too, an old Carnegie with a coordinating addition on the back. They really get that the library is a place of community with multi-lingual staff and a computer tech, after-school programs and story hour for babies pre-schoolers and kids with autism. And this summer the whole Seattle library system not only had a book and adventure club for kids, but summer bingo for grown-ups with independent bookstore gift certificates as prizes!

  35. Chelty, the spooky Victorian library sounds fabulous! There’s something so wonderful about an old building full of books!

    Chris, that’s awesome that you volunteer your time at the library. Volunteers are such an asset and so appreciated!

    Thanks so much, Pat! Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were some of my favorites, too. I loved going to the library and coming home with an armload of mysteries.

    Mary, your library book club sounds so fun. We’ve been talking about starting one at our library. It’s always great to get together to discuss books. I have belonged to a book club with several of my friends since college, and we have the best times!

    Your library sounds great, Ann. I love to hear of libraries offering a lot of great resources and programs!

    Kate, I love your childhood library story! Picking out a good book at the library and then reading it while drinking coffee at the lunch counter sounds like the perfect day. What great memories!