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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Many Names of Cozy Mystery Author Edith Maxwell

What made you decide to write cozy mysteries? Was there any particular author you read that made you think, I could write like that? 
First, let me say I'm delighted to be here! Back in the early nineties, I was reading almost exclusively mysteries by women with female protagonists. I read Sue Grafton and Sara Parestsky, but the stories I liked the most were the cozies. I read Katherine Hall Page, Susan Wittig Albert, and Diane Mott Davidson. Those talented ladies, all of whom are still actively writing, inspired me to start my own crime fiction career. 

Are you a natural punster or do you brainstorm with others for those quirky titles?
As for titles, I'm not great at it - so I often crowd-source them among my fans.

You've published multiple novels. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many rewrites did you do? 

I have twelve published novels - seven in my name, three written as Maddie Day, and two as Tace Baker. I've just started to write my eighteenth novel, and by now I can write the first draft in under two months. I then take another two months to polish the manuscript. 

You said you've published 12 novels and are on your 18th one now. What happened to those other 5 novels between 12 and 17? 
They have all been submitted to the publisher and are in various stages of production. #13 is the fourth Country Store Mystery (written as Maddie Day) and will be out in January 2018. The third Quaker Midwife Mystery, my 14th novel, will release in April. #15, the first Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery (also written as Maddie Day), releases in January 2019. And so on!

You write three different series - Country Store Mysteries, Local Foods Mysteries (Kensington Publishing) and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Midnight Ink). How do you decide how to divide your time between writing in each series? 
I write one at a time, but with three under contract, I have to keep the year rolling so I don't miss a deadline. I will have books out in all three series in 2018!

Why do you write under three different names? 
Three names are an artifact of various complicated publisher requirements. None of them said I couldn't link the names, though, and so my website includes all my personalities and creative works.

How did you go about getting your first book published? Did you go to conferences? Send out queries? Introduced to someone in the business?
All of the above. I joined Sisters in Crime, a national advocacy organization for female crime writers, now thirty years old. I attended the New England Crime Bake and took online classes. I joined an in-person critique group. I kept writing and had four short crime fiction stories published before my first book contract. 

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog? Tension?
My hardest part is getting through the middle of the book. The start is fun and the end is fun, but keeping track of the first thirty thousand words while making the story progress without anyone (including me) getting bored is a challenge with every book. By now I know I will get through it, so I no longer panic. 

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
A few years ago, my editor and critique group members would ask why my protagonist doesn't react in the next scene following one where something happens. Aha! I knew how she reacted; I just forgot to write it down. Now I don't forget.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
"Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard." Really, you can't fix what you haven't written. You can't pitch or sell empty pages. Write the story first, then polish it, have another writer critique it, tweak it some more, get it edited, and then take it out into the world.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of how you learned to write past rejection?
Early on when I was submitting short stories, my stories were frequently rejected by the publishers who put out the annual anthology of Best New England Crime Fiction. One of them took the time to write a personal note on my rejection letter, telling me to keep writing, that I was a good writer. Wow! I took that to heart. Fifty agent rejections were pretty hard to swallow, too, but I persisted.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? What frustrated you the most? 
I never thought about how much time it takes to gently promote a book. We can't just go around saying, "Buy my book! Buy my book!" Of course, I want people to buy it, but I really want to build readers, so if someone loans a friend my book, or checks it out from the library, I'm just as happy.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
For one thing, I now know how to streamline and leave out unnecessary words. A woman sat, she didn't sit DOWN. He didn't shrug his SHOULDERS, he just shrugged (like, what ELSE could you shrug?). And so on. 

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?

Find your tribe. I found Sisters in Crime, both the national organization and our large active New England chapter, of which I am currently president. Find people writing in your genre. Talk to them, learn from them, exchange questions, advice, and manuscripts with them. 

What is the next book that will be coming out? 
BISCUITS AND SLASHED BROWNS (by Maddie Day) releases in January, and TURNING THE TIDE releases in April. 

Can you give me a short synopsis?

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration. Excitement is already building around this fourth edition of the adventures of Robbie and her core crew in South Lick, Indiana, and it’s available for preorder now.
TURNING THE TIDE: Excitement runs high during Presidential election week in 1888. The Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and Quaker midwife Rose Carroll resolves to join the protest. When she finds the body of the association’s leader the next morning, she’s drawn into delivering more than babies. Rose’s own life is threatened more than once as she sorts out the killer from innocent.

That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to learn more about Edith’s many books and series, here are some links to get you started.

Twitter: @edithmawell, @maddiedayauthor
Instagram: @edithmaxwellauthor

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