Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for January include: (1/5) Jennifer J. Chow, (1/12) Amy Pershing, (1/19) Heather Weidner, (1/26) Marilyn Levinson.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

On Immersion by Edith Maxwell

First, thanks so much for having me back here at Writers Who Kill. You guys win for best blog title ever!

People at author events often ask me how I write, and how I manage three or four series. “How do you keep them separate?” they ask, or “Is it hard to go back and forth from the present to 1888?”

For me, immersion is key. I need to dive into the pool that is the current book and stay there until my fingertips are wrinkled and my legs and arms are exhausted from swimming. And mostly I manage to do that. But the plan hits a snag now and then.

For example, after I returned from Malice Domestic in early May, I was ready to start writing the first draft of my second historical mystery. I set up the Scrivener project for Breaking the Chain, dusted off the synopsis I had turned in to Midnight Ink with my series proposal, set my weekly word count goal to 5000, and cannonballed in with a big splash.

Ten days later I’d been walking the streets of my town imagining the 1888 Independence Day parade, researching fireworks of the time, and conjuring up a nice pool of suspects when I took a break to check the mail. I squinted at two envelopes from Kensington Publishing, one fat, one slim. I was so immersed in the work in progress I couldn’t even think what my editor owed me.

I opened the fat envelope to find page proofs from my new alter-ego Maddie Day’s first Country Store mystery, Flipped for Murder. The thin envelope held editorial comments on the fourth Local Foods mystery, Murder Most Fowl. Oh. Rats. I reluctantly saved my ten thousand words in the new book and shut down Scrivener.

First I knocked off the editorial comments. My editor takes the wide-lens view, and he’s never asked me to make a change I didn’t think was justified. Then I turned to the page proofs. I sat at my kitchen table with a red pen and took about three days to carefully read through, page by page, marking their error or mine. I didn’t try to work on the historical in the mornings and proofs in the afternoon, because that ain’t immersion. My head kind of explodes as it is writing three contracted series, and I really need to just focus on one at a time.

Meanwhile, the date for the Farmed and Dangerous release crept ever closer. I am appearing as a guest on a dozen or more blogs, including this one, and each needs a a decent on-topic essay. By the time I finished the proofs and sent off my corrections, I still had a half dozen guest posts to write. So that became my immersion. I decided to just get them all done so I can get back to the book in progress. I’m happy to say that after this post, I have only two to go!

I love being a full-time fiction writer. I love meeting readers, reaching out in all different directions to find new fans, hoping the words I craft will entertain somebody on their deck or at the beach this summer, on their couch or in an airplane seat next winter. But what I love most is writing the first draft. And I can’t wait to plunge back into that 1888 pool again, and see where the story might take me next. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be stroking in the deep end.

How do you handle multiple projects? Can you multi-task three at a time, or do you also need immersion?

In the third Local Foods mystery, Farmed and Dangerous (May, 2015), snow is piling up in Westbury, Massachusetts. Unfortunately murder seems to be the crop in season. Supplying fresh ingredients for a dinner at an assisted living facility seems like the least of Cam’s worries—until one of the elderly residents dies after eating some of her produce. As the suspects gather, a blizzard buries the scene of the crime under a blanket of snow, leaving Cam stranded in the dark with a killer who gives new meaning to the phrase “dead of winter.”

Agatha-nominated and Amazon-bestselling author Edith Maxwell writes four murder mystery series, most with recipes, as well as award-winning short stories.

Farmed and Dangerous is the latest in Maxwell's Local Foods Mysteries series (Kensington Publishing). The latest book in the Lauren Rousseau mysteries, under the pseudonym Tace Baker (Barking Rain Press), is Bluffing is Murder. Maxwell’s Country Store Mysteries, written as Maddie Day (also from Kensington), will debut with Flipped for Murder in November, 2015. Her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series features Quaker midwife Rose Carroll solving mysteries in 1888 Amesbury with John Greenleaf Whittier’s help, and will debut in March, 2016 with Delivering the Truth.
A fourth-generation Californian, Maxwell lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors (, and you can find her at, @edithmaxwell, on Pinterest and Instagram, and at Facebook.                         


Warren Bull said...

Now that is dedication.

KM Rockwood said...

What a list of accomplishments! You must really enjoy writing, and have obviously mastered organizing your time well.

I've only scratched the surface, but I look forward to reading more of your work.

Jim Jackson said...

Yep, my approach is immersion too, but I can hardly manage one series at a time.

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

Wow, Edith, you are an inspiration!
Keep up the good work. I am looking forward to your midwife mysteries.

Gloria Alden said...

Edith, I can't imagine having more than one series at a time going. When do you find the time to do something other than write? Do you ever find time to curl up with a good book other than your own? I love writing, too, but I need time to do other things, also.

E. B. Davis said...

How do you get the real world to go away! For some reason, I have become a bunch of people's computer guru. I'm not schooled in computers. A computer-oriented 22 year old could put me to shame, but, I guess it is all compared to what. Like yesterday, my sister calls. I have to take her through how she can tell if she is on a secure website for a credit card transaction. I was going to start a class for the Guppies (let alone write!), but instead I'm on the phone with my sister trying to educate her.

After that, my husband says the church is having a rummage sale. He starts going through the house looking for stuff to throw away. I leave my desk to guard our possessions, but then I did go to the basement and clear out about six big boxes to give to the church--but again--I'm not at my desk!

Edith--the only thing I can say is that once I start getting paid, perhaps others around me will acknowledge that my time to write is valuable! Glad yours is and that you've put your time to good use. Thanks for blogging with us!

Grace Topping said...

Edith, you are amazing. When I start feeling sorry for myself when distractions take me away from my writing, I'll think of you and try to buck up.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, everybody! I'm late in commenting back because I was...writing. I do find time to garden, cook, and read, Gloria. And I take a brisk walk every day, although that usually contributes to the WIP, at least if I walk alone. It does help that I'm starting to make some money from my writing, for sure.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Edith, I bow at your feet! Right now we've listed our house, we're dealing with my little old mom's macular degeneration, and a husband who wants to retire. If I had multiple projects, I would cannonball into the water, I'd cannonball off a cliff. So impressed with you! I'm busier than when I worked full time. Does live ever get in your way?

Edith Maxwell said...

Sure life gets in the way sometimes, Donnell. But both my parents are gone, both my sons are happy and healthy and supporting themselves elsewhere, and both my beau and I are also healthy. So, fingers crossed, for the moment I pumping this stable situation for all I've got!

Kara Cerise said...

You are amazing, Edith!
I enjoyed A Fire in Carriagetown and am looking forward to your Midwife Mystery series.

Ramona said...

My head kind of explodes reading this! You must have laser-like focus, to switch so effectively from one story to another.

Anonymous said...

Your approach seems most logical. More and more research shows that multi-tasking is inefficient because it breaks attention from the task at hand. Focusing on the current task allows, IMHO, a more creative flow. Having more than one project long-term seems that it would keep each fresher. Whatever the philosophy, the results are certainly wonderful!

Triss said...

Edith, excellent lessons about how to get the work done, even for those of us "only" writing one series.

Kait said...

Thank you for a look at your process, Edith. as Mary said, the results are terrific. I always wondered how you managed to write all those series and so well!

Sasscer Hill said...

Edith, thank you for this wonderfully detailed account of your process. I especially liked hearing how many pages/words a week you set as a goal. I need to raise my counts, although they have been steadily rising during the last year. I also do best when I immerse myself in one thing. The flitting back and forth between working on a blog, posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and writing the novel tends to be a non starter, or at least slow out of the gate in the race to finish the manuscript! Life’s daily interruptions are bad enough. Add the loud clamoring of author duties, and organization becomes more than just essential, it becomes the savior of our sanity! I am awed by your abilities, Edith. You are a terrific inspiration.

Edith Maxwell said...

Gosh, thanks, everybody! Glad if I inspire some.

Now...back to work, y'all. ;^)

Marilyn Levinson said...

I'm impressed by how organized you are, and how you get all your writing done as planned—or as close to schedule as can be expected if one is human and not a robot.. I'm still trying to use each day efficiently.