Wednesday, November 4, 2015

An Interview with Edith Maxwell Writing as Maddie Day By E. B. Davis

“Where were you at between three o’clock and seven
o’clock tonight, Roberta Jordan?”
I swallowed. “I told you. I was here in the store,
and then in my apartment in the back.” I’d watched enough
TV shows to know the drill. “I didn’t leave.
I was alone. I didn’t talk to anyone.”
I was innocent.

Maddie Day, Flipped For Murder (pages 24-25) 

I’ve been a SinC Guppy long enough to watch Edith Maxwell’s career rise. First it was one series, now it’s four! Writing under the pseudonym, Maddie Day, The Country Store Mystery series is Edith’s most recent addition, her second for Kensington Publishing. Flipped For Murder, the first book in the series, was released last week.

I enjoyed the book and couldn’t help but think Robbie Jordan, the main character, was somewhat of a departure for Edith. Two of her series main characters feature Quaker women. Robbie admits she isn’t in the slightest way religiously bent. She doesn’t even know how to pray. If you haven’t yet read the book, do so. Robbie Jordan is a refreshing character due to her multi-faceted skills and surprising backstory.   

Please welcome Edith back to WWK.              E. B. Davis

How did you arrive at the pseudonym Maddie Day? Did your publisher think it up?
I thought it up. I had suggested Ruthie Drew, but they didn’t like that, so we went with Maddie. It has the important qualities of being easy to spell, easy to pronounce, three syllables in total, with the last name being near the top of the alphabet. I kind of broke the rule about pseudonyms being original – there are already a couple of Maddie Days out there, but not many, and certainly none are authors.

Please give our readers the jacket cover synopsis?
Nursing a broken heart, Robbie Jordan is trading in her life on the West Coast for the rolling hills of southern Indiana. After paying a visit to her Aunt Adele, she fell in love with the tiny town of South Lick. And when she spots a For Sale sign on a rundown country store, she decides to snap it up and put her skills as a cook and a carpenter to use. Everyone in town shows up for the grand re-opening of Pans ‘N Pancakes, but when the mayor’s disagreeable assistant is found dead, Robbie realizes that not all press is good press. With all eyes on her, she’ll have to summon her puzzle-solving skills to clear her name, unscramble the town’s darkest secrets, and track down a cold-blooded killer – before she’s the next to die…

You lived for a time in Southern Indiana, where your book takes place. What aspects of the area were your favorite and least favorite?
I loved living in Bloomington. The pace of life is slower, people are really friendly, and it’s a small
town with a huge university in it, so you can find culture, a food co-op, political activity – the works – while still being able to walk or bike anywhere. Brown County, where I placed my fictional South Lick, is the next county over and is just lovely. The only downside to the Midwest is no ocean. I’m a fourth-generation Californian, and I thought I’d miss the sea more than I did.

Robbie expresses dismay at her town’s name, South Lick. You’ve even given the town backstory. Is South Lick real? Was the Jupiter sulfur spring real?
Pluto Spring, 1903. Licensed under Public 
Domain via WikiCommons.
Great question. No South Lick is fictional, but lots of basketball fans have heard of French Lick, the real town where Larry Bird is from. It’s a little farther south than Brown County, and featured a major spa-centered resort a century ago. Lick just means there was salt in the area. The Jupiter sulfur spring is based on the Pluto spring in French Lick.  

Why would Robbie, a California born and raised woman, return to her late mother’s hometown to live?
Robbie’s new husband ran off with a fighter pilot, and her Aunt Adele lives near South Lick. So Robbie fled California to work as a chef in Brown County; at least she had family nearby.

How did a twenty-seven-year old engineer, a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, and carpenter end up as a chef?
She always loved cooking, and definitely enjoys eating. I have noticed that a lot of engineer-types are great cooks, as long as they have a recipe to follow. Robbie has branched out into inventing dishes by now.

Robbie likes her flute of wine, enjoys a smidgeon of Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon, and isn’t averse to indulging herself now and again in calories and men. She also confesses to being non-religious. As a Quaker in real life, why did you create such traits for Robbie?
It’s fun, and refreshing, to write a protagonist who isn’t like me. Well, okay, I also love cooking. And bourbon. (And men…) But I’m definitely not a bicyclist, and I wish I were better at carpentry than I am. It’s too late for me to open my own store and restaurant, so I’ve enjoyed her challenges as she makes this new life work.

Some of your characters enjoy put-down jokes about Kentucky. Is there a rivalry between states?
Yes! The jokes I include are definitely the PG version, too...

You’ve created some strong female mentors and friends for Robbie. Although Danna, Robbie’s new assistant, shows her strength, Robbie supports and mentors her. Who is Danna and why does she need Robbie’s support?
Danna is nineteen and the daughter of the tall, bigger-than-life mayor. Her mom wanted her to go to college – Danna just wants to cook, and she’s good at it. Robbie needed help in the restaurant and Danna showed up at exactly the right time. Her mother is a single mom with one child, just like Robbie and her mom, so Robbie feels that connection, too. But Danna’s last work situation was less than ideal, and working with Robbie at Pans ‘n Pancakes helps make life right again for her.

Many cozy mysteries show inept law enforcement officers. At first, I thought you would portray Buck, a Deputy Sheriff for Brown County, in a similar fashion, but Buck is a more balanced character. Why did you give him more credence?
I didn’t want to write the bumbling southern cop. Buck drawls and seems little dim, but he definitely isn’t. Maybe I had my image of Andy Griffith in the back of my mind – he was kindly and slow-talking but he didn’t let criminals get away with anything.

Robbie came to Southern Indiana from the sun/fun of California. She expresses surprise by the interest of two men. Is this just another of life’s ironies or does the lack of anonymity in a small town change the odds?
The Story Inn and General Store, 
which provided inspiration for the series.
As a Californian, I can say that the sun/fun reputation of my home state is more myth than reality.
Most people go to work, come home, have a family life, and maybe even never go to the beach. Robbie does feel the always-in-the-public-eye effect of the small town, and her business only adds to that. She grew up in Santa Barbara, which, while not a huge metropolis, is a bustling coastal city where you’re not in the spotlight if you don’t want to be. Plus, for the previous three years she’s been living and working in the county seat of Nashville, a larger town than South Lick, so yes, having these two cute guys interested in her all of a sudden does take her by surprise.

Small town business owners compete for customers. Is sabotage a problem you’ve heard tales about or experienced?
No. I just made it up!

Several of your secondary characters competed for my affections, but Robbie’s Aunt Adele won. At seventy, she’s worn many hats in the small town, and she has a love life. Did you create her character to bust stereotypical notions of the small-town spinster? And what’s with the sheep?
I love Adele, too. She just came to me, as so many characters do. She’s somebody I’d like to know, and especially be related to. I have several awesome older female relatives and friends, but Adele is her own woman. As for the sheep, running a sheep farm is her idea of retirement. She spins, knits, and loves being outdoors, and still has lots of energy at seventy, so it’s not a big stretch.

Robbie’s main exercise is long-distance bicycling. Do you share the same interest?
No! I mean, I don’t mind riding along where it’s flat. But I hate riding up hills. I did get information about the habit from my sons, who, like Robbie, think it’s relaxing to go out for a couple of hours of really hard hill cycling.

Secrets play a role in your mystery, but it’s apparent that few are true secrets. Is the secret holder always the last to know his secret—isn’t?
I don’t know. I just follow my characters around and write down what they do. No, of course it’s not that easy, but that’s my basic process. Secrets, true or not, are part of the package.

Your short story, “Pickled,” contained in the A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman anthology introduced the series. In what stage were you in creating the series when you wrote the short?
I think I had the series in mind, but I hadn’t written the proposal or gotten the contract yet.

Although it is hard to imagine writing four series, how do you keep all the conventions of each publishing house straight while writing?
I don’t really have conventions to worry about. It’s more a matter of trying to work on one book at a time, so I keep the voice and setting distinct. So far I think it’s working.

Tell our readers about Grilled for Murder, the second book in your series. Do you have a release date?
Erica Shermer may be the widow of handsome local lawyer Jim Shermer’s brother, but she doesn’t appear to be in mourning. At a homecoming party held in Robbie’s store, Erica is alternately obnoxious and flirtatious—even batting her eyelashes at Robbie’s boyfriend Jim. When Erica turns up dead in the store the next morning, apparently clobbered with cookware, the police suspect Robbie’s friend Phil, who closed up after the party. To clear Phil and calm her customers, Robbie needs to step out from behind the counter and find the real killer in short order.

The release date is May 31. This series is on a seven-month schedule, so they come along fast and furious. I’m halfway through writing book three, When the Grits Hit the Fan, right now. And yes, Danna will come up with a cheesey grits dish as a special. Keep your fingers crossed (and your preorders lively) for another three books in the series.

Do you have an agent, Edith?
The able John Talbot is my agent. He has all the right connections, and has been successful in selling a number of cozy series on proposal to the big New York publishing houses. He’s the agent for all the Wicked Cozy Authors, the fabulous group I blog with every weekday. Please come visit us.

Are you a spring or fall person?
I love them both, although I spend the first few weeks of fall grieving the passing of summer
produce. Spring in New England is pretty spectacular – finally green and color after the long winter – so you have to love that, too.

Thanks so much for these really insightful questions. I’ll bet readers have some questions, too, which I’m happy to answer. And here are a few for them:
·      Do you have a breakfast favorite you’d like Robbie to offer?
·      Do you also love the Midwest, or are you more of a coastal person?
·      Finally: bicycling – yes or no? If yes, wearing “outfits” and riding twenty miles or more, or are you more like me, puttering along on the flat with one pants leg rolled up, possibly even not wearing a helmet?

Maddie and I will give away a copy of FLIPPED to one lucky responder. We will pick the sixth reader who contracts E. B. Davis at Please put Maddie Day in the subject line. 

Agatha-nominated and national best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), the Local Foods Mysteries and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Maxwell lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can also find her at, @edithmaxwell, and on Facebook.                                  


Penny Goetjen said...

Great interview Edith. Having spent several years growing up in southern Indiana, I get the rivalry between Indiana and Kentucky!

Warren Bull said...

It sounds like a fun read. Thanks for sharing on WWK.

Jim Jackson said...

Hey Edith (in your Maddie persona) – welcome back to WWK. As an upstate New York boy who spent a very good decade plus in the greater Cincinnati area, I can appreciate both the positives and negatives of the Midwest.

I grew up in upstate New York, which people in the Midwest think is East and people in New York City think is nowhere. It’s actually Midwestern in its culture. The folks who populate the central Midwest (mitten of Michigan, upper Ohio and northern Indiana) were the second and third sons of the folks born in Upstate New York who because of primogeniture had to move west to find land to own. The southern Midwest was settled from the south—entirely different cultures. For example, a major hotbed of the Ku Klux Klan revival in the early 20th Century was in southern Indiana.

I am culturally an upstate Midwest person who despite his upbringing turned into a social liberal while retaining his Midwestern fiscal conservatism.

And yes, I do bike and can easily do 20+ miles at moderate speeds.

~ Jim

Anonymous said...

Good questions, good answers. Looks like a fun read. KB

Kait said...

What a fun sounding series! I'm a huge fan of Tace Baker and Edith Maxwell. Now I'll add Maddie Day to the list. I'm definitely a coastal person. I have sea water running in my veins I think. As for biking - oh no, not me at all, except on flats and yes, sometimes without a helmet. South Florida is not helmet friendly, but then the drivers are not particularly bike friendly either! I opt for running. Five miles. Three times a week. On a flat. No hills in these parts. My husband, on the other hand, thinks biking 20+ miles full out is fun. He does wear a helmet, always, but his only other dress up requirement is biking shoes.

Grace Topping said...

Edith, you are amazing and an excellent example of how hard, hard work pays off. Congratulations on the publication of your book in yet another series.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks everybody! Am about to hop two planes home from Indiana but will check in again tonight.

Gloria Alden said...

Edith, your book sounds like one I'd like to read. This past summer I went camping in southern Indiana with two of my sisters. I enjoyed the country side, except was saddened by all the flooding of so much of the farm land with acres and acres of pathetic corn fields not thriving because of all the water. All three of us enjoyed visiting the small towns, though.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Edith, your series sounds like so much fun. I continue to be amazed at your stamina and your ability to write so many series so well. Whatever you've got, I wish we could bottle it!

E. B. Davis said...

Edith--thank you so much for writing fun books to read and for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you much success with the series, as well as success in your other series. I hope it's fun. I have to catch up on your other series. Love to have a large TBR pile. Come back and visit again!

Edith Maxwell said...

You all are so nice! Taking almost two weeks off writing to tour Indiana and then come back in time only to do laundry before Crime Bake starts up on Friday is a little nervewracking with contract deadlines like mine. But it was a wonderful trip, and I'm pretty sure (gulp) I'll get the next book done in time. Loved being here today!