If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


April Interviews

4/07 Edith Maxwell, A Changing Light
4/14 M. E. Hilliard, The Unforgivness of Ravens
4/21 Grace Topping, Upstaged by Murder
4/28 Laura Jensen Walker, Hope, Faith, and A Corpse

Saturday WWK Bloggers

4/10 Jennifer J. Chow
4/28 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

4/03 Saralyn Richard













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Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Jennifer J. Chow for garnering a 2021 Lefty Nomination for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. We're crossing our fingers for Jennifer!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Dealing at the Dump" appears in Cozy Villages of Death Fall 2020.

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Black Market Baby" and Debra H. Goldstein's "Forensic Magic" appear in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories Fall 2020.

Jennifer J. Chow's Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines (interview on WWK on 11/11) released on November 10.

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Having Faith In the Writing Process by Marilyn Levinson

Developing one's writing skills as a novelist is an ongoing process. I'm discovering that the way I write a novel is undergoing a process as well. In previous books, I always wrote as a plotter. I worked from an extensive outline, while allowing for changes as they arose to better suit my storyline. But with each book in my current series, I find myself becoming more of a pantser. Writing the most recent book, I have even become more daring. I outlined what would be the beginning chapters and I knew how I wanted the book to end, with the murderer firmly in my mind. This is especially important as I usually have two plotlines that converge at the end.

But I found myself doing things differently this time around. When I got beyond the opening chapters that I'd outlined, I mentally plotted out the next two or three scenes, which I then wrote. And so I continued.  It was kind of like swinging on a trapeze with no safety net below, but oddly enough it didn't make me anxious. 

A new character appeared, then another, and I found myself in the middle of the book with plenty of activity and no sagging middle in sight. New characters brought new elements to the book, and before long I found myself changing the identity of the murderer.

Why this growing confidence in the writing process? Partly, I suspect it's due to the fact that the more we write, the better we get at it. Not that it's easier, but we're honing skills that develop well below the surface of our minds. Another reason is my editor trusts me. I tell her what my next book is going to be about. Just to check in, not because she asks me to. And I've a wonderful group of mystery-writing friends who I can turn to whenever I get stuck. Even if I don't take any of their suggestions, somehow the act of asking for help and writing out the problem brings me the very answer I need to resolve my problem.

And then, of course, writing a series makes things easier. I know my protagonist well, along with her friends and family and the town they live in. Yes, I write cozies, but I deal with less-than-cozy issues like abandonment and dysfunctional families. I feel free to explore my characters' thoughts and feelings, without worrying about restrictions. All of these factors allow me to write more freely and to have faith in the writing process.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

An Interview with Author M. E. Hilliard by E. B. Davis

 

 “I never faint. I’m not the type.” I was the type who drank too much

and made inappropriate comments. Fainting would be better.

M. E. Hilliard, The Unkindness of Ravens, Kindle Loc. 129

 

Greer Hogan is a librarian and an avid reader of murder mysteries. She also has a habit of stumbling upon murdered bodies. The first was her husband's, and the tragic loss led Greer to leave New York behind for a new start in the Village of Raven Hill. But her new home becomes less idyllic when she discovers her best friend sprawled dead on the floor of the library.

Was her friend's demise related to two other deaths that the police deemed accidental? Do the residents of this insular village hold dark secrets about another murder, decades ago? Does a serial killer haunt Raven Hill?

As the body count rises, Greer's anxious musings take a darker turn when she uncovers unexpected and distressing information about her own husband's death...and the man who went to prison for his murder. She is racked with guilt at the possibility that her testimony may have helped to convict an innocent man.

Though Greer admires the masters of deduction she reads about in books, she never expected to have to solve a mystery herself. Fortunately, she possesses a quick wit and a librarian's natural resourcefulness. But will that be enough to protect her from a brilliant, diabolical murderer?

And even if Greer manages to catch the Raven Hill killer, will living with her conscience prove a fate worse than death?

Amazon.com


It was the main character’s voice that got me hooked on this book. I liked the main character, Greer Hogan. However, some of her past behavior is not beyond reproach. She isn’t a typical good girl or a typical librarian, whatever that is. Greer wants justice, but some of her motives may not be so pure.

 

In The Unkindness of Ravens, Greer has starting a new career in a new place when an old occurrence happens—a body falls at her feet. Greer has flashbacks of her husband’s body, but that isn’t the only haunting she has. Greer is consumed by murder mysteries, their images and language. She is able to recall key sentences of her favorite authors and make use of their detective methods. If nothing else, Greer is a pragmatist. She does the best she can do, given the situation.

 

What I liked best about her? She believes what a young girl tells her, things others would assume to be fantasy.

 

Please welcome M. E. Hilliard to WWK.                                                                             E. B. Davis

 

Why is Greer drawn to Trixie Belden and the entire “girl detective” persona?

Greer was a smart, independent kid who liked to solve puzzles, and she never grew out of that. Many of us don’t! So she sees herself in those characters. As she gets older, she keeps reading mysteries. A lot of amateur sleuths are women, and Greer just knows in her heart that she could solve those crimes if she had to. Fortunately, she’s right.

 

Raven Hill Public Library is housed in Raven Hill Manor, an architectural gothic-styled building left to the town by the Ravenscroft family. It’s sort of a spooky structure that has resident ravens. Greer thinks it has “quirky charm.” What part does the manor play? It’s more than a set.

I think of the manor as a character. It has a personality, may well be haunted, and seems to be on Greer’s side most of the time. It’s a kind of cranky old relative, and a mystery unto itself. Whether it’s the contents of the attics, or the floors that creak and doors that stick (or don’t) for no apparent reason, you never really know what you’re going to get.

 

Where are the Helderberg Mountains? Greer can see them in the distance from the town. Is Raven Hill based on another town or does it exist?

The Helderbergs are in upstate New York, a little west of Albany. Raven Hill is fictional, but there are a lot of small towns around Albany and the rest of what’s known as the Capital District. I also lived in small towns in Connecticut for much of my childhood. Raven Hill is a combination of all of them.

 

When Greer finds a body at the bottom of the stairs to a rooftop terrace at Ravens Hill Manor, she becomes a suspect. Not only did she find the body, but the victim, Joanna, is the only person in town she knew before she moved there. Was it a coincidence that Greer moved to the same town where Joanna lived?

Joanna let Greer know about the job posting. They’d met in college, lost touch, and then reconnected on social media. So not a coincidence, but something of a happy accident that there was an opening shortly after Greer finished grad school.

 

You use voices inside Greer’s head to bring in backstory. Voices that haunt her from the past—the guy convicted of her husband’s murder, Danny’s voice, Joanna’s voice. Do phrases, both written and verbal, attract Greer’s attention like details caught Joanna’s attention?

She’s a lifelong reader, so words are important to her. If a phrase makes an impression initially, it’s likely to stick, especially if there’s a strong emotional association. Joanna is similar, but she’s a journalist, so for her it’s details that raise questions, or suggest a story.

 

What is it about rules that bug Greer?

Growing up with a bossy older sister! Also, as you said, she’s a pragmatist, so if a rule makes sense, she’ll follow it. If it doesn’t and it’s in her way, she’ll ignore it, or work around it.

 

Raven Hill shares the police with other towns. Violent crimes are dealt with by the state police. The state police were never brought in—did the police think Joanna’s death was an accident?

They were brought in, but undercover. Greer finally gets Jennie to admit it, but Jennie won’t tell her if she’s got the right people.


Jennie Webber is an interesting character. She’s toured Iraq twice. She treats Greer from the start as suspect number one. But her attitude changes after Greer admits to having guilty secrets and asks Jennie what hers are. Why the change? Once Jennie knows that Greer’s not hiding anything to do with this murder, she loosens up a little. She’s clearly got secrets of her own, so she can relate to Greer’s motivation. And they’re both after the same thing—finding the killer. Jennie knows Greer can get information she can’t, and vice versa, so it makes more sense to team up.

 

Although Miss Marple was right most of the time, isn’t thinking the worst of people a nasty mindset?

I would rate it no worse than cynical, and if you’re after murderers, more sensible than always thinking the best of people.

 

Sadie Barrett is a smart and observant little girl. The portraits of the Ravenscroft ancestors line the library’s hallways. Sadie claims to see the people in the portraits move and a headless ghost. Why does Greer pay any attention to what Sadie says?

Children are observant, and they also haven’t yet bought into what I’d call the polite lie. They see what’s in front of them, and put it into a context they understand, like something that happened at school, or a book or movie they’re familiar with. What they’re telling you may not make sense from an adult standpoint, but if you meet kids where they are and ask the right questions, you can get good information. Greer knows that Sadie is honest and observant from previous interactions, so she knows that Sadie saw something unusual. She hangs in there with Sadie’s references and gets some good information.

 

Who said? “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”

I found multiple attributions for that one going back 1400 years, with many variations on it since. The first was to St. Benedict, and the most recent was Grace Hopper. At this point I think it’s a pretty common saying, particularly among amateur sleuths who like to skirt the rules!

 

When Greer finds a thumb drive Joanna hid, Greer finds notes Joanna made about the library and an old death of a child and then the mother’s death decades later. What made Greer follow the research?

She knows Joanna was a good investigator, and that she wouldn’t have kept that information if she didn’t think it meant something. It’s also the kind of thing she can follow up on easily from the library, the kind of research she’s good at doing. Since Joanna ended up dead at the bottom of a staircase, Greer knows she was onto something, and this is all she’s got to work with. It takes her a while to make it all hang together, so she waits before going to the police.

 

Is Ruth Rendell a favorite author of yours?

I’ve read plenty of her books, but not lately. I didn’t remember An Unkindness of Ravens, though I know I read some of the Inspector Wexford series. Our titles are thirty-five years and one word apart!

 

You finished the book with a set up for the next. What is the next titled? Can you give us the blurb?

With the disclaimer that it’s early days and all subject to change—the title for book two is Shadow in the Glass and the first draft of the flap copy is as follows:

 

Librarian Greer Hogan is on hand to celebrate her old friend Sarah Whitaker’s nuptials at the Whitaker summer home on beautiful Mirror Lake, just outside the upstate New York village of Lake Placid. But Greer has an ulterior motive—to gather information that could reopen the investigation into her husband’s murder, a crime for which she believes an innocent man went to prison. Her plans come to a shuddering halt when a wedding guest goes missing and turns up dead in the lake. The guest, Brittany Miles, was an employee of the Whitaker family whom Sarah had long suspected was up to no good at work.

 

The police have no leads, but Greer—an avid reader of crime fiction who possesses an uncanny knack for deduction—begins her own investigation. She learns that the victim was seen with a mystery man right before she disappeared. Then the autopsy reveals that she didn’t drown in the lake after all—she was killed somewhere else, and her body dumped in the water afterward.

 

The suspect list is as long as the guest list itself, with no apparent motive. Now, Greer must rely on the wisdom of her favorite fictional detectives to tease out truth from lies—and keep herself out of the killer’s sights.

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Journey Through Short Classic Crime Fiction by KM Rockwood

I love short stories, and I often read one at night before I go to sleep. I’m especially fond of mystery stories, so I’m always on the lookout for anthologies and collections that I haven’t seen before.

Recently I found a treasure, an anthology that is not only chock full of a month’s worth of entertaining stories, but also an educational journey through the history of the genre, illustrated with superb examples.

The name on the spine of the book caught my eye. Donald E. Westlake, one of my favorite crime novel authors. He passed away in 2008, but not before producing over one hundred books under several names, including Richard Stark.

Was this a collection of his short stories I had somehow missed over the years?


It turned out to be an even more exciting find titled Murderous Schemes: An Anthology of Classic Detective Stories.[1]

With the able assistance of J. Madison Davis, Westlake had selected eight conventions of crime short stories. He wrote a brief history of each of the conventions and selected four stories to illustrate his short essays. He also included commentary on each author and story included in the book.

A glance at the table of contents showed such masters as Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout and Agatha Christie.

Some of the stories are old favorites of mine, but many are ones I’ve somehow failed to read previously. Familiar characters such as Father Brown, Nero Wolfe and Raffles abound.

Westlake gives us stories using classic techniques, like “locked room” murders where the victim is found in a sealed room with no apparent way for the killer to have escaped. Also included are the “only one among you,” when a group of people are isolated (classic technique is a group of guests stranded in a country home by a snow storm) and the murderer must be one of them.

From “armchair detective” to “hoist with their own petard” tales, the book leads us through a fascinating reading of the history and development of crime short stories.

If you’re not familiar with this book (and I suspect many a student of mystery writing has encountered it, in a classroom or out) it’s well worth a read.

 

 

 



[1] Westlake, Donald E. Murderous Schemes; an Anthology of Classic Detective Stories (New York, Oxford Press) 1996.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Home, Sweet Setting

By Shari Randall

When she beta-read my last book, a friend told me that I seemed more interested in describing houses and settings than I was in describing people. At first I was taken aback, but after reflection, I saw her point. I adore all those tv shows about houses – buying houses, selling houses, decorating houses, rehabbing houses, even haunted houses. With my husband’s military career, we’ve bought and sold plenty of houses. I love a good house tour or decorator showcase. Even dollhouses fascinate me. When I was a little girl, my favorite toy was my Barbie Dream House. Although my kids flew the nest years ago, I still have custody of their dollhouses and, sorry kids, I don’t think you’re getting them back.

Why do houses intrigue me so? Perhaps a psychologist could explain. Maybe the dollhouse my dad built for me and my sisters, a replica of our own red Cape Cod home, set me on this path. Perhaps homes reflect the people in them and the writer in me has stumbled upon a different form of characterization?

With COVID restrictions, I haven’t been able to travel to scout potential story locations and buildings as much as I’d like. Lucky for me that my corner of Connecticut is chock full of intriguing places, places that fire my imagination and will make great settings for my books.

 
One of my characters likes to “collect castles” and so do I. Gillette’s Castle, set on a hill called the Seventh Sister overlooking the Connecticut River, is one of my favorite places to visit. Designed by William Gillette, an actor famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, the castle’s décor, construction, and grounds reflect the eccentric brilliance of its owner. This place inspired another pocket-sized castle in an upcoming, as-yet-untitled book.
This yellow charmer is slated to be the childhood home of the main character in my upcoming book, THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN.
This mini-castle is tucked into a neighborhood a block from the ocean. Not your typical beach house, is it? I can only imagine the character who built it. I feel a story coming on!


Writers: People or places – which do you find easier to describe?


Shari Randall is the Agatha Award-winning author of the Lobster Shack Mysteries.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Self-Publishing Is A Good Thing by Abby L. Vandiver

      In my former life, I was an attorney and college economics professor. Writing books was pure happenstance. I had no training in writing fiction and it took me a while to learn the rules and publishing. (And I’m still learning!)

Seven years later, I’m a hybrid author which means I am both a traditionally and self-published author. I started as an indie author and never gave a thought to going with a publisher to put my books out in the world. But that’s where I ended up and I’m enjoying sharing my books in both worlds.

I often speak about the difference in the two, and which I think is better. And to answer the latter, I think there are pros and cons to each. Money. Control over the process and choices and the marketing available to you. But what I’d like to speak to is the changes there are in self-publishing since I started writing.

When I first started publishing my books, self-published authors weren’t given a lot of favor in the literary world. It was often bandied about, if you weren’t traditionally published it meant you weren’t a good writer. And of course, that wasn’t necessarily true.

Self-publishing allows anyone who wants to publish a book. Which is great. Lots of people have great stories to tell and share with others. But publishing also comes with a learning curve (true for both publishing arenas) and what’s good can be subjective.

Publishing has certain standards that should be adhered to when considering publishing your own book. And, in my opinion, it’s when they aren’t followed is what gives self-publishing a bad reputation. But poorly formatted manuscripts, bland covers and editing missteps are not the norm in indie publishing. And certainly “bad” books are published by even the Big 5 publishers. 

It’s probably true that everyone shouldn’t try to write a book, at least not on their own. But even with self-publishing there are tools available to help to make your book look as good as those that have been published by the large publishing houses.

My advice to self-published authors is to take advantage of the things to make your book library worthy, but don’t spend a lot of money. There are many things that you can learn to do yourself. Like formatting. Or even covers. But one thing to remember, you can’t edit your book yourself. Always get beta readers, proofreaders or an editor to help.

If you have a book in you, write it. Even if it is never published. But if you do decide to publish, do your research, check out what makes up a “good looking” book, both inside and out and take your time to get it right.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

On My Own by Jennifer J. Chow

 

All my speaking events after the launch of my Sassy Cat Mystery Series in March 2020 have been in partnership with others. I’ve either co-presented, been interviewed by someone, or participated in a group discussion. I don’t mind. I’m not particularly comfortable at solo speaking.

 

The opportunities to do virtual events in the Zoom-heavy world we live in are plentiful. A lot of speaking engagements no longer require travel—only a working webcam. When I received an invitation to appear at the Writer's Digest Mystery & Thriller Virtual Conference, I jumped at the chance. The only catch was that I needed to conduct a webinar . . . on my own.

 

I agreed because I’ve been wanting to say “yes” more in my life. I’ve decided I need to be more proactive in general and push myself toward growth.

WD Mystery & Thriller Virtual Conference

What does it take to prepare for an hour-long presentation? Apparently, a lot. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek:

 

·         Title: First off, there needs to be a snappy title. I wanted my webinar to both capture the content involved and the mystery writing element of the conference. After brainstorming with Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest, we came up with “Solving the Mystery of Authentic Characters and Relationships.”

·         Content: It’s been a long time since I’ve made visual slides, but I threw myself into revisiting PowerPoint and trying out Google Slides. (I ended up going with the former.) In the presentation, I wanted to provide writing tips but also tie these to concrete examples. I read through recent novels to pick books that would exemplify different techniques and contacted each author involved to get their permission to summarize certain scenes. (On a positive side note: I also had fun taking some Bookstagram-like photos with these novels.)

·         Tech check: There are a lot of webinar programs out there. The one used for the conference was GoToWebinar, a platform I wasn’t familiar with. Thank goodness for Sue Johnson, who helped me to troubleshoot in the week before the virtual event. It turned out that I had to set up a variety of permissions for my computer to allow access to the webcam, files, etc.

·          Presentation Time: I triple-checked to make sure my slides worked. Having a cup of water nearby was also helpful. It’s amazing how dry your throat can get while talking. At the end, I also did a Q&A session, which I imagined felt much like doing improv. (While answering questions, I tried to stare at the camera lens, to create some sense of eye contact with the audience.)

The result of my first solo speaking event? I think it went pretty well. A few people even paid me compliments at the end of the session. Also, importantly to me, I left with a greater sense of confidence.

 

What kind of bold move have you made?

 




Thursday, April 8, 2021

Michael Connelly's Law of Innocence

 


 

By Margaret S. Hamilton

 

Michael Connelly’s sixth Lincoln Lawyer book differentiates between legal innocence and a verdict of not guilty. His main character, Mickey Haller, terms innocence as, “the big I, the rarest of all birds in the justice system.” (p.62) Later, Haller states, “Innocence is not a legal term. No one is ever found innocent in a court of law. The justice system can only deliver a verdict of guilty or not guilty…For every man not guilty of a crime, there is a man out there who is. And to prove true innocence, the guilty man must be found and exposed to the world.” (p.105)

 

The stakes could not be higher for Haller, who is on trial for murder with special circumstances—financial gain. The evidence is commonsense: the body of Sam Scales is found in the trunk of the Lincoln which serves as Haller’s mobile office, the bullet that killed Scales was embedded in Haller’s concrete garage floor, during a time Haller confirms he was home.

 

“Going to trial is always a gamble,” Haller says. “The prosecution is always the house in this game. It holds the bank and deals the cards. You take any win you can get.” (p.339). Haller adds, “Prosecutors could afford to be unimaginative, even stodgy. They trotted out their cases to the jury like furniture instructions from Ikea. Step by step with big illustrations, all the tools you needed included.” (p.336)

 

Jury selection for Haller’s murder trial begins in the Los Angles courthouse on February 19th, 2020, when the pandemic is imminent. Haller’s fear of conviction is amplified by the global crisis. “The world seemed to be on the edge of chaos. More than a thousand people were dead from a mystery virus in China. Almost a billion people were on lockdown there and American citizens had been evacuated. There were cruise ships out on the Pacific that were floating incubators of the virus, and no vaccine was on the horizon.” (p.259)

 

Haller handles his own defense with the help of his ex-wife and prosecutor, Maggie McPherson, deftly anticipating every move the prosecuting attorney will make. His half-brother, Harry Bosch, tracks down the source of the oily substance under the victim’s fingernails. Haller’s investigator, Cisco, digs deeper into the victim’s past. With the surreptitious assistance of an FBI agent, Mickey forces the prosecutor’s office into a corner. “It was me against the state, and while I would not be speaking to a jury, I wanted the judge to be reminded of the fact that I was one man standing alone against the power and might of the beast.” (p.231)

 

In a related context, “bleeding the beast” refers to scamming the government out of Federal subsidies for producing “green gold” or recycled oil. (p.192)

 

In contrast to Haller’s slick bravado in earlier books, when he feints and jabs the prosecution at every turn, he hits rock bottom: “I spent a restless night in my cell, listening to the random echoes of desperate men calling out in the dark. I heard steel doors bang and incongruous laughter from the deputies on the midnight shift. At times my body shook in physical reaction to the gravity of the moment. How could I sleep when I knew the next two days would determine the rest of my life?” (p.364)

 

According to lawyers who reviewed the book, Connelly gets everything about trial procedure and life in the Twin Towers Correctional Center correct, from the jailhouse breakfast of a baloney sandwich on white and a bruised apple, to every ploy in the prosecuting attorney’s playbook. The trial judge is a former defense attorney, wise to the strategies Haller and his defense team will employ. Everything is a battle: the evidence or lack thereof, witnesses allowed to testify or not, bail, jailhouse deputies releasing confidential phone recordings, and a game-changing October surprise.

 

With Haller’s courtroom savvy in tandem with the expertise of his two investigators and the support of his ex-wife and daughter, combined with a soupcon of luck, he conquers the beast.

 

Life lesson learned: I will never pull out of the garage without first checking the trunk of my car.

 

Writers: do you write courtroom scenes?

Readers: do you enjoy a courtroom procedural?

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

An Interview with Edith Maxwell by E. B. Davis

As the nineteenth century nears an end, midwife Rose Carroll can see signs of progress and change everywhere in her Amesbury community. Adding to the excitement is the annual Spring Opening, when the town’s world-famous carriage manufacturers throw open their doors to visitors from all over the globe. This year’s festivities are tainted, however, when a representative from a prominent Canadian carriage company is murdered.

Driven by her strong sense of justice, Rose is determined to track down the killer. She has only just begun her investigation when she learns that the plans for a radical new horseless carriage have gone missing. Faced with the question of whether the two crimes are connected—and a list of suspects that includes some of Amesbury’s own residents and any number of foreign visitors—Rose has to delve into a case with implications for the future, even if the motive for murder is one of mankind’s oldest . . .

Amazon.com

 

The title of this book refers to the changing of the seasons from winter to spring, but it also reflects changes in most of the major characters in this series. Main character Rose, now a married woman, has taken over from her retired mentor and contemplates taking on a professional partner. Of course, she still takes time to help police with their inquiries.

The title also applies to the technological changes that occur during the 1890s. This book is set in 1890. The cities have indoor water closets, electricity, and telephones, but the advent of the automobile or horseless carriages, as they were called, would soon arrive to the masses, changing life again.

 

This is the seventh book in the Quaker Midwife mystery series and will be released next Tuesday, April 13. Please welcome Edith Maxwell back to WWK.      E. B. Davis

 

When I looked up the word “midwife” the history of the word was from middle English for “with mother.” Before doctors, was birthing up to women, such as an experienced mother?

 

First, let me thank you, Elaine, for these insightful interview questions. You’re the best! As for midwives, absolutely. Women have always helped other women give birth, for as long as we have records of any history.

 

What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

 

A trained, experienced midwife facilitates the birth. She helps the laboring woman be comfortable and secure that she is in good hands and capable ones, which helps the birth progress with the least amount of fear. The midwife catches the baby, makes sure the placenta is birthed and is intact, and is primarily responsible for the health of the mother and baby.

 

A doula, which I was for some years, provides support to the laboring woman and her partner. She can spell the father or partner so they can take a rest or go get a bite to eat. In a medical setting, the doula might provide explanations for what is happening. In a home setting, she could make sure older children are cared for. The doula often also provides post-partum support and breastfeeding counseling. Rose pretty much filled all the roles of both midwife and doula.

 

Are there still midwives?


Of course! The Midwives Alliance of North America is the professional organization of independent midwives, who oversee the majority of home births. One can find certified nurse midwives practicing in free-standing birth centers and hospitals everywhere.

 

Rose admits to using antiquated speech substituting the word “thee” for “you.” Why does she do that? Do Quakers today still use this idiom?

 

Historically, “thee,” the second person singular, was used for families and those of lesser stature, as is still the case in most Romance languages. “You” was used as sign of respect for higher-ups. Because early Friends believed all were equal in God’s eyes, they refused to use the “you” form. (Men kept their hats on indoor and didn’t doff them in greeting for similar reasons.) Now, of course, the language has changed and the use of “thee” sets Quakers apart as different. Some Friend still use the “thee” forms among themselves or with their families.

 

Why do Quakers refer to Sunday as First Day? Wouldn’t it be Last Day, going by what the Christian Bible says of God reserving the 7th day as one of rest?

 

Good question – I have no idea! In general, Friends avoid the common names of the week and months because they are named for gods.

 

I thought Quaker men and women sat at opposite sides of the church. In A Changing Light, men and women sit together?

 

Men and women sat together during weekly Meeting for Worship. But for the monthly business meetings, the center divider of meetinghouses like Amesbury’s would be lowered (we still use the original windlass and crank system in the attic) so women could conduct their business separately from the men.


Rose says she’ll pray after the manner of Friends. What is the manner of Friends?

 

Silently. Inwardly. Holding a person or situation in God’s Light. Waiting for an answer.

 

Were midwives used not only to bring new life into the world but also used to help the old or ill out of this life?

 

Traditionally that is true. These days, not so much, but I love the idea. I suppose some hospice nurses act as death midwives.

 

What is the Aesthetic Style of dress Rose sought for use during her pregnancy?

 

It was a loose, flowing style of dress that didn’t require a corset. I’ve seen pictures featuring pleats or gathers coming from the shoulders. It turns out to be perfect for pregnancy, too.

 

Why must Rose wear muted colors? Do the Quakers, like the Amish, try not to call attention to themselves with bright or shiny colors and fabrics?

 

Quakers believed the simple styles of “plain dress” for both men and women were more modest and didn’t waste energy and money on things that didn’t matter. Rose was not obliged to wear gray or black, but flounces and bright colors were frowned upon.

 

What is this mullein leaf Rose uses for rouge?

 

Common mullein, Verbascum Thapsus, is a hairy perennial. It has been used for a number of herbal remedies, but the slightly abrasive nature of the leaves is what gave rise to the term, “Quaker rouge.”

 

Is Orpha a mystic or seer?

 

Not specifically, no. The way I have written Orpha throughout the series is as a wise old woman. She has a deep and keen intuition about life. She also knows Rose well – in fact, she was the midwife at Rose’s birth.

 

The murder and investigation happened during the 1891 Spring Opening in which the carriage manufacturers held a trade convention in the town of Amesbury, Rose’s hometown. When a character mentioned self-propelled carriages, there is some skepticism, and yet, Carl Benz built the first motorized car in 1885. The new industry was about to come into being. Why the naysayers?

 

Goodness, aren’t there always naysayers for any new invention? Benz was in Europe. Amesbury was devoted to its carriages. It took another few decades for motorcars to be widely accepted in the United States, and even longer for roads infrastructure to be developed.

 

I must admit, I didn’t correlate carriages with automobiles. I relate their development more to the combustion engine even though I know for a time electric motors were used. (The oil lobby is responsible, I think.) I don’t know why I didn’t put the two together. There’s that suspension stuff to deal with that must be inherent in carriage-making, but the first real auto was more of a motorized tricycle than a carriage. Did many carriage companies start making automobiles or yes, cars (I guess short for carriages!)?

 

They certainly did in Amesbury. It was becoming quite the center for automobile body manufacturing. The Bailey company made and sold electric cars in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Two are still owned by the family and still run! Detroit won out, of course, as the motorcar city.

 

Rose is in the healthcare field. Her husband is a doctor and another character, a woman, is a doctor specializing in tuberculosis. They knew what caused it but had no cure. They also knew how communicable the disease was. Were people with the disease treated like those with leprosy? Both are bacteria related.

 

TB sufferers weren’t shut away like those with leprosy. Many who could did travel to stay in the sanitariums that were being built in the mountains and places with clean air. It was called “taking the cure.” The sick rested, often bundled up outside, and were well fed and had clean water. It wasn’t necessarily a cure, but it did help.

 

Have you ever lived in Amesbury? Did you rely on old maps of the town when describing the setting?

 

I have lived in Amesbury for nine years now, but I’ve been visiting every Sunday to attend Amesbury Friends Meeting since 1989. After we moved here, I realized how much I adore local history and have been soaking it up ever since. I love the old aerial maps (I read they went up in hot air balloons to draw the town) and own digital copies of the 1880 and 1890 versions, so I can zoom in on street and business names. When I walk all over town, as is my habit, I’m usually plotting the next Rose Carroll mystery and imagining where she will explore.

 

Why do people withhold information from the police/investigators?

 

People like to hang onto their secrets for many reasons: a sense of guilt, real or imagined; worry about their reputation or that of their family; a lack of information about the crime; and more. Rose has a good working relationship with the police detective, and one of her roles has been to tease that information out of those who are trying hold it close.

 

The 1890s must have been an exciting time to live. Indoor bathrooms, telephones, electricity were in use in homes (at least in the more urban areas). And yet medicine lagged behind and refrigerators decades before their invention. There are so many corollaries to our own age in terms of technology. Did you feel those ties between the eras when writing this series?

 

So much change was happening in 1890 and after. All what you named, plus police procedure like fingerprinting. Medical innovations such as blood typing, which led to reliable and life-saving blood transfusions. And the motorcars.

 

I always feel ties to the past. The Bailey family in the books lived in my house, which was built in 1880 for the Hamilton Mill workers. This area of town didn’t get indoor plumbing (yeah – bathrooms…) until after 1920, even though the local self-dubbed Titans of Industry made it happen for their own fancy homes at the time of A Changing Light.

 

Technology today reflects similar lags between the elites and others. Think of those in areas where teachers and students in the last year have had to sit in parking lots with wifi access to do their work or homework. Or kids who had to share one smart device with parents trying to work from home and older siblings in Zoom classes.

 

Why did you decide to bring the series full circle?

 

Ah, such a good question. After Llewelyn Publishing decided to drop Midnight Ink, its crime fiction imprint, many of us authors were left with orphaned series. Some debut authors like the uber-talented Kellye Garret. Some previously published authors starting fabulous new series, like Susan Oleksiw. And more than one was stranded mid-series, like my Agatha-Award-winning Quaker Midwife Mysteries. I wasn’t done with Rose’s story when they cut me off after book four, Charity’s Burden.

 

My agent inquired various places. We finally moved the series to Beyond the Page Publishing, who agreed to pick up the series, giving me a three-book contract.

 

A Changing Light is the third book with BtP. The editing is excellent, and I love the covers, but they do not participate in publicizing the books. And, while readers who like this series adore it, there aren’t quite enough of them for me to justify spending a third of each year writing a new book that doesn’t bring in that much money.

 

So, A Changing Light finishes the series. I’m happy I could do it on my own terms, leaving Rose and my 1890 version of Amesbury in a good place. (But don’t worry, I have a new historical series brewing.)

 

Please help me celebrate release day with a Facebook party. Historical mystery author Nancy Herriman and I will be chatting with readers and giving away goodies from 7-9 pm EDT on April 13. I’d also love it if you join Hallie Ephron and me in a Zoom chat about A Changing Light on April 22 at 7 pm EDT. There will be door prizes! Link to register is here.

 

Since you are on the SinC Guppy Steering Committee and Hallie Ephron just finished teaching a SinC Guppy course for me, I hope many Guppies will participate.

Come back to WWK and visit again—when we’ll find out about that new historical series you have teased us with!

Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she pens the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Maxwell is a member of Mystery Writers of America and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. She lives with her beau and maniac cat north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. She hopes you’ll find her at Edith M. Maxwell and Maddie Day Author.