When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I've been writing my whole life. Short fiction as a child, then journalism, academic articles, more journalism, and technical writing in the software industry, and now mysteries. Writing fiction makes me the happiest.
How did you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
I love reading traditional mysteries, so it made sense to try my hand at writing them. Three of my series are set north of Boston where I live, and one is set in southern Indiana near where I earned a PhD long ago. Three (not the same three) are contemporary mysteries, two are cozies, and the historical is an amateur sleuth traditional.
I chose 1888 to start that series when I read an article in our local newspaper about a fire that burned down much of the world-renowned carriage industry in the town of Amesbury, Massachusetts, where I live. I decided for the first book in the series that my sleuth, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll, would solve the (fictional) mystery of who set the fire and a couple of murders, too. John Greenleaf Whittier was alive at that time, there was a thriving mill industry, and it was an era of great change, with electricity and plumbing coming along, germ theory becoming known and practiced, and women gaining more independence. It was also not that long after the Civil War, and Amesbury was a stop on the Underground Railroad and Quakers were instrumental in that work. It seemed like a perfect era to set stories in.
You write mysteries. Does your inspiration begin with the crime, the detective, the setting, or some other place?
My characters lead me along, but sometimes a story or a book will be sparked by the crime, and the setting is always important. It's all intertwined. I write about an organic farm, so that sometimes governs what kinds of crimes are committed, and in the Country Store Mysteries, the southern feel of Brown County, Indiana, definitely affects the characters.
How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Mystery, Oh My?
I love Rose, my protagonist in the Carriagetown Mysteries series, and her quirky independent friend, postmistress Bertie Winslow, so I wanted to use them in a short story. In the late 1800s, police stayed out of domestic violence cases and, as Rose is a midwife, she sees sometimes sees bruises and marks on her clients' bodies. And then, because it's fiction, I added a fun twist at the end.
Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the setting?
I've done a lot of research the period surrounding 1888, but I also live in the town where I set these stories and I attend Quaker Meeting in the same meetinghouse where Rose worshipped alongside Whittier. I love walking the streets of my historic city, studying the maps, reading about that era. I haven't yet been able to determine whether modest houses in Rose's neighborhood had indoor plumbing in 1888, but I'm working on it.
Do you have some special education that helps you write historical fiction, or do you deal with history in your profession?
Neither. I'm an amateur historian.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing my second Country Store mystery, out from Kensington Publishing in June 2016, tentatively titled Grilled for Murder.
Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
Mysteries, of course! Mostly cozies and primarily stories written by women with a female protagonist. But I'm also reading Ruth Goodman's How to be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life in preparation for writing the second Carriagetown Mystery, which is next up on my schedule. It's a fascinating look into all the details of personal life, from teeth brushing to hair pomades to cooking to underwear.
And which of your books comes out next?
Farmed and Dangerous, the third Local Foods mystery, will be out in late May, and it's available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Also, my short story, "A Fire in Carriagetown," featuring Rose's niece Faith Baily has been reissued as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.