It’s a Mystery

Jun 10, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kate Fellowes

Having grown up loving books and stories, I guess it’s no surprise, really, that I started thinking about writing my own novels while still in school.

The phrase “I love a mystery” may have been coined to describe me. I carry a flashlight (a la Nancy Drew) in my oversized handbag (a la Elizabeth Peter’s librarian sleuth, Jacqueline Kirby) and will even exclaim, “Gleeps!” (like Trixie Belden) when the occasion warrants it.

When I got serious about pursuing writing, I wanted to honor my golden age of romantic suspense favorites—Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, and Barbara Michaels, making my characters smart women and featuring plots where, hopefully, readers could learn a little something interesting along the way about the world of rare books, old treaties, and environmental science.

Kate Fellowes

On my day job at the local library, I’m surrounded by these old greats, as well as the newest cozy mystery series, which are a treat. Getting familiar with the imaginary communities where the stories are set is wonderful. Over the course of each book, the characters become like friends.

Maybe I’ll write a cozy, I thought one day. Ages and ages later, in May of 2020, my dream became reality with the release of A Menacing Brew from Fire Star Press.

Planning the book, I recalled the words of Barbara Michaels at a long-ago library event: you don’t need an idea to write a novel; you need about forty. What she meant, I think, is that you need to create plots and subplots with lots of intersecting and overlapping points. Forty or so ideas, like puzzle pieces. When they all come together, you’ve got yourself a novel.

But, as important as all those ideas for the plot are, the characters are even more crucial. Without the right people leading the charge, as it were, the story falls flat.

Ask me how I know.

A Menacing Brew had more than one false start—because I had the wrong person as my main character!

This is just not clicking, I’d think as words thunked onto the paper from my pen, dead on arrival. What’s wrong?

Not what, but who.

The protagonist I’d originally imagined—a woman running from heartbreak and career disaster to the first job she could get out of town—just didn’t fit. She didn’t seem familiar, as if I knew her, or ever could.

You know how sometimes you meet someone and instantly feel as if you are old friends? Well, this was not that. In fact, this was the opposite of that. Try as I might, time after time, I couldn’t get that character into that story. Eventually, I wished her well somewhere else and set the book aside for a while.

Time went by and I tried again, clicking on my pen and looking at an empty page.

And Amy York showed up, with her mother Barbara beside her. Immediately the book sprang to life because these were the right characters. They came into focus, two distinct—and distinctly different—women, with histories and quirks, full of the surprised that have always made writing a mystery to me. I might think I’m in command of my story, but actually we’re in it together. The story doesn’t come full circle until the third party—our readers—join us.

In A Menacing Brew, Barbara and her adult daughter, Amy, have been thrown together for the summer, since Barbara can’t get around. She broke her ankle falling off her motorcycle one dark, rainy night, leading Amy to deliver yet another lecture on all things safe and practical. You can see why they frequently butt heads. Their personalities are in direct conflict.

But never their hearts. As they work to solve the mysterious death of an old friend, they come to rely on one another and, yes, appreciate each other, too, in new and unexpected ways. By the end of the story, the mystery is solved and they’ve begun to make a place for themselves in a new community, where some folks are friendly while others hide secrets yet to be explored.

I’m hoping to give these most amateur of sleuths other puzzles to solve in the Kirkwood Clues mystery series. While these two women may not mesh on every issue—or any at all— they are perfect together, and I’m getting the feeling they have lots more to say. I’m just glad they waited for me to tell their stories.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode just went up!

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Kate Fellowes is the author of six mysteries, most recently A Menacing Brew for Fire Star Press. Her work has appeared in several Sisters in Crime anthologies, as well as Woman’s World, Victoria, Brides, and The Writer. Her working life has revolved around words—editor of the student newspaper, reporter for the local press, cataloger in her hometown library. She shares her home with a variety of companion animals and blogs about work and life at

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



  1. News and Notes | Written by Kate Fellowes - […] I got to talk about characters on the Kings River Life Magazine site. That’s located here:     …

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