by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of a fun craft mystery by Mollie Cox Bryan, along with a fun interview with Mollie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Death Among the Doilies, and a link to order it from Amazon, as well as a link to purchase it from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Cora and her friend Jane have partnered to bring craft retreats to Indigo Gap. The old house has been restored, Jane and her daughter are living in one of the guest houses, and Ruby, who came with the house (really), lives in another. It’s time for the first retreat to begin if they can get all the supplies unpacked in time.
Jane is delayed at the police station. She had to be fingerprinted to work as a volunteer at her daughter’s school, so Cora’s left to unpack broom straw and meet with the caterer. Cora worries the delay might have something to do with Jane’s ex-husband, Neil. Cora and Jane first met when Cora was a social worker, and Jane was trying to get away from Neil.
Jane thinks Cora should meet the new school librarian, a nerdy hunk of a man. Cora thinks the craft retreats and finishing all the renovations is enough to do without thinking about a love life. The school’s regular librarian was killed in her home, but there haven’t been any suspects—until Jane’s fingerprint is similar to one found at the scene. It seems Jane’s fingerprints are smoother than most and that leads the police to think she has something to hide.
Just when things look like they’re going well, Jane becomes suspect number one, in spite of the fact she didn’t know the woman. A couple of local women who’d signed up for the craft retreat, cancel, leaving Cora in a double panic. Ruby’s son is a lawyer and steps in to help.
The librarian had an ex-husband, two daughters, and several extensive and expensive collections—one of old brooms. Her death could be personal or have something to do with her collections.
Jude, famous in crafting circles for his broom making skills, is talented, handsome, and charming. Too charming, Cora thinks, after she sees Jude coming out of a guest’s bedroom in the middle of the night. When he moves on to a second crafter, she’s about had it with him. He’s supposed to teach the crafters how to make a broom, not make moves on each of them!
When a second murder happens, it’s time to ramp up the investigation so Jane’s name can be cleared before their fledgling business is sunk before it’s even afloat. She just has to remember, everyone has a secret or two.
Cora is a likable character, a little OCD to Jane’s more casual style. Ruby, an older woman, is full of surprises, including her lawyer son. Indigo Gap is surely a place crafters would like to visit.
At the back of the book, find directions to make herbal beeswax candles, soap balls, a tea cup and saucer bird feeder, burlap pumpkins, a decorative broom, and a recipe for Cora’s peanut butter protein balls.
Interview with Mollie Cox Bryan:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Mollie: Since I was a little girl. I wrote my first novel when I was 12. Finished my second novel at 18.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, What was it called and can you tell us a little about it?
Mollie: 2012, Scrapbook of Secrets. It was my Agatha-Award nominated first book in the Cumberland Creek series centering on a group of women who get together to scrapbook, eat, drink, and solve murders…
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Mollie: No. I’ve written in many genres and forms, including poetry and cookbooks.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Mollie: I wanted to keep my mysteries set in the South because I think my readers really love the South, plus I live in the South. North Carolina has such a rich, diverse craft heritage, particularly in the mountains, so that’s where I chose to set the series. In the second book No Charm Intended, we get to know a local Cherokee basket maker, and Ruby, one of the recurring characters is an herbalist and so a lot of what she does relates to the North Carolina landscape. I just wanted a region with potential and North Carolina definitely has it.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Mollie: Mostly I write to entertain. But if people learn something along with it, that’s the fantastic icing on the cake. Every once in awhile, there’s an issue I want to learn more about, like what goes on on the dark net. I work it into my fiction so I can learn more about it, and sometimes there’s an issue that I think a lot about so it works it’s way it to my stories.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Mollie: I write every day from 4 a.m to 6 a.m when I’m writing. Sometimes I’m in edits or something and so I’ll be revising or what ever during that time.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Mollie: No I don’t outline. No, I really don’t! I write in a very linear fashion, one chapter after the other, but I usually don’t know how it’s going to end. (There has been one exception to that.) In my second draft, I make sure it all make sense and many, many times, I really have to work hard at the second draft. Back to the exception, in No Charm Intended, I worked with a particular image in mind for very near the end of the book. I just had to figure out how to get my characters there and really, who my characters were and so on.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Mollie: I write in the very early morning hours. I started working this way when I was a substitute teacher and never knew whether or not I’d get called out to work. I needed to get my writing in so I arose early to do it, and it has stuck with me. I really like coming to the page when I am not completely awake, before the day has gotten a hold of me.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Mollie: It was hard to land an agent, and to figure all of that out, but when I first started in the business, I was a cookbook author and the agency I signed on with at some point took on an agent who also sold fiction. My story is a little unusual.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Mollie: I’ve had a great time at all of my signing. The one’s I enjoy most are group signings or author events, like the tea party I’m having in September. Folks pay to have lunch and get the book, plus we sit down to eat together. The tea part will be a complete afternoon British tea and my guests will get the book, gift bags, and a chance at a door prize.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Mollie: I’d like to continue writing my mystery series and venture out into “stand-alones” from time to time. I’ve been working on an idea for a new series, though. I just may be a series kinda writer.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Mollie: I generally research during my second draft. I used to do a lot more before I write, but I’m learning a lot about police procedure, poisons, and other ways of killing someone. If I don’t know enough about a particular plot point, I mark it with a question mark and go back through and do my research then. The craft research is much more fun. I try to stay on top of the trends and I’ve done some traveling in NC, which I found very educational and inspiring.
KRL: What do you read?
Mollie: I read a lot of nonfiction. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about the life of Jean Harlow, who was my great aunt. And I’m also reading a lot about that time in Hollywood. Fascinating stuff!
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Mollie: I’ve been watching Stranger Things and really like it. I’m a big fan of the British sit-coms and mysteries. Plus I love Supernatural. I started to watch Penny Dreadful and really liked it at first, but then it got to be a little too violent for me.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Mollie: It’s the most boring advice, ever. Don’t worry about getting an agent, a publisher, and so on. Learn your craft that is what will set you apart when you are ready.
KRL: Anything you would like to add? What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Mollie: Well, I guess that my great aunt was Jean Harlow. 🙂
KRL: Oh wow how fun!
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To enter to win a copy of Death Among the Doilies, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “doilies,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 17, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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