What’s your idea of a perfect day?First, thanks so much for asking me over, Mysteristas! [Thank you, Edith! We’re so glad that you’re here.] A perfect day? Ahh. Warm breezy weather. A few hours at home alone early in the morning for writing. A brisk walk outdoors either alone or with a friend. Lunch at a favorite bistro, sitting outside, with a glass of white wine. Time to read in the afternoon. Home-cooked dinner featuring local produce with my beau and my adult sons. And then a rousing game of Scrabble.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I’ve been carrying a leather-and-fabric handbag from Niger for about twenty years. It’s my only purse and it carries everything I need! Last time I was in West Africa I had the side repaired but otherwise it seems timeless and many people comment on it. Lauren Rousseau might well carry a bag like it.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Susan Oleksiw, for teaching me so much about writing when I really knew nothing. Kate Flora, for encouraging me to keep writing every time she rejected a short story for a Level Best anthology, saying, “You’re a really good writer.” Sheila Connolly, for announcing her first contract at my first Sisters in Crime New England meeting just a few years ago, and now she has THREE series with the sixth book in her Orchard series recently out.
Do you listen to music when you write?
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
A super dark organic chocolate with hints of hot pepper. Because I’m writing about murder it has to be dark. Organic because my new Local Foods Mystery series is set on an organic farm. Pepper because it’s unexpected in chocolate.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I wanted to write an academic mystery, even though I’m no longer in that world. And I wanted to feature a piece of video forensics crime-solving software that I was pretty sure had never been used in a mystery novel. So, after I was laid off my day job almost four years ago, I created Professor Rousseau, her boyfriend Zac, a video forensics expert, and off I went! Luckily the story was well underway by the time I was reemployed, so I was able to keep it moving forward. I’m very excited that my graduate linguistics program at Indiana University is holding a department reunion in just a couple of weeks, so I’ll be there with books in hand.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Food is always there. Lauren doesn’t really cook, but her sister and her boyfriend fill in with several delicious feasts featured in the book. I like to make sure my stories have romance in the background, and often that involves conflict about relationships. I’ve also included themes of addiction, immigration issues, local politics, but in the background, so the mystery and the protagonist’s personal struggles are what the story is really about.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Lauren is a runner, a world traveler, a linguist, a Quaker. Her mother, a Buddhist, is a bit of a free spirit who always encouraged Lauren to travel. She lost her Quaker father suddenly at age 19 under unusual circumstances, which has left her in an unsettled state with respect to intimate relationships.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Boy, that’s a hard one. How about Joan Benoit, Anaïs Nin, and Kinsey Millhone?
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Dorothy Sayers. Sue Grafton. Agatha Christie. Katherine Hall Page. Sara Paretsky. And Hank Phillippi Ryan, because she’d get everybody talking to each other!
What’s next for you?
I’m excited to be putting in final edits on A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die, the first book in my Local Foods Mystery series, which will be out in June, 2013 from Kensington. And I’m busy doing the rough plot for Book Two in that series, ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part. Have you ever read a book featuring a Locavore Club?
Edith Maxwell is the author of Speaking of Murder (Barking Rain Press, September 2012, under the pseudonym Tace Baker), which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau. Edith holds a PhD in linguistics and has been a member of Amesbury Monthly Meeting of Friends for several decades. Edith also writes the Local Foods Mysteries. A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die introduces organic farmer Cam Flaherty and a colorful Locavore Club (Kensington Publishing, June, 2013). Edith once owned and operated the smallest certified organic farm in Essex County, Massachusetts. A technical writer and fourth-generation Californian, Edith also writes short crime fiction and lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats.