Barbara Emodi writes sewing and craft-related cozy mysteries based in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she lives. She travels frequently and writes in the winter in Austin, Texas, and Berkeley, California.
For many years Barbara led a double life. Publicly she was a journalist, radio commentator, government strategist, and public relations professor. In her private life, she wrote and sewed for herself and her family, immediate and extended. She has published two books about garment construction.
Often when Barbara sewed, she thought of the people she’d met and the stories she could tell and of the things she knew and the things she suspected. As a result, she now writes mysteries for people who make things on the premise that those who create can investigate. A sewing pattern, a knitting stitch, a missing person, a dead body––to her mind, understanding them all requires the same skill set. Crafting for Murder is the first in a series.
Crafting for Murder – Seamstress, crafter, and empty-nester Valerie Rankin has plans to open a crafter’s co-op that will put Gasper’s Cove, Nova Scotia, on the tourist guide map. But one month before the opening day photo shoot, she still has to pin down a venue, patch up the family business, iron out corruption in town council, and unravel why anyone who tries to help her ends up dead. It’s a lot, even for a woman who’s used to making something out of nothing. But with the help of her Golden Retriever, an ex-con who loves cats, and a community of first, second, and third cousins, she just might pull it off.
Crafting for Murder will be released on February 25, 2023, and will be available through all the usual outlets and on pre-order here.
My responses to some interesting questions:
What brought you to writing? I’ve written for a living, journalism, and things like that, my whole life. But that’s calling-a-cab-writing. You know you have a job and a word count. You write it, and you file it. But then I ended up working for a public figure who needed a column written for the newspaper at home. He asked me to write it. I remember one afternoon typing out, “My father was a coal miner…” with tears on my face, and then I thought, “Hang on, Barbara, your father was a pharmacist.” This gave me the idea I could write fiction.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I write cozy mysteries. I chose this genre because I feel completely unqualified to write about sex or violence. In a cozy mystery, characters are extremely important. The readers tend to be folks who are interested in people they can identify with. It seems to me as a writer that if you get too linear with crime-clues-solving the mystery, the story can get very procedural and factual—hard to slip in character development in a steady way. So, I use subplots as little side stories that give space to show who the characters are. Also, let’s face it, even cozies involve bad stuff like death and betrayal, etc. I think that can get tiring for someone sitting down with a cup of tea looking for a diversion, so I also like to use subplots to build platforms, generally using humor as a resting place for the reader every now from the action. The subplots involve secondary characters, and these are percolating alongside stories that surface about every 4-7 chapters. I also like two subplots, one that is funny and one that has the main character struggling, and we hope, eventually, overcoming a weakness or vulnerability.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I don’t think I could write if I didn’t. In fact, to get into the story, I generally have someone in mind when I develop a character. I keep myself from being sued by using the traits of several people mixed up into one. My siblings like to read what I write because they can pick up mannerisms and expressions and know where I got them. I did describe one living room, however, as “decorated in the style of furniture from dead relatives combined with impeccable housekeeping …” Remind me not to give my across-the-street neighbor a copy of the book.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Ha, ha, ha. By disposition, I have a mind like a squirrel cage, so I make multiple cards with what I think are great details or ideas and then try to fit them into some kind of plot line. I work hard at it, and it wears me out to plot, and I hate it. But I try because I know it’s not easy to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. So, I have an elaborate plot all written out before I start. I never look at it or refer to it again. At halfway, I realize I am writing a totally unrelated story, so I stop and make a whole new plot to fit. I guess I am a pantser who creates a workable plot in the middle of the book. It’s a system that wastes the maximum amount of time.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Real, completely real; only the names have been changed. I write about small communities in Nova Scotia, which are by definition stranger than fiction anyway, so they are the perfect setting for my writing. Interestingly, the most accurate parts are the ones people not from here might query. I had one editor tell me that she couldn’t stand the fact that everyone in my book was related, “and yet another cousin appears….” I read her email on the way out the door to the wedding of my niece to my son-in-law’s nephew. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I started late in the game but couldn’t have written fiction earlier as I consider my life up to now just gathering material. That said, all I want to do now is get it into as many books as I can.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Although fiction is pretend, it must come from an authentic place. Be as authentic as possible; don’t try to be, or sound, like someone else. You might think the real you isn’t all that interesting, but the real always is. When you can access that, you are in the zone. Trust your subconscious. Sometimes stuff is thrown up from somewhere onto the page when you are in the zone you hardly recognize, except for the fact it just sounds right, and like you. Don’t try too hard or labor too much. Go for the glide.
Groups I belong to:
Sisters in Crime
Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter
Readers can learn more about me at my website https://babsemodi.com and sign up for my newsletter there too.
I love to hear from readers, and they can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura Jensen Walker knew she wanted to be a writer ever since she read 103 books in Miss Vopelensky’s first-grade class.
A lifelong lover of mysteries, I never dreamed I’d someday be writing them!
Eager to see the world, I joined the Air Force at 19 and headed off into that wild blue yonder flying a typewriter across Europe. Although my clerk-typist job was boring, traveling was bliss. By the time I was 23, I had visited 15 countries and fallen in love with tea and the land of my heart—England. Later, I majored in journalism, but it took cancer at age 35 to push me to follow my writing dreams of becoming an author. My first book, Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde (non-fiction humor ala Erma Bombeck), came out in 1997. Since then, I’ve written ten humorous non-fiction books and ten novels (chick lit and cozies.)
Murder Most Sweet (Crooked Lane), featuring baker, breast-cancer survivor, and writer Teddie St. John, is my first cozy, released last fall during the pandemic. I wanted to see someone like me in a mystery—a woman who chose to “go flat” after having two mastectomies and is now living her best life. Breasts don’t make a woman. An early editor who read and loved my manuscript, said diversity is important in crime fiction, but diversity isn’t only about color. To my delight and gratitude Murder Most Sweet is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Such a lovely surprise and honor.
Deadly Delights, the sequel to Murder Most Sweet, is my third cozy and twentieth book. (I never dreamed I’d have 20 books under my belt, and still more to come.)
August in Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin, always means one thing: the annual baking contest. Picture The Great British Baking Show, writ Midwestern. Naturally, bon vivant baker-turned-mystery writer Teddie St. John has a pie in the ring. The white baking tent boasts an array of folding tables housing each entrant’s daily baked good. And at one of those tables sits the corpse of the lecherous head judge, his face half-buried in a delectable coconut cream pie with Teddie’s distinctive embossed rolling pin by his side…covered with blood. With the help of her friends, Teddie must concoct a recipe to clear her name–if the real killer doesn’t ice her first.
I’m thrilled by the great advance reviews Deadly Delights has received.
“Lively characters complement the twisty plot.”
“Deadly Delights moves along at warp speed… [Walker’s] writing and story development is top notch.”
—New York Journal of Books
The ironic thing about the ‘warp speed’ comment is that I wrote Deadly Delights in two-and-a-half months. For many, March and April 2020 were a scary, anxious time as we tried to understand and cope with this crazy pandemic, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in more than a century. Added to the overall anxiety, I have comorbidities that put me in a higher risk group. Scary. I couldn’t focus on anything, including writing and reading. I tried to escape in a good book—some I’d been eagerly anticipating for months—but couldn’t concentrate. Reading has been a joy and great escape my whole life. Except this time. Such a weird feeling—one that I’m happy to say has passed. I also didn’t write a single word on my third cozy during those first two months of the pandemic. The cozy that was due to my editor July 1. Luckily, I managed to get a two-week extension, then wrote like the wind to make that July 15 deadline. My journalism background of writing tight and fast saved me.
My second cozy, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse, a clerical mystery featuring the first Episcopal woman priest in Faith Chapel’s 160-year history, was released in January.
Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written non-fiction and chick-lit in the past and plan to write more non-fiction and also historical fiction.
What are you currently working on? I’m writing a “Pandemic Postscript” to the memoir I wrote a few years ago that my agent loved but couldn’t sell due to my lack of platform. In non-fiction, it’s essential to have a “platform” of some kind, whether it’s being on the speaking circuit and regularly speaking to large groups around the country who will then buy your book at the back of the room, having a YouTube channel with a zillion subscribers, or having a large/decent social media following.
At the time—prior to signing my cozy contract—I’d been out of the writing/publishing world for more than a decade and no longer had a reader following. I’d stopped public speaking, wasn’t on Twitter, and only had a couple hundred Facebook friends. Multiple editors at several publishing houses told my agent how much they loved the writing in my memoir, but regretfully had to turn it down since I had no platform. Hopefully (fingers crossed) now that I have readers again, a monthly newsletter with a decent number of subscribers, a larger FB presence, and a (small) Twitter and Instagram following, my memoir, the book of my soul, will finally sell.
I’m also started working on my first historical fiction—the book of my heart, set in WWII England—but I’m not ready to say anything more about it yet.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Oh, they run the show. Before I began writing fiction when I’d ask a novelist about how their work-in-progress was going, and they’d respond with something like, “I’m waiting for my character to reveal what’s next,” I’d inwardly scoff and think, “You’re the writer; you’re in charge!” Then I started writing my first novel. Ha! In fact, when I started writing my first cozy (now shelved), one of the minor characters, an Episcopal woman priest, let me know she was a major character deserving of her own book. Thus, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse was born.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Outline is a dirty word in my house. I’m a total pantser. Mostly. Before I begin my WIP, I usually need to know what the ending is. That way, I have a starting point and an end point, and I fill in the middle. However, in both of my Bookish Baker mysteries, the endings I’d initially envisioned (including the murderer in one—I won’t say which one) changed as the story unfolded.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, more cozies in both my series, the Bookish Baker Mysteries and Faith Chapel Mysteries and contracts for the book of my soul (my memoir) and the book of my heart (the historical fiction I’ve been yearning to write for more than three decades.)
How do our readers contact you?
Please contact me through my website, www.laurajensenwalker.com (if you sign up for my newsletter, you get a free gift!)
Facebook Laura Jensen Walker | Facebook
Readers can also connect with me on Twitter @LauraJensenWal1
After entertaining on the quilt lecture circuit, we created the new genre of quilting science fiction
It’s great to be part of your blog world, George! Like you, I spent the better part of my life in other fields. While I began college as a poetry major, I graduated with a degree in Russian Political History. My intent was to join the diplomatic corps. But a frank discussion with my dad about life as a civil servant pushed me in another direction. I’ve been a secretary, a teacher and worked in human resources in the biotech and financial industries. My husband’s job brought us to California just in time for the dot-com bust. For many years I intended to return to the working world, but then I met Ann Anastasio, who introduced me to quilting. Together we created Broken Dishes Repertory Theatre, a quilting vaudeville troupe. We wrote one-act musical comedies about quilts and the women who make them. After entertaining on the quilt lecture circuit, we created the new genre of quilting science fiction with Death By Chenille, When Chenille Is Not Enough, and The Chenille Ultimatum, novels about quilters saving the world from aliens disguised as bolts of beige fabric. We thought The Chenille Ultimatum would be the last in the series, but then a friend said we absolutely had to write The Captain and Chenille because it was such a great title. We would have appreciated getting a suggestion for a plot as well, but you work with what you’ve got. Ann has lived in New Mexico since before When Chenille Is Not Enough was published, so we are used to writing long distance, but the pandemic has slowed our progress. We both joined the army of mask-makers in our home states when the need arose, for instance, which made my already messy sewing room a complete disaster. A lot of my creative energy has been shifted from writing to getting my quilting projects under control.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My husband is a true technophile, so we have computers everywhere. My favorite is in a corner of the family room. It’s close enough to the kitchen to get tea and snacks but far enough away from the phone that I can ignore it. It’s adorable that you ask which distractions I “allow.” Distractions are worse than teenagers. Not only is there no arguing with them, you can’t even threaten to take away their car keys. HOWEVER, if I’m brutally honest, the time that distractions get the upper hand is when I’m uncertain where to go next in the scene I’m writing.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Absolutely! The California Writers Club has been a godsend. Ann and I were entertaining a quilt guild in San Jose and casually mentioned we were writing a novel. One of the women pulled out her CWC business card and suggested finding a branch nearby. That happened to be the Mt. Diablo branch, where Igal Levy had just started a critique group. Jack Russ, then the president of Mt. Diablo, established a committee to create what became Tri-Valley Writers. I joined Tri-Valley Writers after my term as Secretary to the Mt. Diablo branch ended. I joined two critique groups with this branch, which gave me the accountability I needed to finish the manuscript of Death By Chenille, which we published on Smashwords after hearing a presentation by Mark Coker, CEO. I’ve also published short stories in almost a dozen anthologies that I heard about through Tri-Valley Writers and a short story on BookTrack after one of their representatives gave a talk to the club.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes, or at least parts of real people. Ann and I will combine the traits of people we know. We try to avoid having too much reality in our characters. Although we write cozy science fiction (meaning even our villains have a soft side), we don’t want anyone to say, “Hey, that’s me” – and not in a happy way.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Some settings are real, and some are fictional. Clearly, the alien planets are fictional, but even those planets have elements based on places we’ve known on Earth. All the quilt stores in our books are based on real stores.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Becoming a writer means being a life-long learner. Promise yourself that you will learn more and be a better writer for the next project, then submit your work for publication. It doesn’t matter if you don’t win the contest, or land the agent, or make the best-seller list with your self-published book. What matters is that you’ve tried. If you are convinced that this is the best work you can do at this moment, then do what you can to get it in front of readers. No one can tell your story like you can, so give readers a chance to hear your voice.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want to be posted? I post twice a week on Lani Longshore’s Blog at lani.longshore.wordpress.com. Mondays are about my writing life, Wednesdays are about my quilting life. There are also posts about the flowers in my garden when I haven’t accomplished anything either at the computer or in my sewing room. The entire Chenille series can be found as e-books on Smashwords.com. The Chenille Ultimatum is also available in a print edition on Amazon.com.
Death By Chenille https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/55823
When Chenille Is Not Enough https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/306399
The Chenille Ultimatum https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815344