Edith was once kind enough to speak at one of our library branches. Her Country Store mysteries, written under the name Maddie Day, are set in southern Indiana. And, we had a delightful dinner, together with Edith's sister. I'm happy to host her, and I'm glad she was willing to answer some questions. Thank you, Edith.
Edith, would you introduce yourself to readers?
Hi, readers, and thank you for inviting me, Lesa! Who am I? I’m an author, a sister, a mom to two awesome thirty-something sons, and a long-time partner to an excellent man (we also have two elderly cats, but as they were originally his, they don’t quite regard me as their furbaby mama). I grew up in the Pasadena area of California and on my mom’s side (who hails from the San Francisco Flahertys) I’m fourth generation. Alas, I have now lived longer in the greater Boston area than I did in the Golden State – and it turns out I love four distinct seasons and snow.
I have had a number of other careers – car mechanic, ESL teacher in Japan, linguistics professor, freelance journalist, doula, organic farmer, and technical writer – but writing fiction makes me happier than any other job I’ve had.
Tell us about Rose Carroll.
One of my favorite protagonists, she’s an independent businesswoman in her mid-twenties who follows her calling by helping women through their pregnancies, births, and postpartum health. She apprenticed with Orpha, a midwife who has retired but still serves as Rose’s mentor. Rose is a Quaker (like me) and did not grow up in Amesbury. All of this serves to make her an outsider in the community, a perfect situation for an amateur sleuth. She can go around asking questions, and people don’t expect her to act as conventionally as others. On the personal side, Rose works hard. She’s kind and soft-spoken, and values her family and friends. She’s betrothed to a non-Quaker whose mother doesn’t approve of Rose, but physician David Dodge doesn’t care and is devoted to Rose. Her church isn’t so sure about Rose “marrying out,” either.
Without spoilers, please tell us about Charity’s Burden.
Charity Skells dies in the winter of 1889 from an apparent early miscarriage. Rose wonders about the copious amount of blood and realizes it was from an incompetently or murderously executed abortion. Charity’s husband seems to be up to no good with a young woman. The woman’s mother, who goes by the mysterious name of Madame Restante, appears to offer illegal herbal birth control and abortions. A disgraced physician in town does the same. Charity’s cousin mistakenly thinks he will take control of his father’s estate, part of which has been left for Charity’s children. Rose once again works with police detective Kevin Donovan to solve the case before another life is taken.
Of course Rose’s clients also come to her when they wish not to be pregnant. Rose knows a great deal about herbs and counsels her moms, despite the highly restrictive Comstock Laws enacted the decade prior. These laws made even talking about birth control illegal. And Rose would never recommend a surgical termination to one of her women. It was simply too dangerous. This book touches on the culture of preventing pregnancy, usually for the mother’s health, in the era and the repercussions that result.
Edith, you write several series that are influenced by your life. Would you tell us about that?
I just turned in my seventh Country Store Mystery (and my twenty-first novel), which is published by Kensington Publishing under the name Maddie Day. Robbie Jordan is a chef-carpenter in South Lick, Indiana down near Kentucky, and owns and runs a country story breakfast and lunch restaurant, as well as B&B rooms upstairs. I lived in southern Indiana for five years and have a long Maxwell family history there. I love revisiting the region and bringing colorful sayings into the speech of several continuing characters. Strangled Eggs and Ham will release in June.
Also as Maddie Day I write the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Murder on Cape Cod came out this winter (in a one-year exclusive sold only at Barnes & Noble, it will be reissued on all platforms in January, 2020). Mac Almeida operates a bike rental and repair shop in her (fictional) Cape Cod hometown. She’s also a member of the Cozy Capers, a book group that only reads cozy mysteries. When Mac literally stumbles across a body in the fog on the bike path, the other book group members dive in to help solve the murder.
As Edith Maxwell I drew on my past running a small certified organic farm to write the five-book Local Foods Mysteries featuring geek-turned-farmer Cam Flaherty, the Westbury Locavore Club, and locally sourced murder. The most recent release was Mulch Ado About Murder. I also write award-winning short fiction. “Sushi Lessons,” in which I tap some experiences I had living in Japan decades ago, will appear in Mystery Most Edible from Wildside Press in May.
When guests come to Amesbury, Massachusetts, where do you take them?
I walk friends around downtown. We visit the rushing Powow River that runs right under Main Street. We wander the Upper Millyard where the textile mills and other mills before that time made use of the river’s power. For special guests who have read my Quaker Midwife Mysteries, I also point out places where different book events take place. In the car we’ll drive by the Friends Meetinghouse and John Greenleaf Whittier’s home museum, head down to the wide Merrimac River, and make a loop back over Carriage Hill, where the carriage factories churned out world-famous carriages. Amesbury is a lovely historic town, and I’m blessed to live in it.
If you had to recommend 5 books for a person to read so they could get a feel for you and your reading taste, what 5 would you pick?
Wow. I’ll give it a try.
In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming – the storytelling, the depth of character – I am blown away by everything she writes.
You’ll Never Know Dear by Hallie Ephron – she is the master of domestic suspense, and I snap up every new release from Hallie.
What Gold Buys by Ann Parker – In the Silver Rush mysteries set in Colorado around the time when my series is set, Ann does a fabulous job of bringing the past to life.
Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette – a culinary cozy series that takes place on Key West, with great writing, delectable food descriptions, and characters you’ll fall in love with.
And – this is cheating – ALL of the books by ALL theand their pen names: Jessie Crockett, Julie Hennrikus, Sherry Harris, Liz Mugavero, and Barbara Ross. Seriously. You will get a range of excellent traditional, cozy, and historical mysteries that say a lot about my own taste in reading.
What books did you love as a child?
I devoured all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books several times over. It turns out they’re set during the same period as my historical series, and some of the aspects of everyday life were identical. I read Sherlock Holmes, Poe, and Jules Verne at a young age, and of course made my way through the Nancy Drew mysteries. I was also a big fan of biographies of historical women like Jane Addams, Clara Barton, and others.
I loved the Borrowers series, too, the All-of-a-Kind-Family books, the Mushroom Planet series, the Cherry Ames Student Nurse mysteries, and the Black Stallion books. Now I want to go back and re-read all of them! My mom had filled our living room bookshelves with mysteries (where I discovered Conan Doyle and Poe), so I moved on to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Erle Stanley Gardner soon enough.
What author or book do you think is underappreciated?
I loved all four Hattie Davish mysteries from Anna Loan Wilsey, as well as both of Nancy Herriman’s in her Mystery of Old San Francisco series. These women clearly do their research homework in more or less the same period in which I write, and their storytelling is compelling. I’m delighted Nancy has a new series set in Tudor England, and I’ve heard Anna might have a new project in the works under a pen name. Read these ladies!
What’s on your TBR pile?
I have the three recent releases of my Wicked Authors blogmates - Liz Mugavero, Sherry Harris, and Barbara Ross – to catch up on, as well as Gigi Pandian’s latest Accidental Alchemist mystery and talented Boston-area author Joanna Schaffhausen’s new No Mercy.
As you know, I’m a librarian, so I like to end with this. Tell us about a story about a library or librarian that influenced you.
In the suburb of Los Angeles where I grew up, the Temple City Public Library felt like my second home. I still remember finally being old enough to write my name in the small blank and get my first library card. I had two older sisters, big readers both, so I was used being there. In the summers, the children’s librarian (who, alas, I don’t remember distinctly) ran reading contests. The year I was about eight, the contest had a pirate theme. For every book you read and wrote a short report for, complete with illustration, you got a gold coin sticker in your treasure chest. I won that summer, getting more pieces of eight than anyone! I read, I scribbled and drew, and started a new book. As the third child of four, I was always a bit competitive. To discover I could compete at reading? A dream come true. I still read too fast.
Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Maxwell, with seventeen novels in print and four more completed, has been nominated for an Agatha Award six times. She lives north of Boston with her beau and two elderly cats, and gardens and cooks when she isn’t killing people on the page or wasting time on Facebook. Please find her at , on , and at the .