I met Edith Maxwell a few weeks ago when she appeared at our local senior center to discuss her work. Several of my creative writing students (two of them mystery writers) also turned up to hear from this multi-published writer. During the question and answer session that followed Edith’s informative talk, I learned that a number of others in the audience were nurturing mystery manuscripts themselves. It was clear they found Edith’s words enlightening and encouraging.
I’m delighted to be Lynette’s guest today, here at Tools and Tactics for Writers. I’m a full-time fiction writer. I wrote stories as a child in California, and then had forays into journalism, academic writing, medical editing, and technical writing.
Twenty years ago, when I was an organic farmer (and a wife, and mom to two little boys) in a small town in northeastern Massachusetts, I took the off season to start writing a mystery novel. For it, I invented single woman Cam Flaherty, a former software engineer, who leaves hi-tech and goes north of Boston to run her great-uncle’s farm.
I created a murder on her property, envisioned the antique farmhouse she lives in, and more. After joining a writing group I learned a tremendous amount about creative writing from my peers’ critiques.
When farm season resumed and on into the next fall, I started my career as a technical writer. I didn’t have time or energy to continue the farm mystery while also working and raising my kids. So I put it on hold and began writing short stories, landing several in competitive anthologies.
When I was laid off my job in 2008, I wrote a short story about murderous revenge after a company layoff called, “Reduction in Force.” It was published in an anthology of best New England Crime Fiction and I later self-published the story as a reprint. I found another tech-writer job after several months, and over the next two years I wrote a different novel. Speaking of Murder features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau, who finds her star student dead on campus. It was tough to keep sending out query letter after query letter, but my buddies in the Sisters in Crime organization were hugely supportive, and I found inspiration to turn to small presses after I couldn’t find an agent who felt she could sell that book.
After dozens of rejections from agents, Speaking of Murder was acquired by a reputable small press, Barking Rain Press. When it finally sold, I was more than delighted.
I was then fortunate enough to land a three-book contract with Kensington Publishing for a Local Foods Mysteries series in which I finally got back to the farm. For the first book, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, I used the “world” I had invented twenty years earlier: same farmer, same farmhouse, even the same murder, but I rewrote all of it, because I had learned a lot about creative writing in the interim. I love immersing myself in the world of farming again, except now I don’t have to do the hard work real farming involves. Writing it is much more fun!
A year ago, at age 60, I left my day job to write fiction full time. I’ve completed all three books in the Local Foods Mysteries and have sent in my ideas for the next three books, although Kensington hasn’t yet let me know if they are renewing my contract. I finished the second Lauren Rousseau mystery, Bluffing is Murder; it will release in November.
I’m now writing an historical mystery set in Amesbury, Massachusetts, in 1888, featuring a Quaker midwife and the poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Last fall I won an award for one of several short stories I wrote. And I’ve submitted a proposal for a new contemporary mystery series.
So I don’t consider myself retired; writing mysteries is my new full-time job. It’s not lucrative yet, but the more I write, the sooner it will pay off. And I’ve never been happier.
Advice for Would-Be Authors
If you’re considering a fiction-writing career (whether your first career or your last), I hope you’ll search out other authors. Find organizations that support your genre. Take courses, online and in person. Try to find an in-person writing group you mesh well with and the members of which give you constructive critique without negativity. Most of all, follow the writers’ mantra: butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. You can can’t sell what you haven’t written.
Click the cover image to learn more about this book
I’m running a contest until May 27: Anyone who pre-orders my new book, ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part can enter to win a gorgeous hand-painted signed silk scarf. Details on my web site!
Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing).‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, which chronicles a murder that takes place after a Farm-to-Table dinner, releases May 27.
Maxwell has published short stories of murderous revenge, most recently “Breaking the Silence” in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold (Level Best Books, 2013); the story won an Honorable Mention in the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction 2014 contest.
Edith Maxwell also authors the Speaking of Mystery series under the pseudonym Tace Baker; Bluffing is Murder releases in late 2014 (Barking Rain Press). Edith holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics and is a long-time member of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats.
Edith blogs every weekday with the rest of the Wicked Cozy Authors. You can also find her at www.edithmaxwell.com, on Twitter, on Pinterest, and on Facebook. She’d love to connect with you.
Edith’s story is fascinating. The journeys we go on in life, and always come back to what we love to do, after taking care of our loved ones. Her books/short stories sound very interesting – I am going to look for them. It’s intriguing to see how a creative author weaves bits of her own life into some of the stories. Edith – wishing you the very best.
Lynette Benton says
Ah, Terry. I like the way you pointed out how an author “weaves bits of her own life into some of the stories.” That’s a fascinating aspect of fiction. But it’s also great that “nothing is lost.” That a persons own experiences and knowledge can reappear in different garb in their work.
Thanks for your perceptive comment.
Edith Maxwell says
Thanks so much, Terry! I hope you enjoy my stories and I’d love to hear from you again. All the best to you on your own journeys.
Susan Rowland says
Loved the interview, Lynette. Thanks for introducing readers to Edith, her story, and her books. Hi, Edith. Sorry about the layoff-but so happy about the writing. Local Food Mysteries looks intriguing and fun. I’ll pop over to the website.
Lynette Benton says
I know you’ll enjoy Edith’s books, Sue. Glad you found her guest post a good introudction to her work.
Edith Maxwell says
Thanks for your interest, Susan!
Jennette Marie Powell says
A lot of good advice there! It’s also great how we can always come back to writing if we must leave it for a while.