Dream Jobs: A Conversation with 4 Cozy Mystery Pros
By Crime HQOctober 25, 2021
Tell us your dream job in the comments below for your chance to win a copy of all four series debuts:
- The Rocky Road to Ruin – #1 in the Ice Cream Shop Mysteries by Meri Allen
- Getaway with Murder – #1 in the Mountain Lodge Mysteries by Diane Kelly
- Chapter and Curse – #1 in the Cambridge Bookshop Mysteries by Elizabeth Penney
- Death in Bloom – #1 in the Flower House Mysteries by Jess Dylan
How did you decide on your protagonist’s occupation?
Meri Allen: I love characters who aren’t exactly what they seem so the contrast between Riley Rhodes’ present running an ice cream shop on an organic farm—complete with mischievous baby goats—and her past as a librarian at the CIA has been fun to write. Having been a CIA librarian who did occasional undercover missions also added another layer to Riley’s character and gave her some advantages when it comes to sleuthing.
Diane Kelly: I came up with the idea of running a mountain lodge when my husband and I recently fulfilled a long-time dream of buying a vacation home in the mountains. On our way to our cozy little cabin, we pass a couple of long-neglected, defunct mountain lodges. I thought it was a shame the inns weren’t being rehabbed and put to use, especially the one that has a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Not long after I began to write Getaway with Murder, the one with the view finally sold to new owners and contractors are fixing it up now. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer (and didn’t work your day job either)?
Elizabeth Penney: I can’t imagine not writing, no matter what I’m doing. Before my first novel was published, I was a small business consultant, banker, and nonprofit executive. All those positions required writing. An area of passion, though, and one I might explore again, is local food and small farm advocacy. I love food (my readers comment on this focus in my books) and helping small farms thrive is a way to support families while improving local menus and health.
Jess Dylan: I’d probably be doing something else with books, perhaps working in a library or bookstore. Or maybe I’d work in publishing. One way or another, I’d put my English major to use and try to make a living doing something I love: reading!
What’s your main character’s biggest job challenge?
Diane Kelly: The biggest challenge for innkeeper Misty Murphy is running an old-fashioned mountain lodge at a profit. With the advent of Airbnb and other online vacation rental sites, the nature of travel accommodations has changed a lot since the lodge was built decades ago. When people can rent an entire cabin or condo for a relatively affordable price, why would they choose a traditional lodge? Misty uses her business acumen to show them why. She markets to small groups who want to stay together in close proximity and could benefit from a sizable central meeting space. Her first guests are a group of yoga students on a retreat. The lodge’s great room and deck provide a place for yoga and meditation classes, as well as a space where they can all hang out together in the evenings. No condo or cabin can beat that!
Elizabeth Penney: Housed in a quaint Tudor building, Thomas Marlowe Manuscripts and Folios has been around since the 1600s. The bookshop has an impeccable reputation, but, in these days of online sales, desperately needs to enter the digital age. Molly decides to create a social media strategy that includes books photographed around Cambridge, taking advantage of the gorgeous architecture and setting. She also frequently posts pictures of beloved shop cats, Clarence and Puck, customer favorites.
What are three things you love about the fall?
Meri Allen: Number one, wearing sweaters. Like any good librarian, I have many cardigans—way too many cardigans.
Number two, fall colors. Living in New England, I love how the trees change color and the leaves blaze gold, orange, and scarlet against the deep blue October sky. It’s a marvel I look forward to every year.
Number three is a little different, but I love back to school time. True confession: Office supplies are my weakness! Even though it’s been years since I was a student, every September I treat myself to new notebooks, markers, and post-it notes. I use post-its for plotting, so I go through a lot of them.
Jess Dylan: There are so many things to love about fall! Here are three: the smell of dried leaves and damp earth, annual trips to the pumpkin patch, and cuddling on the couch to watch old favorite Halloween specials on TV.
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