by Barb, back from Paris for a week and a half now (sniff)
Lea Wait isn’t a Wicked Cozy, though she’s certainly (over?) qualified to be one. She shares a New England home base, an agent (John Talbot–though since Lea also writes historicals for younger readers, she’s multi-represented), and a cozy series (more on this). Lea is a neighbor in Maine and has been a fabulous mentor to me on this journey. Today, in celebration of the publication of Shadows on a Maine Christmas, the seventh book in her Antique Print Mystery series, I’m asking her some things I’ve been wondering about, and I thought you might like to listen in.
Barb: This Shadows book is a Christmas book. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a holiday book. What caused you to write it? The right time in the series? In your characters’ Maggie and Will’s lives? Did your publisher ask for a Christmas book?
Lea: Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I wanted to write about the wonders of Maine winters. The previous six books in the Shadows Antique Print series took place approximately every three months, but Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding left some personal issues hanging at the end of October, so I felt Maggie and Will needed to get together again soon. Christmas was the perfect time. I’ve heard some publishers ask for “holiday books.” Mine didn’t. But Maggie and Will needed one!
Barb: Shadows on Maine Christmas is your seventh Antique Prints Mystery. On Wicked Cozies, we have authors who’ve just turned in their first, second, or third book in a series. What advice do you have for authors working a long-term series? What do you wish you had known?
Ah. The series. So many issues come up when you’re writing a series. When to set each book. Within weeks of each other? In different seasons? Different years? Do your characters stay in one town and you gradually kill off everyone who lives there or do they travel, finding crime wherever they go? But perhaps the biggest challenge is developing your character emotionally, and having her make life decisions without interrupting the crime solving. How long does he (or she) vacillate between two love interests? Can a series continue after the protagonist marries? Has children? Moves to another town? Changes professions? Authors have done all the above – some more successfully than others. One danger to be aware of is killing off a character that readers love. It’s been done. (Not by me. So far, anyway!) But some readers never forgive.
Barb: In addition to your mystery series, you write historical fiction for middle-grade readers, like your latest, Uncertain Glory. What’s the single biggest difference between writing for young readers and for adults?
I love writing historical novels, and, so far, I’ve focused on historical novels for ages 8-14. All five of my historicals are set in Wiscasset, Maine. Rivers and mountains change very little over thousands of years. Houses can last hundreds of years. I wanted to show a town that stayed more or less the same over the years, but in which its citizens, and the way they lived their day-to-day lives, changed as the years passed. My books (Stopping to Home, Seaward Born, Wintering Well, Finest Kind, and now Uncertain Glory) are based on real people who lived in Wiscasset, and real events. I love bringing the past to life. My main characters are ages 11-14: ages at which major life decisions were made during the 19th century. Other than that, and that they’re a bit shorter than my adult mysteries, they’re as serious… perhaps more serious than my mysteries. My historicals are read by adults as well as young people. I don’t write down to my readers.
Lea: Thanks for asking! The Shadows series isn’t over. But I’m excited about a new mystery series beginning in January, 2015, with Twisted Threads. The Mainely Needlepoint series is set in Haven Harbor, Maine. Its protagonist is 28-year-old Angie Curtis, who had a rough time growing up in Maine, and has spent the last ten years working for a private investigator in Arizona. When her mother’s body is found, Angie returns to Haven Harbor to find her mother’s killer, face her own past, and help her grandmother with her custom needlepoint business. I just finished Threads of Evidence, the second in the series, which will be published a year from now. Later this month I’ll be working on the third book in that series, and beginning another Shadows book. And I have several books for young people in the works, too. Not bored!
Gentle readers–so that was our conversation. Do you have questions for Lea? Ask away!
Lea Wait says that through some time warp she really grew up in the 19th century. A former corporate manager and adoptive single parent of four daughters who is also an antique print dealer and expert on Winslow Homer wood engravings, she is now married to artist Bob Thomas and she lives in a house built in 1774. She channeled Homer himself when writing the 5th in her contemporary Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, Shadows of a Down East Summer, in which Homer and two young women who posed for him are major characters. Lea also writes historical fiction (19th century, natch) for young people, collects seaglass, loves to row, and invites you to friend her on Facebook.