A Very Very Very Fine House — Welcome Guest Kaitlyn Dunnett

Kimberley is the winner of Crime and Punctuation. Watch for an email from Kaitlyn.

We are delighted to celebrate Crime & Punctuation by prolific writer Kaitlyn Dunnett. It’s the first in a new series from Kensington. Kathy is giving away a copy (US only) to someone who leaves a comment!

Here’s a bit about the book: After splurging to buy her childhood home in the Catskills, recently widowed Mikki Lincoln emerges from retirement as a freelance editor. With her ability to spot details that others fail to see, it’s not long before Mikki earns clients—and realizes that the village of Lenape Hollow isn’t the thriving tourist destination it was decades ago. Not with a murderer on the loose . . . When perky novice writer Tiffany Scott knocks at her door holding a towering manuscript, Mikki expects another debut novel plagued by typos and sloppy prose. Instead, she finds a murder mystery ripped from the headlines of Lenape Hollow’s not-too-distant past. The opening scene is a graphic page-turner, but it sends a real chill down Mikki’s spine after the young author turns up dead just like the victim in her story . . .

Mikki refuses to believe that Tiffany’s death was accidental, and suspicions of foul play solidify as she uncovers a strange inconsistency in the manuscript and a possible motive in the notes. Then there’s Tiffany’s grandmother and husband, who aren’t exactly on friendly terms over the local area’s planned rejuvenation efforts . . . Unable to convince police that they are focused on the wrong suspect, Mikki must rely on her keen eyes to catch the truth hidden in Lenape Hollow. As she gets closer to cracking the case, only one person takes Mikki’s investigation seriously—the cunning killer who will do anything to make this chapter of her life come to a very abrupt ending . . .

My thanks to Sherry Harris and the other Wicked Cozy Authors for inviting me to blog here about my new “Deadly Edits” series. Crime & Punctuation, featuring amateur detective Mikki Lincoln, a retired-schoolteacher-turned-book-doctor, is in stores now in hardcover and ebook formats, with large print and audiobooks to come.

My grandparents’ farm

The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m sentimental about houses, especially those I lived in during significant periods of my life. When it comes time to create a home for one of my fictional characters, I almost always end up drawing a floor plan that bears a striking resemblance to someplace I knew well in real life. Years ago, when I wrote romance, I made use of my parents’ modular home in Florida and my grandparents’ farm in rural New York State, as well as houses I’d lived in myself. In the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries, Liss and Dan’s house in Moosetookalook, Maine is loosely patterned on my other grandfather’s house.

My other grandparents’ house

My house 1960s

In the “Deadly Edits” series, Mikki Lincoln returns to her old home town after fifty years away and buys the house she grew up in. It not only looks just like the house I grew up in, it is located in the same place relative to other buildings in the village. I’d claim that it’s exactly like that house, except that I have no idea what changes various owners have made in the real place during the last fifty years. The house that Mikki moves into is what I imagine my house might be like today.

There are many advantages to using a familiar place as a setting. In this case, the most important one is that I can give Mikki the benefit of my memories. She knows what the house looked like back in the 1950s and 1960s and all the family stories that go with it. My father tore down the old barn in the back yard and used the wood to build a garage at the side of the house. So did Mikki’s. Mikki’s room as a teen was the one I had—right down to its own little balcony and a big, walk-in closet.

My house today

The reason Mikki sets up as a freelance editor has to do with the need to make repairs on the house. Her retirement income will only stretch so far! But since she has to have carpenters, plumbers, and electricians in the house anyway, and since she’s now going to sleep in the master bedroom, she opts to expand her former bedroom, making it into the office of her (and my) dreams.

I wish I had interior photos of the upstairs of my childhood home, but I do have have plenty of pictures of the living and dining room, thanks to holidays and birthdays. There are exterior photos, too, of both the front and the back of the house. What doesn’t really show are how close the neighbors are on both sides, something Mikki has forgotten during her time away and has to get used to again. Her memories of, shall we say “observing” her neighbors when she was young, weren’t hard to imagine. All I had to do was tap into my own memories.

As soon as she returns to Lenape Hollow, New York to live, Mikki reunites with a high school friend, Darlene, which meant I needed to design a house for her, too. I based it on my friend Leslie’s house, a place I visited so often that I knew it almost as well as I knew my own house. The school on Main Street is one I attended. The church is the church I went to. But I did run into one problem. I’d already transported my home town’s municipal building, containing the town office, the fire department, and the library, to Moosetookalook, Maine to use in the Liss MacCrimmon books. Fortunately, fifty years along, my old home town has both a new library and a new police station. So does Lenape Hollow.

I wouldn’t want you to think I’m not using my imagination to write this new series. There’s plenty that’s pure fiction, starting with the characters. And I think I can guarantee that there will never be any real murders quite like the ones Mikki comes in contact with in Crime & Punctuation and next year’s sequel, Clause & Effect. A setting comes to life when it’s based on a real place. Basing characters on real people or plots on real crimes? Nope. In those areas, it’s much better to make stuff up.

Readers: Do you have a favorite house you’ve lived in? Or one that means a lot to you?

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of more than fifty-five traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series (Crime & Punctuation—2018) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. Her most recent collection of short stories is Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women