Hi. Barb here. You may have noticed that my fellow Maine author Lea Wait has joined us a few times in the last year. That’s because Lea is the prolific author of the Mainely Needlepoint cozy series, the Shadows Antique Print traditional mystery series, as well as historical novels for young people. On of those, Uncertain Glory was an Agatha nominee this year.
Today we’re celebrating the recent release of Threads of Evidence, the second book in the Mainely Needlepoint series. I loved the first book in this series, Twisted Threads, so when I had a chance get my hands on an Advance Reader Copy of Threads of Evidence, I jumped at it!
I wasn’t disappointed. The second book in the series moves protagonist Angie Curtis along from the original crisis that brought her back to Maine. Now she needs to figure out how to make a life for herself. The book broadened and deepened my appreciation for Angie, as well as for her grandmother and the other members of the Mainely Needlepoint collective AND provided a great mystery yarn. What more could you ask? These books are slightly grittier than the average cozy, but still well within the cozy definition.
Lea’s a neighbor and a friend, so I thought we’d have a chat about Threads of Evidence.
Barb: Since you and I both write about coastal towns in Maine that include both working people and summer people From Away, to some degree we are always writing about class, a topic that makes many Americans uncomfortable. It’s not so much the money (thought that matters) but also expectations, opportunities, and experiences. In Threads of Evidence, in particular, the worlds of summer people and working people intersect, both in the past and the present. How do you think about class as you write? How do you think it is expressed in your Mainely Needlepoint stories?
Lea: First of all – thank you for inviting me back to visit the Wicked Cozies, Barbara!
I’m excited about Threads of Evidence, the second in the Mainely Needlepoint series (after Twisted Threads).
In Threads of Evidence there are two sorts of wealthy visitors from away. The Gardeners have had money for generations, and built their large Victorian summer “cottage” as a retreat in the 19th century. When the last person in their family died, the estate was left, empty and discarded.
Now it has been bought by a newly wealthy Hollywood actress and her artist son. The Gardeners viewed themselves as, in many ways, patrons of Haven Harbor – they gave large parties for everyone in town, and donated generously to the local fire and police departments as well as the country club. Those who remember them best are those who worked for them – the caretaker of their estate; Mrs. Gardener’s hairdresser. Their daughter, Jasmine, took for granted opportunities (like education and travel) that those her age who lived in Haven Harbor either just dreamed about, or worked very hard to obtain. Some of those clashes in expectations may have resulted in her murder.
The new owners of the Gardener estate spend money freely, and not always, in the eyes of local residents, wisely. But the local people, including Angie Curtis, the protagonist of the Mainely Needlepoint series, accept payments they believe are too generous.
People like these are part of the fabric of Maine.
Barb: In Threads of Evidence one of your major characters is a celebrity. Often in fiction, celebrity is shorthand for rich and recognizable, but you’ve created a fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional character. How did you think about Skye West as you wrote her?
Lea: When I lived in New York City, some years ago, I knew people involved in show business. All of them, including those considered famous, had worked very hard to get to where they were. Skye West grew out of some of those friendships. She sees her world clearly, and appreciates both the work she’s done to get to where she is in her career (and that she continues to do) – and the people who, in different ways, helped her to get there. She sees her decision to buy and restore the Gardner estate – and find out what happened to Jasmine Gardner in 1970 – as something she owes to her past. A way of giving back.
Barb: I have to admit, I’m one of those people who can take epigraphs or leave them. I often don’t read them if I’m really in the flow of a story. But I found the quotes from needlepoint works of girls and young women in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Threads of Evidence particularly moving. How do you go about finding these quotes?
Lea: Ah! The epigraphs! I have them in my Shadows Antique Print mystery series, and some readers love them … write to me about them and ask more questions. So I decided to also use them in the Mainely Needlepoint series. Some of the epigraphs are quotations about needlecraft from 19th century and earlier literature and books or magazines written for women. But my favorites are the quotations from samplers stitched by young women in the sixteenth through 19th centuries. (As some readers have pointed out, some of these samplers are needlepoint … some are cross stitch or other embroidery. But I love them all.)
Some of those quotations I’ve seen on samplers in museums, antique shows, or homes. Some of them I’ve found in museum catalogs of sampler exhibits. Some are from books on the history of samplers. I keep a running file of possible quotations to use in future books.
Barb: What are you working on now?
I just finished Shadows on a Morning in Maine, the 8th in the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, which will be published in about a year. Next on my list: Dangling by a Thread, the 4th in the Mainely Needlepoint series. (The third in the series, Thread and Gone, will be published in early January, 2016.) In my spare (?) time I’m also working on a couple of picture book biographies for young people. So – not bored!
Barb: Thank you, Lea! Anyone have questions for comments for Lea? Jump in!
Lea invites readers to friend her on Facebook and Goodreads, and to check out her website, http://www.leawait.com, where there’s a link to a prequel of THREADS OF EVIDENCE, and questions for book group discussions. She would love to visit (in person or via Skype) your library, book group, or school.