I’ll confess that when I recently interviewed Aggie Sloan-Wilcox for this blog, she was only too happy to comply. However there was a caveat. Aggie claimed that to be fair, I ought to submit to an interview with her, as well. Aggie’s nothing if not determined. And those of you acquainted with her know that Aggie always gets her man or woman. Sometimes a little late, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
I explained to Aggie that I really had very little to say about my life. After all, I am a minister’s wife, just like she is, and what could possibly happen that’s worth recording here? She just looked at me, then I remembered to whom I was speaking. Okay, that excuse fell flat.
So, in the interest of justice–a biggie with our Aggie–I’ve decided to comply. Aggie promises to keep this short. And after all, lately Truth is an issue with my favorite clerical sleuth. We’ll hold her to it.
Emilie, I wonder if writing a mystery series about a church and congregants who kill or get killed was all that wise a step, particularly since your own husband is still a minister? Has that decision ever come back to haunt you?
I’ve purposely set my series in a very different environment from the church my husband and I are part of. While the Consolidated Community Church of Emerald Springs is a liberal church, it draws from several denominations for its clerical leadership. The church is small and fairly traditional in some of its practices. The town of Emerald Springs is small, as well, and midwestern, with its own unique flavor. I live in Northern Virginia, just a stone’s throw from Washington DC. When the president throws a party complete with fireworks, we hear them–and wonder if we’re under attack. Politics is our life blood and politicians adorn our hallways. Our church is solidly Unitarian-Universalist and very large. At any given moment there are at least half a dozen events taking place within its walls, often related to social justice. So while there are some similarities, there are many more differences.
Surely, then, your portrayal of Ed, my husband, must be based on the real life personna of yours?
I have been extraordinarily careful to be sure that Ed and my husband are sufficiently different that nobody would confuse them. Ed is first and foremost a scholar. A small church with a large endowment is perfect for Ed, who hopes to have extra time while in Emerald Springs to pursue academic research. My husband enjoys scholarly research, but he enjoys all the others facets of his job as much, particularly the people contact. Their common ground? A respect for their job and enthusiasm for doing it.
So you’re saying that nothing in your background led you to write about a small town in Ohio?
Aggie, Aggie, did I say that? Exactly? There was a church, a small church in a small town. Not in Ohio but close. Very, very close. (You know who you are.) Seriously, although no one and no event in the books is related to any church we have ever been part of (note the disclaimer) the town of Emerald Springs is just the teensiest similar to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where we lived for six of the best years of our lives. I’ve been back to the church to sign the Ministry is Murder series, and they were delighted.
I do have some input. For A Truth For A Truth, I asked for a darker, less “friendly” cover, and my publisher complied. The new version was quite wonderful, but somewhere between their revision and publication, the old version went to print instead. So if the book does well and the first printing is sold out, you’ll see the cover to the right on the stands eventually. Note the differences.
One thing that must be true. You spend a lot of time developing my family life. Do you have children of your own? Were any of them like Deena and Teddy?
I have four children, and in no way do any of them resemble yours. But they are, in their own ways, exceptional and charming–and for the most part, male.
Finally, have you ever lived in a parsonage? You seem to know the problems well.
My only experience with parsonages came during my husband’s two sabbaticals in Australia. The church he served came with one, a beautiful, very special space that is probably one of the most charming houses we ever lived in. I will think of it fondly forever. But I only lived there a few months each time. Even then, it was “life in a fishbowl.” So your experiences, Aggie, come from my own, and the stories other ministers and minister’s partners have passed on to me. Just so you know, you have my sympathy. But that floor? The one that needs waxing continuously? I’m afraid that is based on real life. I wonder if it’s still there.
Look for Aggie and Emilie Richards at your favorite bookstore. A Truth For A Truth will be on mystery bookshelves this week. Enjoy.