When a new mystery novelist contacted me months ago and told me she was from the Shenandoah Valley and the author of pie cookbooks, I was intrigued. She asked me to read the first mystery in her new series, Cumberland Creek Mysteries, from Kensington, to give her a cover quote, and I agreed. After all, both the Shenandoah Valley and pie have been good to me, and Mrs. Rowe’s in Staunton, VA, the restaurant connected to Mollie’s cookbooks, is a “must-stop” whenever we journey to Asheville, North Carolina. So Mollie had me at “please.”
Today is Mollie’s book launch, and the perfect day for an interview. As a bonus, we’re hosting a unique giveaway, all the supplies for a scrapbooker’s “brag book,” pictured to the right. One commenter will be chosen by random.org next Tuesday to receive this, so make sure to hop on before then and ask Mollie questions or to tell her how much you want to win.
Here’s Mollie’s description of her book:
Having traded in her career as a successful investigative journalist for the life of a stay-at-home mom in picturesque Cumberland Creek, Virginia, Annie can’t help but feel that something’s missing. But she finds solace in a local “crop circle” of scrapbookers united by chore-shy husbands, demanding children, and occasional fantasies of their former single lives. And when the quiet idyll of their small town is shattered by a young mother’s suicide, they band together to find out what went wrong…Annie resurrects her reporting skills and discovers that Maggie Rae was a closet scrapbooker who left behind more than a few secrets – and perhaps a few enemies. As they sift through Maggie Rae’s mysteriously discarded scrapbooks, Annie and her “crop” sisters begin to suspect that her suicide may have been murder. It seems that something sinister is lurking beneath the town’s beguilingly calm facade – like a killer with unfinished business…
Mollie: This idea came to me, actually, when I was going to a lot of scrapbooking events and was blown away by the generosity and quick friendships of other scrapbookers. About that same time, I read “The Secret Life of Bees” and I wanted to write a story like it about the power of women’s friendships. I also wanted to take a look at the darker side of that—what isolation and secrets can do to people. So when National Novel Writing Month came around a few years ago, I decided to dip my toes in and go for it.
Emilie: You’re known as a food writer. Why fiction now?
Mollie: When I think back to my childhood writing, it was always fiction and poetry. But life came along and I needed to earn a living so I worked as a nonfiction writer and an editor. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a novel published. And all of my writing is about story, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.
Emilie: Your book is an ensemble piece, lots of characters and many of them important. Do you have a favorite?
Mollie: I really love them all—but I like some facets of their personality better than others. For example, I like that Vera has such a kind and open heart, but I don’t like the way she primps. But if I had to pick my favorite character, it would have to be Beatrice. She was the most fun to write and I think she’s sort of my ideal fantasy of what it would be like to be a healthy eighty-year-old woman. Sometimes, she can be a little “too” honest and gruff, but you can’t really hold it against her.
Emilie: Why did you set your novel in the Shenandoah Valley? What will readers learn about the valley that you’ve learned in real life?
Mollie: I set my novel here because this is where I’ve lived for about 13 years and I still find it fascinating. It’s one of those places that people tend to romanticize a bit—I know I did. While there are family farms, gorgeous mountains, and many “old-order” Mennonites, it’s also much more diverse than that. As a writer, one of the things I’m fascinated by is this clash of cultures that happens when new people move into communities where much of the population can trace its heritage back to the founding. Sometimes it’s subtle, but it’s usually just beneath the surface. Great fodder for fiction.
I hope readers will glimpse that tension—one they might not realize exists.
Emilie: I’m a quilter, and you’re a scrapbooker. Both crafts share a love of the past and expressing that love through color and pattern. What drew you to scrapbooking and what place does it have in your life?
Mollie: I was a quilter first— I have a love of interesting fabrics, patterns, and textures. And you can say the same thing about scrapbooking and paper. I started scrapbooking, in earnest, when I became a mom, thirteen years ago. At first, it was all about keeping a record about them as they grew. Then I fell in love with the paper and embellishments and also began to experiment with a sort of a cross between journaling and scrapbooking. I found a lot of people out there that are really artists with this—like some of the quilters. And I’m also intrigued with this subculture, you know, where there’s this language that develops in the group. Then there’s also the notion of making a personal history. My grandmother left several scrapbooks and I cherish them so much—more than any gold or diamonds than could have been handed down, you know?
Thank you to Mollie for visiting. Remember, Scrapbook of Secrets is at your favorite bookstore now. Pick up a copy. And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a “brag book” kit.