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Journey into the Lives of Women, One Story at a Time

Author Mollie Cox Bryan and Scrapbook of Secrets

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…

Emilie:  What compelled you to write this story? 

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.

20 Comments

  1. Audrey Bonnell on February 7, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Emilie, looks like I have a new writer to look for. Mollie, I love that your book takes place in the Shenandoah Valley. This area just seems to call out to me when reading stories that take place there. I am really intrigued Mollie and can’t wait to read this first book of yours. I am a scrapbooker and a quilter too, so looks like you have me as a reader. Good luck in your writing.

    • Emilie Richards on February 7, 2012 at 11:31 am

      You’ll be Mollie’s perfect reader, Audrey.

  2. Mollie Bryan on February 7, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Thanks, Audrey! I love the Valley, as well, and am always pleased to know others do,too. I hope you do read and enjoy the book. Good luck with the contest. Cheers!

  3. Beverley Simpson on February 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for alerting us to Mollie’s new book. I love to read books taking place in the Valley since it is my home, too. I have ordered “Scrapbook of Secrets” for my Kindle. Can’t wait to get into it. Much success to a fellow Virginian.

  4. Mollie Bryan on February 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks, Emilie and Audrey.

  5. Beverly Brothers on February 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I am an avid Scrapbooker and reader. I hope I can find this book in Arkansas or download it to my e-reader. The title intrigues me.

  6. Beverly Silvestre on February 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I can’t wait to read your book. It has some of my favorite reading topics, mystery, scrapbooking and friendships. I have a wonderful scrapbook from by grandmother filled with all the cards she received from friends and family during the early 1900’s. It is such a treasure!

  7. Cathy Leitner on February 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Sounds like another great book…. Love scrapbooking and quilting.’

  8. Edie Sessions on February 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I was first a quilter, and now a scrapbooker. I have a very close circle of scrapbook friends. I can’t wait to read this new book!

  9. Nancy Badertscher on February 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Sounds like a book I will enjoy reading – might be a series??? Emilie mentioned Mrs Rowe’s – doesn’t that restaurant also prepare meals at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington? I just moved from there in 2010 after living there most of the previous 32 years that we were in VA. We aren’t horse people, but I’ve been there several times for the Rockbridge Christmas Baskets program, and my former quilt quild met there sometimes on the balcony overlooking the arena. I’m looking forward to adding your book to my stack!

  10. Mollie Bryan on February 8, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Thanks everybody for the encouraging words and for the interest. And, Beverly, what a wonderful treasure that must be. Cheers!

  11. Mollie Bryan on February 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Yes, @Nancy, same place. They now have a catering arm to the business. And @Beverly the book is available as an e-book, but you should also be able to get it from your local bookstore.

  12. Becky on February 9, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Looks like there is a new author to read. I love books set in the Shenandoah Valley. I had the opportunity to drive through there at sunset when I was on a business trip last fall and living in the mountains myself. There is something wonderful about the mountains.

    I’ll be interested in explore these women’s lives.

  13. Mollie Bryan on February 9, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Thanks, Becky. You’re right, the mountains and the Shenandoah Valley are gorgeous. So glad you’re interested in my book. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Stacie Amelotte on February 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I am a cozy addict and the more I interviews/reviews I read about this series the more anxious I am to read it. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Hopefully it will even inspire me to start scrapbooking again.Congrats on the new release & thanks for the “brag book” giveaway! 🙂

    scouts579(at)aol(dot)com

  15. Lynden Blossom on February 10, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Thank you for introducing Mollie to others – As a Professional Scrapbooker and avid reader, I’d love to win this! ;}
    Lynden
    [email protected]
    http://aneleganttouch-lynden.blogspot.com
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/An-Elegant-Touch-/162889457132788

  16. Mollie Bryan on February 10, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Stacie, thanks so much for your interest. The brag book is very cool. It would inspire you, I’m sure!

  17. Katherine Gegner on February 14, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    The setting was exactly what led me to begin reading Emilie Richards, and I expect it will be true for you as well. Not a Virginian by birth (South Dakota), but certainly one by choice, and a lover of mysteries. I am looking forward to picking this one up soon. Congratulations on your new direction.

  18. Margi Borck on February 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I started Scrapbook of Secrets after reading this post and I’m totally enthralled. I hate having to work when I have a book so awesome to read! Thank you Emilie for the introduction to yet another awesome author! I even want to pull out all my scrapping stuff again! WOOT WOOT!

  19. Connie Williamson on February 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I’m not a scrapbooker…yet. But my first grandchild is coming in May, sooooooooooooo…. Anyway, Mollie’s book sounds wonderful.

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