Our Book Club Friday guest today is Barbara Graham, author of the Quilted Mystery series. Barbara describes herself as a mystery writer, quilter, and village idiot and believes “every book needs a dead body and every bed needs a quilt.” You can read more about her at her website. Barbara has offered a copy of MURDER BY ARTIFACT to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP
I write crime fiction. In other words, I make up people and then kill them off. I also make quilts, a process of turning large pieces of fabric into small ones and back into large, but different pieces. A psychologist might have a professional opinion about my behaviors. I think I’m having fun.
I have met few writers who are not compelled, almost against their will, to drag words from their storage area and arrange and rearrange them into a pattern that suits them. For me the process of beginning a new book and a new quilt are similar. I open the cabinet where my “stash” of fabrics or words is kept or walk into a fabric shop and see what material whispers “choose me”. One will shove the others aside, fling its threads into my path and say “Darling we can make a beautiful quilt together” or the ever tantalizing whispered words, “Have you lost weight?”
Then I audition companion fabrics, secondary characters if you will, and gauge the way the fabrics work together. Too bland. Too crazy. Ooh, you’re even prettier than your cousin. What pattern would show you to best advantage? Triangles? Squares? Appliqued leaves?
When writing a mystery I spend lots of time creating the victim. This is the person the entire story hangs on. Why kill this person? On this day? In this manner?
When someone asks me if I am a mystery author or a quilter, I try to stifle a sassy “Yes”. I’m both. I love words and I love fabric, seriously adore them both. When I was creating the imaginary Tennessee county where the “Quilted Mystery” series takes place, I received a piece of advice—find a secondary market for my books. So, while writing Murder by Serpents: The Mystery Quilt, I charged in and gave the sheriff’s wife a passion for quilting and even her own shop. Her name is Theo Abernathy. I am not her but we share a love of color, fabric and our friends and family. She and I work together to create patterns for mystery quilts. The clues are included in the books, not as a part of the murder solution but as an extra for quilters. It’s the toy in my cereal box.
While Theo works at her quilt shop and is mom to two little boys, her husband Tony has his own work issues. He’s the sheriff of tiny Park County and therefore must juggle his duties to the citizens while solving crime. He has his own issues including a magnificently proportioned groupie named Blossom Flowers, his mom and the rest of the residents.
So, or sew, what is a mystery quilt? It’s a pattern followed blindly. No picture. The “clues” provide specific information about amounts of fabrics needed and general descriptions like dark, medium and light. Cutting instructions and sewing instructions follow through a series of clues. The clues do assume a familiarity with piecing quilts and sewing accurate ¼” seams. Murder by Artifact: The Murder Quilt has a different mystery quilt. Writing the books and designing each mystery quilt keeps me busy but I find each passion fuels the other.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Barbara! Readers, if you’d like a chance at winning a copy of MURDER BY ARTIFACT, leave a comment. Check back Sunday to see if you’re the lucky winner. -- AP