featuring guest mystery authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, February 4, 2011

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR BARBARA GRAHAM


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

35 comments:

Stefanie Pratt said...

Sounds interesting, I'll have to look for the book if I don't win! ;~)

Carol-Lynn Rossel said...

I never thought about equating quilting with writing. Interesting leap of consciousness there. I used to quilt, but ran out of beds and walls and windows to put the things on. Do put my name in the hat for the book drawing.

Julie said...

I love a good mystery book, but one that includes my favorite pasttime of quilting is even more interesting. Makes me want to snuggle up under my favorite quilt and read right now.

Pattie @ Olla-Podrida said...

I love mysteries and I like your comparison of quilting and writing. I don't quilt (not that I wouldn't like to learn), but I LOVE reading about quilting, all aspects. So your book is right up my alley. I've just gotten a sample on Kindle so if I don't win, all I have to do is hit "Buy now" and off I go!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Great post and what a fun sounding mystery. I will be checking this one out for sure :-)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I will be reading your books. I love mysteries and find quilting fascinating, although I don't quilt myself.

Peg Herring said...

Barbara does a great job of weaving--oops! Make that "quilting" her mysteries together: character, plot, and crafting come together--dare I say, seamlessly?

Margo in Maine said...

Would love to read it...quilting and mystery....hmmmm....sounds interesting!!

Auntie Knickers said...

Loved your parallels between mystery writing and quilting. I don't do either, just enjoy the fruits thereof. I can't even imagine making a mystery quilt but would love to see one! And will also be looking for your books.

Lynn said...

I will have to look it up -- we have many mystery/craft readers here at the library.

Thanks so much for the post.

Nancy Naigle said...

Hi Barbara
We met at Sleuthfest a few years back. Loved the first book, so I'm excited to read this one.

I'm with Julie on this one. Grab a quilt and snuggle down for a few hours :)
Nancy Naigle
Drewryville, VA

Connie McDonald said...

Oooh. I would love to win this book! I'm going to have to go to my library and look up the earlier ones.

Alice Duncan said...

Love the blog, Barbara! The book's pretty darned good, too. Actually, it's wonderful. I can vouch for it :-)

Caridad Pineiro said...

Love the post! Thank you for sharing something about yourself and the novel. Can't wait to read it.

jeff7salter said...

Barbara, you sound like a real hoot.
[BTW, that's a compliment where I come from.]
Hey, here's something weird -- cue the Twilight Zone music -- I also written three novel ms. in a fictional county in TN. Yep. And I have plans for several more to be set there. Mine are not murders however, so I don't think we know the same people. Ha.
My make-believe county is just east of Nashville. My first three novels were all set here where I'm currently living and it was exhausting to keep the reality of a real place with just enough changes to accomodate my plot and characters.
So I shifted to a 'pretend' county and small city where I have more freedom (at least initially).

BJ said...

I'd love to win Barbara's book!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Barabara,

How crafty of you to compare your character development to quilt piecing. i loved your post and feel so energized I'm running off to write immediately. Cheers!

Maggie
ON THE NICKEL coming in March

Barb Kowalik said...

I love how she compares her writing to quilting! I am going to have to look for some of her books. Thanks for letting us know about her.

Michelle Quick said...

I have read Barbara's books and am waiting for #3, Murder by Music!! She creates very interesting and compelling characters who are very real. Love the "seamless" connections of quilting and murder.

Kari Wainwright said...

I understand the connection between fabrics and words and making choices, then arranging and rearranging. I've fallen in love with fabrics only to have my non-seamstress fingers let me down. At least my fingers do better on a keyboard.

Barbara's books sound like a lot of fun to read.

Maryann Miller said...

Love the comparison between writing and quilting. I am not as passionate about quilting as some of the folks here, but I have had fun making special quilts for my grandchildren. I came up with my own designs based on their interests, soccer for one and theatre for another, and the lady who owns the quilt shop in town was kind enough to help a newbie along the way. I did enjoy the process, and I think it is important that we enjoy whatever we are creating, whether it be a book or a quilt.

Janel said...

I love the idea of having a mystery pattern included in the book! That's a great idea to keep readers interested and paying attention.

silverhearts7 said...

Great comparison between quilting and writing. I would never have equated the processes, but it's great way to connect the two.

My grandmother taught me to quilt when I was young, and I truly enjoyed it. I can no longer quilt due to a hand injury, and my grandmother is now far too old to quilt. But I have several she made me and the ones we made together.

I also write mysteries, and I truly can see the similarities: choosing each piece, selecting colors, picking a pattern, painstakingly piecing everything together so that it forms an attractive whole.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane regarding quilting, and for the refreshing look at the writing process. Please put me in your drawing.

Kathy said...

I made a quilt once 12 years ago and it hasn't come apart yet so I guess I did good. I can snuggle in it while I'm reading one of your books. The only thing better than a mystery series, is a mystery series that involves a craft.

Carol M said...

What a wonderful idea to put both of your interests together! I'd love to read this! It sounds like a book I would really enjoy!

Allison said...

I'm so glad I tuned in today - another crafty mystery to add to my TBR list! I love mysteries that feature crafts in them. You are going on my list right now!

Marilynne said...

I always think of quilts as warm cozy things. How dare you murder someone on it, or with it, or whatever you did with it? It's interesting that you worked it into a murder mystery.

Elizabeth said...

A novel that hides a mystery quilting pattern; what a fabulous idea! I'm in!!!

ANASTASIA POLLACK said...

Barbara, thank you so much for being our guest today.

For those of you who posted comments, don't forget to check back Sunday to see if you're the lucky winner of a copy of MURDER BY ARTIFACT.

Cher said...

Barbara, sure sounds like a must read for me. Love mystery books and quilting, although not too many would think to put those two things together.

Cher in BC

JoJo said...

Yeah...I love mysteries and combining it with quilting---Perfect!

annlp said...

I quilt and I read mysteries all the time. Would love to read your book!

ANASTASIA POLLACK said...

I'm posting the following for Barbara who had some trouble with posting this herself:

Hi Anastasia--thank you for inviting me to play in your sandbox. I had a wonderful time and only wish I could send everyone a copy of the book. As soon as the winner contacts you with an address, I will mail the signed copy of Murder by Artifact. All the best, Barbara

Jenice said...

Petting fabric is a wonderful hobby. Love the face that she is talented with words and fabric.

Kathy said...

Love to find new authors who combine quilts and mysteries!