It’s my honor to introduce Janet Bolin, author of the popular Threadville Mysteries, in my ongoing Interview With An Author series. Not only is Janet a talented writer with a terrific “crafty” cozy series, she has also made a huge impact on my life in three very significant ways. First, under the Crime Writers of Canada’s mentorship program, she volunteered to read the first 30 pages of my then work-in-progress, The Hanged Man’s Noose, during Bloody Words 2012 in Toronto. To say those pages were “rough” is an understatement, but Janet managed to balance kindness and compassion with constructive criticism and some really good advice. Second, she recommended that I join Sisters in Crime Guppies. (I did, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.) Finally, she encouraged me to keep on writing, to finish the book and to follow my dream. I did that, too. So, without further ado, here’s Janet Bolin:
Judy: Elderberry Bay, a.k.a. Threadville, is a fictional village in Pennsylvania on the shore of Lake Erie. Many of Elderberry Bay’s beautiful old buildings have been restored and now house boutiques catering to fabriholics, quilters, and the like. How did you come up with the town, and the premise for the series?
Janet: Thank you, Judy, for having me as a guest on your blog, and thank you for your kind words. It was a pleasure to read your pages. Your skill was obvious. I’d critiqued before, but not face-to-face, and I was happy to be able to praise your writing. I love discovering new writers!
Others helped me in my journey toward publication. Threadville came about largely because of a critique group I was in, courtesy of the Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter. The other two members of the group, Krista Davis and Daryl Wood Gerber, who also writes as Avery Aames, started writing cozy mysteries. Their work was accepted by an agent and a publisher. My fellow critiquers and treasured friends nagged me until I started trying to write cozy mysteries, too. Krista found out that I could use software to turn photos into embroidery designs or to draw original embroidery designs. She told her editor I could write a series about a sleuth who also does machine embroidery. Her editor said, “I’d like to see a proposal for that.”
Because there weren’t many stores near me that sell sewing or machine embroidery supplies, and I wished there were, I invented a town full of them. I gave my machine embroidery expert, Willow, a best friend, Haylee, who was raised by three close friends after Haylee’s mother, then only seventeen, gave birth to her. Haylee owns a big fabric store, and her mother owns the yarn store. The other two women who raised Haylee own a notions shop and a quilting shop. All three of the fiftyish women sort of adopt Willow, who, like Haylee, is in her early thirties, as another daughter. Meanwhile, Haylee and Willow try to keep the three older women out of mischief, while not necessarily keeping themselves out of trouble.
I love old buildings that have been lovingly restored, so I set most of the village’s shops in them. Willow’s Arts and Crafts style building was once a home, but by the time Willow’s best friend, Haylee, and Willow’s love interest, Clay, became interested in the building, it had been gutted and turned into a store, so they renovated it instead of restoring it. But the exterior retained its Arts and Craft charm. I modeled Sally-Forth and Tally-Ho after our two dogs, a brother-and-sister pair with many talents, including investigating. And the female has carefully brought live baby animals home, apparently in the hope that we’ll help her raise them.
Judy: When we met at Bloody Words, you’d just released book two in the Threadville Mysteries. Incredibly, just three years later you’ve released book five, Seven Threadly Sins, on May 5th. Where do you come up with your ideas and how do you keep the series fresh, while staying true to the characters?
Janet: Cozy mysteries tend to have punny titles. I decided that it was easier to fit a story to a title than to come up with a pun that suited a story, so I always start with the title, my current favorite from an ever-growing list. Each title then suggests a story. In Dire Threads, Willow makes a dire threat that comes back to haunt her. In Threaded for Trouble, a killer sewing machine lives up to its name. Buried treasure and an old skeleton figure in Thread and Buried. Night of the Living Thread required a few people dressed as zombies and a trail of glow-in-the-dark thread that appears to move around by itself. Finally, Seven Threadly Sins made me plan a fashion show where sins of fashion might be committed . . . I hope that these slightly off-the-wall ideas help keep the series fresh. Characters are like people. They grow and change, but once you get to know them, you can predict fairly accurately how they’ll react in a situation. As writers, we get to throw them into predicaments (writers aren’t always very nice to their characters) and then sit back and watch them solve their problems.
Judy: I’m always fascinated by the writing processes of other authors. Tell us a bit about yours.
Janet: I tend to treat it like a job. I don’t write all day every day, or set daily goals of word numbers, but I write at least part of most days. Deadlines are great motivators. Also, there are times when my characters won’t let me rest until their stories are told. I’m not always certain that I’m the one dictating those stories, however.
Thank you, Janet.
You are very welcome! Thank you for letting me visit.
Find Janet at http://threadvillemysteries.com/
Thanks for reading!
But wait…there’s more!