Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Guest Blogger Cricket McRae

Last fall at Bouchercon in Indianapolis, a track was featured which reflected the many mysteries that involve crafts. I already knew how to knit and crochet; I knew I didn't want to get tied up in macrame; but the session on making fizzing bath salts called to me. (You may have heard me mention that I do a lot of reading in the bath tub.) Cricket McRae led this mini workshop, and I had a grand time making the bath salts and a fizzy bath bomb. (More on that at another time!)

I hadn't read Cricket's Home Crafting Mystery Series, but her plan to feature traditional women's work appealed to me and I knew it would to others. Even without reading a single book in the series, I asked Cricket if she'd be willing to guest blog for us. She was gracious in her acceptance. I know you'll enjoy getting to know her today.

First off, thanks for inviting me to guest post, Molly! I've really been looking forward to it.

Recently I spoke to a group of writers— and readers— at a library. A woman asked me why I use colonial home crafts as the backdrop to my murder mysteries. How did I decide on something so obscure? Had I done market research to see what would sell?

Um, no.

First off, I don't know that home crafts are all that obscure. Crafting mysteries abound—knitting, quilting, candle making, glass blowing, pottery, scrap booking, gift baskets, beading, wreath making, needlework, crochet—the list goes on and on, and that's not even touching on the culinary and wine mysteries. People are creative. They like to read about other people who are creative, and maybe even learn something at the same time.

Crafting mysteries are so popular that at Bouchercon last October they organized a venue in which authors of this kind of mystery taught their crafts to attendees. In fact, I met Molly in my class on fizzing bath salts. My protagonist, Sophie Mae Reynolds, has a homemade soap and bath product business, and those salts are one of her products. We had a hoot making the fizzing bath salts into solid bath bombs—some of which became burbling, growing, alien masses.

Still, with all the choices out there, why did I decide on colonial home crafts? I didn't research market share, sales ranking, discern the popularity of crafting mysteries, or try to tap into the Martha Stewart phenomenon.

I wrote what I knew.

See, I'm fascinated by the skills which once were necessary to survival. Pioneer crafts, if you will. If you wanted soap, you had to know how to make it. If you wanted food in the winter you learned how to preserve the summer's harvest. You had to know how to sew, bake, spin, weave, knit and a whole lot more.

After leaving my corporate job at a big software firm, I had an online bath products business much like Sophie Mae's. Every fall you can find me preserving produce from the garden or the farmers market. A spinning wheel sits next to my desk. It was an easy step to incorporate these activities into the mysteries I write about a widow in her mid-thirties who stumbles upon dead bodies and mysterious deaths in the small town of Cadyville, Washington.

The mysteries are contemporary, but the crafts are not. The skills that once were vital, hard work are now more like leisure activities. I blame my own home crafting obsession on early exposure to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books, as well as my creative parents. But I suspect the general resurgence of interest in these traditions is related in part to the real food, slow food, and local food movements. It might also be a reaction to an increasingly technical and less hands-on world. Plus, making something useful feels good.

My obsession recently spilled over from the books, and onto my new blog. I post there a bit about writing and mysteries, but also about cooking, gardening, knitting, and the other activities that make up my days.

The fourth Home Crafting Mystery, Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, will be released on July 1. The backdrop to this latest book is, as you've guessed from the title, cheese making. Sophie Mae learns about easy fresh cheese recipes and other milk products while investigating her brother's eighteen-year-old suicide in her home town of Spring Creek, Colorado.

For more about me and my books, please visit my website .


Keith Raffel said...

Thanks, Cricket. Terrific post. What's next for Sophie Mae?

Cricket McRae said...

Hi Keith! Sophie Mae's next case involves homemade wine and mead (and ginger ale and root beer for the little ones). I've only dabbled in this stuff, so I'm getting to do more research than usual. Poor me! ; - )

G.M. Malliet said...

The one home craft I would prefer to leave to the experts is canning or preserving. I know it's not supposed to be that complicated but I tend to think of all that could go wrong. ;-)

Thanks for a really interesting post, Cricket. And, echoing Keith, what is next?

Cricket McRae said...

G.M., you're right. Have to be careful with canning. Of course, botulism's a good way to murder someone, too. ; - )

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great post, Cricket! I love that crafts are combining with cozies. I think you're right--there are a ton of creative people out there and they're really enjoying these series!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Patricia Stoltey said...

Great post, Cricket. I'm linking to it on my blog this afternoon.

Cricket McRae said...

Thanks for dropping by everyone!

G.M., canning may be deadly indeed -- which makes it perfect fodder for a murder mystery. ; - )

Elizabeth (Riley), I love the culinary mysteries, too. Looking forward to Delicious and Suspicious.

Pat, that's very kind of you.

And Molly, I'm so glad you asked me to post. It's been such a fun time.

Msmstry said...

It was great having you, Cricket. And thanks to all of you who posted comments!

Next week Mary Kennedy will be my guest blogger. I hope you'll stop by then.

Mason Canyon said...

Enjoyed the post. It's amazing how many mystery series there are related to crafts now. I think it's wonderful. The homemade canning and preserving aspects are something I think a lot of people will be going back to as our food supply seems to be tainted more and more.

Now I'm curious about the bath salt and fuzzy bath bombs. They sound wonderful.

Deborah Sharp said...

Sophie Mae is my hero (and Cricket is, too!) Speaking as someone who doesn't have a SINGLE useful skill-- "We need food for the winter? Let me write a passage about how great food would taste right now"-- I so admire people with these pioneer qualities.

Also love the fact that Cricket came from a corporate background. Very multi-faceted, my dear!