It’s Not Always a Mystery – Until It Is

By Maddie Day/Edith Maxwell

Thanks so much for inviting me over, Debra! It’s been such a delight to be on this publishing path with you for the last however-many years.

When I thought about what to write for a coveted guest spot on Debra’s blog, I rolled the title of her web site around in my mind. This is the last post of the not very many I’ve written for the release of Four Leaf Cleaver. (What can I say? I was disorganized in the fall, and the book is my 29th published mystery. With three mysteries in three series coming out each year, I don’t always stay on top of promotion.)

“It’s Not Always a Mystery” – hmm. Is it always a mystery or isn’t it?

The books I write are always mysteries, on the traditional/cozy/historical spectrum. That high-level label is a given. Open one of my books and you can safely say, “It’s a mystery.”

My plot at the start of my writing process? That’s mostly a mystery. I do scribble (okay, type) a page or two of prose recounting a possible plot and send it to my editor before I start writing. That serves as a dim road map as I feel my way through the story. But it’s also a map with dead ends and without lots of new roads that pop up hour by hour. Frankly, I’d rather not know what’s going to happen before I write it.

Another mystery is when characters do and say things I did not intend and had no idea were going to happen. Do other writers feel like you’re channeling when that happens? It’s delightful and isn’t an everyday occurrence. I find how it happens completely mysterious.

Also a mystery for someone writing into the headlights as I do? Who the murderer is. During the start of the book, I come up with three to five plausible suspects. But because I’m following them around and writing down what they do, I’m sometimes not sure which one was responsible for that dead body that pops up toward the beginning of the book. I’ve had books where I am three-quarters done and it still isn’t apparent. I scold myself, saying, “Pick one, already!”

So, in line with Deb’s blog title, what isn’t a mystery for me?

Deadlines. I have three or more hard submission deadlines every year, and I’ve never turned in a book late without prior permission. Right now, for example, I’m writing a first draft of Deep Fried Death, Country Store Mystery #12. The book is due April first. Normally that would be plenty of time for this efficient writer. Except…my son is getting married in Puerto Rico in two weeks and I plan not to work for about twelve days before and after the celebration. I asked my editor for a two-week extension. Because I’m never late, he said, “Sure.”

Hark work. Yes, being an author involves working hard. No mystery there. I show up at my desk ready to work by seven every morning. Some days my 1500 words flow out easily, sometimes writing them is a really strenuous weight workout. But I show up, fingers on the keyboard, and they get written.

Support. I’ve never worked in a more generous, supportive professional community than crime fiction writers. Sisters in Crime has a lot to do with that. I’ve had mentors and peers who uplift me (including Debra). I’ve become lifelong friends with teachers and friendly author pals.

But maybe everyone can be kind and helpful because we get to write dark and nefarious doings on the page, describe backstabbers (sometimes literally) and bad people, and then resolve it all to the benefit of the community. We get to be nasty in our fiction and then put the world right. Why should we be mean and stingy in person?

Readers: What’s one mystery you face, and what one thing isn’t a mystery?

In Four Leaf Cleaver, there’s no mistaking Saint Patrick’s Day at Pans ’N Pancakes, where the shelves of vintage cookware in her southern Indiana store are draped with Kelly-green garlands and her restaurant is serving shepherd’s pie and Guinness Beer brownies. The big event, however, is a televised Irish cooking competition to be filmed on site. Unfortunately, someone’s luck has run out. Before the cameras start rolling, tough-as-nails producer Tara O’Hara Moore is found upstairs in her B&B room, a heavy cleaver left by her side. Now, not only does Robbie have a store full of festive decorations, she’s got a restaurant full of suspects . . .

Maddie Day pens the Country Store Mysteries, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, and the new Cece Barton Mysteries. As Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell, she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and award-nominated short crime fiction. A proud lifetime member of Sisters in Crime, Day/Maxwell lives with her beau and cat Martin north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. Find her at, Wicked Authors, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, and on social media: BookBub,Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

13 thoughts on “It’s Not Always a Mystery – Until It Is”

  1. I like the idea of your latest mystery it reads like a new winner. I also like the idea of Guinness brownies it must make for a lighter batter and a richer flavor. Have a wonderful 2023. Kat

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