Welcome to Cozy Wednesday! I am thrilled to welcome Virginia Lowell, author of the Cookie Cutter Shop Mysteries to Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book. After reading the first book in the series Cookie Dough or Die I knew I had to invite her to my blog, not only because I liked the book, but because she is a complete mystery herself. She has added a web page, but no Facebook page or even a picture of Virginia has been leaked. I love mysteries so I am glad she is here today and that we get to learn a little bit more about the author behind these delicious stories.
Thanks so much for having me here today. I admit I’ve haunted Cozy Wednesday, searching for new series to read, so I’m delighted to be included. The opportunity started me thinking about how much I’ve enjoyed hearing from—and learning from—cozy readers since the first book in the Cookie Cutter Shop series came out. Many readers have asked about my characters, especially Olivia and her best friend since age ten, Maddie. Am I like them in any way? Do they represent people I know? How did I create them? I decided it would be fun to muse a bit about those questions.
I grew up in a small midwestern town, and that experience formed me. In a small town, everybody knows everybody, for better or for worse. Resentments can run deep and last for decades or more. At the same time, we had to learn to get along as best we could. If your neighbor is the only dentist in town, it’s a good idea to keep disagreements under control. Dentists have drills, and they know how to use them.
Part of me wishes I were back in my little hometown, and the other part (the writer-with-a-deadline part) couldn’t stand the interruptions. If one more person drops by to chat, I might have to do away with her. I guess that makes me more like my murderers? But am I like Olivia or Maddie? I wish. But I have given Olivia and Maddie some characteristics I’d like to possess. The truth is, I’m not as focused as Olivia, and I don’t have her business sense. Numbers confuse me, I never know what time it is, and I often get lost. Olivia would never mistake north for south, as I inevitably do. And Olivia is taller. Much taller. I think we do share an interest in people, in what makes them tick. For me, creating and developing characters over time is one of the greatest joys of writing the Cookie Cutter Shop series, though writing about cookies is a close second.
Maddie, too, is taller than I am, and she has far more energy. But I do enjoy Maddie. If the pace of a story is slowing down, I know Maddie will add a spark simply by walking through the door. I share Maddie’s antipathy toward math and her love of color. However, she is a computer whiz, which I am so very not. And I can only aspire to create cookies as lovely as hers.
Here’s where Olivia, Maddie, and I are most alike: None of us can resist a mystery.
Are Olivia and Maddie like people I know? I don’t ever base a character on a real person, but I might notice physical characteristics, mannerisms, ways of speaking, and personality traits that might pop up in a character. I’m a people watcher, as are most writers. I know people who are compassionate, rather than judgmental. I like that trait, so I gave it to Olivia. I know individuals who are exuberant, with an infectious sense of fun, like Maddie. But neither Olivia nor Maddie is really like anyone I’ve ever known because they have other qualities, as well. They also have personal histories that helped to form them.
As for how I create characters, it is through a combination of brainstorming and… mystery. I wish I could claim that I have each character mapped out ahead of time, but that would be fiction. I start by brainstorming what role the character might play in the story, physical characteristics, personality traits, and past, using what I call bubble diagrams. (I thought I invented the process until my husband informed me there are numerous books about “mind mapping.” Bummer.) Once I have a sense of the character, I put him or her in a scene with other characters. That’s when I discover I’m not really in charge. The character might show a softer side than I’d planned for her. Or the shy, serious one has a twinkling sense of humor. Who knew? It takes time for their secrets to emerge. I may think I know the identity of the murderer, or even the victim, but more often than not I am wrong. Don’t ask me to explain it; I’d rather not know why it happens this way. Because, hey, I’m a mystery reader, too, and I don’t enjoy a predictable ending. What fun would that be?
Thank you for stopping by today Virginia!! You keep creating characters and we will keep reading and eating way too many cookies.
A Cookie Before Dying
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
Published by The Penguin Group
A Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery
2nd in the Series
Cover Illustration by Mary Ann Lasher
Cover Design by George Lang
SUGAR KILLS! or at least that is what Charlene Critch, owner of The Vegetable Plate wants you to believe. Her fliers are found all over the yard of the Olivia’s and Maddie’s store,The Gingerbread House. When Livie decides to confront Charlene about the mess, she finds Charlene’s store has been trashed and sees a man running out the back door.
Of course Charlene doesn’t believe Livie’s story about the intruder, but even against the wishes of Sheriff Del Jenkins, Livie gets involved in the investigation. When she finds a dead body in the park that looks suspiciously like the intruder she knows there is more to worry about than the “DEMON SUGAR”. There is a murderer on the loose in Chatterley Heights!
Virginia Lowell has whipped up an intricate plot, added colorful characters, a dash of humor and a pinch of romance to create the perfect cozy mystery.
While Olivia is the star, Maddie is my favorite character. I would love to have just half of her energy. She is dealing with some issues in her past so we get to see her vulnerable side as well. The fact the Livie and Maddie have been friends since childhood just touches my heart. That they can work together and be involved in each others lives 24/7 reveals an unbelievably strong bond that is truly a treasure.
A very entertaining read but beware you will either have to urge to start baking cut-out cookies or eat a lot of them. Wonderful for this time of year or in my case year round.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Virginia Lowell is the national bestselling author of the Cookie Cutter Shop mystery series. Join Olivia and Maddie as they bake and sleuth in A Cookie Before Dying, their second adventure in the series. The first installment is Cookie Dough or Die, and the third, When The Cookie Crumbles, will be released in August 2012.
You can visit Virginia at: www.virginialowell.com
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