Knitmare on Beech Street (A Knit & Nibble Mystery)
by Peggy Ehrhart
I am delighted to welcome Peggy Ehrhart to Escape With Dollycas today!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Southern California, in the San Fernando Valley, at a time when it was mostly rural—not at all what it is like today. My parents were both transplanted Midwesterners, almost like pioneers. They bought a few acres of land that had previously been ranch land and then farm land and my father built a two-room house, the “little house,” that we lived in while he built what we called the “big house.”
I went to college in Oregon and majored in English, then I gradually made my way across the country to the East Coast. I went to graduate school at the University of Illinois, where I got a Ph.D. in medieval literature, and accepted a job offer at a college in New York City.
I married a man I met in grad school. He moved to the East Coast and got a job in New Jersey and I ended up teaching in New Jersey too. We bought a fixer-upper house in a little New Jersey town and have been here ever since. We have a son who lives in Brooklyn.
What is the first book you remember reading?
When I was in third grade or so, I loved the books in a series about a talking pig named Freddy, which I checked out of the library on weekly visits with my mother. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was just now able to verify that, yes, this was a real series, Freddy the Pig, and there were 26 books in all, written between 1927 and 1958. The plots must have been quite timeless because I had no sense I was reading stories that were so old.
What are you reading now?
I usually prefer to read non-fiction when I’m actively writing because I don’t want to get another fiction writer’s voice in my brain.
My sister gives me books related to fashion and fiber crafts. I just finished The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux. It deals with the earlier form women’s pockets took, teardrop-shaped pouches separate from the skirts they were worn under. They usually came in pairs and they hung from a sash tied around the waist, accessed through plackets in the side seams of the skirts. They were often elaborately decorated, using various needlework techniques, which is a great part of their appeal.
What books have most inspired you?
In Emma, she very cleverly buries the clues that point to the real object of Frank Churchill’s affections, which is a major theme in the book. Any mystery writer looking to learn how to slip clues in unnoticed by the reader could learn a great deal from her.
The traditional mystery, of which the cozy is a subgenre, owes a lot to the nineteenth-century novel. The point of the traditional mystery is to puzzle the reader with a mysterious death and multiple suspects and clues (real and fake). These mystery plots, like the plots of novels by those nineteenth-century authors I mentioned, are about people living in society, human interactions, and the reasons people do what they do, rather than epic battles between good and evil.
What made you decide you wanted to write mysteries?
When I was in grad school, one of my friends was an avid mystery fan and she introduced me to the genre. After a day spent reading Beowulf or Paradise Lost, it was really a treat to relax in the evening with an engaging story that could sometimes even keep me up beyond bedtime because I just had to find out who did it!
When I decided to try my hand at writing fiction, I thought it would be easier to find a publisher for a mystery than for more serious fiction because mysteries are so extremely popular.
Do you have a special place where you like to write?
As I mentioned, my husband and I live in a rambling old house that we bought ages ago as a fixer-upper. We fixed it up. Lots of work! I’m not sure I would do it again! (I gave my protagonist in the Knit & Nibble books a similar house with a similar backstory.)
Anyway, I’m lucky to have a room of my own totally devoted to my writing. I have lots of bookshelves, filing cabinets, a long table that holds my computer, monitor, printer, extra paper, a clock . . . I also have space to store my knitting supplies and the various knitted objects I’ve created for the knitting projects that appear at the end of each of my books.
I’m not always sure—but I make sure to grab onto them when they arrive! I have a folder where I put the ideas that come to me while walking or doing chores or reading or just day-dreaming. And I’m always looking for clever clues, especially clues that can tie into the knitting theme in the books. I recently came upon a tidbit somewhere to the effect that magpies have been known to steal knitting needles and embed them somehow in their nests. I haven’t used that idea yet but it’s in my idea folder.
When it comes time to start a new book, I rummage through my idea folder to get started. Then I brainstorm quite actively, deciding on a victim and listing possible suspects, which leads to possible motives . . . which leads to possible clues . . .
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
When writing a series that has the good fortune to continue through many books, it can be very challenging to work in the background details about the characters and their world in a way that informs readers just coming to the series without boring longstanding readers with what seems repetition of things they already know.
What do you think makes a good story?
The absolute most important thing is that the reader has to sense the distinctive humanity of the protagonist. When I first started writing mysteries, I was very active in a few writing organizations and I got to know other would-be mystery writers. We shared our work with each other. I remember reading well-written stories or parts of books and asking myself why I wasn’t pulled in. At the time, I didn’t have an answer to that question, but now I think it was because I didn’t care at all about the protagonist, and that was because I didn’t feel any link with that person as a complicated fellow human.
My amateur-sleuth protagonist Pamela Paterson is pretty much a younger version of me—though I made her a widow and fortunately my sweet husband is very much alive. She has one child, a daughter, and I have one child, a son. She works as an associate editor of a craft magazine and before I retired I was an English professor who spent a lot of time correcting the grammar, spelling, and punctuation in my students’ essays.
She’s kind of an introvert, as am I, and by herself she might be a rather dreary character but I have given her a best friend and fellow amateur sleuth who is her exact opposite with regard to personality. They make a good pair. Bettina is charming and outgoing, good at getting people to reveal the very things she and Pamela need as they puzzle over the murders that unaccountably plague their pleasant little town. Pamela is more the Sherlock Holmes type, pondering evidence and clues and then having an a-ha moment when the solution to the mystery becomes clear.
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
I’m not actually sure. People who like cozies don’t want a cozy to depart too much from what they are expecting. I will say though that I’m a very domestic person, dating back to when I was growing up. My mom was always sewing or knitting or cooking or even wallpapering or reupholstering furniture. (I often say the Martha Stewart gene runs in our family—one of my cousins even worked for Martha Stewart at one point.) I think when I write about a character cooking a recipe or knitting a sweater, the reader can sense that I’m writing from real-life experience.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I just sent Knit & Nibble #11 to my editor at Kensington and am about to start a St. Patrick’s Day-themed novella to appear in Irish Soda Bread Murder, a novella collection Kensington is bringing out in 2025. The other novellas will be by Carlene O’Connor and Liz Ireland.
Thank you, Peggy, for visiting today!
About Knitmare on Beech Street
Knitmare on Beech Street (A Knit & Nibble Mystery)
10th in Series
Setting – Charming fictional town of Arborville, in northern New Jersey
Kensington Cozies (November 28, 2023)
Mass Market Paperback : 320 pages
ISBN-10 : 1496738861
ISBN-13 : 978-1496738868
Digital ASIN : B0BZBM8P55
Knit and Nibble member Pamela Paterson, and her best friend, Bettina, stumble on a body in a once grand Victorian house when they join a group welcoming new residents to Arborville—and must figure out if old secrets killed the new neighbor . . .
When Pamela, Bettina, and their friends show up at the Voorhees House to greet its new owner, they’re met with a most unwelcome sight: a dead body on the kitchen floor. Tassie Hunt just inherited the old Victorian, which had been occupied by a reclusive widow for many years and had a reputation for being haunted. But Tassie would have been unlikely to be spooked since her career involved debunking such paranormal phenomena.
Her demise sets off a new flurry of gossip and ghostly speculation in the New Jersey town, of course—and it’s tempting to think spirits were indeed involved considering there’s zero evidence so far of foul play. A nosy neighbor reports strange lights and sounds, and a man obsessed with the Victorian era starts photographing the place from the street. But it won’t take long before Pamela and Bettina are moving in on a killer . . .
Pamela led the way down the steps, down the narrow concrete path, and along the sidewalk, until they reached another concrete path. From this path, steps led up to another porch, smaller and with a plainer railing, onto which the back door opened.
Saying “I’ll try again,” Marlene hefted the gift basket and headed up the steps. As she pressed the doorbell, the rest of the group joined her on the porch one by one.
Marlene turned away after a few minutes and much enthusiastic pressing of the doorbell. “No answer,” she murmured. “And I was sure ANGWY was clear about the date and time.”
She shrugged, edged past the others, and started down the steps. Bettina, however, stepped closer to the door and tipped her head to peer at the doorframe. “I’m not sure it’s closed all the way,” she said and gave the
door a tentative push.
The door swung open easily. After a shrug and a glance at the other women, Bettina raised a stylishly shod foot and stepped over the threshold.
“Tassie?” Her voice rang out with a cheerful lilt. “Hello? It’s the ANGWY committee.”
She disappeared inside, but a moment later she was back in the doorway. Her cheer had vanished, leaving her face a wan canvas that made her careful makeup appear garish.
Ignoring her heart’s sudden lurch, Pamela took a few quick steps and joined her friend in the doorway. Bettina backed up against the door, anchoring it in a fully open position, and Pamela slipped past her into the kitchen.
A woman lay sprawled on the ancient linoleum, a slender blonde woman wearing a light cotton robe printed with small flowers in shades of blue and lilac . . .
More About Peggy Ehrhart
Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor with a doctorate in Medieval Literature. Her Maxx Maxwell mysteries, Sweet Man Is Gone(2008) and Got No Friend Anyhow (2011), were published by Five Star/Gale/Cengage and feature a blues-singer sleuth.
Peggy is currently writing the Knit & Nibble mysteries for Kensington Books. Her amateur sleuth, Pamela Paterson, is the founder and mainstay of the Arborville, New Jersey, knitting club, nicknamed Knit and Nibble. Knitmare on Beech Street is book #10 in the series. Peggy herself is an avid crafter, dating from her childhood as a member of the 4-H Club in rural Southern California.
Peggy is a longtime member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She regularly attends mystery-writing conferences and participates in conference panels. She also gives talks on mystery fiction at libraries and other venues in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Yarn Mania Blog on my website: https://peggyehrhart.com/category/yarn-mania/
Goodreads Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/534678.Peggy_Ehrhart/blog
Amazon – Barnes & Noble Bookshop.org Kobo
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December 1 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
December 2 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
December 2 – StoreyBook Reviews – AUTHOR GUEST POST
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December 4 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
December 4 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
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