Kathy: Gwen Fifield gets caught outside wearing her pajamas-fun flannel with sushi rolls and takeout boxes. Do you wear fun pjs?
JC: Sadly, I don't. My husband is not a fan of that sort of nightwear. I do harbor a secret wish to own a pair of Hello Kitty pajama pants.
Kathy: Being from Buffalo, NY I know a bit about Millard Fillmore. How did he become central to a New Hampshire mystery?
JC: Since Gwen works in a post office my first thought for a mystery featuring her was one involving stamps. As I began researching stamps Millard Fillmore's practice of taking advantage of the franking privilege after he left office caught my eye. For those who are as unfamiliar with this term as I was, privilege franking allows certain individuals to use their signature in place of postage and is supposed to be used for official business exclusively. This sort of moral grayness made me wonder what else Millard Fillmore might have gotten up to. As I dug a little deeper, his alleged ties to the Know Nothing Party surfaced. The Know Nothings , also known as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner had a presence in many states including New Hampshire. It was a bit of poetic license to place Millard Fillmore on the campaign trail in a fictional New Hampshire town.
Kathy: New Hampshire appears to play a big part in your writing, can you share more about your love for the state?
JC: I have lived in New Hampshire since I was a 8 years old. I love the weather and the natural beauty. I love the small town feel and pace of life here. I love the innate practicality of the citizenry. I love the accent. I love the architecture and the dry sense of humor. Just about the only things I really don't like are the black flies!
Kathy: Most people wouldn't believe that as a New Yorker I live in the midst of many maple syrup producers. Of course, I am a resident of NY state, NOT NY City. I've been fortunate to taste maple syrup straight from the tree. Your upcoming series involves maple syrup farmers. Do you have a love of things maple?
JC: I love that maple is a classic. It automatically generates feelings of nostalgia. And I am impressed with its versatility. You can use it on anything from waffles to maple bacon fudge.
Kathy: Is firefighting in your blood? Do you come from a family of firefighters? If not, is there a specific reason for your interest?
JC: One of my brothers-in law is a retired firefighter so there is one in the family. However, I believe my reason for choosing a firefighter for my first mystery is not based on current family members but on an event in my family's past. My paternal grandfather perished in a fire that burnt down the family farm. There was quite a bit of mystery to the circumstances of the fire. My best guess is that hearing my father tell stories about this tragedy planted a seed in my own imagination.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
JC: Cozy mysteries are a great way to enjoy the puzzle part of mystery novels while also visiting people and places you might actually enjoy if murder weren't a common occurrence. I always feel like I've been catching up with old friends when I either read or write a cozy mystery.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JC: I do, but so far not for publication. I am noodling up another couple of ideas that I am having fun with and hope will turn into something to share with readers eventually. My other work is still in the mystery genre.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JC: In my Granite State Mysteries series volunteer fire chief, Gwen Fifield, fends off doughnut cravings, romantic advances and sisterly advice as she pursues an arsonist turned murderer through her tiny New Hampshire village. In the Sugar Grove Mysteries fourth generation sugar maker, Dani Greene, finds herself in a situation that is anything but sweet as she hunts down a murderer who used her family's syrup to poison the most unpopular woman in town at a pancake eating contest.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JC: Of my own characters I would have to say my protagonists, Gwen and Dani are my favorites. Considering how long it takes to write a novel, you have to really feel passionately about someone to want to spend that much time looking at the world through her eyes. I do also have a terrible soft spot for Gwen's sister Augusta and Dani's grandmother, Olive. As far as characters from other books go, one of my all-time favorites is Emma Graham from the series of books that start with Cold Flat Junction by Martha Grimes.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JC: For my first series the protagonist grew from loss. The beloved post mistress in the village in which I live retired. I missed her and decided the only way to fill the void was to make up a new post mistress. Gwen sprang to life and I have been enjoying her company ever since. In my second series I had been thinking about rural New Hampshire and extended families. Dani and Sugar Grove evolved from there.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JC: I think almost every writer wants to be published. Stories are made to be shared. Submitting work to agents and publishers feels intimidating and leads to a great deal of heartache. At one point I received 8 rejections in 7 days. That was rough. But the rewards of publication are worth it. For me, there is nothing like receiving an email from a reader telling me he or she enjoyed my work. I am so grateful every time it happens!
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JC: P.G. Wodehouse, Charlotte MacLeod, E.F. Benson and Lloyd Alexander.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JC: American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JC: I love to knit and to garden. I am fascinated by the art of bento. I love throwing parties with themes. I am happiest when I am on the beach no matter what the weather.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JC: Cheese, sriracha, kale and my latest food obsession, Nathan's Sweet Horseradish Pickles. They are so good I can't bear to throw out the juice when the jar is empty so I refill it with shredded carrots or cabbage or even thinly sliced daikon radish. This gets me by until I can get down to the grocer and buy more jars of the real pickles!
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JC: I have things in the works for both. I am completing a second book in the Granite State series entitled Body of Water in which Gwen and the fire department are faced with flooding. And my contract for Sugar Grove is for three books so the first will be out in October, 2013, with a book each year in 2014 and 2015 as well.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JC: There are so many things to love about being a writer. I love hearing from readers and interacting with the incredible community of writers, especially crime writers. I love the challenges of the work itself which is so engaging mentally and emotionally. I love that my job is to make stuff up.I get up every day and play with my imaginary friends. But, I think the very best thing of all, is that I never have to have a bad day. For someone who writes, especially crime stories, the worse things get, the better they get. Every rude cashier, aggressive driver or corrupt local politician is inspiration.I just look at unpleasant people and ask myself if I would more enjoy killing them off on paper or having them end up being a murderer. Someday I think I will write a book about a serial killer who only bops off parents who scream obscenities at their small children in grocery stores. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face!
Kathy: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
JC: It was my pleasure. Thanks so very much for having me!