I'd like to welcome Jan Fields to the blog today. Jan writes the Vineyard Quilt Mystery series, the first of which, Threads of Deceit, was just released this past Wednesday!
Kathy: I love the idea of an antiquities bounty hunter. How did you get the idea of one?
JF: I'm a huge Indiana Jones fan, and I wanted to bring a little of that to a cozy. Obviously we can't stay true to the genre and have her rushing around the world, dealing with International bad guys, and dodging booby traps -- but what if you took a female Indy and gave her a reason to keep a low profile? How would her natural tendency to get into trouble manifest? Those questions fueled my characterization of Julie Ellis.
Kathy: Wine is now produced in all 50 states in the US, a wonderful fact for wine lovers like me. I'm lucky enough to live in the midst of 3 distinct viticultural regions in New York. Can you tell us about Missouri wine country?
JF: The location for the series is not one I chose personally, but I do love the unexpectedness of it. I know I don't immediately associate Missouri with wine, so that was something my editor told me about and it just delighted me. And I like the fact that it's a wine making that's very influenced by the German traditions.
Kathy: I love all types of wine, but admit that Gewürztraminer is my favorite. Do you have a favorite wine?
JF: I'm really not a wine enthusiast. If you pour me a glass, I can tell if I like it or not. But I must say, the wines from the German traditions tend to be my favorites.
Kathy: I've always wanted to learn how to quilt, but never have. Are you a quilter?
JF: I come from an extended family of quilters. I have an aunt who is brilliant at it. I have made exactly two quilts. One I made for my college roommate many years ago, and the second was a tiny quilt I made from worn flannel shirts for my daughter when she was born. I thought of it as being wrapped up in her Daddy's love since they were all shirts of his -- he's a flannel kind of guy.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
JF: Cozies offer so much opportunity for characterization because character really plays as much a part as the mystery itself. Folks want to follow the puzzle, of course, but -- even more -- they want to get to know these people. And that gives me a chance to play with humor as well. I have never fallen in love with a book or a man that didn't make me laugh, so I like that cozies offer me the chance to be funny as well as mysterious and adventurous.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JF: I write kids’ books as well as adult cozies. My kids’ books are mostly action-adventure with a touch of mystery and often a little fantasy as well. I like to genre mix.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JF: The Vineyard Quilt Mysteries are about a very adventurous woman trying to fit into a very quiet, slightly quirky place. Julie Ellis has run into some trouble as an antiques bounty hunter and she needs to lay low, along with her business partner and best friend Hannah. They Julie discovers an opportunity to run a quilter's inn for a distant relative, and she drags Hannah along. The inn would surely be the perfect place to hide, except that Julie isn't good at hiding. She is good at finding herself in the midst of mystery, adventure, trouble, and maybe a dab of romance now and then.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JF: In this series, I love Hannah, Julie's friend. Her sense of humor is very dry, and she's someone who calls things as she sees them. Julie doesn't fool her -- and she doesn't let Julie fool herself either. I admire Julie's fearlessness, but I relate more to Hannah, plus Hannah loves to bake and so do I.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JF: Indiana Jones, for sure, was an inspiration. And when I created the character of Inga, I very much pictured the kind of gothic, foreboding female character who is mysterious and a bit ominous. I’m a packrat when I write, always digging through a zillion different little bits of inspiration to build a book.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JF: I’ve been a writer for all of my adult life. My degree is in journalism, and I’ve written for newspapers and magazines. I’ve even done writing for a toy company – I wrote the text on the packages and wrote some stories to go with dolls. Since writing is my job, I’m always open to new opportunities and options. I got into the Annie’s novels because I had done some other writing for them, and they approached me when they decided to do cozy novels. I’d never written fiction for adults, but I said I was willing to try. And I loved it. I’ve done books for them in several series, but this Vineyard Quilt Mystery series is very special since it’s going to sell in bookstores. The other books I’ve done for them have sold through their subscription service.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JF: Depends upon how much of a ruckus I wanted. But in terms of folks I’d enjoy chatting with, I’d invite Stephen King because he’s so good at characterization. You have to be, if you’re going to write horror. It just doesn’t work if you can’t make the reader care about the characters. And he’s blunt – I like that. I’d also invite Neil Gaiman, because he’s brilliant and very kind, and there’s always the chance his brilliance is contagious. And I’d invite Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (since I can bring folks back from the dead) so I could tell them how much their mysteries meant to me when I was young.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JF: I do book reviews for a children’s magazine: DISCOVERY GIRLS, so I’m always reading books for middle grade girls. I’m just finishing up Meg Cabot’s first book for a new series: FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS. It’s really adorable. I would probably try to sneak Meg Cabot into my pretend dinner party because she’s just so fun. I’m also reading Seanan McGuire’s fantasy novel: POCKET APOCALYPSE for another review venue. I love Seanan McGuire’s work across the board – she’s so good at mixing action and humor.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JF: I spend so many hours writing that I don’t have time for a lot of hobbies these days. I can sew and crochet and tat and embroider. When I was younger I designed soft toys for a while, so I sew pretty well. I also draw a bit and right now I’m learning pyrography. My husband makes cutting boards and other wood-working projects, and I bustle around and collect the scraps to make bookmarks. I love bookmarks, and I burn pictures on them with a simple wood-burning tool like we all messed around with as kids.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JF: Oatmeal. I just love oatmeal – it’s my ultimate comfort food. And chocolate, because I’m not entirely sure I’d be a writer without chocolate. And Earl Grey tea. I don’t drink coffee but tea fuels my morning wake up. And cheese. My daughter and I are both crazy for cheese, and we buy fantastic artisan cheeses locally. Yum.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JF: I actually just signed eight contracts for more cozy novels. I’m going to be working on a fantastic series that will be available through Annie’s subscription service. I can’t spill a lot of details about it but it’s going to be probably the most kooky group of characters I’ve worked with so far, and it lets me play with my Southern roots a bit. And there are other series that are all in the hush-hush stage, but I’m pretty much open to anything Annie’s would like me to do. I’ve come to love cozy writing.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JF: I love that it has let me be home for every day of my daughter’s life. It was a tough juggle when she was tiny, but it’s allowed me to have a job and be the kind of mom I really wanted to be. I know a lot of folks don’t have that option. Writing lets me make money from something I would be doing anyway, which is tell myself stories. From the time I was a little girl, I’ve always told myself stories – stories to change the world around me or stories to explore the world around me. In stories, I can be the best kind of me. And I’m incredibly blessed that folks have enjoyed those stories and let me make it my career.
GHOST LIGHT BURNING [ABDO/January 2015]
WELLSPRING OF MAGIC [Annie’s Publishing/April 2015] EMERALD DRAGON [Annie’s Publishing/May 2015]