Please welcome Jan Fields to The Qwillery. Threads of Deceit, the 1st Vineyard Quilt Mystery, is published today by Annie's.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Jan: Hi Sally, thanks for having me. I’m a plotter, for sure. I like to have all the major scenes for a book laid out in an outline before I begin. It helps me avoid the saggy middle syndrome and prevents writer’s block since I always know what I’m going to write next. It also lets me work on more than one project at a time, since I can always pick up on a book, knowing what I want to do next. But I try not to be too rigid. I’m still feeling my way a bit, since there’s often a difference between what I thought would work and what actually works, so there are always some differences when I am deeply into the actual writing.
TQ: Threads of Deceit is the first cozy in the Vineyard Quilt Mystery series. Please tell us what inspired this novel and series.
Jan: The idea for a series set in the wine country of Missouri came from someone at Annie’s publishing – let’s call her “Mae Fox.” She called me lots of times and we chatted about the potential of the series and ways it could. I bounced ideas off her, which is incredibly helpful for a writer as so much of what we do can be a really lonely creative process. I honestly didn’t even know Missouri had a wine country, but I loved the unexpected quality of that, and I wanted to bring a lot of unexpected elements to the story.
TQ: Describe Threads of Deceit in 140 characters or less.
Jan: A woman hiding from her past, but not willing to give up its adventures, finds mystery everywhere she turns--even at a quilter's inn.
TQ: Tell us something about Threads of Deceit that is not in the book description.
Jan: Like a lot of strong, adventurous people, Julie Ellis has a side kick (named Hannah in the series) who doesn’t require the limelight or applause – just a chance to protect her friend and add a snarky comment now and then. Also, if you love German food (which I do), the book has moments that will make you hungry.
TQ: What appealed to you about writing a cozy mystery? In your opinion, why do you think that cozy mysteries are so popular?
Jan: Cosy mysteries combine a lot of elements that I love (and that I suspect others do as well) – they have strong plot momentum mixed with strong characters and a little mental exercise for the reader. Things happen. I don't really have much tolerance for novels composed mostly of navel gazing. I like things to move along at a pretty good clip, with lots of cliff hangers to keep me from remembering all the other things I should be doing besides reading. But cozy mysteries don’t skimp on characters either since memorably characters are essential to a series surviving with the readers – and I love writing quirky characters. Plus, when you add in the puzzle aspect to keep folks guessing, you have one tasty read.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Threads of Deceit?
Jan: I did a ton of research on the main plot point of the story – the discovery of a steamboat buried on a farm near the Missouri River and what it took to get the boat out of the ground. And from there, I tracked steamboat routes, and the potential use of steamboats for nefarious purposes. I also did tons of research on the real Missouri wine country, including walking some Missouri roads using Google maps so I could take in the scenery and make the setting true to the story. My mom loved antiques so I’m not totally ignorant about them, but Julie was an expert, so I had to do some study of antiques as well.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Jan: Hannah was probably easiest because she is really a lot like me. The things she says and her attitudes are very much mine. But Julie was tons of fun, and I did relate to her restlessness as I get restless when I don’t have a project to work on, even when I’m in a lovely place with lovely people. Honestly, I’m rather lazy so I don’t tend to create many characters who will be hard to write – they all contain a bit of me, or of someone I know. If I had to pick the hardest, it would probably be Daniel, just because I had to put some time into understanding his world and his work.
TQ: Which question about Threads of Deceit do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Question: How important is the romance to Threads of Deceit?
Answer: Moderately important. I like a little romance in a story. I think it’s fun, and it’s a great distraction for the main character to keep her on her toes. But one thing I really prefer in my female leads is a woman who is really comfortable being alone, and Julie is definitely that. She might be a mess in a dozen other areas, but I generally don’t write female leads who believe life is going to be perfect if she just meets the right man. In fact, often my female leads are a little skeptical about romance. They aren’t hostile towards men, but they’re not looking either. I’m not interested in a the whole “I hate you” then “I love you” transformation. I much prefer friendships with a side order of light flirting.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Threads of Deceit.
Jan: There’s an exchange in the first chapter that perfectly sums up the way Julie and her friend Hannah interact. Julie says, “I’ll have to do something to keep things interesting.” And Hannah replies, “That’s exactly what has me worried.” I love that bit because Hannah is often the voice of reason (and maybe a little worry) while Julie is one of those people who never saw a locked door that she didn’t want to open or a sound in the darkness that she didn’t want to chase.
TQ: What's next?
Jan: Well, Julie and Hannah will continue to have adventures and serve the fine visitors to the Quilt Haus Inn, though I won’t be on board for all of those books, I do hope to be on board for some. I’m presently working on two new cozy mystery series and one children’s book series, all very different and all rather hush-hush at this point. I will say that my research right now is on Amish Christmas celebrations, Southern treats, and diving on the Florida keys. I do love variety!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Jan: Thank you for having me and letting me talk about Julie and her adventures in Threads of Deceit.
Threads of Deceit
Vineyard Quilt Mystery 1
Annie's, April 1, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 224 pages
The first in a new mystery series—for quilters and mystery lovers alike!
Former antiquities bounty hunter, Julie Ellis, is on the run, trying to stay one stiletto step ahead of her past. She accepts a position as manager of the Quilt Haus Inn in Missouri wine country, thinking it the perfect place to keep a low profile and start a new, less-dangerous career. It is—until Daniel Franklin walks through the door and asks for a room.
Daniel claims he’s come to Straussberg in search of a famous sunken ship that he believes is buried in a nearby farm field. Julie finds the handsome historian’s story odd at best, but when a dead body is discovered at the proposed dig site, it becomes clear somebody else believes the theory and doesn’t want the ship or its secrets exposed. Who in the town would possibly care about the old shipwreck? As frightening things start to happen at the inn—all seemingly connected to the hunt for the missing ship—Julie and her quilting friends must unearth the truth before someone else is buried.
INCLUDES A FREE QUILTING PATTERN INSPIRED BY THE STORY!
Threads of Deceit is the first novel in the new Vineyard Quilt Mystery series from Annie's. This is Annie's first foray into fiction publishing made available outside of its cozy mystery book clubs and I have to say I thrilled that Annie's have done so. Please note: This is the first of the Annie's books I've read.
Threads of Deceit features Julie Ellis and her sidekick Hannah Marks. Julie recovers antiques and sometimes she runs afoul of the people she recovers those antiques from. She's headed to Straussberg, Missouri with Hannah to change careers and lie low.
Threads of Deceit is a delight. Julie is a wonderful character - flawed and likeable. She may be running from her past but her unique skill set will certainly come into use. Hannah is a great foil for Julie. Hannah tends to be less of a risktaker than Julie but does support her friend. Their relationship as long term friends is beautifully done. They've worked together a long time and have an easy camaraderie that was a delight to read. They are settling into their new life at the Quilt Haus Inn (Hannah works there too) when Daniel Franklin registers as a guest and soon unintentionally upends their new quiet lives.
Julie gets embroiled in trying to figure out who is trying to stop the excavation of the ship that Daniel is trying to excavate. Daniel does not have the stomach for sleuthing but helps in other ways. There is also a sweet budding romance that starts to develop between them. Daniel is well done. Like Julie there is a lot of his background in the story. He's extremely likeable but not an alpha male. He's definitely happy letting Julie take the lead on figuring out what is going on. He just wants to dig up that ship and open a museum... and not get murdered.
The Quilt Haus Inn is really well portrayed. I got a real feel for the hotel, the guests and the staff - some of whom are quite unique. It's is a very important backdrop to the story. All sorts of tidbits about quilting are in the story and, while not a quilter, I found all of this fascinating. True to the title of the series there are vineyards in the story. They serve as backdrop to some of the events.
Fields writing is crisp and the plot moves at a wonderful pace. The mystery kept me guessing though there were a couple of hints and I did start to suspect who might have done it. Threads of Deceit is a fabulous start to the new Vineyard Quilt Mysteries with terrific and engaging characters, an intriguing mystery and a great setting. I'm looking forward to Julie's next adventure!
Jan Fields is the author of over two dozen books, including many in the popular Annie’s Attic Mysteries series, the Annie’s Quilted Mysteries series, and the Annie's Mysteries Unraveled Series. She also writes action-adventure books, fantasy novels, and mysteries for children. Her short fiction and articles have appeared in a variety of magazine publications. She lives in Ledyard, Connecticut.