Please welcome Jennifer David Hesse to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Midsummer Night's Mischief will be published on July 26th by Kensington.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Jennifer: Thank you for having me! I think I’ve been writing on and off my whole life, whether for school or fun or just to get my thoughts on paper. I’ve filled diaries, posted blogs, and written a few fiction pieces. But it wasn’t until I turned forty that I decided to get serious and write a book for publication. I guess the “why” is that I felt called to do it. No matter how many other priorities vied for my attention, I always came back to this desire to write for an audience other than myself.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Jennifer: I’m a hybrid. I start out with a rough outline and a general sense as to where the story will end up. Then I start writing, and additional ideas pour out. It’s always fun to look back at something I just wrote and think: Wow, I had no idea that was going to happen.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Jennifer: Making the time to sit down and do it. I know lack of time is a convenient excuse, but it’s a real challenge. I have a day job and a family, as well as normal day-to-day responsibilities like everyone has. Still, I’m a firm believer that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Jennifer: What hasn’t? :) Everything influences me, from the people around me and things happening in popular culture, to books I’ve read. I read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction. It would be hard to identify a single influence.
TQ: Describe Midsummer Night's Mischief in 140 characters or less.
Jennifer: A closet Wiccan, Keli casts a spell to find love. When a client’s rare book disappears, she needs more than magic to catch the thief.
(Incidentally, this is the tweet that caught the attention of my literary agent, Rachel Brooks, in a #PitMad Twitter contest.)
TQ: Tell us something about Midsummer Night's Mischief that is not found in the book description.
Jennifer: There’s a secondary mystery that runs throughout the series. Keli has an aunt who ran off to join a commune in the early 1970s, and later disappeared. Yet she still sends postcards every few years. This idea of a mystery within a mystery is also related to one of the themes of the series, which is the inherent mystery in life itself. There is mystery in nature, in the interconnectedness of all things, in the unexplainable coincidences that happen all the time. Since Keli is Wiccan, she embraces this mystery as part of the Divine.
TQ: What inspired you to write Midsummer Night's Mischief? What appeals to you about writing cozy mysteries?
Jennifer: Basically, I set out to write the book I wanted to read. I’ve always enjoyed and sought out mystery novels with strong, smart female detectives, from Nancy Drew to Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler and Nancy Pickard's Jenny Cain. I like cozies because of their lighter tone and more fun reading experience. There’s enough depressing real-life news around the world, so I didn’t want to include a lot of violence. I also wanted to write something that’s easy to read. Serious, literary works have their place, but my intent was to write something entertaining and engaging. To me, the best mysteries have an interesting puzzle to unravel, some suspense and intrigue, as well as some human interest (usually in the form of a touch of romance). The best cozies have all of those elements.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Midsummer Night's Mischief?
Jennifer: I did a lot of internet research about various topics featured in the book, including Shakespeare’s First Folio (which is the stolen book that launches the mystery) and about the religion of Wicca. I wanted to make sure I got my facts and details right—and I especially wanted to portray Wicca in a realistic and respectful way.
TQ: In Midsummer Night's Mischief who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Jennifer: Hmm. I suppose the main character, Keli, might fall into both of those categories. In some ways, she was the easiest to write, because she’s a sympathetic character and because she shares some of the same sensibilities as myself. (For example, we’re both vegetarians. However, with Keli, I took it a step further and made her vegan.) On the other hand, I wanted to make sure that she was NOT me, or some glamorized version of myself. It was my challenge to flesh her out and make sure she behaved and made decisions based on the unique experiences I wrote for her.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Midsummer Night's Mischief?
Jennifer: This book doesn't overtly address social issues, but the context naturally implicates a few. There’s religious freedom: Keli doesn’t come out as a Wiccan, because she’s afraid she’ll be judged and discriminated against. She’s also environmentally conscious and leads a healthy lifestyle. (I like to think of her as a heroine for the 21st century.) There are one or two other social issues that come up, but I can’t mention them without giving a spoiler alert. So, I won’t! …Oh, and I guess the reason for indirectly including social problems is that the book is meant to be a reflection of real life, even while keeping the tone and story consistent with what’s expected for genre fiction.
TQ: Which question about Midsummer Night's Mischief do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Jennifer: “What is a Wiccan Wheel?”
I’m not sure if this is self-evident, but the “Wiccan Wheel” in the series title (Wiccan Wheel Mysteries) refers to the Wheel of the Year. This is a seasonal calendar followed by many modern Pagan traditions, including Wicca. The Wheel of the Year is made up of eight sabbats, or holidays, that track the path of the sun and the corresponding mythological journey of the God and Goddess along the ever-repeating cycle of life. To me, honoring the sabbats seems like such an interesting and beautiful way to be present and attune yourself to the rhythms of nature. So, each book in this series takes place around one of the sabbats, the first being Midsummer (also known as Litha), which occurs at the summer solstice.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Midsummer Night's Mischief.
“Shakespeare may have written about hags, but he wrote about fairies, too. It’s all magic, don’t you think?”
“Up ahead we could see firelight flickering behind a wall of trees and hear the rise and fall of spirited voices. All at once, I knew what it was.”
TQ: What's next?
Jennifer: Next, I continue to work on creating and promoting the rest of the books in this series. The second title, Bell, Book and Candlemas, is slated to be released at the end of this year. And I’m currently drafting the third book, which takes place around Yule at the winter solstice.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Jennifer: It’s been a pleasure!
Midsummer Night's Mischief
A Wiccan Wheel Mystery 1
Kensington, July 26, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
As the Summer Solstice approaches in idyllic Edindale, Illinois, attorney Keli Milanni isn't feeling the magic. She's about to land in a cauldron of hot water at work. Good thing she has her private practice to fall back on--as a Wiccan. She'll just have to summon her inner Goddess and set the world to rights. . .
Midsummer Eve is meant for gratitude and celebration, but Keli is not in her typically upbeat mood. The family of a recently deceased client is blaming her for the loss of a Shakespearean heirloom worth millions, and Keli's career may be on the line. With both a Renaissance Faire and a literary convention in town, Edindale is rife with suspicious characters, and the intrepid attorney decides to tap into her unique skills to crack the case. . .
But Keli weaves a tangled web when her investigation brings her up-close and personal with her suspects--including sexy Wes Callahan, her client's grandson. The tattooed bartender could be the man she's been looking for in more ways than one. As the sun sets on the mystical holiday, Keli will need just a touch of the divine to ferret out the real villain and return Edindale, and her heart, to a state of perfect harmony. . ..
Bell, Book & Candlemas
A Wiccan Wheel Mystery 2
Kensington, December 27, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
A new year has barely begun and Edindale, Illinois, family law attorney Keli Milanni already has her hands full at work. But her private practice—as a Wiccan—may cause her worlds to collide…
The Wiccan holiday of Candlemas is right around the corner, but when vandals target New Age gift shop Moonstone Treasures, the mood is far from festive. Frightening threats and accusations of witchcraft aimed at the owner have some Wiccan patrons calling it a hate crime. And when things escalate to murder, the community turns to Keli…
As a friend and customer, Keli wants to help. But there’s one problem: she’s fiercely private about her religion. How can she stop the harassment, not to mention catch a killer, while keeping her faith hidden from her colleagues, clients, and her promising—and long awaited—new boyfriend? At a time meant to banish darkness, will Keli have to choose between risking the spotlight and keeping her beliefs locked in the proverbial broom closet? Or will she call on her deepest convictions to conjure the perfect path?...
Jennifer David Hesse is an environmental attorney by day and author by night. Midsummer Night's Mischief is her debut book in the new Wiccan Wheel series. Born and raised in Central Illinois, Jennifer now makes her home in Chicago with her husband, guitarist Scott Hesse, and their daughter, Sage. When she's not writing, Jennifer enjoys yoga, hiking, and movie night with her family. Please visit her at JenniferDavidHesse.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJenniferDavidHesse