INTERVIEW WITH MADDIE DAY

The pseudonymous Maddie Day is a woman of mystery—which is fitting, given the kinds of books she writes. These include the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, which debuted in December 2018 with MURDER ON CAPE COD. Under her true name, Edith Maxwell, she is the Agatha- and Macavity Award-nominated author of the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. She lives north of Boston with her beau and two elderly cats, and enjoys cooking and gardening when she’s not writing.  

MURDER ON CAP COD marks a unique collaboration between Day’s publisher, Kensington, and Barnes & Noble, who will carry the book exclusively in paperback until January of 2020; it will then be re-released on all platforms. The title recently reached #1 on B&N Stores’ Bestsellers in Mass Market Paperbacks. As I noted in a review for Criminal Element, “Maddie Day has written a book that will beckon to every mystery lover who’s dared to wonder what would happen if they were to find themselves embroiled in a real-life whodunit. A promising launching point for a series that has infinite potential and possibilities.” 

Recently, the author shared her thoughts on the origin and execution of her new book, as well as a glimpse at what’s to come …

John B. Valeri: What inspired the idea for MURDER ON CAPE COD – and how do the Cozy Capers serve as stand-ins for those of us who have ever wondered what it would be like to live within a real-life murder mystery?

Maddie Day: My editor at Kensington Publishing suggested a book group series. Since I write another cozy mystery series for him, I thought the twist for the group to only read cozies would be fun. After the group starts talking about the real murder, one character says, “We’re in our own cozy mystery!” Protagonist Mac Almeida promptly tries to quash that idea, but in fact she and the group members do put their heads together to try to solve it.

JBV: Speaking of which: How did you research book clubs to come up with the group’s bylaws, and in what ways does this element add a sense of meta to the mystery?

MD: I’m not in a group myself, but I am invited to quite a few to talk about my books. I asked members of several different book clubs to talk about the issues of who can be a member, how they figure out when to meet and which books to read, and so on. Yes, the concept is meta – and I like that!

JBV: Mac is an amateur sleuth and business owner who finds herself embroiled in a murder when she literally stumbles upon the body. Can you talk about the collision of her personal and professional lives, and how this gives her believable reasons to investigate crimes? 

MD: She owns a bike shop on the main street of fictional Westham and lives behind it in a tiny house. In Murder on Cape Cod, her brother is accused of the crime, so she works desperately to help clear his name. Being a local businessperson brings her in contact with nearly everybody in town as well as with tourists – some of whom might be suspects, too.

JBV: The series is set on Cape Cod. How do you view setting as enhancing the overall narrative, and what efforts did you make to capture an authentic sense of atmosphere?

MD: Cape Cod is such an iconic place, with its beautiful beaches, scenic fishing villages, and coastal wildlife. I created a fictional town on the coast that’s popular with tourists but of course also populated by the people who live and work there year round. Tourists and locals alike ride bicycles along the miles of flat trails built on former rail beds, so my protagonist has a hearty clientele for her business. I visit the Falmouth area regularly, renting a cottage in the off season for solo writing retreats. I make a point of checking out all kinds of areas from the beach to the main tourist street – and of course the bike trails – so I can bring that flavor to my stories.

JBV: This book marks a unique collaboration between Kensington and Barnes & Noble. Please talk a bit about this arrangement, and the potential to grow your readership.

MD: The collaboration is a kind of experiment. Kensington is releasing six mysteries this year in an exclusive arrangement with Barnes & Noble. Murder on Cape Cod is the first in the program to come out and is only available in paperback from B&N for the first year. My fans who only read on Kindles are disappointed, but Kensington will re-release the book on all platforms in January of 2020. So far my book has been doing very well, snagging the #2 spot of all mass market paperbacks (not just mysteries) for weeks. I’m delighted, and I always welcome new fans!

JBV: Your books are considered cozies. What are the confines of this sub-genre genre – and how do you balance adhering to these rules with challenging expectations?

MD: Cozy mysteries are village based with a sleuth who isn’t a professional crime solver, and justice is always restored at the end. You won’t read obscenities, see much violence, or come across anything explicitly sexual. (There’s certainly romance, but they shut the bedroom door before it gets too exciting…) Fans become attached to the series characters and are eager to revisit them in subsequent books. 

While the tone in cozies tends to be lighter, that doesn’t mean we don’t address real human issues. On Cape Cod for example, the population swells with tourists in the summers. But the area also has its share of year-round people down on their luck, the same issues with addiction as anywhere, and environmental problems. All of that can make for deep human stories that I try to explore even as I keep the tone away from the dark end of the spectrum.

JBV: You have become quite prolific in recent years, and yet you have many areas of interest beyond writing. How do you endeavor to achieve some semblance of work/life balance – and what advice would you give to others who are struggling with this?

MD: I left my day job six years ago, so writing crime fiction is now my full-time job. I’m at my desk working by seven AM every day but Sunday, and I write or revise all morning. I knock off and go for my walk at about eleven and do other authorly things in the afternoons. I certainly make time for family, gardening, cooking, not to mention reading and doing crosswords. I was honored to serve as President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime for the past two years and I’m co-chair of the New England Crime Bake conference for the second year in a row. I’m also active in my church, Amesbury Friends Meeting (Quaker). So yeah, I try to keep a balance. It helps that this is my dream job – and that I love it!

JBV: Leave us with a teaser: What comes next for you (Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day) – and the Cozy Capers Book Group? 

MD: MURDER AT THE TAFFY SHOP, the second Cozy Capers adventure, will release in summer of 2020. I’m busy writing NACHO AVENGE MURDER, Country Store mystery #7. STRANGLED EGGS AND HAM, book six, will release in June of this year. As Edith Maxwell, CHARITY’S BURDEN, Quaker Midwife Mystery #4, releases in April. And my short story, “Sushi Lessons,” will appear in Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible this May.

Summer is busy season for Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida’s bicycle shop, nestled in the quaint, seaside hamlet of Westham, Massachusetts. She’s expecting an influx of tourists at Mac’s Bikes; instead she discovers the body of Jake Lacey, and her brother soon becomes a suspect. Mac’s only experience with murder investigations is limited to the cozy mysteries she reads with her local book group, the Cozy Capers. To clear her brother’s name, Mac summons help from her book group co-investigators. For a small town, Westham is teeming with possible killers, and this is one mystery where Mac is hoping for anything but a surprise ending.