Mollie Cox Bryan has a wealth of knowledge in the field of writing. She graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa with a degree in journalism and communications. She did technical writing in mathematics education, construction and life insurance. She has written a book of poetry and two cookbooks. She writes the Cumberland Creek Mystery Series by Kensington Press which focuses on a Scrapbooking Circle. The first book in the series was nominated for the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She has just begun a new series, The Cora Craft Mystery series.
Mollie Cox Bryan’s debut mystery, “Scrapbook of Secrets” in her Cumberland Creek Mystery Series was nominated for the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel. I loved it. It also made my top ten list for Best Books for Book Clubs. It dealt with the secrets that people hold. Secrets that cause guilt, shame and possibly murder. She explored how the characters and society deal with these secrets.
What inspired you to write a series dealing with scrapbooking?
I’m a scrapbooker so when I first started writing mysteries, it seemed a natural thing to incorporate scrapbooking into my books. And if you think about scrapbooking lends itself very well to mysteries—there is a puzzle like quality to it, along with the fact that it’s really visual storytelling. Scrapbookers tell the stories of their families and when they get together with others, they share stories as they work on their books. So there’s a great deal of potential there for story.
You have a fascinating cast of characters in this book. They have a wide variety of careers including a retired female physicist. Tell us a little bit about them.
Annie Chamovitz is 36-years-old and has “retired” from the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C., investigative journalism. She and her husband Mike moved to Cumberland Creek from Bethesda, Md., a posh suburbanish city. Her family is the only Jewish family in Cumberland Creek. When the book opens, she is a stay-at-home mom to Sam and Ben. After being in Cumberland Creek about a year, she is finally invited to a weekly scrapbooking crop. She goes to the scrapbook gathering—reluctantly. Visions of frilly stickers and glitter paper dissuade her. Soon, she is part of the group, finding she loves the “puzzle” aspect to scrapbooking. Soon enough, she also gets sucked back into freelance journalism.
Vera Matthews has just turned forty. She is the owner of the only dancing school in town. She has never quite resolved her longing for the stage. So, among other things, she delights in changing hair color and make-up palettes. She is married to her college sweetheart, Bill Ledford. She grew up in Cumberland Creek, went to college in New York City, and danced professionally for a brief period of time. Because she’s childless, she makes scrapbooks for her students and herself.
Beatrice Matthews is Vera’s eighty-year-old mother and is not a scrapbooker. She is a quantum physicist and has conversations with her dead husband, who appears in ghost form throughout the book—but only to her. She grew up on Jenkins Mountain, one of the many mountains surrounding the town of Cumberland Creek.
Is the main character Anne modeled a after yourself?
I think that all of my characters have a bit of me and all of the people I’ve met or known in them. So, there’s a wee bit of me in her, but she is not modeled after anybody.
If this was a movie, who would you choose to play the characters? This has actually changed a few times!
Vera— Drew Barrymore
Does your poetry background play into your mystery writing?
Absolutely. People might think that means using a lot fancy, beautiful language. But that’s not what it means for me. I’m not the kind of writer who uses a lot of words. I like to distill ideas, sentences, paragraphs, so they are descriptive in the most efficient way. For me, that’s what a good poem, does, too. I think this is the case in good copy writing, as well. There are advertisements that have moved me to tears, with very few words.
Are you going to continue this series?
The series has not been cancelled, which is good news. I just felt like after 5 books and 2 e-novellas I needed a bit of a break. And I honestly don’t know what comes next. I adore working on my new series. And, given that I am working part-time, along with keeping up with two teenagers, I’m not sure I’m in the “lifespace” to work on two series, yet. Maybe in a few years. And if I one of my books hits it big—or someone offers me enough money so that I can quit my job, I’d be so happy with that. Living the dream, right?
Tell us a little about your new series, the Cora Craft Mystery series?
It’s set in the mountains of Western N.C., in a fictional town, Indigo Gap. My characters Cora, Jane, and Ruby run a craft retreat out of an old Victorian mansion.
Here’s the blurb:
For thirty-something blogger Cora Chevalier, small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, seems like the perfect place to reinvent her life. Shedding a stressful past as a counselor for a women’s shelter, Cora is pouring all her talents—and most of her savings—into a craft retreat business, with help from close pal and resident potter Jane Starr. Between transforming her Victorian estate into a crafter’s paradise and babysitting Jane’s daughter, the new entrepreneur has no time for distractions. Especially rumors about the murder of a local school librarian . . .
But when Jane’s fingerprints match those found at the grisly crime scene, Cora not only worries about her friend, but her own reputation. With angry townsfolk eager for justice and both Jane’s innocence and the retreat at risk, she must rely on her creative chops to unlace the truth behind the beloved librarian’s disturbing demise. Because if the killer’s patterns aren’t pinned, Cora’s handiwork could end up in stitches . .
Have you ever toyed with the idea of a Culinary Mystery given your cookbook background?
No. I wanted to try something different. I loved writing my cookbooks, food articles, and essays, but felt it was time to move on. This is not to say that I will never try to write a culinary mystery. We’ll see. But food does play an important part in all of my fiction. There’s no better lens in to culture and personality, sometimes, than what people eat.
Share a little more bit about your background.
I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but have always had to balance that with making a living. So I worked as a writer and editor for years before ever finding the time to write that first saleable book, although I have several others under my belt. I’ve worked mostly for nonprofits, writing newsletters, brochures, magazine articles, and books. I also worked as a copy writer for an insurance company. Working with language on a daily basis is great training ground.
When did you decide to become a writer and when did you start writing?
I’ve always been a storyteller and have always written to entertain myself. When I was a kid, I lived way out in the country and basically there was not much to do. It fostered my imagination. When I was younger, I was a dancer and actress—in fact, theater was my first major in college, but I think it simply didn’t occur to me that I could “be a writer.” In college, I gravitated toward journalism classes, and later, English classes, and I started figuring out that people could make a living writing. My work study job was in the English department and those professors influenced me as much as the journalism professors. I worked as a writer and editor for years before becoming a fiction writer. But I’ve always been a writer—I have piles and piles of filled notebooks to prove it!
Which writers inspire you?
Toni Morrison, Louise Penny, Sue Monk Kidd, Susanna Kearsley, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen
What is your favorite book and why?
I have more than a few favorite novels. But I always mention Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” when I’m asked. Such a powerful story, as well as an incredible, artistic use of language. I sobbed reading it, just from the beauty and precision of the language. The story was haunting, moving, and stayed with me.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Right now, I’m judging a mystery novel contest and am reading a lot of mysteries, but I can’t tell you about them! I’m also reading and working through “Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales” by Dana Kaye.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I always give the most unsexy advice ever, which is to learn your craft. When I teach, I tell my classes there are two questions I won’t answer until the end of the class (say if it’s a six-week class, or something): how to get an agent, and how to get published. I don’t answer them because those things are not what is the most important thing about becoming a writer—and yet I find those are often the first questions I’m asked. Ask me about character, plot, or point of view. Ask me about sharpening your prose. Being a good writer is ultimately what will set you apart. It’s very easy to write something and press “publish” these days and it’s also easy to get some publishers interested in your work, depending on what you’re writing. What’s not so easy is to find the right publisher (or agent) for you. If you want to make a long-term career of fiction, it’s important that you don’t publish before you’re ready and that you have people around you who are honest with you about it.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? What’s new?
I’ve recently published a romance novella in Marina Adair’s St. Helena Vineyard Kindle worlds, which is like sanctioned fan fiction. I’ve never written fan fiction before, but I was part of this huge release that tied in with the release of Marina’s Hallmark movie “Autumn in the Vineyard.” My novella is “The Beekeeper’s Bride.” I had so much fun with this and I might consider writing more in this “world.” Or doing more romances, period. They call these sweet romances because there’s no graphic sex in them—I don’t really like the term, but it let’s the reader know what to expect. And I’m hoping my cozy readers will like my romances—they would not expect sex-filled scenes from me. (Though I have to say, there’s plenty of tension and heat, just not graphic, you know?)
Also, just this year, I published a historical fiction: “The Memory of Light: An Aftermath of Gettysburg.” This book very much stretched me as a writer. I loved every minute of it.
What is your favorite social media site?
Facebook or Pinterest.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
The best way, of course, is to read the books. But otherwise, I’m online everywhere and enjoy hearing from readers.
Death Among the Doilies: a Cora Crafts Mystery https://www.amazon.com/Death-Among-Doilies-Crafts-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0190HGVVK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477301004&sr=1-1&keywords=Death+among+the+doilies
Memory of Light: An Aftermath of Gettysburg https://www.amazon.com/Memory-Light-Mollie-Cox-Bryan-ebook/dp/B01EJQ5SGQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477299977&sr=1-3&keywords=Memory+of+light
Scrapbook of Secrets: A Cumberland Creek Mystery https://www.amazon.com/Scrapbook-Secrets-Cumberland-Creek-Mystery-ebook/dp/B005QFC6VK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477300945&sr=1-1&keywords=Scrapbook+of+Secrets
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
You are very welcome.