So this is a first for Kent Holloway Online. Last night I posted a review of a new mystery I recently read called Death of a Dead Man (A Juniper Grove Mystery) by Karin Kaufman and today, I’m interviewing her. I’ve done dozens of author interviews. I’ve only written a handful of reviews on my blog (primarily because I read horribly slow and don’t like feeling obligated to write reviews on a regular on-going basis). So, it’s exciting to think that I’m reviewing a book and interviewing the author within a 24 hour period.
If you haven’t read the review yet, check it out HERE.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to read one of Karin’s books for quite some time now. We’ve been Facebook friends for several years and share several things in common (such as our Christian faith). So really, it was a no-brainer that I should read her. But like everything else, something new would always come up and I’d get distracted by another story to read or another book to write. Can’t believe how much time I’ve wasted. My foray into her world of mystery was a pure delight, so I’m excited to introduce you all to her this evening.
Karin was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her books, mysteries in general, and how she manages to write such great books so quickly. Here’s what she had to say:
1) Your latest book, Death Trap is the seventh book in your Juniper Grove Cozy Mystery series. For those who don’t know, tell us a little about the series, its main characters, themes, and mood?
My series is set in the small town of Juniper Grove, Colorado, nestled against the foothills of the Rockies, and my amateur sleuth is Rachel Stowe, a slightly overweight, single, forty-something mystery writer. It was important to me to feature a real woman in the series—someone most readers could identify with. Rachel has her weaknesses (cream puffs, for one), but she also has her strengths: humor, a measure of self-confidence, and, especially, the friends she found after moving to Juniper Grove. Along with Rachel, two of those friends form the mystery-solving group at the heart of the series: Holly, a married bakery owner in her thirties, and Julia, a widow in her sixties.
The mood of the series is light, but without being frivolous or silly, I think. In Juniper Grove, I wanted to create a place where friends gathered for coffee, neighbors conversed over fences, and people greeted each other on the sidewalk. There are still places like that, so why not write about them? I would say the main theme of the series, the one that spans all the books, is that goodness exists and eventually prevails.
2) Now that we’ve talked about Juniper Grove itself, I’d love to hear more about Death Trap. Care to give us a brief look into what this book is all about?
Death Trap was a blast to write! The story begins at a mansion in Juniper Grove. When the murder victim dies screaming Police Chief Gilroy’s name (not a good sign), Gilroy becomes a suspect in his own department’s investigation, especially after incriminating evidence is discovered at the scene. With Gilroy off the case, Rachel and her friends spring into action. The story carries on with an issue first raised in Death of a Dead Man and brought up again in Scared to Death and Cheating Death.
3) Besides the cozy mystery series, you’ve also written a series a little more dark and serious with your Anna Denning Mysteries. Tell us a bit about this series. Who’s Anna Denning? What are some differences between this series and Juniper Grove?
Anna Denning is a self-employed genealogist living in the Colorado mountain town of Elk Park. (At an altitude of 7,500 feet, there’s a lot of snow in Elk Park and in most of the books!) When the series opens, Anna has been a widow for two years. In addition to feeling as though she’s now a mere shadow of what she was when she was part of a couple, she’s struggling greatly with her faith. And her faith is tested in every book as she encounters evil in the form of the occult, from witchcraft to new age spiritualism and even necromancy. That said, the series isn’t overly dark because I don’t go into great detail about occult practices, and the murders are always “off screen.” But it is darker than the Juniper Grove series.
[Sounds an awful lot like my own Ezekiel Crane mysteries…I’m definitely going to check this series out. Sounds right up my alley! ~ Kent]
4) Now would you consider your books an example of Christian fiction? I’ve recently written several blog posts lately featuring some great Christian speculative fiction authors and one of the key problems with the genre seems to be a reluctance by Christians to recognize them as a viable means of entertainment. They are often scoffed at or worse, blatantly accused of heresy. My question is, have you experienced anything like that with your writing? How do readers react to any Christian messages they perceive in your mysteries?
I haven’t experienced the negative reactions you mention when it comes to the Juniper Grove series, but I have with the Anna Denning series. For the most part, Christians react positively to the Anna Denning series, though I think some of them find the stories a little dark. The most negative reactions have come from those involved in witchcraft and wicca.
That bothers me because as a young Christian (much younger than today!) I briefly became involved in wicca. It’s a very seductive “religion.” I understand the attraction to it. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and it promises a connection to the supernatural, something we all crave. My main character battles the occult, but when it comes to wicca, I don’t personally feel the slightest condemnation toward its practitioners, even though I believe they’re on a very wrong track.
I feel for speculative fiction writers. I wrote a standalone speculative fiction book called All Souls, and honestly, it has gone nowhere. I don’t think it’s even considered a Christian book, though it’s all about forgiveness after great betrayal. I’m not sure what the solution to the problem is. Christian writers often exist in a no-man’s-land where Christians don’t care for their books and non-Christians won’t touch them.
5) Between the mood of your two series (i.e. light and breezy cozies or darker mystery thriller), which do you prefer to dabble in? Perhaps you find you like playing in both playgrounds equally. What are the pros and cons to either of them?
This is like choosing your favorite child or pet, isn’t it? Though I like both series, I’m focusing on the Juniper Grove one for now. I love the characters in that series. But I still love the idea of an occult-battling amateur sleuth, so I might pay Anna Denning a visit late this year.
6) Another theme I’ve been discussing lately on my blog is the sheer number of women who write mysteries. There seems to be an interestingly high percentage of mystery fiction written by women over men. I’m curious if you could speculate on why that might be. There also seems to be higher number of women readers of cozy mysteries as opposed to men who prefer more of the thriller-type procedurals. Any thoughts on that?
Many of the great writers of cozy or traditional mysteries—the terms have been used interchangeably at times—have been women. Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and so forth. But on the male side there are Tony Hillerman (my personal favorite), Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, and others. It seems like a split occurred later in the development of mysteries. Now it’s expected that women write fluff, which of course is untrue, and that men write harder-edged mysteries.
What really bothers me, though, is that the more “serious” mysteries, the ones that supposedly deserve more attention, tend to be the brutal ones. You know how the Oscars for Best Picture almost always go to dramas, not comedies? I think the same sort of weird bias goes on with mysteries. Serial killer? Excellent stuff! Friends who solve mysteries? Fluff! As if misery, blood, and gore, by themselves, signal excellence. Nonsense! As Rachel Stowe tells a book snob in Death Trap, “Don’t you think fine fiction is anything readers enjoy?”
7) I’m amazed with how fast you are as a writer. I noticed that all seven of your Juniper Grove Mysteries were written in a span of less than a year. Normally for question seven, I usually ask my author friends to offer one piece of advice…anything they like…to aspiring authors out there. But with you, I have to ask for my own writing: How do you do it? How do you write so much, so quickly and still maintain your quality (and trust me people, these are quality reads!)? Any secrets you would like to share to help a fellow writer out?
I don’t have a social life and my house is a disaster, Kent. That’s how I do it. No, seriously, I’ve just been very focused on the Juniper Grove series. When I sit down to write, I tell myself I’m going to Juniper Grove, and I love it. I love my time there. That helps tremendously. I’m also learning to be a pantser instead of an outliner when it comes to plots. For all the books in my Anna Denning series, I wrote extensive notes and outlines, but plots in the Juniper Grove books flow more naturally for some reason.
I want to thank Karin Kaufman for taking the time to provide such great and thoughtful answers to my questions.
If you’re interested in learning more about her, check out her website HERE.
And you can find her books HERE on her Amazon author page (many of her ebooks are priced to sell!).