Merow! My guest today is author Peggy Ehrhart!
Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor with a doctorate in Medieval Literature, currently writing the Knit & Nibble mystery series for Kensington. Set in fictional Arborville, New Jersey, the series features amateur sleuth Pamela Paterson, founder of the town’s knitting club. Murder, She Knit appeared in late March; Died in the Wool is due in August 2018 and Knit One, Kill Two in May 2019. Peggy is an avid crafter, dating from her childhood as a member of the 4-H Club in rural Southern California.
Hello Peggy! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thanks Rocco! I started reading mysteries when I was in graduate school studying medieval literature. After a long day in the library poring over Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon, the classic mysteries created by writers like Dorothy Sayers and Amanda Cross were a great diversion. I stayed up way past bedtime many nights because I just had to find out who did it.
I write the kinds of books I like to read, and when I meet readers who enjoy my work I know I’m meeting kindred spirits.
Tell us about your new release:
Murder, She Knit is the first in a new series from Kensington—the Knit & Nibble mysteries. It’s a craft cozy featuring female amateur sleuth Pamela Paterson, her best friend Bettina Fraser, and the members of the Knit and Nibble knitting club. In Murder, She Knit Pamela has invited an old friend to join Knit and Nibble but the woman doesn’t show up—until Pamela finds her under the hedge in her front yard, killed by a knitting needle stuck through the front of her handknit sweater.
What was the inspiration behind this story?
I’m a long-time knitter, dating from high school, when my mother taught me. I’d recently taken it up again when I was invited by an agent to put together a proposal for a mystery series focused on a knitting club. Right away I realized that devising plots that used knitting to create clues and red herrings would be huge fun. Handknit argyle socks, for example, figure in Murder, She Knit because I remember my mother managing all those bobbins as she knit a pair for my father.
The Martha Stewart gene is very strong in my family—my mom has even done her own upholstering, and we all love to cook. So I knew I had to bring food into the series as well.
Tell us about your main character.
Pamela is a young widow who has just sent her only daughter off to college when the series starts. She lives in the charming town of Arborville NJ and works, mostly at home, as associate editor of a magazine called Fiber Craft. I wanted her to be at home a lot and have a job with a flexible schedule so she’d have time for her sleuthing and because I wanted to bring out the small-town atmosphere of Arborville as Pamela takes her daily walks and does her errands on foot. And I made her a young widow so I could bring in a romance element. In Murder, She Knit, she gradually becomes acquainted with the interesting unattached man who has bought the house next to hers—though her first impressions of him aren’t good! He’ll become more and more important as the series goes on.
What is your favorite personality trait of your main character?
Pamela is very logical—a good trait for a sleuth. In her mind, she compares working out the puzzle of a who committed a murder and why to mastering a complicated knitting pattern and seeing a garment gradually take shape.
One of your characters is going on a shopping spree. Where does he/she go and what does he/she buy?
Pamela is totally uninterested in clothes, much to the disappointment of her best friend—and fellow sleuth—Bettina. Bettina isn’t tall and slim like Pamela, but she has an extensive wardrobe and loves to get dressed up every day, even if all that’s on her agenda is covering an event at the senior center for Arborville’s weekly newspaper, the Arborville Advocate. A shopping spree for Bettina would be a visit to the mall, with stops at Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Saks, and Lord and Taylor. This time of year, she’d be shopping for summer—a few of her favorite floaty sundresses in bright prints, and high-heeled sandals in coordinating colors like turquoise and hot pink. She’d try to talk Pamela into joining her but Pamela would prefer to stay at home in Arborville, perhaps baking a pie or cobbler for an upcoming meeting of Knit and Nibble.
I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?
Please don’t intimidated, but Pamela loves to cook too. As a good cook, however, she appreciates good food. She always likes to try new things, so if you’ve got a special recipe you’d like to experiment with, she’d be happy to be your guinea pig.
Were you surprised by the behavior of any of your characters or the direction of your plot at any point while writing?
When I invented Harold Bascomb, a vigorous retired doctor in his 80s, I did so because I wanted to give Nell, one of the knitting club stalwarts, a nice husband. I knew that Nell and Harold had been very adventurous in their youth and were devoted volunteers committed to helping others, but as the series went on (I’ve already written and submitted two more Knit & Nibbles though the first has just come out), Harold became quite an entertaining character, sneaking behind Nell’s back to help Pamela and Bettina with their sleuthing. The relationship between Nell and Harold has become much more real with Harold as the charmer who Nell adores—and who adores Nell—despite his tendency to laugh off her disapproval of amateurs trying to solve murders.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Six months. I had a deadline.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to play the lead characters?
I only have one idea: My husband suggested that Allison Janney would make a good Pamela. I was delighted when he said that because it suggested that the essence of her character came through when he read Murder, She Knit. Like the character Allison Janney played in The West Wing, Pamela is a smart, hardworking person who tries to do what’s right. She’s tall and slim and attractive without really being aware of it.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I myself am kind of a Pamela Paterson. I take long walks around my little town, I plan and cook meals for myself and my husband, I haunt thrift stores and estate sales, I do things with yarn—I’m just finishing a three-year-long crocheted afghan project, I work in my yard, I fall asleep on the sofa watching PBS mysteries in the evening …
Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult?
Jane Austen has influenced my mystery writing. P.D. James said Jane Austen would have been a great mystery novelist had the genre existed when she was writing, and Emma is the best example. From Austen I’ve learned how to hide clues in the mundane doings of small-town people and also how humorous people can be when they go about their everyday lives quite unconscious of how they appear to outsiders.
Where can we purchase this book?
It’s available online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and is also in a number of brick and mortar bookstores.
Where do you see yourself at in five years—writing wise?
I’m hoping Knit & Nibble goes on and on and on. I’m already hatching plots for books 4, 5, and 6—and I’m envisioning how my characters will develop as time passes. Pamela’s daughter Penny will graduate from college in a few years and it will be fun to follow her as she starts a career.
If you could live in the world you have created, would you? If no, why not?
I’d love it! I purposely based Arborville NJ on the town I live in, but a little more idealized—though my town is quite nice as it is. One factor that draws people to cozy mysteries is that they offer a chance to enter a world where the only bad thing that happens is the occasional pesky murder, which is then solved by a resourceful amateur and stability is restored. I think of cozies as the narrative equivalent of magazines like Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living—aspirational, because the reality they portray is a bit glossier than the reality we actually inhabit.
Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
I’ll be at Malice Domestic at the end of April.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I’ve always been a detailed plotter and that habit has served me well now that I’m writing for Kensington. My editor requests an extensive synopsis before greenlighting new projects.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
www.PeggyEhrhart.com and Facebook author page: PeggyEhrhart@mysterycozy
Please answer 5-7
Cats or dogs? Cats
Do you read more than you write? Yes
Hardback/Paperback or eReader? Hardback/Paperback
Favorite color? Red
Do you own a laptop or desktop computer? Desktop
Peggy will give away a copy of MURDER SHE KNIT to one lucky commenter!
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, May 19!