Today Christin Brecher is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Murder Makes Sense, her latest novel in the Nantucket Candle Maker mystery series.
Welcome, Christin. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
CB: MURDER MAKES SCENTS, featuring Stella Wright, is the second book in the NANTUCKET CANDLE MAKER SERIES. A native of her small island hometown, Stella loves creating candles at her store, the Wick & Flame. She also has a burning passion for justice. When trouble strikes, Stella is always determined to shine a light on the truth with some sleuthing of her own.
At the start of MURDER MAKES SCENTS, Stella points out that her mother, Millie, seeks adventure by travelling world, whereas Nantucket is always enough to keep her on her toes. How right she is!
Stella is unwittingly thrown into her second case after meeting her mother in Paris for the World Perfumery Conference, at which Millie has been invited to speak. Although Stella enjoys seeing her mother, visiting Paris’ candle shops, and watching the city prepare to host a global Peace Jubilee, her magical trip ends with her witnessing a murder; after which, spies and secret formulas follow them home. Before her jet lag has worn off, Stella discovers she’s on her own to protect her mother’s life and her town’s safety.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
CB: This book is a bit different from Murder’s No Votive Confidence and Fifteen Minutes of Flame (out next fall) in that it is a cozy mystery wrapped in an action adventure. I’ve always been enchanted by Nantucket’s foggy moors, and had a vision of Stella racing across them to solve a case while dodging others who are after her.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
CB: This is a great question because my inspiration for the book came from a couple of ideas.
First, I was curious about the idea that simple, low-tech solutions can be a radical tactic in our complicated world. At the beginning of the book, an international spy tells Stella that “in a high-tech world, sometimes old-fashioned methods are the most unexpected way to go.” Stella is the perfect sleuth to explore the idea of such a challenge. She’s a small-town girl armed with guts, gumption, and a talent for solving puzzles.
I also liked the idea of how global intrigue might find itself on the steps of a small island which is mostly known today for its shingled houses and beautiful beaches. When I was starting the book, I brought my computer to a small café on Nantucket one day. I realized I was surrounded by people from all over the world who were speaking many different languages. As Stella points out in the story, “when you grow up in a town like ours, which has a sailors’ map showing the distance from its location on Main Street to places around the world, you value these things.”
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
CB: I do a lot of work on back story before I write anything, so that my choice of characters is varied and serves to help the plot develop. Once I’ve decided on my cast, I try to step into their shoes, as an actor might, to see the world from their perspective. I find this exercise helps when writing dialogue.
Every character needs to bring something to the table that is relatable, so I try to steer away from favourites. That said, I really do admire Stella. She can do more in a day than most can do in a week!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
CB: I’m lucky because as a kid my parents and grand-parents loved Nantucket’s history. As a result, we were always spending rainy days at the Whaling Museum, or biking to the windmill and oldest house. At night, we would go to the Loins Observatory and reflect on Maria Mitchell’s accomplishments in astronomy while looking at the stars. Every summer we had at least one fishing adventure, and at least one screening of both Jaws and Moby Dick. It was a magical place to grow up, and it captured my imagination. I can remember lying in bed at night, reading Agatha Christie, listening to the fog horn, and imagining ghosts from the whaling days in any one of the old houses we rented. When a place gets into your soul like that, it isn’t hard to share it with others. It also helps that Nantucket is one of the most aesthetically pleasing places on earth with its shingled houses, lush summer gardens and endless stretches of beach.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
CB: I’d be remiss if I did not use this question as an opportunity to thank those on Nantucket who have generously given me their time, help and creative suggestions in all of the books.
In addition to their help, I like the old boots-on-the-ground kind of research. For example, I had a wonderful moment in writing the book when my father and I snuck on to a golf course at night, just as Stella does. While I looked across the greens to get a sense of how Stella would feel and what she would see, a huge beam of light suddenly flashed across the course from the Sankaty Head lighthouse. I’d had no idea that the light reached there until our site visit. Right then and there, I knew I had to incorporate this beacon into my story.
Sometimes I’m simply lucky. One such occasion was when I was trying to incorporate the island’s annual Cranberry Festival into the story. First, my dad accompanied me to the festival where I had more than my fair share of chocolate covered cranberries. Then, I decided to include a cranberry pie recipe at the end of the novel. In my effort to find an authentic recipe, I met so many Nantucketers who are incredible bakers to ultimately find the tasty treat I chose for the end of the novel.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
CB: I hope you enjoy the book!
Thanks for answering my questions, Christin, and good luck with Murder Makes Sense, the latest book in the Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Christin Brecher: Christin was born and raised in NYC, where her family and many childhood friends still reside. As such, she feels she is as much of a small-town girl as any. The idea to write the Nantucket Candle Maker series sprang from her life-long connection to the small island off the coast of Massachusetts. Spending summers there as a child, Christin read from her family’s library of mystery novels, after which she began to imagine stories inspired by the island’s whaling heyday, its notoriously foggy nights, and during long bike rides to the beach. After many years in marketing for the publishing industry, followed by years raising her children, Murder’s No Votive Confidence is Christin’s debut novel.