Elizabeth Penney is an author, entrepreneur, and local food advocate living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Her cozy mystery, Hems & Homicide, is the first in the Apron Shop mystery series.
The beginnings of Hems & Homicide
“Before I became an author, I worked as a business consultant, advising entrepreneurs how to launch and grow their businesses. I soon saw how creative the business start-up process is when a person takes a concept from an idea to reality. It’s even better when they can use their unique skills and talents to support themselves. My main character, Iris Buckley, started working for herself after being downsized from a fabric design position for a catalog company. She has turned her love for vintage aprons and textiles into a viable business, first by selling online and then in the storefront featured in the series.”
Elizabeth also said that Iris’s grandmother is an active part of the plot. She’s facing a new season of her life after losing her husband. She is a partner in the shop, a new venture for her, and she’s also involved in solving mysteries.
“An odd conundrum is that while main characters in cozies are often under thirty (as Iris is), the majority of readers are forty and older. I think depicting vibrant older characters in fiction is important and shows how adventures can happen at any age. The story also deals with the challenges and joys of running a business in a small town with a tourism economy. As in real life, my characters have to deal with seasonal swings, town politics, and the emergencies and opportunities that crop up.”
Aprons — a part of history
“Aprons are an iconic part of our domestic history with many cultural and personal associations. As a premise for a mystery series, their variety offers a lot of story possibilities, and each book will feature interesting examples. In recent years, aprons have experienced a surge of new popularity. They’re even sold in big box stores. Twenty-first century aprons are frillier, fancier, and prettier than ever. So, the combination of an interesting and relatable history (practically everyone has a mom or grandmother who wore an apron) and an apron renaissance gave me confidence that a publisher might also see the possibilities.”
Fond childhood memories
“One of my first book-related memories is checking out a Nancy Drew book from the library at age seven. We had just moved to snowy Maine from sunny Virginia and I still remember traversing that long and icy driveway to the library, located in a historic Colonial house. So many treasures in that old library! As an introverted, imaginative child, books were a huge part of my life. Even now, one of my favorite things is to open a book and become immersed in a magical new world. My goal as an author is to create that experience for my readers. I also hope they will come to love my characters as much as I do. Around my house, we find ourselves talking about them as if they are real.”
The Maine mystique
Growing up, Elizabeth was part of an Air Force family. At age seven, her family moved to Maine after living in Europe and other states. “My dad grew up in New York City but spent many wonderful times in Maine visiting an uncle. We moved to the same town and even lived in the same house his uncle had owned! Maine has a mystique that draws millions of visitors each year, and I’m having a great time finding interesting history, activities, and trends to include.”
Elizabeth now lives about twenty miles from the Maine border, which makes it easy to take research trips to the coast. She believes that visiting a location allows a writer to include details of smell, taste, sound, and feel that cannot be experienced when looking at pictures.
“Although I have many memories of Maine, indulging in a refresher course has been fun,” Elizabeth said. “And so has enjoying (again) the many traditional dishes I include in my books: clam chowder, fried clams, steamed lobster, fresh corn on the cob, and blueberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Food often plays a large role in cozies, even the ones not focused on it, and I needed to be sure my readers can enjoy a good (vicarious) taste of Maine cuisine.”
Learn more about Elizabeth Penney at elizabethpenneyauthor.com.