An Interview with Lea Wait
By Pamela James
Lea, I loved reading TWISTED THREADS. Tell us how the idea formed, and when you decided to write the series?
In December of 2012 I heard an editor was looking for a series based on needlepoint. My agent asked me to design a series: write synopses of the first three books and 50 pages of the first book, do a competitive analysis of similar books, write a marketing plan, and explain why I’d be the best person to write the series. Somehow I managed to do all of that by New Years. I told him the series would be a bit edgier than many traditional, or cozy, mysteries, and that it would incorporate information about antique needlework. (I also write the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, so I knew many of my readers liked an antiques angle.)
I got a “go!” and agreed to write one book in the series every six months after my current obligations were fulfilled. The result? Twisted Threads, the first in the Mainely Needlepoint series, was published in January of 2015. The next in the series, Threads of Evidence, will be out August 25 and may be pre-ordered now. Threads of Evidence
Let’s talk about your setting and character names. Was there any difficulty with the setting or naming your characters?
My Shadows series is set in a town on a tidal river in Maine, and I wanted my new series to be different, so I set it in a village (Haven Harbor) with a working waterfront, but also with a tourist industry. Many coastal towns in Maine fit that description. As for character names – all my characters have typical names for Mainers. Many families living here (yes, I live in Maine!) have been here for generations, and so throughout the state you hear the same names, unless someone is “from away.” French surnames are common because many Quebecois immigrated here to work in mills and factories.
Do you needlepoint or cross stitch?
My grandmother did all sorts of stitching, from embroidery to knitting and tatting and smocking, and even dressmaking. She taught my sisters and I cross stitching and other basic embroidery techniques, but truthfully I only mastered knitting. (My sisters were more talented with their fingers.) Because of the Mainely Needlepoint series I’m beginning to learn needlepoint. And I’m a fourth generation antique dealer, so I do know about antique needlepoint and embroidery, and they will be increasingly important as the series continues.
I like the character background because it made the protagonist real to me. Without giving anything away, was it hard to write about her mother?
Angie Curtis’ mother disappeared when she was ten, and she was brought up by her grandmother, Charlotte, who is also a major character in the series. My mother lived to be almost 90, so I never had to experience Angie’s pain. But all four of my daughters (who I adopted when they were ages 8-10) had lost their mothers. In many ways they shared Angie’s pain … they still don’t know what happened to their biological mothers.
Let’s change course for a moment. Tell us how many books you’ve written and published.
I’ve had thirteen books published so far, with the next two Mainely Needlepoint Books (Threads of Evidence, to be published in August, and Thread and Done, set for January of 2016) written, so that will make the total fifteen. So far I’ve written seven books in the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series (about an antique print dealer who solves crimes ... and wants to adopt an older child.) I’m working on the eighth right now. The first in that series is Shadows at the Fair, and the most recent is Shadows on a Maine Christmas. I’ve also written five historical novels for ages 8 and up also, for the most part, set in Maine. Many of the people in those books are real people. The most recent of those books is Uncertain Glory, about two boys who published the town newspaper in a small Maine town during the first two weeks of the Civil War.
Do you have advice for mystery writers that helped you?
I read and studied about 200 contemporary mysteries before I wrote one – so I definitely suggest reading to know the field and figure where your book will fit in it. Find a critique group to give you feedback. (Sisters in Crime is a wonderful international organization that helped me a lot – and, yes, you can join if you’re a man!) I met my first editor at a writers’ conference … so I also recommend attending as many of those as you can, especially if they offer critique sessions with editors or agents.
How much research did it take to write the needlework series?
A lot of research. I now have a collection of about fifty books on contemporary and antique needlepoint. I also spent a day with the head of the textile division at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, visited the American Textile Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts, and talked to a lot of serious needlepointers. I’m now a member of several needlepoint organizations and subscribe to their magazines. The research continues!
Direct us to your website or blog.
My website is www.leawait.com, where you’ll find more information about all my books, and a link to a prequel of Twisted Threads. And I blog with other Maine mystery writers at www.mainecrimewriters.com I also invite people to friend me on Facebook and Goodreads.
Leave us with some sage words of wisdom from your protagonist.
Angie Curtis: “My roots were deep in this coast of Maine, wound in the mermaid’s hair and rockweed that covers the rocks at low tide. So deep my toes were permanently scarred by gashes from clam and barnacle shells. I’d always refused to wear the old sneakers Gram set aside each year for shore and rock walking, preferring the feel of the rough sands and cold waters on my feet. Mama used to say I was born at high tide; and when the doctor lifted me up to show me the ocean, I stopped crying.”