Recently I completed a fun cozy mystery called AT Witt’s End. Author Beth Solheim is a fellow Minnesotan and the creator of Reading Minnesota, an online publication where Minnesota authors connect. I am excited to chat with her today about her book and what’s coming next. Please welcome, Beth Solheim.
Hi Beth! It’s wonderful to have you here! How do you take your coffee?
Beth: I’m actually a die-hard tea drinker and dip a tea bag or two with my coffee friends. Earl Grey, green teas, or once in a while a good caffeine-kick tea are what I prefer.
Good to know! I like tea as well. Beth, you and I first started chatting over an article for Reading Minnesota. This is a pretty cool blog that I frequent often. Please share a little about what this blog is and what your role is in it.
Beth: My Reading Minnesota Blog http://readingminnesota.blogspot.com came about when I picked up a Seattle newspaper and read an article on a blog that featured Washington authors in various genres. That led to developing my Reading Minnesota Blog. I also thought it would be important to feature other venues in the literary process. I started with Minnesota authors and then added publishers, interviewers, illustrators, and bookstores. In the near future I’d like to add Minnesota libraries that are hosting special events. I maintain this blog on my own with contributions from lots of talented Minnesota folks.
The response has been wonderful. The Minneapolis Star Tribune added my blog as a link on their website in the Entertainment/book section – Literary Links.
I really enjoy Reading Minnesota and have connected with several authors there. Growing up did you have any authors or books that really spoke to you?
Beth: My interest was in mysteries. As most young girls, I was hooked on the Nancy Drew series. Fascinated with puzzles of any kind, trying to solve the crime before Nancy did was always my goal. Most often, Nancy outsmarted me, but I learned plotting, character development and found that I went back for a second read to make notes.
When I read Witt’s End, I remember you described it to me as being a little like Janet Evanovich and I picked up on that right away. How did you come about writing a funny, witty, tale of a Minnesota resort combined with an outrageously larger than life woman, Sadie Witt, who helps guests move on in the afterlife?
Beth: The love of the elderly with their flamboyant nature and ability to get away with things because of their age led to several story ideas. After working for years in a nursing home, one particular eighty-year-old resident tickled me and kept revisiting my memory. Her hilarious quirks were perfect for a character in a book. I developed a storyline around her and then made her a bit younger (sixty-four years old) so she would be physically capable of crime-solving escapades.
Because I live in northern Minnesota, I wanted to draw on what I knew best. I named my character Sadie Witt and made her a co-owner of the Witt’s End resort based in fictitious Pinecone Landing in northern Minnesota. Sadie is hilarious, outlandish, spunky, sassy, and sees the dead. In fact, she’s a death coach—but not for the living, for the dead. And boy, oh boy, she manages to land in one predicament after another, including solving a murder.
In 2011, we will have the opportunity to venture into the second of this series, Outwitted. Can you hint a little about what we can expect from Sadie and the gang?
Beth: Sadie Witt continues her adventures counseling guests from Cabin 14 on their final journey. To add to her quandary, she assumes the role of funeral director’s assistant after the untimely murder of the previous assistant. Unexpected mayhem abounds when Sadie’s resort manager unwittingly rents Cabin 12 to the funeral director’s ex-husband, Clay, a raucous character who causes one outrageous funeral mishap after another. Sadie attempts to resurrect the respectability demanded by the profession, but only adds to the chaos caused by Clay’s high jinks. When uninvited guests arrive at Cabin 14, they will be shocked to learn the flamboyant Sadie is their conduit to the hereafter.
After one of her guests discovers skeletal remains under Cabin 12, Sadie and her sister set out to solve an infant abduction and reveal the secret that ties a prominent community member to a notorious crime operation.
Do you know how many books are planned for this series?
Beth: I’ll continue with the series as long as readers enjoy Sadie’s antics. The third book is written and I’ll begin editing this fall. I hope it will be released in early 2012. I’m open to unique title suggestions—it must have some form of witt in the title to follow At Witt’s End and Outwitted.
What is currently happening in your life?
Beth: I continue to work full time at a great job in human resources at the hospital. This summer is busy with book edits and a cover decision for Outwitted, promoting, library and book fair appearances, writer’s conferences, etc., as well as two high-school reunions and two birthday-milestone family celebrations. I keep a tight schedule and reward myself with favorite TV programs and Dove caramel filled candy only if I complete tasks on my daily to-do list. A stern talking to is sometimes in order, but I most often am able to stay on task.
Do you have any current authors/books that you really are drawn to?
Beth: Harlan Coben and Karen Slaughter. I’m currently reading Undone by Karen Slaughter. It’s riveting. Karen has a way with intrigue that prevents me from putting her books down!
I really like Harlan Coben too. It is tradition that I ask every author I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.
Beth: Probably two things:
- 1. Flying over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter on my 43 wedding anniversary. Tummy rolling, but absolutely breathtaking. The beauty from above the canyon is indescribable.
- 2. I feed a female gray fox who frequents my patio daily. Living in a wooded, rural setting in northern Minnesota provides the luxury of wildlife roaming our property (deer, bear, raccoon, fox). Three years ago Foxy Lu scavenged under my bird feeder licking up fallen sunflower seeds. I tossed a bread crust scrap under the feeder and when she came to get it, I talked softly to her. At first, she was skittish. As she gradually got used to my voice and didn’t run away anymore, I inched bread scraps closer to my patio door. Eventually, we agreed that eight inches was an enjoyable distance and for the past three years, she’s feasted on day-old bread from the bread store (actually six-day-old, non-salable bread jammed into a brown bag for a buck). I can almost reach out and pet her. Almost!
Foxy Lu has introduced three batches of her new kits before chasing them out of her territory. She’s a busy gal and we’ve watched her teach them to hunt. Gray foxes mate for life and we’ve also met her kinky-tailed mate. He has an odd kink in his tale. I thought it was from a dreadful encounter, but two of this year’s kits have the same kinky tail. Genetics are strong in all realms!
Thank you, Sheila, for including me in your coffee chat. Sadie Witt has taken me on a grand journey and I hope it continues for years.
Thank you Beth! I appreciate the time you took to join me at Book Journey! I am hopeful that all your book dreams come true.