Maine author Lea Wait writes the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, staring protagonist Maggie Summer. Sixth in the series, Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding was released this week. The first novel in the series was an Agatha nominee reviewed by the New York Times and has been well received. She also writes historical novels based in Maine for her juvenile readers.
Lea, tell us about your Shadows antique print dealer. Where do both you and your protagonist acquire antique prints?
Maggie Summer, my protagonist, calls her antique print business “Shadows,” because she loves history (she’s also an American civilization professor) and she sees 18th, 19th and early 20th century prints as reflections of their times … shadows of worlds that no longer exist. I’ve also been an antique dealer since 1977. Maggie and I buy our prints at auctions, ephemera or paper shows, antique shows, antiquarian book shows, or from other dealers. Details about the antique print business is included in each of the six books in the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series.
When did you begin writing crime novels as well as children’s historical books?
The first book I wrote, back in the mid-1990s, was eventually the first in the Shadows series – but it didn’t sell right away. It was rejected by over 40 agents. I left corporate life, moved full-time to Maine, and wrote my first historical for young people (Stopping to Home) in 1999 which did sell. It was published in 2001. Then the first mystery (Shadows at the Fair) was picked up by Scribner, published in 2002, and nominated for a “best first” Agatha.
Are both your series based in Maine?
All the books for young people are based in Wiscasset, Maine, in the 19th century, although one (Seaward Born) does begin in Charleston, South Carolina. Maggie, in the Shadows series, moves around a bit. She lives in New Jersey, and Shadows on the Ivy and Shadows at the Spring Show are set there. Shadows at the Fair is set at an antique show in New York State; Shadows on the Coast of Maine and Shadows of a Down East Summer are set in Maine. And the latest in the series, Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding, is set in Massachusetts. (Antique dealers travel around!) I grew up in Maine and New Jersey, but I was actually born in Boston.
Is Stephen King a fellow member of the Maine Crime Writers? And have you met?
No; Maine Crime Writers is a blogging group (http://www.mainecrimewriters.com) and King is not a member. He is a wonderful Maine author, of course. I’ve been lucky to meet him a couple of times; once when I did a signing with his wife, Tabitha.
You have an interesting background. Adopting four children as a single woman must have been difficult. How did you manage while holding down a full-time job?
I didn’t sleep a lot! I was stubborn; I wanted to be a parent, and it didn’t work out that I was married, so I decided to adopt children who needed families as a single parent. My daughters were all school–age when they came home to me, and somehow we made it work. One parent is a lot better than no parents.
Have you incorporated your employment background into your books?
Not so far. I worked as a corporate manager for many years (had to support those wonderful kids!) butfor the most part so far I haven’t found that part of my life interesting enough to write a mystery about. You never know what might happen in the future, though. I keep my options open!
Maggie’s best friend, doll and toy dealer Gussie White, who lives on Cape Cod, is getting married! Of course, she asks Maggie to come early to help out. But when Maggie finds a body on the beach near Gussie’s new home, and the dead man’s daughter insists he died in Colorado two years before, Maggie wonders why local police don’t ask more questions. She volunteers to translate for the man’s deaf cousin, and begins to learn more (and ask more questions) about this quiet Cape town. And when storm winds and her own beau’s temper start rising … this time Maggie finds murders may be the least of her problems.
Is your protagonist based on anyone you’ve known?
I didn’t intend her to be, but many people have said Maggie’s a younger me. She’s certainly braver than I am! And she drinks diet soda, while I drink tea. But she is thinking about adopting, and she is an antique print dealer … so, maybe.
Advice for fledgling mystery writers.
Read all kinds of mysteries, but especially those that are being published today, because styles change. Do your research well, but don’t let it show. And keep the pace fast, and those twists coming!
Thank you, Lea.
You can learn more about Lea at her blog site: http://www.mainecrimewriters.com as well as her website: http://www.leawait.com