The Devil's Music
Author: Pearl R. Meaker
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Promontory Press
Emory Crawford doesn't do martial arts nor is she an athletic, leggy woman who is built like a model. She's a wife, grandmother, and empty nest lover of crafts, reading, birding and bluegrass music.
When an acclaimed scholar, best-selling author and fellow bluegrass musician is found murdered on the Twombly College campus where her husband teaches chemistry and forensics, Emory takes up her knitting caddy, to help her channel the spirit of Miss Marple, and heads off to help solve the crime.
1. What inspired you to write your first book?
Being accepted into a novel writing class.
I had to come up with ideas/summaries for two books, one of which would be chosen as the book we’d work on for the class. So I came up with two related stories that featured Emory and Jebbin Crawford and my instructor chose what is now “The Devil’s Music” for the one we’d work on for the class.
I guess, beyond that, it was the encouragement of my regular fanfiction readers. For a few years many of them kept saying I should try writing an original book that I could try to get published and I took the writing course as a result of their encouragement.
2. Do you have a specific writing style?
That’s one of those things I’ve never really considered, so I asked someone who knows about and looks for such things.
My writing coach – Mary Rosenblum.
“Yes, you do have a writing style. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. :-)”
3. How did you come up with the title for your book?
Once I had the idea for the plot the title was actually fairly easy.
Both Emory and her husband, Jebbin, play bluegrass music, and that’s how they know the victim – from jamming at festivals. From there I took the fact that the music people danced to was, at one point in time, called “the Devil’s music,” and that fiddles were called “the Devil’s box” because they were the most common instrument used at dances.
Also, there were all sorts of superstitions about people who were extremely talented at anything, though particularly if they were exceptional with music. It was often said they had met the Devil at a crossroads at midnight and sold their soul to him for the superior skills.
From all this, it was easy to choose “The Devil’s Music” for my title.
4. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really. I’m sure some people will find messages, but I didn’t write it with something like that in mind. I write to give people a good story that can take them away from their everyday life. A story that entertains them. If my readers come away feeling like they’ve been to Twombly and spent time with Emory and Jebbin, Archibald Finlay Dawson, Chatty, Aine and AnnaMay and the rest, then I’ll have done what I set out to do.
5. How much of the book is realistic?
The bluegrass and murder songs that are mentioned are all real. Murder ballads and songs have been around for centuries and are still a part of today’s music.
The “Jack the Ripper” tours in London are real. My daughter and I went on one in 2005. It was fascinating and part of the tour took us to The Ten Bells pub, which has been in the same place in London since the mid 1700’s. It has always been thought that it was one of the places Jack the Ripper picked up some of his victims.
Archibald Finlay Dawson owns and plays a five string fiddle made in Illinois by Martin Brunkalla who really exists and really does make five string fiddles, along with regular four string models and mandolins.
Jebbin’s copper plated five-string banjo is also a real Kat Eyz banjo designed by Mike Smith from central Illinois.
That said, the town and college of Twombly are fictional as is Golden County, the county they are in, and all the characters are fictional too.
6. What book are you reading now?
“A Mew To A Kill” – a Mystic Notch mystery by Leighann Dobbs. It’s the third book in the excellent Mystic Notch series.
7. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Jeanette Hubbard has a mystery releasing the first of June. I’ve read excerpts and it’s a funny, rowdy book. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the Kindle version.
I’ve also bought Amy Metz “Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction” which is the first of her two mystery books. I enjoyed what I read in the “Look Inside” on Amazon and I read a good review of it, but I haven’t started it yet.
8. What are your current projects?
The second book in the Emory Crawford Mystery Series, “The Devil’s Hook,” is all ready at the publisher going through the production process and will be available October of 2015. I’ve started work on book #3 and it will be available Fall of 2016.
“The Devil’s Hook” has Emory teaching a crocheting class during the short January term at Twombly College. But things heat up when a female student on the campus is kidnapped and Jairus Twombly’s personal assistant is found murdered – and his wife Amy is the prime suspect. The Twombly’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Madison, plays Nancy Drew to Emory’s Miss Marple and they work together to solve the two crimes.
9. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned about herbs and poisons and Japanese gardens.
Naturally occurring poisons are used by the murderer so I needed to research which ones would work the way I needed them to – how applied (oral, topical, mixed in foods) and how fast they start having their effects.
My husband was getting a little worried.
I also learned some plant-lore dealing with plants that have been thought to either keep the Devil away or work with him.
Two gardens on the Twombly College campus are used in The Devil’s Music, one of them is a Japanese garden. I found out about the distinct types, Hill and Pond (Chisen-Kaiyu-skiki), Flat Garden (Hiraniwa), and Tea Gardens (Rojiniwa).
10. What were the challenges (research, psychological etc) in bringing your story to life?
The biggest challenge was myself. I have ADD and struggle with negativism and depression. This all makes staying focused and on track difficult. It is hard to write when I'm depressed, and since I write chronologically, I can’t always use the depressiveness to help write a sad or depressing scene.
Also, dealing with those times the story (or the author) gets stuck. I’m fortunate that my husband reads my chapters as I go along and is able to brainstorm with me until I get unstuck.
Pearl R. Meaker is an upper-middle-aged, short, pudgy homemaker, mother, and grandmother who in 2002 became a writer. Initially writing fanfiction she soon tried original fiction at the encouragement of her regular readers. She has been a life-long lover of mystery stories and automatically went to that genre for her first book, The Devil’s Music. She and her husband of nearly 40 years live in central Illinois. They both love bluegrass music, playing fiddle and banjo and singing. Pearl also does many crafts – when she’s not reading or writing - knitting, crochet, origami, needlepoint, and cross-stitch among them. She also enjoys birding and photography and is a former fencer.
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