Episode 37: Eleanor Kuhns

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When Will Rees finally arrived home, much later than he'd expected, he found his sister Caroline in the front parlor. Again. Since Rees and his wife Lydia had returned from Salem several weeks ago, Caroline visited often and always with the same demand... -- Eleanor Kuhns, The Devil's Cold Dish It was such a delight talking to Eleanor Kuhns about her wonderful historical mystery series, set in Maine in the 1790s. History buff? You can -- and should -- check out her website, Eleanor-Kuhns.com, and her blog, here. She is a terrific source of information about daily life during that time. She also, I discovered during our interview, spins and weaves cloth! A Renaissance woman... or perhaps a Federalist one. ;-) One of the central communities, and the setting for her first novel, A Simple Murder, is the Shaker community in Maine. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village was the inspiration. We also talked about the religious leader, Mother Ann Lee, who led a fascinating life at the heart of the Shaker movement. Here are Eleanor's books, in order: 1 - A Simple Murder 2 - Death of a Dyer 3 - Cradle to Grave 4 - Death in Salem 5 - The Devil's Cold Dish As always, if you'd rather read than listen, the transcript is below. Enjoy! -- Laura Transcript of Interview with Eleanor Kuhns Laura Brennan: I’m delighted to welcome Eleanor Kuhns today, author of the Will Rees mystery series. Her debut mystery, A Simple Murder, won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. Set in the 1790s, Eleanor’s novels recapture a bygone era -- and show how motives for murder never change. Eleanor, thank you for joining me. Eleanor Kuhns: I'm happy to be here. LB: Before we talk about your wonderful series, tell me a little bit about yourself. You’re the assistant director of a public library. EK: Yes. LB: So it’s always been books? EK: Absolutely. I started as a page in the Yonkers public library when I was 16, became a librarian, pretty much never stopped working in the library. LB: When did you decide to add to the books in the world? When did you decide to write your own? EK: Well, I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first story when I was 10 years old. It was science fiction/fantasy, which was my first love. And every paragraph started with the word "suddenly." Suddenly the aliens came over the hill. It's always been all about writing and books. LB: I find that really interesting, that science fiction and fantasy is your first love because that takes place in another world, by definition. And you've created really another world for us to go into in your Will Rees mysteries. EK: Well, I think that science fiction and fantasy and historical fiction have a lot of similarities. It is a different world. A lot of times the culture is different, technology is certainly different, but people, I think, remain the same. Historical fiction is, in some ways, easier and harder because the world your writing about is already there, which means you have to have some accuracy as your facts. What did they wear? What was happening in the world? That kind of thing. In science fiction/fantasy, you can pretty much make up what you want to do. So in historical fiction, it's easier because there's a structure already to hang your story on, and harder because you have to do a lot of research to make sure that structure is right. LB: Why Maine in the 1790s? EK: Well, at the time that I wrote this book, I was living in Maine. My mother is from Maine, she retired to Maine, and she and a disabled brother were ill. So my husband and I left our jobs and went to Maine. Before we made that huge step, we were traveling from New York to Maine pretty much every weekend to care for them. That's a nine-hour trip, each way. And the only existant Shaker community is on that route. Sabbathday Lake, right off the Falmouth exit. We stopped there one day,

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