Today we're sharing with you an introduction letter from the 2011 Minotaur/Mystery Writer of America Best First Novel-winning author and librarian, Eleanor Kuhns. Instead of us telling you about her life as a librarian/author and the details of her thrilling new historical mystery, A SIMPLE MURDER, we figured we should leave that up to the expert—her! Without further ado...
Winning the 2011 Minotaur/Mystery Writer of America Best First Novel contest is the culmination of my lifetime dream of becoming a published writer. I wrote my first story when I was ten and by then I was already an avid reader. I wanted then, and still strive, to recreate with my fiction that shock of discovery, that almost life-changing experience of reading a good story. I have never lost that passion for compelling the same response in a reader that I felt as a child.
I suppose becoming a librarian was a foregone conclusion since there is a special affinity between librarians and books and reading. There is some truth in that old saw about becoming a librarian because one likes to read. And I still feel a thrill of accomplishment when I help one of my patrons find the perfect book to read.
A SIMPLE MURDER is a historical mystery. It begins in 1795 when the Revolutionary War has been over for more than ten years. Will Rees, a former soldier, earns his living as a traveling weaver, or factor, as they were called then. After five years on the road when he finally returns home, he discovers his son has run away to a nearby Shaker community in southern Maine. Rees races to find him and within a day of his arrival, a young Shaker girl is found murdered, and that death leads Rees to uncover dark secrets that the community has long kept safe.
Why did I choose to write mysteries? In every library I have worked, (and I began my library career as a page in the Yonkers Public Library at sixteen) mysteries have been a popular, if not the most popular, genre. Mysteries, in the library where I now work, account for almost half of the monthly fiction circulation. I think they continue to be popular because the taking of a human life really strikes at the core of our humanity. Why do people murder other people? That will always be a question of never ending interest.
Why historical mysteries? They are a really popular subset of the genre. Most of those stories, however, at least in my observation, concern other countries. There are few that take place in this one, and even fewer, if any, that are set in the period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Yet this is a rich and fascinating period and I want to teach my readers a little about the history of this time. A close study of the period reveals many of the trends that foreshadowed the Civil War and the future beyond it. Since humans seem to play out the same issues over and over, the motivations and emotions of the past still resonate with us.
Winning the award has not changed the outward semblance of my life. I still work in a small library and I continue to write every day as I have always done. However, now that I have a book accepted for publication my ‘hobby’, the activity I have done every day for years, is now credible and admired.
I hope that A SIMPLE MURDER is as much fun for you to read as it was for me to write and that the series I plan to follow A SIMPLE MURDER continues to hold your interest.
A SIMPLE MURDER will be available in May. If you would like an advanced readers copy, send an e-mail to Library-at-MacmillanUSA.com with your name, library, and full mailing address (subject: A SIMPLE MURDER)!