I'd like to welcome Mindy Quigley to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Mindy writes the Lindsay Harding Mystery series. The Burnt Island Burial Ground is the third book in the series and was just released last week.
Kathy: Setting plays such an important role in a mystery. Why is North Carolina the right choice for the Lindsay Harding Mystery series?
MQ: When I moved to North Carolina at age 21, I immediately took to the incredible diversity of the landscapes—mountains, rolling hills, big cities, tiny towns, beaches, and swamps. The range of scenery was so refreshing to someone who grew up mostly in the flat, sprawly Chicago suburbs. I didn’t start writing the Lindsay Harding series until I moved to Scotland, though, so in some ways, it’s a nostalgic postcard to a state I love.
I also like the way North Carolina reflects the changing South; that’s something in the background of all my books. In the small towns, like my invented town of Mount Moriah, there is often a mix of old attitudes and new ideas, and a varied mix of people, but there is still something distinctly friendly and Southern that knits the whole place together.
Kathy: Lindsay is a hospital chaplain. How did you decide upon this career for her?
MQ: One of my many jobs (and I’ve had many!) was working in the Pastoral Services department of the Duke University Medical Center. The chaplains would come back from the wards with these crazy stories, full of drama, heartbreak, and humor. The chaplains themselves were a quirky bunch. They ranged in age from 25 to 80, and were drawn from all different walks of life. It was a very unique place to work. I would always say, “One of you has got to write a book about this.” None of them ever took up the challenge, so I decided to do it myself.
Kathy: In The Burnt Island Burial Ground Lindsay hears a cryptic confession. Has anyone ever confessed something to you?
MQ: All the time! I’m a pretty non-judgmental person and I’m genuinely interested in other peoples’ stories, which seems to make people more open to telling me things. I was going to say that, unlike Lindsay, I’ve never had anyone confess to a killing, but then I remembered that I have! Someone confessed to me that he accidentally killed his cat, and that the guilt was tearing him apart.
Have you ever heard that saying that anger is like a hot stone—it burns the hand of the person that holds on to it? I think the same can be true of secrets.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MQ: My favorite book of all time is Murder on the Orient Express, which I first read when I was eleven. I’ve loved mysteries ever since. There’s really nothing like a good whodunit. You get a great story and great characters with the added benefit of a little puzzle to work out as you go along. That said, I draw the line at some of the really fluffy cozies. I can’t read anything with drawn-out descriptions of shopping or dining, or anything that features talking animals or ghosts. I’ve even seen a series with talking animals AND ghosts—definitely not for me! On the flip side, I don’t want to read the grisly details of autopsies or crime scenes. The mysteries I read and write fall between those two extremes.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MQ: I’ve just started a children’s series set in Scotland. My daughter, who is nine, persuaded me that I have to write something for children while she’s still young enough to enjoy it. She had promised to make her entire class buy it, so I’m guaranteed at least 22 sales.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MQ: My books center on a young, female chaplain at a small-town North Carolina hospital. Hospital chaplaincy is such a fascinating line of work. Chaplains deal with life and death every single day in an extremely tough environment. That said, my books are to hospital chaplaincy what M*A*S*H is to war movies—they are funny and irreverent, focusing on the human side of a very difficult job.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MQ: Lindsay is based on two of my favorite people in the world: my college roommates, both of whom became ministers and did residencies as hospital chaplains. Probably because I knew them before they were even considering the ministry, I’m able to think of them first and foremost as average women—as flawed, wonderful, hilarious, and resilient as most women are. That’s how I hope people will view Lindsay. As a totally relatable human being who just happens to have an extraordinary job and an unusual knack for stumbling into danger.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MQ: I’m not a “hide your light under a bushel” kind of person. A lot of authors are introverts, and those people might be content to write and keep their work to themselves or show it to a few close friends, but I would shrivel up and die if I couldn’t share my work. If my writing can entertain people and help them realize something new about themselves, then I feel like I’ve succeeded. When I go to book groups, I often end up talking more about the lives of the people I meet than about my work, and my favorite part of panel discussions is the interaction with the other authors. Really, this whole writing thing is just an excuse for me to meet new people!
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MQ: 1. Agatha Christie, for obvious reasons
2. Oscar Wilde, because his glittering wit would keep everyone entertained
3. Stephanie Jaye Evans, who writes the Sugarland Mysteries. She’s a lovely human being, and her elegant Texas hostess skills would be helpful to smooth over anything that goes wrong
4. Julia Child, because I’m a terrible cook, so somebody’s going to have to keep me from burning the house down.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MQ: I’m really enjoying The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day. Although it’s a bit darker than some of the mysteries I read, it’s incredibly well-written and gripping. It has the added bonus of being set in a fictionalized version of my alma mater, Northwestern University, so it’s also a stroll down memory lane.
Kathy:Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MQ: Writing is my hobby, at least until I start making enough money at it to quit my day job! J I also do yoga and volunteer with animal, arts, and education charities.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MQ: 1. Butter: Cholesterol be damned! I love the stuff.
2. Frozen peas: My go-to emergency vegetable when I need to feed my daughter and there is nothing else in the house.
3. Salsa: I always think we’re running low, when in fact we have at least five jars in the pantry.
4. Mount Olive Bread and Butter Pickles: A North Carolina necessity.
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