I'm pleased to welcome Jane Willan to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Jane writes the Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery series. ABIDE WITH ME is the third book in the series and was released last month.
Kathy: Sister Agatha and her childhood friend, Father Selwyn, make a great team. How did you decide upon a religious pair of crime solvers for your mystery series?
JW: When I began writing, I had only Sister Agatha as my protagonist. But as I created the story, it became clear that she needed a sidekick. I had never thought about why detective novels, movies, TV shows almost always have the detective and then someone else. But I suddenly understood. Father Selwyn appeared on his own however at the first crime scene.
But why a pair of religious crime solvers and in the setting of religion? First of all, there's no better place than a church, a monastery, a convent for a murder. That kind of setting is filled with mystery and intrigue, dark spaces, holy and high places. How perfect for stumbling across a dead body. And then clerics or nuns or people in a religious order are perfect as amateur detectives because they have their finger on the pulse of the community. They know everyone and everyone knows them. Consequently, they are often thrown into places and moments when they could be investigating a murder.
Kathy: New nuns from LA join the Welsh convent in ABIDE WITH ME. Why invite American sisters to your mystery?
JW: I got the idea from an article that I read a couple of years ago about how younger women in the United States who were taking orders, were seeking a stricter, more traditional role as a sister than previous generations. And since the sisters at Gwenafwy Abbey are little bit more traditional, the sisters from the Los Angeles convent wanted to come over and join them.
But why did I bring them in as a writer? I thought it would be fun. And it brings a lot of potential for new stories and storylines and characters down the road.
Kathy: Technology plays a part in your latest mystery. Are you always up to date with the latest electronic marvels or are you more of a technophobe? I admit being somewhere in the middle, but not very adept.
JW: I am fairly up to speed with technology. But my husband is a computer expert and so a lot of the technology that I do know, he has taught me. Also I thought it would be fun for a nun to be very skilled at technology since it would be unexpected.
Kathy: What first drew you to traditional mysteries?
JW: I think I've always liked the chase. Hunting down the bad guy. But I also like mysteries where the characters drive the story as much as the plot does. Setting means a lot to me too. The first mysteries that I read with a happy Hollister's and I loved them.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JW: Yes, I'm writing a novel that would probably be called domestic fiction. It is a clerical story, the story of a young woman in her first year of ministry. It follows kind of the same genre as Gilead or Jan Karon’s Father Tim series.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JW: The series is set in North Wales. It takes place mostly in the village of Pryderi and at Gwenafwy Abbey. The protagonist is one of the Anglican sisters whose name is Sister Agatha. And she is a novelist, a librarian, a sister, and an amateur detective.
I do think though that the series is about more than just finding the dead body for the murder of the dead body but rather the series is also about relationships: our relationship with each other, our relationship with God, the church in the world today. I like to think that the series also asks larger questions than a typical cozy mystery.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JW: I think my favorite character is Father Selwyn. He is the victor in the village of Pryderi. I like him because he's a very good victor. He loves his parish, and he wants the best for them, and he will do everything he can for them. I probably like him the best because I too am a vicar.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JW: I don't think my expression specific. I think though I am inspired by all series about clergy. I love stories about the church and the people who try to make the church a better place.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JW: I wanted to hold a book in my hand with my name on the cover. I also wanted to walk in the Barnes & Noble and see my book on a shelf. I've done both those things now many times and I still like how it feels.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JW: Stephen King just because he is a great guy and a great writer.
Beverly Cleary because she was so amazing, and I think she would get along with Stephen King.
Barbara Pym because she was an extraordinary person. And I would love to be able to write like Barbara Pym.
Alice Munro because she was so talented.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JW: ERIN'S CHILDREN by Eileen O'Finlan
THE TRESPASSER by Tana French
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JW: I am the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Paxton. That's really isn't a hobby but it's is what I do when I'm not writing. Or rather, writing is what I do when I'm not working at the church.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JW: Plain Greek yogurt
ice cream bars
blueberries (which are right now frozen)
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JW: Yes I'm going to write the fourth Sister Agatha book and I think she will be other writers conference in Scotland.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JW: Entering into the lives of other people (my characters).
The Third Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery
With her murder book and fountain pen in the pocket of her habit Sister Agatha is on the case once more. I can't tell you how much I love this intrepid nun. She's smart, funny, and uniquely herself. A nun proud of her Welsh heritage and more interested in writing about murder than making cheese with the other sisters, she manages to fit in sleuthing between meals and prayers.
I admit that the third Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery made me cry. There were tears of sadness, but also tears
of laughter. I'm still giggling at the jaffa cake debacle. I smile as I picture the Heavenly Gouda van on a stake out and chasing down suspects. I love the camaraderie of the characters. There's a realism here as well. They may love and respect each other, but they can also annoy each other and no one is above suspicion.
ABIDE WITH ME is a delightful mystery, both funny and moving. It captures life in a small Welsh village while providing a complex mystery. I only wish I could sample some of the nun's Heavenly Gouda and snuggle up in my own Sister Winifred knit hat and scarf set. I wonder what color she'd choose for me?
Abide With Me: A Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery by Jane Willan
About Abide With Me
Cozy Mystery 3rd in Series
Amazon White Glove (November 17, 2020)
Number of Pages - 300 Digital
Change is afoot at Gwenafwy Abbey. Ten new nuns from a convent in Los Angeles join the community of Anglican sisters bringing energy, youthful enthusiasm, and more electronic equipment than Sister Agatha could have imagined. The arrival of the new nuns brings something else to the Abbey—a bit of unexpected notoriety. Claire MacDonagh, an ambitious young reporter for The Church Times, interviews the new sisters for a feature story. Murder is the last thing on anyone’s mind when Claire is found dead on the beach, her mobile phone in the sand. A tragic death, says Constable Barnes. A selfie gone bad. Meanwhile, Sister Agatha is unconvinced and puts on her detective’s hat, only to find herself in the midst of a tangled murder mystery. Her suspect list includes everyone from the new sisters to Reverend Mother to the beloved archbishop of Wales. Time is running out as Sister Agatha uncovers a shocking reality. Will she reveal the truth hidden in an ancient document before it is too late?
About Jane Willan
Jane Willan wants to live in a world where everyone has time to read their favorite books, drink good coffee, and walk their dog on the beach, but until that can happen she enjoys life as a pastor and writer. When she's not working on a sermon, or hiking with her husband, Don, you can find her rereading Jane Eyre, binge-watching Downton Abbey, and trying out new ways to avoid exercise.
Website - https://www.janewillan.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jane.willan.9
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Jane_Willan
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/authorjaneawillan/
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