"Knit One, Die Two" By Peggy Ehrhart: Review/Giveaway/Interview

by Sandra Murhpy

This week we have a review of another fun craft mystery by Peggy Ehrhart, along with an interesting interview with Peggy. Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review and links to purchase it.

Caralee is an amateur actress, portraying Madame Defarge in community theater. To make the role more realistic, she’s learning to knit. Or at least trying, if the lumpy, bumpy mess of gray yarn is any measure of her talent. Still, it’s a stage prop and she just has to move the needles correctly. No one will see the stitches up close.



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She’s the newest member of the knitting club, Knit and Nibble. That brings the total to seven. During one knitting session, Pamela sees a huge bruise on Caralee’s arm. No one is in charge of the props so they get stacked willy-nilly, causing an avalanche when Caralee tried to set up chairs for the group. The things were supposed to be put in better order, but it happened a second time, narrowly missing her then. As they say, third time’s a charm. This time Caralee couldn’t move fast enough. She’s dead.
mystery
Image Source Kensington

She wasn’t the nicest person, quiet a lot of the time, but when she spoke, it was usually a catty remark. It would make for a long list of suspects except for the fact that the props were all stored at the performance venue, the auditorium at the church—where access was limited. The police called Caralee’s death an accident when clearly, it was murder.

For the most part, Pamela sticks to asking questions only, usually in the company of Bettina. It’s when she thinks she’s solved the case and should check just one more detail, that she gets into trouble.

Pamela hasn’t dated since her husband died but now there’s the possibility of something, she’s not sure what, with her new neighbor. She’s also raising six kittens and a young mama cat, hoping finding homes won’t be a problem. As a friend and sidekick, Bettina is a colorful asset, bringing Pamela out of the boring parts of her life.

This is the third book in the series. The characters become old friends: Roland with his seventeen minutes a day knitting habit, Holly with her affinity for the 50s, Karen who’s expecting, Nell who tries to corral Bettina and Pamela, and Wilfred, Bettina’s husband who is a treasure (he can cook). Pamela does too and under "Nibble" get the recipe for Pamela's Peach Cobbler (To see a photo of the finished pie, visit the Knit and Nibble series page at (www.PeggyEhrhart.com). In the book under "Knit" get directions for Sachets: For Humans...and Cats. Look for Silent Knit, Deadly Knit in October, available for pre-order now.


Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She writes about eco-friendly topics, pets and wildlife for magazines and reviews mysteries and thrillers for KRL. A collection of her short stories, published by Untreed Reads, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Tales of Crime and Deception can be found at all the usual outlets. Each one is a little weird and all have a twist you won't see coming.

Interview with Peggy Ehrhart:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Peggy: Almost my whole life, really. When I was in third grade at Our Lady of Peace school in Van Nuys, California, I won a Columbus Day essay contest sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. (The prize was a very elegant fountain pen.) That put the seed in everyone’s minds - teachers, parents, classmates - that I was “the writer.” So, I guess I had to live up to the description.

KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?

Peggy: My first novel was a mystery called Sweet Man Is Gone, published by Five Star in 2008. It was inspired by my guitar-playing hobby and featured a female blues-singer amateur sleuth. She solved the murder of her band’s dashing guitar player.
mystery
Peggy Ehrhart

KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?

Peggy: All my fiction writing has been mysteries, but it took me a long time to become confident that I could write fiction. Then I chose to write mysteries because I’d started reading them in grad school as a break from more serious reading for my courses, like Beowulf or Paradise Lost, and I enjoyed them and thought they were fun. I also thought it would be easier to find a publisher for genre fiction than for a serious novel.

I did a lot of other writing before I wrote my first mystery in 1989. I wrote many, many, scholarly articles on my academic topic, medieval literature, as well as a book on medieval interpretations of the Judgment of Paris myth. That’s the wonderful story in which the Trojan prince Paris is asked to award a golden apple to the most beautiful goddess. Venus bribes him to choose her, and she rewards him with the Greek queen who then becomes Helen of Troy. The whole thing sets off the Trojan War—showing us that men’s appetites can have far-reaching political repercussions, as if we didn’t know.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.

Peggy: After Sweet Man Is Gone and its sequel, Got No Friend Anyhow, I was casting about for a project that would interest an agent. Five Star is a small press that accepts unagented submissions, but print runs are small and most bookstores don’t carry the books. (And Five Star recently dropped the mystery line anyway.)

I tried a few ideas that didn’t arouse much interest, and then miraculously an agent contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in launching a craft cozy series for Kensington. Of course, I said yes, and the craft turned out to be knitting. Conveniently, I learned to knit as a child and have been knitting on and off ever since.

Apparently, though there are already a great many series out there involving knitting, the theme is so popular with cozy readers that there’s always room for one more. The specific angle Kensington was looking for was a knitting club, so I invented the Knit and Nibble knitting club of charming Arborville NJ, with founder and mainstay (and amateur sleuth) Pamela Paterson. She’s an attractive widow in her mid-forties whose only daughter has just gone off to Massachusetts for college.

I was offered a three-book contract on the basis of a series overview, outlines for a few possible books, and three sample chapters. The book that just came out, Knit One, Die Two, is the third in that contract, but now I have a contract for three more Knit and Nibbles and just submitted the second of those.

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?

Peggy: I write to entertain, but I like to think my books are entertaining in the same way that Jane Austen is entertaining. There’s a lot of scope for good-natured social commentary in a book set in a small town where everybody knows everybody.

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

Peggy:
I’m lucky to be retired so I don’t have to squeeze the writing into a busy schedule. I write for about three hours in the late afternoon. Most people might be ready for a nap by then, but it seems to be a very productive time for me. I like to get errands and chores done earlier in the day, so I can focus totally on the writing when I sit down at my computer.

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Peggy: I’m a firm believer in outlining. I’ve always done it, working out victim, killer, method, suspects, clues, red herrings by making handwritten notes on lined paper before writing a word of the actual book (which I do on the computer). My editor at Kensington likes detailed outlines and he likes to approve them before I start each book, and that’s fine with me. Each of my plots stretches over a few weeks and I lay out the plot day by day and scene by scene in an outline of 10 or so single-spaced pages. Then when I write I don’t have to discard too much of my work because I’m not pursuing my story in directions that prove to be dead ends.

KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?

Peggy: Late afternoon, 3:00 to 6:00 or so, and fortunately my schedule allows for that.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Peggy: Yes. With my academic work I would submit and submit here, there, and everywhere until things were accepted, though the Judgment of Paris book was picked up right away by University of Pennsylvania Press. The same frustration happened with the fiction at first, though I got an agent right away for that 1989 mystery. Such luck seemed too good to be true and as it turned out it was because she was unable to sell it.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Peggy:
I was in a writers’ group back when I was working on the project that became Sweet Man Is Gone. A constant refrain from one of my critique partners when I would read my work aloud was, “Where is the feeling? I don’t feel any feeling.”

So, I began to think that maybe I myself was lacking feeling, otherwise wouldn’t my character feel feelings? In revising, I consciously gave her many feelings, and she frequently expressed them by bursting into tears.

Then a friend who wasn’t in the writers’ group, and in fact wasn’t even a writer, asked to read my work in progress. I handed it over, and when I saw her a week later the verdict was, “I would never want to read a book with this character as the protagonist. She is nothing but a big crybaby!”

KRL: Most interesting book signing story in a bookstore or other venue?

Peggy: For Sweet Man Is Gone, I did a signing at an independent bookstore about two hours south of where I live in northern New Jersey. It was an endless drive, but my first book had just come out and I was excited about promoting it. Well, almost no one came into the store and the people who did come in weren’t interested in me or my book.

Finally, though, an elderly couple came in and stopped to chat. The man, especially, was very chatty, with all sorts of theories about all sorts of things that he was happy to have found an audience for. When the woman noticed how content he was with his new conversation partner, she crept away. The bookstore was in a mall with many other shops.

She returned about two hours later to reclaim her chatty spouse, who had been hovering over my table the entire time. At least then she bought one of my books, as repayment I figured for the two hours of chatter-free shopping I’d enabled her to have.

KRL: Future writing goals?

Peggy:
I’m hoping the Knit and Nibble series goes on and on and on. I’m very happy exploring deeper into the lives of my continuing characters, the members of the knitting club and other residents of Arborville, as well as Pamela’s college-age daughter Penny, and her handsome neighbor, Richard Larkin, who would be such a perfect romantic match for Pamela if only she could recognize that fact.

KRL: Writing heroes?

Peggy: Jane Austen. She showed so clearly how one small group of people in one small place can reveal so many universal truths about being human. She also, as P. D. James pointed out, would have been a great mystery novelist had the mystery novel existed in her era. Read Emma and pay attention to the clues that should have revealed to Emma the real object of Frank Churchill’s affections. The way Austen hides them is masterful, but once you know they’re there, they’re impossible to ignore.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Peggy: Mostly checking details of what police would do at a crime scene, interviewing witnesses or making an arrest etc. My books are cozies with an amateur sleuth, so she isn’t following police procedure. However, if she happens upon a dead body, I have to describe reasonably accurately what would transpire when the police arrive.

Also, my sleuth works from home as associate editor of a magazine called Fiber Craft, so I sometimes Google around to find plausible topics for articles she evaluates and edits, like “Status Markers in Viking Women’s Dress” or “Kente Cloth Cooperatives in Rural Ghana.”

KRL: What do you read?

Peggy: Mostly non-fiction when I’m writing, because I don’t want to inadvertently borrow from something I’ve just read, or have another fiction writer’s voice replace my own.

KRL: Favorite TV or movies?

Peggy: My husband and I love BBC mysteries. We’ve watched all 93 episodes of Midsummer Murders three times at this point, now we’re midway through a re-watch of Morse.

KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Peggy: Just keep doing it and submitting. A lot of the people I met in Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America have given up now, so obviously they are never going to be published. I’ve also known people who had almost instant success and sometimes that’s not good either. You get an inflated notion of your own talent, and when your luck changes and your agent or publisher drops you, you don’t have that all-important ability to grit your teeth and just keep slogging along. And besides, maybe you hadn’t really mastered your craft yet.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Peggy: Thanks for inviting me to do this. Nobody would know about my work or the work of other mystery writers if not for coverage of the mystery scene in magazines like King’s River Life.
KRL: You are very welcome! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Peggy: People are often surprised about the guitar playing! The fact that it’s an electric guitar and rock and blues, the louder the better. I guess when I took it up, I was looking for a balance to the more scholarly aspects of my personality.

KRL: Website?

Peggy: My website is at www.PeggyEhrhart.com. I have a blog on it called Yarn Mania and I update it every month or so with some yarn creation I found at an estate sale or something I or someone else made. I recently put up pictures of a knitted Easter bunny I made based on a cat pattern I invented for Died in the Wool.


To enter to win a signed copy of Knit One, Die Two, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "knit,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 25, 2019. US residents only. If entering via comment please include your email address. And if entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors!

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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



Comments

  1. This sounds like a wonderful series. Thank you for the contest. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love the cover and enjoyed the description of the book. Thanks for the chance.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds like a great read! Thanks for the chance! JL_Minter (at) hotmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just discovered this series. I learned to knit awhile ago and would love to read this.
    kozo8989@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds fun!

    glen(dot)hurlbut95993(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sounds like a fun read Thank you for the chance Donakutska7@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Peggy and Sandra,

    Excellent interview! I enjoyed reading it. Peggy, I've thought of you and wondered what you were writing. Now I know. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the cover of Peggy's book. Thanks for including her book on your blog. It has now
    been added to my list of books I want to read. Thanks for the chance to enter your giveaway.
    My fingers are crossed. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete

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