Thursday, June 13, 2013

Edith as Farmer by Mystery Author Edith Maxwell

Locavore Edith Maxwell's Local Foods mysteries published by Kensington let her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. A Tine to Live A Tine to Die is her new book release, available in print and e-book.

A fourth-generation Californian, she has also published short stories of murderous revenge, most recently in the Fish Nets and Thin Ice anthologies. Edith Maxwell's pseudonym Tace Baker authored Speaking of Murder, which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau and campus intrigue after her sexy star student is killed. Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics.

A mother and former technical writer, Edith lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats.

Welcome, Edith.


Edith as Farmer by Mystery Author Edith Maxwell

Did you know I was a farmer in a past life? My (now ex-) husband and I owned the Five Star Organic Farm in West Newbury, Massachusetts. I was the farmer, and he supplied occasional muscle work like turning the compost or shoveling manure.

I'd been a gardener since college days in the early 70s, and when the chance came to not only buy a property north of Boston that had been an engineer's hobby garden but also leave my day job while our sons were young, we snapped it up. Our one-acre farm was already planted with blueberries, apple and pear trees, and grapes. The previous owner signed an affidavit stating that he had not used chemicals on the sizable vegetable plot, so I was able to get a head start on gaining organic certification from the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA).

I sold vegetables and fruits at the nascent Newburyport Farmers' Market. I started a Community Supported Agriculture program when most people hadn't even heard of the concept. I sold from an honors-system table in front of our house on busy Main Street.

So when it came time to list my credentials in my proposal for the Local Foods Mystery series, it was no stretch to write, "The language and tensions of a farmer like Cam are rooted in my own life." It was a great life for a while. I was home with my children most of the time. I grew healthy organic food for my family and for others, and I was good at it. I communed in old clothes with the birds and the weather, and my commute was a two-minute walk. I even won an award for my Gold Cherry tomatoes at the county fair one year.

So why didn't I stay a farmer? Lots of reasons. Farming is hard work and it's drudge work. You walk around bending over and hauling heavy loads; you never get your heart rate up. It's financially non-lucrative work on the level our farm was. To really make some money, I would have needed to immerse myself more heavily in marketing, when all I really wanted to do was grow vegetables. And I looked ahead in my life and realized I needed to get back into the paid work force before I lost some of my skills and the recency of my experience in the hi-tech world.

During the last winter between farming seasons, I wrote more than half a murder mystery set on - guess where? - a small organic farm. I'm using some of the fictional world I set up then, and several of the main characters, including farmer Cam Flaherty, in this new book. I'm so happy I can now reimmerse myself in that world without having to do all that heavy physical work, which, frankly, my body isn't quite up to any more.


Edith, thanks so much for being my guest today. I love the idea of farming because I grew up on a farm, but I've downsized my garden to four 4x4 raised beds and find that's plenty of work for me.

More about A Tine to Live A Tine to Die:

It's farming season in Westbury, Massachusetts, and geek-turned-novice farmer Cameron Flaherty hopes to make a killing selling organic produce. A quirky Locavore Club belongs to Cam's farm-share program. But when a killer strikes on her property, her first foray into the world of organic farming yields a bumper crop of locally sourced murder.

To clear her name, Cam has to dig up secrets buried deep beneath the soil of Produce Plus Plus Farm. And when the police don't make progress in the case, she has to catch a murderer whose motto seems to be, “Eat Local. Kill Local.”

To learn more about Edith and her books, visit her website and blog. She also contributes to the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. You can find her on Twitter (@edithmaxwell) and on Facebook.  


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It contributed to your writing though, which is cool. I imagine it is really hard work. And tough to make it while competing against the big companies.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Alex. Yes, it is very hard work indeed.

Patricia, I'm down to about the same size garden as yours now! Thanks for having me over today.

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Edith.

Edith - How nice to learn something about your background. Farming is such an important part of life, and one we all too frequently take for granted. And I'm especially glad to hear you were an organic farmer. But don't get me off on that tangent...

I wish you much success; it's nice to see you here.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks so much, Margot! Organic is the only way to go, in my opinion.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for being here, Edith.

I'm aiming for organic too, and the four boxes are pretty manageable, but an invasion of bindweed in our yard has me concerned. I don't think there's an organic solution for bindweed except manually pulling the little devils up one by one.

Edith Maxwell said...

Ouch. Bindweed. Pull away!

Helen Ginger said...

I've never been much of a farmer, but my husband is. He plants a garden every year. I'm more of an eater. We got our first blackberries last week. This sounds like a book for him.

Edith Maxwell said...

Helen, thanks for stopping by. I'll bet your husband will like the book!

Donna Volkenannt said...

I admire farmers for their hard work and dedication. The title of your book is great!

Julie Luek said...

OOoo my reading appetite is whetted. What a marvelous sounding read and LOVE that cover!!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks so much, Donna. I too admire farmers. My 24-year old son is one for the time being and he's tireless and dedicated.

Julie - so glad it piqued your interest!

Connie Archer said...

I can imagine how hard you worked on your farm, Edith! And I'm happy you turned your love of it to writing.

Trisha F said...

This is the fabulous thing about writing - you CAN immerse yourself in worlds you're not actually able (or willing) to physically be in, and live vicariously through your story. :)

Nice post, and I like the sound of your book!

LD Masterson said...

I have such respect for farmers. A 24/7 job with no vacations.