I just love the Mainely Needlepoint mystery series. The third book in the series, Thread and Gone has just been published. If you haven’t read it — go out and buy it — it’s great. The author,Lea Wait, answered these questions for us.
How did you get the idea for the Mainely Needlepoint series?
My grandmother did needlepoint (and knitted, and tatted, and sewed) and both my sisters are also talented crafters. Unfortunately, knitting is as far as I went with any degree of success.
But I’ve always admired needlepoint and other varieties of embroidery. I’m a fourth generation antique dealer (I specialize in antique prints, which are the basis of another mystery series I write) so I grew up seeing samplers and hand-made lace and needlepoint of all sorts. I was fascinated by it … and by the women who (for the most part) created it.
But I’ll admit it was my agent who pushed me to write the Mainely Needlepoint series. He’s also an admirer of fine stitch work, and he suggested it might be great background for a series. I bit – and have had a lot of fun creating Angie Curtis and her grandmother, and the other needlepointers in Haven Harbor, Maine.
I’m sure many of my readers are intrigued by the idea of stitched needlepoint as a business. Is Mainely Needlepoint inspired by a real business?
Yes – and no. There is no Mainely Needlepoint business. But I’ve seen custom needlework commissioned by decorators, and small pieces for sale in shops in Maine … so I decided to create a niche business. I’d love to know if someone actually does this full time, as they did back in medieval times, when doing needlepoint was a hobby of gentlewomen, and a profession for (usually) men.
Each of the three mysteries in the series connects to needlepoint in very different ways, all very realistic. How do you come up with these ideas and what kind of research do you do?
I once heard an author, [when] asked where he got his ideas, answer, “In Bloomingdale’s.” There’s no one real answer. I read magazines on needlepoint. I now have several shelves of books about antique needlepoint. Plus … there’s real life. And, yes: I do a lot of research!
In Twisted Threads, the first book in the series, I introduce Angie Curtis, a young woman who’d grown up on the coast of Maine. Some called her mother the town slut, which wasn’t easy … and then her mother disappeared when Angie was ten. Her grandmother brought her up, but she had a rocky adolescence. Twisted Threads starts when Angie gets a telephone call from her grandmother: “It’s time to come home. They’ve found your mother.” Returning to Haven Harbor after ten years – and experience working for a private investigator in Arizona — Angie finds her grandmother has started a needlepoint business, but that’s only one of the changes in town. In this book we meet the major characters in the series, Angie solves her mother’s murder (and, yes, a body was found recently in a freezer in a storage unit in Maine), and I set the stage for further books.
In Threads of Evidence I combined my love of deserted, mysterious houses with the history of Maine as a vacation destination for the wealthy. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to pull those worlds together with a sad woman who mourned the death of her daughter – and, of course, created needlepoint panels.
Thread and Gone begins when a piece of medieval needlepoint is found under the eaves of a colonial home in Maine. Stranger things have been found in old homes. I loved doing research to establish a credible link between Mary Queen of Scots and Maine! I talked with experts in the Textile Division of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston along the way, and they kept me from inventing the impossible.
I have several folders full of ideas for future books. The key is always asking … “what if?” And connecting a mysterious event (or a murder) now or in the past to needlepoint.
Are you a needlepointer?
Not yet! But I’m working on that! In the meantime, I’ve adopted a kitten .. and kittens and wool go all too well together. So I’ll admit I’m not making major progress on my stitching skills. Hope to soon!
What’s next for Angie and her company?
In each book in the series (and there will be at least six – I’m hoping more!) we find out more about each of the Mainely Needlepointers. Right now I’m writing Dangling by a Thread, the fourth in the series, which will be published next fall. In it a rich friend of Skye and Patrick West, [subjects of the second in the series] decides to buy an island off Haven Harbor. But the island is occupied by a man the town calls The Solitary and by nesting grounds for endangered sea birds. Mainely Needlepointer Dave Percy is one of the man’s only friends, and he and Angie launch a campaign (involving needlepoint, of course!) to protect the Great Cormorants – and The Solitary.
In the book after that we’ll find out how Australian Sarah Bryrne ended up in Haven Harbor … and the sixth in the series will be a Christmas story!
Throughout the series, Angie will increasingly come to terms with her past, and decide what her future will be.
If you’re wondering about Lea’s background, she provided us with this bio:
In addition to the Mainely Needlepoint series, Maine author Lea Wait writes the Shadows Antique Print mystery series, and historical novels for young people set in nineteenth century Maine. Her Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine is about her life with her artist husband. Earlier in her life Lea worked for a major corporation and adopted four daughters as a single parent. She’s now the grandmother of eight. She invites readers to friend her on Facebook and Goodreads, and to check her website for more information about her and her books.