Monica Ferris Weaves Murder Mystery Into Excelsior
Solving murders in Excelsior is the name of the game for author Monica Ferris.
Who knew that Excelsior could set the scene for so many murders?
Monica Ferris’s Needlecraft Mystery books center on amateur sleuth Betsy Devonshire, who owns a needlecraft store in Excelsior. Betsy solves a number of murders, many that occur right in Excelsior.
Ferris is a prolific writer. Her newest book, Threadbare, was published in December of this year and is her 15th book in the Needlecraft Mystery series. On Saturday, Dec. 17, Ferris was at Excelsior Bay Books to sign copies of her latest mystery and talk with fans.
One avid reader of the series, Jan Sulton, said that the books make her feel more a part of the Excelsior community. Sulton is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, which appears in some of the books. Like the characters in the books, Sulton enjoys needlework, knitting and quilting.
“Her books are a comfort to me,” Sulton said.
Some of the other Excelsior businesses and events that receive mention in Ferris’s books are Leipold’s Gifts and Antiques, Antiquity Rose, Cynthia Rae Boutique and Artworks. One book was even set during Art on the Lake, a popular annual event on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.
“It was fun to learn how that works and how it is set up,” Ferris said as she described learning about the event for her book.
Ferris described Excelsior as a charming and great town that is easily accessible from her St. Louis Park residence.
She enjoys the history of the city and simply stated, “I just like it.”
Ferris said that she always has her mind open for ideas and situations that provide reasons for murder or places to hide a body. She gave an example of a church she visited in Wisconsin that has been remodeled so often that it has a blocked off room. Yet the light in that room turns on along with other lights in the church.
“That is creepy,” she said. “I’m always looking for creepy things.”
When Ferris joins or reads about different groups or organizations she looks for the pressure points that could cause conflict. She reads a lot of online news, weblogs and cited Wikipedia as a good starting point for research.
When she begins writing a book, she explained that she starts with the ending. She answers the questions of who, how and why someone is murdered, as well as who committed the murder. After that, she called her writing process “disordered.”
By now Ferris has become so comfortable with her characters that after she writes the book’s opening, she allows the story to unfold.
“I just follow Betsy around,” Ferris said.
Even while Ferris enjoys the acclaim surrounding her newest book, she is already working on book No. 16 in the Needlecraft Mystery series.
She’s not yet finished with Betsy or Excelsior.