Author Spotlight: Cozy Writer Sarah E. Burr Talks Magic and Mystery
We have a winner! Congratulations Leah Dobrinska! You are the winner of Sarah’s giveaway. She will be in touch with you. Thanks to Leah and everyone who stopped by to meet Sarah!
Cozy mystery writer Sarah E. Burr is a new friend and a new writer discovery for me–I met her when I appeared on The Bookish Hour podcast she does with brand new Tuligan, J.C. Kenney. She was delightful, her cozies are charming, and I’m so pleased to have her in the Spotlight today.
Sarah E. Burr is the award-winning author of the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, Trending Topic Mysteries, and Court of Mystery series. She currently serves as the social media manager for the New York chapter of Sisters in Crime and is the creative mind behind BookstaBundles, a content creation service for authors. Sarah is the co-host of The Bookish Hour, a live-streamed YouTube series featuring author interviews and book discussions. When she’s not spinning up stories, Sarah is singing Broadway tunes, reading everything from mystery to manga, video gaming, and enjoying walks with her dog, Eevee.
Giveaway! Sarah is giving away a $15 Barnes & Noble gift card to one lucky commenter this week. Just respond in the comments to this question: What kind of whim or magical ability would you like to have? We’ll choose a winner at random on Saturday morning.
Take it away, Sarah…
Keeping the “Normal” in Paranormal
I love magic. Since childhood, I’ve gravitated toward books about spellcasting and brave people with inexplicable powers. So, about two years ago, when I first began brainstorming my next writing project, I wanted to create a story involving “magic” in some form. The time had come to embrace my love of the mystical and supernatural. More than that, since the paranormal cozy mystery community is such an engaging group of people, I sought to create something special for them. But what? What could be new and exciting that I could bring to the paranormal cozy mystery genre?
A seemingly random thought then entered my mind: what if I didn’t use magic, but instead created something else? Something new. Something that turned the laws of physics upside down but allowed my characters to live everyday life in an ordinary world.
At this question, artistic anticipation bubbled within me. I’ve always loved worldbuilding. So, creating an entire magical system from scratch felt like a wonderful creative opportunity. The challenge would be to develop a system that was useful to my sleuth in her quest to solve mysteries but one that wasn’t too overpowered. My amateur detective, Hazel Wickbury, would be very much rooted in reality but with a slight dusting of the fantastical. My goal was to keep the normal in the paranormal, as the paranormal mystery genre isn’t for everyone.
Right from the beginning of this project, I was mindful that some of my contemporary cozy readers might be thrown for a loop by this new writing endeavor. I had to walk a tightrope to decide how much “magic” to include. Eventually, I determined that Hazel Wickbury—a candlemaker and small business owner living in Crucible, New York—would descend from an ancient family called the Glenmyres. The Glenmyres were one of Crucible’s five founding families, and they would have these “magical” abilities. In Hazel’s world, these powers would be called “whims.”
Why are they called whims, you might be asking. It’s funny when someone reads aloud the title of my book series for the first time, the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries. I can almost hear them thinking, “what in the world does this mean?”
The idea to take a simple word and turn it into the source of my characters’ powers came to me quite early in the brainstorming process. But what word to use? What term should define Hazel and her gift?
My characters’ abilities aren’t phenomenal cosmic powers that can be exercised however they see fit. Instead, they are more like quirks, small skills that set them apart from the rest of the residents in their upstate New York town. But fans of the My Hero Academia manga and anime know I couldn’t very well call these powers “quirks,” so a word hunt began.
I began scouring the dictionary for something to describe these minor quirks, these little “spur of the moment” skills. A skill that Hazel or her parter-in-crime, Aunt Poppy, might use on a whim. On a whim. Whim. From the minute “whim” entered my mind, I felt giddy. I knew a whim would be what Hazel would call her power.
Of course, readers will discover that Hazel’s whim is more like a curse. She can see how much time a person has left in this world. A countdown or “lifeclock” hovers above the heads of everyone around her. A morbid gift, for sure, especially compared to her bubbly best friend and aunt, Poppy Glenmyre, who can see colorful auras around people, depicting their moods and feelings.
Both these whims play an integral part in the murders assailing Hazel and Poppy’s beloved Crucible. They leap into action to launch their own investigations because, more than anything, the Glenmyre Girls want life to go back to normal as soon as possible.
Or as “normal” as life with a whim can be.
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Too Much To Candle, Book 2 in the Glenmyre Whim series
Candlemaker Hazel Wickbury sets out again to bring the truth to light.
Iggy Alewell, Hazel Wickbury’s friend and candle shop assistant, is eager to purchase his own home with the advance from his first big book deal. Iggy is on the hunt for something with character, so what could be better than the old Cragmire house that’s rumored to have buried treasure somewhere on its property? Hazel is thrilled her friend has found success, but things in Crucible take a nasty turn when another potential buyer for the Cragmire house goes missing. He was last seen taking a boat out on Lake Glenmyre, and when the rental is found empty, it’s clear to police that foul play is involved.
What’s worse is that Iggy becomes the prime suspect in the man’s disappearance, and Detective Holden Whitfield’s thorny, new partner is certain Iggy is guilty. To clear Iggy from suspicion and dispel the darkness penetrating their beloved town, Hazel and her Aunt Poppy team up again to find a killer before their friend gets burned.
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Find Book 1 in the Glenmyre Whim series, You Can’t Candle the Truth at Amazon and other book retailers.
I’m always looking for the next new series and am looking forward to this one. Thank you for the giveaway!
I’d love to have a whim like Poppy and be able to read the moods in a room.
I think I would like to have healing powers.
I would like to be able to make things right and heal others. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.
A beautiful, selfless whim, indeed!
Roseann McGrath Brooks
I agree with Liz about “whim” and the covers, the latter of which are, dare I say, whimsical. I’m not sure I’d want a whim or magical ability, although I do wish I could fly; does that count?
Thanks, Roseann! I think flying would be very useful 🙂
I enjoyed your post and I also enjoy The Bookish Hour. What great covers! I love your discovery of WHIM. Isn’t it great when something so right just…appears?
Thank you, Liz! I love my covers, too – the colors always cheer me up. I’m so grateful “whim” came to me when it did, or this series wouldn’t be where it is today!
I would love to be invisible.
That would definitely be useful for solving a mystery!