What’s Old Is New: A Conversation with Author Diane Kelly

Cozy mystery author Diane Kelly and I met online when I was featured on the “Molly on Mysteries” program, hosted by Molly J. Weston, retired editor of the Sisters in Crime newsletter. We soon realized we shared a common interest – we both write mysteries featuring old things, antiques for me and old houses for Diane.

Recently Diane and I had a conversation about our books and our love for things from yesteryear. I took the opportunity to ask about her writing.

Connie: Welcome to Miss Demeanors, Diane! Your House-Flipper Mysteries feature a female carpenter who rehabs old buildings, and Getaway with Murder, the first in your new Mountain Lodge Mysteries, involves the renovation of a dilapidated lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What draws you to write about building renovation? Have you ever done it yourself?

Diane: I’ve always had a soft spot for old houses, especially Victorians and farmhouses with big wrap-around porches. They take me back to a simpler time when the pace of life was slower, and I find comfort in that. I feel a twinge in my heart when I see a house suffering from neglect, and I know it could be beautiful if just given some TLC. While I can’t give all these old structures new life in reality, it’s fun to rehab them in my books, and turn old eyesores into something people can enjoy anew. I’ve never rehabbed an entire house, but we’ve changed out flooring in the homes we’ve lived in to make them prettier and more pet-friendly. We’ve also painted the walls. I love bright, whimsical colors! I also enjoy gardening, and I’ve added outdoor color with plants, flowers, and cute yard decorations. We plan to install black and white checkerboard flooring in the kitchen of our colonial soon, which will fulfill a decades-long dream of having checkerboard floors. I love the look!

Mill Workers’ House, Delaware, Ohio (1835)

Connie: I love old houses, too. In fact, I wrote a blog about it last year–Save the Old Ladies. I’ve always dreamed about renovating a historic house. Almost every day I drive past a stone house, built in 1835 to house workers from the old Carpenter’s Sawmill and Gristmill on the banks of the Olentangy River. An annex along the back of the house was originally the Crist Tavern. I can just picture how lively that place must have been at the end of the day. Even though the mill-workers house has been on the National Register of Historic Buildings since 1944, it definitely needs some of that TLC you were talking about. I keep hoping someone will restore it. How about you? Do you have a favorite old building?

The Caswell House

Diane: I have two favorites. The first would be the Caswell House in Austin, Texas, where my husband and I were married thirty years ago. It’s a gorgeous Victorian with a wide porch and balcony. My second favorite would be our first home in Austin, which we rented. It was a tiny two-bedroom wood-frame house, but it had hardwood floors throughout and oodles of charm. A more recent building I’ve enjoyed watching be rehabbed is the Colonial Inn in my hometown of Hillsborough, North Carolina. Only a year ago, it looked ready for the wrecking ball, but now it’s open as both an inn and restaurant. It’s lovely.

Connie: I’m interested in Misty Murphy, your protagonist in Getaway with Murder. She’s 50, definitely older than the typical cozy heroine. Why did you choose to make her that age, and are there advantages to being older?

Diane: I turned 50 a few years ago and have found being in my fifties far from the devastating foray “over the hill” we’re told it will be. It’s so freeing to have our children launched, more financial security, and fewer responsibilities for anyone other than ourselves (and our furry, four-footed housemates, of course). We’re having the time of our lives! We’ve also discovered that this phase of life is a great time to rediscover or reinvent ourselves. The independence is awesome! Though I’d love to have the energy I had when I was younger, I’d never want to lose the hard-earned knowledge and forego the experiences I’ve had. With age comes perspective, and I like knowing what is truly important and being able to focus on that.  

Connie: You’re so right! Knowledge, experience, and perspective are definite advantages, especially for an amateur sleuth. Good luck with the new series, and thanks so much for sharing your love of old houses and mysteries. I’m so glad we met!

Getaway With Murder is the first in a new cozy series set in a lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where secrets hide behind every hill.

As if hitting the half-century mark wasn’t enough, Misty Murphy celebrated her landmark birthday by amicably ending her marriage and investing her settlement in a dilapidated mountain lodge at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With the old inn teetering on both a bluff and bankruptcy, she must have lost her ever-loving mind.

Luckily, handyman Rocky Crowder has knack for rehabbing virtual ruins and for doing it on a dime, and to Misty’s delight, the lodge is fully booked on opening night, every room filled with flexible folks who’d slipped into spandex and ascended the peak for a yoga retreat with plans to namastay for a full week. Misty and her guests are feeling zen — until the yoga instructor is found dead.

With a killer on the loose and the lodge’s reputation hanging in the balance, Misty must put her detective skills to the test. Only one thing is as clear as a sunny mountain morning—she must solve the crime before the lodge ends up, once again, on the brink.

 

Be sure to check out Diane and her books at https://www.dianekelly.com/. Find Diane at her Author Diane Kelly page on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram at @DianeKellyBooks.

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