I’m thrilled to have Sally Goldenbaum, author of the Seaside Mystery Knitters series, here with us today.
Sally, where did you grow up? Did your childhood contribute to your desire to be a writer?
I grew up in a small Wisconsin town on the shores of Lake Michigan. My diary was very important to me during lots of those years—it gave me a wonderful platform in which to fictionalize a relatively easy-going, trauma-free childhood and teenage-hood. I made up the excitement.
It wasn’t until high school, though, that writing became important to me and I thought perhaps I had some facility for it when a headline I wrote was chosen for a school newspaper article. It was an article about a girls’ basketball team called the Ponies. The ‘amazing’ headline read: Ponies Trot to Victory. (Small victories were important to me).
Where do you live now? Do you use that locale for settings in your novels?
After leaving my Wisconsin roots for college, I’ve lived lots of places (St. Louis and Indiana for college and graduate school, D, C., Pittsburgh, PA —where I worked for a short time at WQED and had the great pleasure of rubbing shoulders with Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood), and finally landed where I am now, Kansas City.
The first mystery series I wrote‑‑ The Queen Bees mysteries—was set in a small town near Kansas City. But the series I write now—the Seaside Knitters series— is set on the east coast. Two of the seaside knitters, however, are originally from Kansas City, allowing me to sneak in some homage to the Midwest now and then.
I chose the east coast for the present series because I love small seaside towns (and lobster tail)—the locale is perfect for creating delicious atmosphere and for developing a theme of rich, female friendships. But there’s another reason, too. I have two grandchildren (and their parents) who live on Cape Ann, just down the road from the fictitious Sea Harbor—and they are a joy to visit. Their parents also help with research and they and their friends are never short on ideas for mystery, murder, and mayhem.
What inspired you to write the first novel in your series?
Great question. I knew I wanted my four women to represent different generations. So I started with Izzy, who is my daughter’s age, and moved up, all the way to Birdie Favazza, who is 80-ish (the grand dame of Sea Harbor, whose wisdom, kindness and humor were inspired by an important woman in my own life).
In the beginning, in order to get to know my four knitters, I wrote long essays about each of the four women. In these essays, bits and pieces of people I know and love found their way into Nell, Birdie, Cass, and Izzy. But in this process, and in the development of what are now six-plus novels, they have also grown into their own unique personalities. And that’s one of the things that is so satisfying about writing fiction—these women have grown into themselves and have become new friends, women I am pleased to have in my life.
As for the place in which the Seaside Knitters mysteries are set, that came about at the same time as I was imagining my four women and developing their lives. And it was an easy choice. I wanted to separate the series from the one set in Kansas, I love the sea, and I have family (including grandchildren!) living on Cape Ann. It was, as they say, a no-brainer.
Did you plan your series before or after you wrote the first book?
I wish I were such a planner! But I did know it was going to be a series before I started the first book. That is how my agent represented that first book, so in that respect—and because that first contract was for three books—I knew the characters and town would have some longevity. But I had (have) few ideas about what will actually happen in subsequent books. In DEATH BY CASHMERE (Book 1 in the series) one of the protagonists, Izzy Chambers, leaves a law practice to open a yarn shop in Sea Harbor.
Now, in this new release (A FATAL FLEECE, book 6), her life has changed considerably, but I didn’t know how it would change when I first met her ‘way back when’. That’s one of the things I love about these women. They surprise me at every turn.
Name three of your favorite authors in the mystery genre and/or name specific books you love.
This one is hard…no, impossible…to answer. Too many wonderful writers and too many books. But outside the mystery realm, I like Anna Quindlen, Sue Miller, and Ann Patchett, and I’m enjoying my first Stewart O’Nan (Last Night at the Lobster). I also like family stories, like Kristin Hannah’s, and I read the Hunger Games in three days. But the list is so incomplete because there’s always a new book, a new author that keeps me up at night. That’s the wonderful part about books—there will always be new surprises and delights.
What are your favorite things to do when you’re not reading or writing?
These days much of my spare time is spent with my grandchildren (6, 4, 4, 23 months). So I’ve become quite good at singing Willoughby wallaby woo, painting rocks, and building blanket forts. I also like to cook and knit. And I also love swimming, walking, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.
Do you like to travel? If so, what are some of your favorite places to go?
My husband and I travel often, mostly to the two coasts, California and Boston, where we have family. We love going to Colorado—a straight shot down I-70 from Kansas City. We love it especially in the summer and fall when we hike the mountains with good friends, breathe in the mountain air, then retreat to our friends’ deck at the foot of Flagstaff Mountain for a glass of wine, creamy cheese, and conversation that never grows old.
How would you describe yourself personality wise?
Some years ago a good friend and fellow writer, Nancy Pickard, got me interested in studying the enneagram, an ancient system of personality profiling. My profile was that of a “2”—sometimes classified as ‘the helper’. Though the enneagram profile is broad in scope, parts of the ‘2’ profile fit me, I think. I like to be available for others, to engage with people, to make friends and help out when I can. This can be good and not so good. It makes it hard to hibernate when deadlines loom and to say no when people ask favors.
Although sometimes shy in new situations, once I am comfortable, I am fairly out-going. I love to cook, to have people in our home, to have activity going on around me. This desire to be around people translates to writing environments, too—I prefer a busy Starbucks to a quiet corner at home—I like to look up from writing every now and then and hear people laughing and talking, assuring me I’m still alive. So I usually write outside the home (except during perfect spring/fall days when a friend and I write on my screened in porch).
What’s your favorite color? Why?
Blue. And I never, ever questioned why. It just was, even though my brother thought I was totally colorless and talked me into buying an orange swimsuit once. I hated it. But now that you ask why I like blue, I am going to think –or imagine-- it’s because of my love of water (a water child?). I grew up on Lake Michigan, and my father even built ships as a profession. And now I’m writing books set near the ocean. Clearly, it was all meant to be.
Sally, thanks for being with us today. I want to mention how much I’ve enjoyed reading your books. I admire the way you use the five senses to bring your characters, plot and setting to life.
Thanks so much, Patricia. It’s been a pleasure being a guest on your blog. A fine way to celebrate the 6th Seaside Knitters adventure, A Fatal Fleece.
To order A Fatal Fleece, click on the link below.