Posted in , Jun 6, 2016
Guideposts is celebrating the publication of our latest book series, Tearoom Mysteries. The series follows the adventures of cousins Jan and Elaine, who purchase a lakeside house in a quaint town in Maine and convert it into a tearoom. Solving mysteries with faith and family, Jan and Elaine find themselves to be just as good as serving truth as they are at serving tea. Guideposts caught up with the creator of the series, Susan Page Davis to discover more about the novels and her writing life.
GUIDEPOSTS: What made you decide to become a writer?
SUSAN PAGE DAVIS: I grew up in Maine and I made up a lot of stories when I was a kid. As I became an adult, I never really thought I would be a writer as a profession. First, I started writing some magazine articles, and then became a correspondent for a daily newspaper for about 20 years. In 1999, I started writing fiction. That’s when I really realized I had a story to tell.
GUIDEPOSTS: How do you as a writer know what’s for public consumption and what’s just for you?
SD: Well, I didn’t, at first. . . It takes awhile, not just to know what’s marketable, but to know your own voice. They say you don’t really find that until you’ve written a million words. I just kept at it and finally I did start to sell novels but I think that’s what the Lord gave me to help contribute to my family.
GUIDEPOSTS: How were you able to keep writing, especially after your first rejection?
SD: [My husband] actually encouraged me. He’s a retired full-time editor at the newspaper. He reads all my books and edits them before they go to my editor. When I first started, I had written a book and it was a police mystery, but it didn’t sell. After awhile I had written a sequel and another one. My husband finally said, “Hey, if nobody buys book one, they’re not going to buy all these others. So you’ve got to write something else.” [She wrote a new novel and sold her first book.] What I’m writing for Guideposts is contemporary. Most of them are Cozy Mysteries. I just enjoy writing what comes to me at the time and what seems good at the time and what seems like fun.
GUIDEPOSTS:Where did you get the idea for the Tearoom Mysteries series?
SD: I grew up in Maine. I spent most of my life in Maine...and I had seen people buy an old house and turn into a restaurant. There was even one that turned a building into a tearoom and I liked that idea. I think it was around 1988, my grandmother died and one of the things all of us granddaughters received from out of her garage attic was a Nanking teapot. We learned then that she had run a little tearoom during the depression in a small building that was across the road from their house. I never saw it. The building was gone. All that was left were these teapots. But that kind of planted the seed and as I thought about scenarios for a mystery-solving character, I thought a tea room would be good. It would be sort of quaint, but it would also lead to some interesting situations.
GUIDEPOSTS: Is the town in the books anything like your hometown?
I placed the books in an imaginary town that’s a lot like part of the town where I grew up. Our imaginary town is much smaller but it’s in central Maine, on the lake. I decided to make the two main characters widows in their 50s and I just kind of took it from there. I gave them families and neighbors and put other little shops in the town. We have things like a snowmobile and motorcycle repair shop, things that are very New England. We have a little restaurant like a grill where they have trivia tournaments on Friday night. We have the old Grange Hall that has been turned into a community theater. Things like that, that I grew up with.
GUIDEPOSTS: The two main characters, Jan and Elaine, are starting over in the middle of their lives. Were there any of your own life-changes that inspired Jan and Elaine's transition?
SD: When my husband retired, we wanted to move to a milder climate and also be closer to our children and grandchildren. After much prayer and searching, we found the spot we felt was right, in western Kentucky. This meant moving from Maine, where I grew up, and where we had lived in a large house for more than thirty years.
The family has gone through some hard things and some happy times since we moved six years ago, but the Lord has brought us through it, into this new season of life. Like Elaine and Jan, I’ve had to adjust to my new home, new neighbors, new landscape, new just about everything, but my faith is the same. My memories of Maine not only make me happy but have found their way into this new series.
GUIDEPOSTS: What is your hope for the readers of Tearoom Mysteries?
SD: Usually I hope for two things: one is just a good read. I want to entertain them. A lot of people need to just have some time away from the reality of their life and sit down with a good book. In these books, I think, we also want to show them some hope and faith and family togetherness. These women are widows, Jan and Elaine, but they are close to their family. Elaine’s family is farther away but she kind of shares Jan’s grandchildren and they’re all very close, so that the readers will see the problems in the family and the way that they solve them. Situations come up and they help each other as a family. That’s a big part of this series.