I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jackie Pulpit since we were in a writers’ group together many years ago. Since then, Jackie has found great success in independent publishing under other names. Questionable Morels is the first in the Naturalist Selection cozy mystery series, starring protagonist Fern Rivers. Fern must question everything she knows to be true after a mysterious death rocks her small metropark community.
I loved the book, so I wanted to ask Jackie a few questions about the upcoming release!
This is your cozy debut. How is this work different from other work you have written? Why did you choose to write a cozy?
Aside from switching perspectives from third to first person, not too much about the writing and creation process changed for me. Stepping away from fantasy and sci-fi was refreshing, and I enjoy writing situational dialogue in a present-day mystery. The biggest difference was having to detail the plot from top to bottom. I’m a bit of a pantser, in that I usually have a general idea of what my story is going to be so I can keep things loose and free to change if necessary along the way. Mysteries need to be solved—pun intended—on the outline before the main character can do it themselves.
I chose to write my cozy series because of two reasons. One being my love of PBS mysteries: who doesn’t enjoy watching the likes of Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes sniffing around for clues and solving complex murders in interesting settings? Two, because of a friend’s recommendation of the cozy genre. I’d never heard the term before that point. I researched it and fell in love.
Fern Rivers is a naturalist. What was your inspiration for this story world? How does the natural world inform your writing?
My wife is the inspiration for Fern Rivers. They are alike in so many ways that I think she’s a bit weirded out by it. Nature, in general, informs my writing. My series takes place in the fictional town of Duskview, where Lake Erie, lush green forests, and a small, sleepy town are prominently displayed. The Cleveland Metroparks and its Emerald Necklace are a treasure trove of beauty and inspiration, and I feel that the cozy genre is lacking a focus on such a splendid setting. Having a naturalist as the sleuth protagonist is also a blast to explore. It helps that I’ve also been around outdoor education for two decades.
Fern has to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet, plus live with her ex-boyfriend. I personally enjoyed the inherent conflict that this situation added to the main murder plot. I also loved the giddy nerdiness of Fern’s ex, Alexander. What do you think readers will like about this story?
Personally, I really hope readers will enjoy what I hope is a fresh take on this genre by exploring outdoor education and the strong female presence found in parks all around the world. I like to think that people will learn something about nature and the local wildlife of Northeast Ohio. I attempted what I hope is a unique approach to the recipes normally found in culinary cozies by providing original artwork of certain plants and wildlife mentioned in the novel. As for the nerdy ex-boyfriend, Alexander, I had so much fun writing him, and I intend to explore his character a lot more. In today’s society, I felt that having two Millennial ex-lovers living and working together made sense and had endless potential for conflict, growth, and hilarity.
What are your future plans for Fern? How will she grow (ha ha, see what I did there) in forthcoming stories?
I did see what you did there. 🙂 Fern’s character will indeed grow, and I plan on throwing some particularly tricky mysteries her way in the next couple books. I have three books in total planned as of right now, along with a prequel short story. I’m going to tackle a budding romance, explore the unusual relationship between her and her ex, dive into painful family memory, and continue to introduce people to the natural world.
Questionable Morels will be released on September 3, 2019. Order your copy today!