Monday, October 21, 2013

Earlene Fowler, Author of State Fair: a Benni Harper Mystery, Part I

In the Quilters' Book Club this month, we're reading State Fair by Earlene Fowler.  I thought it would be fun to learn a bit about this author of quilt mysteries that feature Benni Harper.  On Earlene's website, I found an interview that was taken from the Berkley Prime Crime website.  Enjoy!  


Why did you decide to use arts and crafts, specifically quilts, as a theme for your series?

By acting on the old saying to write what you know. I attempted to write literary short fiction for ten years before I wrote my first novel--FOOL'S PUZZLE. During that ten years I quit writing many times in discouragement. During those "off" times I did crafts--leather tooling, quilting, needlepoint, counted cross-stitch, basket weaving--so when I decided to write a mystery I wanted to write about things I knew about and also things I loved. I've always been drawn to the folk arts (what is sometimes called outsider art) rather than the fine arts probably because of my parent's rural and working class background. It's the art that regular people make after the real work of making a living is done. It was at a quilt show that I got the idea to name my book after a quilt because it suddenly occurred to me how evocative the pattern names were, how much they sounded like stories. I gave Benni a job I would have liked, being a curator at a museum that honored this type of art. Also, my maternal grandmother, the one from Arkansas, made the most beautiful quilts and I own some of them. I've always admired that art form even though I'm not a very good quilt maker.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

I know some authors who really hate starting books, but that has never been hard for me. I love the feeling, the possibilities that are there at the start of a story. For me, it's always been ending the story. Not because of the technical part of figuring out the plot, but the emotional part of letting the characters go and also letting the book itself go. The day I drive to Federal Express to send the manuscript to my editor is the hardest part of writing. Once the clerk takes
it from my hands, I feel utter desolation. It feels as if it is no longer entirely mine, and, truly, it isn't. But that's part of writing and publishing. I always wish I could keep the manuscript for a few months without someone reading it, savor the fact that I finished it and it's mine. Once it's gone, I start to let go a little. You have to if you want to survive emotionally. By the time my readers have it, it's gone through revisions, copy-editing and many readings so I'm not
so attached.

We'll continue this interview tomorrow.  Were you surprised at any of Earlene's answers, or were her answers ones you would have expected?  Inquiring minds want to know!  Answer in the comment section below.  If you are reading via email, you must first click on the blog title to be able to comment and read the comments of others.  By commenting, you are entering your name in a giveaway for a $20 gift certificate to Fat Quarter Shop!  The more times you comment throughout the month, the greater your chances of winning!  A big thank you to Fat Quarter Shop for this wonderful giveaway!

If you'd like to make the 10" Writer's Block quilt block pictured above, I found the pattern in Judy Martin's Ultimate Book of Quilt Block Patterns

You might also enjoy reading my previous blog post here. 


  1. I'm not surprised that she has a history with folk arts. I think it would be easier to write about what you know. It's interesting to think about the names of quilt blocks and the stories behind them.

  2. I wasn't surprised by the answers. It is hard to let go of your baby to be scrutinized by others. We quilters often feel a sense of loss when we gift/release our quilts.

  3. I wasn't surprised by her answers, either. I agree with lisa (above) and her comparison of giving away our quilts to sending off a book manuscript.

  4. Her comments are what I expected. From the beginning I liked the clues in the book titles connected with quilt patterns. I think I understand how she feels about sending off a book. I once sent off illustrations to someone who wanted to make a book and the ball got dropped. I wish I had sent her copies and kept the pictures ... and perhaps pursued the book myself.

  5. Her comments are fair. At first I couldn't give my quilts away because I had so much put into them. Now I make my quilts for specific reasons and I do give a lot away.
    As for writing I wouldn't know. I am not that good at it.
    Letting go initially would be hard, I'm sure

  6. I, too, am not surprised that Earlene has a background in folk arts, particularly quilting. It would be difficult to write from a quilter's perspective if you had no knowledge of the art. Giving away something that you've devoted a lot of time to is very hard. It's also hard to not try to keep track of what is no longer your own. I often watch for how items that I've made and given as gifts are displayed or used.

  7. After hearing her explanation, I understood. I was initially surprised though. I always imagine the writer's block of not being motivated to begin a book.Now it makes perfect sense that Earlene would want to hold on to her private work for a bit longer!

  8. It makes sense to me to write about what you know. I've read a few books that the writers didn't know what they were writing about, and it showed. Most of those books I never even finished.


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