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Amanda Flower: On Making a Sleuth Out of a Poet

USA Today bestselling author Amanda Flower discusses the very moment she had the idea for her new historical mystery, Because I Could Not Stop For Death.

Amanda Flower is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning author of over 35 mystery novels. Her novels have received starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Romantic Times, and she has been featured in USA Today, First for Women, and Woman’s World. She currently writes for Penguin-Random House (Berkley), Kensington, and Sourcebooks.

In addition to being a writer, she was a librarian for 15 years. Today, Flower and her husband own a farm and recording studio, and they live in Northeast Ohio. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Amanda Flower: On Making a Sleuth Out of a Poet

Amanda Flower

In this post, Amanda discusses discusses the very moment she had the idea for her new historical mystery, Because I Could Not Stop For Death, her advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Amanda Flower
Literary agent: Nicole Resciniti, The Seymour Agency
Book title: Because I Could Not Stop For Death
Publisher: Berkley, PRH
Release date: September 20, 2022
Genre/category: Historical Mystery
Previous titles: Writing as Amanda Flower: Maid of Murder; Murder in a Basket; A Plain Death; A Plain Scandal; A Plain Disappearance; A Plain Malice; Andi Unexpected; Andi Under Pressure; Andi Unstoppable; The Final Reveille; The Final Tap; The Final Vow; Crime and Poetry; Prose and Cons; Murders and Metaphors; Verse and Vengeance; Crimes and Covers; Flowers and Foul Play; Death and Daisies; Mums and Mayhem; Assaulted Caramel; Lethal Licorice; Premeditated Peppermint; Criminally Cocoa; Toxic Toffee; Botched Butterscotch; Marshmallow Malice; Candy Cane Crime; Lemon Drop Dead; Peanut Butter Panic; Matchmaking Can Be Murder; Courting Can Be Killer; Marriage Can Be Mischief; Dead-End Detective; Farm to Trouble; Put Out to Pasture. Writing as Isabella Alan: Plainly Murder; Murder, Plain and Simple; Murder, Simply Stitched; Murder, Served Simply; Murder, Plainly Read; Murder, Handcrafted.
Elevator pitch for the book: When the brother of Emily Dickinson’s maid is murdered, Dickinson and her maid, Willa Noble, are pulled into the roles of sleuths that lead them down a dark path of closely guarded secrets that are at the very heart of the United States in the 1850s.

Amanda Flower: On Making a Sleuth Out of a Poet

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What prompted you to write this book?

I have loved Emily Dickinson since I was 15 years old and had to memorize one of her poems for my American Literature class. In 2016, I published Crime and Poetry, which was the first in my Magical Bookshop Mysteries. The sleuth used Dickinson’s poems to solve the murder in that book. I did extensive research on Dickinson at that time.

Three years later, I wanted to try my hand at writing a historical mystery. I agonized over finding the right hook, and then I remembered Dickinson. To my surprise, there was no traditional mystery written with her as sleuth. I was shocked. I suppose I expected someone else to have thought of the idea. I immediately pitched it to my agent, and the rest is history.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I came up with the concept in April 2019. I have a very vivid memory of gasping when the idea hit me while my then-boyfriend now-husband was driving us across country. The book will release in September 2022, so it was a little over three years from concept to publication.

The core of my idea stayed the same, but the details changed so much when I learned more and more about Dickinson. When I discovered that she traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1855, I knew I had to put that in the book and dispel the common belief that Dickinson was a recluse her whole life. That simply isn’t true.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I think the biggest surprise for me with this title has been how enthusiastic my editor at Berkley has been about the project. I really feel supported by the whole team there.

Amanda Flower: On Making a Sleuth Out of a Poet

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

The biggest surprise in this writing process for me was everything I learned about Dickinson. I have studied her off and on for years, but this was my first deep dive into her life. She was a gifted poet but also an immensely interesting person.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope they come away from the book with a broader sense of who Dickinson was outside of stories of her hiding away in her room all the time writing day and night.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Keep writing. Even if you are on submission and waiting to hear back from an editor or agent, don’t sit around and just wait. Write while you wait. It’s much better when you get the call to have four pitches ready to go instead of just one.

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