An interview with Amanda Flower

Amanda Flower is a USA Today Bestselling and Agatha Award winning author who has written eight different series and one stand-alone under her own name, and one series under her pseudonym, Isabella Alan. In addition to her writing, Amanda is an avid gardener and cat aficionada. Amanda and BCW Board Member Eileen Curley Hammond chatted about Amanda’s latest book recently.

Amanda Flower portrait
Amanda Flower

ECH: The sixth book in your Amish Candy Shop Mystery series, “Marshmallow Malice,” launched in late May. What new or amped-up tactics are you employing for launch in a COVID-19 world?

AF: It was an interesting experience to launch a book at such a strange time. I did more online and many of my in-person events were moved to next year or done over Zoom.

ECH: What made you decide to develop a cozy series set in a candy shop?

AF: I try not to eat them, but I love sweets. It’s been fun learning about and describing candies without the extra calories.

ECH: I loved the characters in “Marshmallow Malice:” Bailey (the Main Character) along with her New Yorker best friend, the “hot” cop, and her Maami (her grandmother). Bailey’s relationships seem to center her. Since the book is based in Ohio’s Amish country, what made you decide to have a New York connection?

AF: Before the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries, I wrote two Amish cozy series. In this one, I really wanted the main character to be a fish out of water when she moved to Amish Country. To me, New York could not be more different from Holmes County.

ECH: Pets play an important role in this book as well, especially Jethro (a teacup pig). Do animals feature in many of your works?

AF: All of them. I’m a huge animal lover. I can’t imagine writing a book without an animal in it.

ECH: I was surprised by the idea that alcohol can be consumed by some Amish. How did you get your in-depth knowledge of that world?

AF: I lived in Knox County for three years. Knox County is right next to Holmes County and has a sizeable Amish community too. I learned a lot about the Amish living there and from people who lived in the community who were Amish or former Amish.

ECH: Would you like to share an excerpt from “Marshmallow Malice?”

AF: Sure! Here’s the first page.

Chapter One

“This is supposed to be the best day of my life!” Juliet Brody wailed in the small library inside the large white church in Harvest, Ohio. She wore a pink and white, polka-dotted silk robe and hugged her comfort animal, black and white, polka-dotted pig Jethro to her chest. Jethro, who was about the size of a toaster, stuck out his tongue, and his eyes rolled in their sockets as his mistress gave him another mighty squeeze.

Carefully, I reached for Juliet’s arms and loosened her grip. The pig let out a gasp. I didn’t tell her that she’d almost squeezed Jethro to death. If I did, it would send her into another bout of hysterics, and that wasn’t something we needed when she was going to be walking down the aisle in an hour to marry Reverend Simon Brook, who was the pastor of the church we were in.

She looked at me with watery eyes. “Oh, Bailey, you are so kind to me, but what am I going to do looking like this?”

“This” was a huge chunk of hair missing where her bangs should have been. The young hairstylist responsible, Dylan Caster, stood a few feet away hold a curling iron in her hand with a hank of Juliet’s blond hair hanging from it. The strands wrapped around the iron appeared to be a little crispy. The scent of burnt hair filled the room.

“Dylan,” I said, “can you unplug the curling iron?”

“Oh, right.” She yanked the cord out of the wall. “I’m so sorry,” Dylan said for the fourteenth time. “I didn’t expect Jethro to be there.”

Dylan was in her late teens and a beauty school student who went to Reverend Brook’s church. To keep the congregation involved in the wedding, he and Juliet had decided to hire as many church members as they could to handle all the various jobs that a wedding requires. I was willing to bet Juliet now wished they’d picked someone other than Dylan to style her hair.

Not that I completely blamed Dylan for what had happened. Jethro was equally at fault. Unbeknownst to the beauty school student, Jethro had been hiding under the end of Juliet’s robe, and when Dylan came around the front to curl Juliet’s bangs, she stepped on his hoof. The pig squealed bloody murder and took off. In the process, he scared Dylan, who had Juliet’s bangs wrapped around her curling iron. Dylan screamed and jumped back, taking a big chuck of Juliet’s hair with her.

Juliet sniffled. “It’s not your fault, Dylan. These things happen.”

I smiled at Juliet. It was just like her to try to make the other person feel better even when she was so distraught. It was a gift she had bestowed on her son, Sheriff Deputy Aiden Brody, as well.

I was the maid of honor in Juliet’s wedding. I had only known her for a year when she’d asked me to fill that role in her wedding, so I had been more than a little surprised at the request. However, when she said it was due to the close connection between our two families, I couldn’t refuse. I was the best candidate because everyone else I was related to in Holmes County was Amish, and an Amish person would not be allowed to be the maid of honor in an English wedding.

Aiden was the best man. What made it even more interesting was that he also happened to be my boyfriend. As quirky and silly as his mother could be, I had to thank her for raising such a wonderful son. I also suspected that Juliet hoped to nudge Aiden and me toward the altar by making us stand side by side at the wedding. I’d like to think she wasn’t that calculating, but I also knew how much she wanted us to marry. It wasn’t as if she had been secretive about her hope.

ECH: What’s next for Bailey, and how many more books do you think you will have in this series?

AF: Bailey will make an appearance in the Amish Matchmaker Mystery, Courting Can Be Killer. This series is set in the same world, but a different character takes the lead. She will also appear in Candy Cane Crime, a novella in the Amish Candy Shop Series. Her next full-length book is Lemon Drop Dead, and will release next spring. Beyond that, she has at least two more books!

ECH: What else are you working on?

AF: I’m also writing the Magic Garden Mysteries and Magical Bookshop Mysteries for Crooked Lane, the Piper and Porter Mysteries for Hallmark, and the Farm to Table Mysteries for Sourcebooks.

ECH: If you had one piece of advice for writers who are just beginning their journey, what would it be?

AF: Don’t give up. It took my nine years to sell my first book.

ECH: Where can people purchase your book, and would you like to share a link to your website?

AF: They are available everywhere books are sold. There are some direction links through my website, I’m very active on Facebook, so please follow me there too!

Cover of Marshmallow Malice
Cover of Marshmallow Malice

Well, here we are

The below is a letter from BCW president Patrick Stuart.

I’ve noticed some differences over the last few months walking our dog, Felix. Things that didn’t exist before. The traffic, for instance. In the middle of the day, it got to where I could cross 35-mph streets with impunity. I almost didn’t even need to look. My previous fear of meeting instantaneous death at the radiator grille of a primer-gray, 2005 Hyundai Accent, sporting a massive spoiler and driven by a sketchy Domino’s driver, bordered on hubris. The empty streets reminded me of the first scene of virtually every apocalypse movie (for me, I’ll pick the British “28 Days Later”). Or in another capacity, the days after 9/11. When you live on the flight path for John Glenn International, you notice when passenger jets suddenly disappear from the sky.

Other things. It was eerily quiet. Which highlighted the fact that everyone seemed to be getting their roofs replaced, or yards landscaped. The sounds of nail guns and lawnmowers was everywhere. Or maybe the lack of ambient noise just made it appear that way. There were also more people around. Not in cars, but out walking. Dog-walking. Jogging. Some wearing masks, some not, but everybody making a conscious attempt to cross the street and respect the six-foot rule when anyone approached. In my neighborhood, most people tend to take such matters seriously, and multiply it by three. “I’m supposed to give you six feet, but just to be safe, let’s make it eighteen.”

Then, just as everything slowly started to look like normalcy was on the far, far horizon, something else happened. The sounds of police helicopters appeared. We live a mile north of OSU, and just a couple miles north of outer downtown Columbus. Just when you thought a global pandemic couldn’t get any worse… fate finds a way.

Like you, everything over the last few months has affected BCW. We’ve had to cancel meetings since February, and the upcoming summer looks no different. Libraries are cautiously reopening, but we don’t know when they will allow for public events. Furthermore, we don’t know when members will feel safe gathering in groups. As a result, BCW has decided to take the summer off, rather than keeping everyone guessing if there’ll be an upcoming meeting each month.

Let’s face it – you all deserve it. Tentatively we’re now considering September as a restart for our monthly Saturday presentations. In addition, the BCW board has been active behind the scenes, looking at alternative ways to move forward. We’ve discussed the possibility of local Zoom meetings, and have announced other Zoom meetings with Sisters In Crime chapters around the country. We continue to provide links to resources, and started a short story exercise on the website for interested members. We’ve also been doing author interviews, and are providing fresh updates via email, Facebook and Twitter. We’re actively preparing for the future by keeping in touch with canceled speakers, and planning new speakers for the coming months. And we’ve sent out personal emails to each member, asking how they’re managing during these rough times. If you ever have any thoughts, ideas or comments, please feel free to contact us, anytime.

A Twitter comment I’d read recently said we’re now “living through a social studies chapter.” Indeed, these are historic times. But in order for them to become historic, we first need to get through them. I sincerely hope all of you are managing as best as possible, and your families are safe. I hope your writing continues, your skills improve and your perspectives widen. And because I can’t resist a good cliché, I thought I’d end this with another quote: a line from Margaret Atwood, the apocalyptic Canadian author of The Handmaid’s Tale, who came up with perhaps the best ten words to sum up recent events:

‘A word after a word after a word is power.’

Peace, and keep writing.