Today I’m featuring an interview with cozy mystery author, Sarah Jane Weldon. Sarah is known within the cozy mystery author community as the founder of #nationalcozymysteryday which celebrates all things cozy mystery and takes place on Agatha Christie’s birthday, September 15th. She also coordinates a number of shared author promotions on BookFunnel, organizing collections of free books based around various cozy mystery themes. If you’re looking for a way to build your newsletter and network with other cozy mystery authors, Sarah’s BookFunnel promos are a great way to go about it.
Grab a beverage and a snack and sit back, and see what Sarah has to say about cozy mysteries, cookies, and penguins.
1 – What inspired you to write your books?
I was on the set of an Agatha Christie production for the BBC at the time and had recently come across NaNoWriMo and written my very first story in secret, thinking that no one would ever find it, let alone read it. It’s not going to make me rich anytime time soon, but it continues to sell a few copies each day without me doing anything with it.
It was around that time that I realised that the books I loved were called ‘cozies’ and so I started to do some investigating of my own, and thought I would try my hand at writing a story. That was ‘Dead on Doughnuts’ and I put it out under my own name, not thinking it would ever be read. Much to be horror, people started to download it and it was suddenly in the top 100 Amazon bestseller charts, at which point I realised that I needed to save up for some proper cover design and editing, so I unpublished it fast, saved up some funds by working as a cleaner in McDonald’s in between my other jobs, moved into a guesthouse room so that I could reduce my overheads and decided to become a full-time cozy mystery author. I’ve not regretted it one bit and I love being able to share my love of cozies with other readers and writers. I think I finally found my people! And my perfect job.
2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries?
I love that there is never a moment to get bored or stale. I’m always learning how to improve my craft, and I have stories set in more real-life worlds, as well as fantasy worlds. One minute my amateur sleuth is a teen working in a coffee shop, the next the sleuth is a sheep or unicorn. I draw inspiration from my travels and places I visit with my work.
3 – Do you have any writing rituals?
One of the best things for me is that writing fits perfectly around my work as a professional school and cruise ship speaker and on film productions. My life is pretty chaotic, especially as I play different characters on set. I travel a lot and it’s difficult to get structure, especially living in a guesthouse or staying in different places each night. I have moments of being really busy, followed by moments of dead time when it’s quiet on set and I’m just sat around in between takes. That makes it really difficult to have rituals as I have to go with the flow. Some days we start filming at 4aam, other times it might be that we film all night. When I’m away I use that time to ‘refill the creative well’ as it were, to watch people, to see new places, and to be more social, and then once I’m home again, I tend to go back to being introverted and that’s when I like to get back to my writing. It’s a good balance in some ways. Eventually, I would love to have a forever home, with a dedicated space for doing my writing, and to start having rituals.
4 – What’s more important – character or plot?
That’s a tough call to make. As a reader myself I think I’m more drawn to the characters as I’m prone to stop reading if I don’t gel with a character. I’ve got a really terrible short term memory though, and I often fall asleep when I read, and then have to re-read that page again the following night. So I probably don’t follow and get caught up in solving the murder or dissecting the plot as much as some readers do. The same if I’m watching a film or series on the television as I’ll always forgive a poor plot if I feel a connection to the characters.
5 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least
It’s funny. I was on set a few days ago and we did multiple takes of the same scene to the point where my mind had switched off and I was plotting my next murder mystery based on the characters and context around me. It was then that I realised just how much I was itching to get back to my writing, and how much the world had changed even in my lifetime. When I was a kid, saying that you wanted to become an author would have got you ridiculed. It was on a par with saying that you wanted to become an astronaut and visit the moon!
But the invention of the internet, Amazon, and self-publishing means that I now have the honour of giving talks in schools and hearing that ten and eleven-year-olds have now published books of their own and are earning a living from them. It’s completely mind-blowing!
That’s what I love the most about being an author. Being able to make a change to the lives of others -whether that’s writing a story that cheers up a reader whose had a rubbish day at work, or encouraging teens to get into self-publishing, or using the royalties from page reads and book sales to send teens on environmental and STEM expeditions around the world. Not to mention how amazing it is when you get to meet the writer of a book on set, and see how it has been adapted for TV or film. That single idea in the writer’s head has the potential to impact on so many lives, in very different ways. Just think of all the lighting guys, costume designers, and actors who have employment because that one person felt compelled to share their story.
The thing I like the least is that there are simply not enough writing hours in the day, and I want to be so much more skilled than I am! I’m a newbie so I’ve a huge amount to learn still.
6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”
Well, as a Brit I’m going to cheat a little and talk about biscuits rather than cookies, because I’m rather partial to a ginger nut. I’m an ice swimmer, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London, and a member of the Explorer’s Club in New York. Through my previous career as a medic, I got to visit a lot of different places as a researcher and went on a number of expeditions to extreme locations like the Arctic, Amazon, and desert.
The gingernut is the perfect biscuit for expeditions because it’s really solid, doesn’t melt or go off, and is perfect for dunking into a cup of tea without falling apart and leaving a soggy mess at the bottom of the cup. The sugar is great for energy, and ginger is perfect for travel sickness and dodgy tummies. One of the best things about ice swimming is that I have to keep my body at a minimum of 25% fat, so I eat a lot of things that are usually considered bad for you. I eat a lot of calories each day. My next big swim is 1km in a swimming costume in Antarctica so I’ll be very thankful for all the biscuits and cakes I’ve invested in!!
7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?
I used to share a house with a lot of vets and we often had weird and wonderful creatures around the house, including penguins! Though never in a sombrero. I love animals and was quite involved with the local dog shelter and the zoo whilst living in Tbilisi in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia so all animals are welcome at my home. It’s the place where the stories of Noah’s Ark come from and there was a really bad flood and landslide one year, which meant that all the animals were just wondering around the city, including the lions, rhino, and bears. I was always taking in animals from the street especially when the weather was nasty. So, I reckon a penguin in a sombrero would probably ask me for a nice cold bath and a pina colada.
8 – What else would you like us to know about you?
Every Friday I share lots of free cozy mystery books on my website blog as part of Free Book Friday, so if you ever need a new book or want to try out some new authors, that’s a great place to start. I don’t think that we as readers appreciate the kindness of our cozy mystery authors enough, and I certainly have a lot more respect and gratitude towards authors now I know just what is involved in the production of a book and how many hours it takes.
Likewise, I don’t know if authors realise how much impact they have in making the world a better, more positive place through the stories they share. The cozy mystery genre is filled with so many awesome people, it’s a real honour to be a part of it and to see it become more mainstream. My dream is to be able to walk into a book shop one day and to see a dedicated cozy mystery section, just like you would with romance and sci-fi books.
Sarah’s Cozy Mysteries
Sarah has a number of fun cozy mysteries that you’ll want to check out including Baa’d to the Bone, the Coffee Shop Mysteries, as well as the soon to be released Twelve Deadly Days of Christmas series. You can find out more about her books HERE.
Sarah Jane Weldon is a British cozy mystery author. On an average day, you’ll find her working on the set of a new film or television series, ice swimming in a remote location, or sat in her favourite fire-side chair plotting a character’s demise.
Sarah isn’t a fan of her middle name ‘Jane’ (she prefers to be called Sarah) but readers were getting her mixed up with another person who wrote hot and steamy books, so she decided to add ‘Jane’ to help readers find her books.
Outside of her writing, Sarah is a lover of cats, and even her Italian Greyhound is more cat-like than your average dog.
Sarah is passionate about children’s literacy and regularly works with schools through Skype in the Classroom and School Speakers. She is a STEM Ambassador, and actively supports young people through the UK registered environmental and STEM education charity ‘Oceans Project’ which she founded with a small group of IDP children whilst working for the Ministry of Education and Science in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. In 2014, Microsoft Education named Sarah as a ‘woman changing the world through technology’ for International Women’s Day for her work with schools worldwide.
A large percentage of Sarah’s book royalties directly supports Oceans Project’s work with disadvantaged young people, sending them on Earthwatch expeditions worldwide where they get to work one on one with sharks, coral reefs, and in the rainforest carrying out citizen science projects with leading experts in the field. (UK readers can support Oceans Project by shopping on Amazon Smile).
Sarah’s love for the water was recently filmed for a Channel 4 documentary series looking at her DNA and family history. Check it out on YouTube.
If you love cozy mystery books, you can join Sarah’s Free Book Friday newsletter which contains plenty of free cozies to keep you out of mischief for the weekend. Sign up on her website.
Sarah is the founder of #nationalcozymysteryday which takes place on Agatha Christie’s birthday on the 15th September, and is a celebration of all things cozy mystery.
Connect with Sarah on her Website & Blog | Free Book Friday Newsletter | Amazon | BookBub | Facebook Cozy Mystery Explorer | Facebook Author Page | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | YouTube | Goodreads
Editor’s Note: Thanks so much for the interview, Sarah! I absolutely love gingernuts. They’re something I became addicted to while living in Scotland and New Zealand. Sadly, they aren’t as easy to find now that I’m back in the States.