Interview With Author Eleanor Kuhns

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I write a series of historical murder mysteries set in the Federalist Period (roughly 1790’s to early 1800s). I am up to about 1802 now. My protagonists are a traveling weaver, Will Rees, and his wife Lydia, a former Shaker. The first book in the series is A Simple Murder, which is set against a Shaker community in Maine. That community, I call it Zion but it is loosely based on Sabbathday Lake in Alfred, Maine, plays an important role in many of the mysteries.

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Many of the Shaker communities are now living museums. Sabbathday Lake still has Shakers living there so they give tours to visitors. When my husband and I stopped, our tour was given by the daughter of an orphan who had been raised by this community. She had numerous anecdotes. That was the beginning of my interest in the Shakers.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I hand weave as a hobby so it is something I can describe accurate. Also, during the era before the Industrial Revolution, both men and women wove – the men as a profession.

When I visited the Shaker communities, I bought books and the self-published booklets of prayers, rules, biographies and so forth and I return to them over and over for inspiration.

I also continue to research the period since every book is at a slightly different place in history. I find sending them to other places, Salem for example, or the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, really inspires a story.

# How do you deal with creative block?

So far, this has not been a issue. There are not enough hours in the day and I struggle to make time for my writing.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Information dumps, without a doubt. Especially in historical novels where it is important to set the time and place. Always a struggle to pepper information throughout.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I try to find a title that us captivating and short enough to remember easily. Not as simple as it appears. Covers are the same. So far, my favorite cover is for The Great Dismal Swamp; it really illustrates a dark and spooky nature of the swamp.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

It is difficult since sometimes I wonder if they’ve actually read my book. But an editor once told me that they will happen. You can’t please everyone all the time.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

I am more focused now. In the beginning, I threw in just about everything I was thinking of.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

How many people write in about mistakes, perceived or otherwise. Sometimes, to my shame, they are right. Quirky little mistakes do slip through. But sometimes, they think they know something and I have researched it thoroughly and know they are wrong. Always difficult.

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how? 

I try to do both. I want to write something that is meaningful to me but at the same time write a good story. I want to teach and entertain at the same time.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

I think it is easier to write about something that engages the emotions. I feel if it matters to me, I can convey its importance to the reader.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

I read a lot. (?)

# What are your plans for future books?

I still have several ideas about Rees’s journey on his path to fully fledged adult. Along the way, I hope to illuminate some little known facts of American History.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I am a lifelong librarian. I wrote my first story at the age of ten; it was science fiction. I love all of the textile crafts. One of the things I love about research is how many weird things I’ve learned. I try to feature a job/profession that was common in that time. Most have diminished to craft status, such as weaving, but some are no more.