I'm delighted to have Jennifer Alderson, author of popular travel and cozy mysteries, on the blog today. Jennifer was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. Her love of travel, art, and culture inspires her ongoing mystery series, the Adventures of Zelda Richardson. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, Jennifer can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.
Jennifer, welcome. Do tell us more about yourself and your family.
I am an American expat currently living in the Netherlands. I moved to Amsterdam in 2004 to study art history for one year, but met my future Dutch husband soon after arriving and ended up staying!
When my son was born in 2011, I decided to stay at home instead of searching for a new contract. Years earlier, I had started writing a thriller about a naive volunteer in Nepal, but I hadn’t gotten much more than halfway before I threw it in a desk drawer and forgot about it. My son’s naptimes provided me with the opportunity to actually get it done. After completing Down and Out in Kathmandu, I used my love of art history as inspiration for The Lover’s Portrait – book one in my Zelda Richardson mystery series. It was only after my second novel was finished that I actually tried to get them published.
How many books have you written? What are they about and why did you want to write about those subjects?
A visit to Nepal inspired two novels. Swayambhunath is possibly the most famous temple complex in Kathmandu.
Do you have a special place where you like to write?
Under normal circumstances, I am a café writer. As long as there is good music, mint tea, and the other patrons aren’t too rowdy, I write faster in a café. When I write at home, I am easily distracted by the laundry that should be washed or the floors that need a good mopping. Luckily, Dutch cafes are now allowed to reopen their outdoor terraces, which has helped increase my productivity after being in lockdown for three months!
This cafe in Vondelpark is one of Jennifer’s favorite places to write.
The last few rounds of editing. By that point, I know the story by heart and have trouble really focusing on the words in front of me. Luckily, editors are involved at that stage so I use their cues to focus on what I need to fix, instead of trying to line edit the manuscript every time I read it.
What was the first thing you wrote? Was it any good?
When I was fifteen, I finished my first full length novel, a murder mystery à la Sidney Sheldon. It involved identical twins and the big plot twist was that one of them had a fake leg. Reading it with adult eyes, I can assure you it is quite horrid! However, it was a fully developed plot and actually fairly complex.
What are you working on now?
I am currently finishing Death by Bagpipes: A Summer Murder in Edinburgh, book four in my Travel Can Be Murder cozy mystery series. It will be out at the end of this summer – on September 18. If everything goes well, book 5 will be out in time for Christmas!
A windmill seemed like the perfect weapon for a cozy mystery set in the Netherlands.
Do tell us about your latest release.
Death by Windmill: A Mother’s Day Murder in Amsterdam is the latest release in the Travel Can Be Murder cozy mystery series. These stories are much more connected than the books in my other series, which means readers get to know several reoccurring characters and watch them grow and evolve.
In my latest novel, Lana’s estranged mother is a surprise guest on the tour, invited by Lana’s boss Dotty who is convinced all they need is a few days together to reconcile their differences. Before mother and daughter can patch things up, Lana’s mother is arrested for murder after one of her guests is pushed off a windmill. Lana has to forgive her mother and flush out the real killer, before the tour is over.
How did you do your research?
I wanted to write about cities I had personally visited, in order to better describe them. Because I don’t want these novels to turn into travelogues, the confrontations, eavesdropping, and sleuthing take place during the group’s day tours, so readers get a mystery and trip in one. To refresh my memory, I went through my old photos, maps, and travel journals when choosing the locations. I also scanned recent travel blogs in order to make certain the places I describing had not changed dramatically since my visit.
Stephen King once said:
Stephen King once said:
Yes! Creative writing courses give you the basic tools, but reading a wide range of genres is akin to taking the master class. I believe it is the best way to become a better writer.
Jennifer, thank you for coming on the blog. It's been such a pleasure having you.
Thank you for inviting me, Harriet!