Molly MacRae is the author of the Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries, available in mass market paperback, e-book, and audio. The third book in the series, Spinning in Her Grave, has just been released.
Is Blue Plum, Tennessee, the imaginary town in my Haunted Yarns Shop Mysteries, a place I’d like to visit? Sure. Apart from the fact that people keep getting killed, I wouldn’t even mind living there. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing the series, especially this time of year, when yet another winter storm has barreled through central Illinois. When it’s below zero here, with the wind and snow making it feel even colder, I can pretend I’m sitting in the shade of an umbrella at Mel’s on Main sipping iced tea—with a slice of Mel’s tunnel of fudge cake, because in Blue Plum there are no calories.
To build Blue Plum, I borrowed details from small towns I’ve lived in or passed through. An awful lot of those parts come from Jonesborough, Tennessee—including the courthouse, the row house where I put the Weaver’s Cat, and the café that I reimagined and renamed Mel’s on Main. In fact, if you’re ever in upper east Tennessee around lunchtime, stop in at the Main Street Café in Jonesborough. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
If you’d like to see how I picture Blue Plum, take a look at my Pinterest boards. You’ll find the mountains, the streetscape, Mel’s bakery case, and the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm. And, of course, you’ll see the Weaver’s Cat. You’ll see some of the baby hats that members of TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Fiber) are knitting for their 1,000 hat challenge, the mannequin decked out in some of its ever-changing outfits. You can browse the shop’s reference library and find classes to take—haven’t you always wanted to learn how to knit a hedgehog? And you’ll see examples of lace more substantial than Geneva the ghost.
The idea—the ideal—of small towns calls to me. But Blue Plum isn’t idyllic. No small town is a utopia or an Eden. People, and life in general, tend to interfere. And so I’d be remiss if I never let it rain or snow in Blue Plum. Tunnel of fudge cake really does have calories (Geneva is happy to point that out to Kath, who might have been indulging herself more than she should, lately.) People have to work for a living. They get tired. They grouse and gossip and backbite. Lawns need mowing. Cat pans need cleaning. And there is that matter of people getting killed. Blue Plum mirrors the troubles and joys of the larger world; it just gives them to us with a cozier skyline.
Spinning in Her Grave, the third book in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, takes place around the time of Blue Plum Preserves, a festival celebrating the town’s history. And, wouldn’t you know it? Once again someone gets killed, this time during the reenactment of a local livestock feud. These things do happen in real life, although they seem to happen more often in imaginary towns in cozy mysteries. But that’s okay, really, because cozy mysteries give us—writers and readers—the chance to set things right in a way that doesn’t always happen in the real world. They allow us to restore order and go on with our lives, even if only in our heads. I don’t like to brag, but I’ve got it made. My hands might be cold as I type this, but the grass is greener and the dishes are always done in Blue Plum.