Leann Sweeney is the author of two cozy mystery series. The Yellow Rose Mysteries centers around a pair of sisters who work to help adopted children unite with their birth parents and vice versa. The Cats in Trouble series focuses on a middle-aged widow who gets involved in various mysteries out of her love for cats, who need her help. The books have clever angles, and even those who don’t care specifically for cats will enjoy the series.
You are a registered nurse and worked in psychiatry and as a school nurse. How did you transition from working in the medical world to writing cozy mysteries full-time?
I always wanted to write and when I turned 40, I assessed my life and realized I had put my dreams on the back burner. I got a nurse day job with more flexibility and started learning how to write. And I did have to learn. It’s a steep curve but I loved every minute.
Your Yellow Rose Mysteries deal with topics of adoption. This is a unique angle for a book, as I can’t think of any cozy series that talk about adoption. What inspired you to focus on this topic?
I read an article in a magazine about a doctor who trafficked in illegal adoptions for years and years. It just outraged me and intrigued me at the same time. I decided it was a good hook for a series.
What cats do you have in your life?
I have Wexford, the introvert, a sweet, wonderful silver tabby ragdoll, and Lynley the bad boy, lover shelter cat who is the extrovert. But I have had cats since I was in my 20’s. Lots and lots of cats. Chablis, the Himalayan in the books, is the Himalayan who owned me in real life. Her name was Indigo and she will forever own a piece of my life and lives on in the Cats in Trouble series.
In your Cats in Trouble series, Jillian has a “cat cam,” where she can see what her cats are up to by looking at them on her phone. Do you have such a device?
No, because I never get out (been ill for a long time). However, what is interesting is that I thought of the idea and then began researching it. I found only one or two companies that actually marketed such things. (That was 8 years ago.) Now, they are a “thing.” I love that! And I sure wish I would have marketed the idea myself. (I’d be rich!) The reason I put it in the books is because I couldn’t have my protagonist Jillian tied to her house without any interaction with the cats, who are the center of these books.
Jillian of the Cats in Trouble series makes quilts for cats. Do you make quilts?
Yes. My editor wanted my main character to be a knitter (I am a terrible knitter!) and I told her that a quilter would be better, since cats absolutely love quilts–in fact they love fabric of any kind. If you lay even the smallest square of fabric on the floor they will claim it and sit on it. I have learned this through years of experience. I began quilting about the same time as I began to learn to write. I have made many many quilts in my time and even made two kitty quilts for a charity auction. I have given the patterns and ideas out to readers who want to make them. Several quilters have used the idea to make and supply kitty quilts for shelter cats. That makes me smile every time I think about it.
What kind of research do you have to do for your books, and where do you go for your research materials?
I do a lot of research for every book. For one book, I believe I bought 8 books for background material. I also visit places that appear in the stories. I just did that for the book I am writing now and that odd, beautiful house will be in the book. Sometimes it may not seem that way because it will only show up in a line or two, but an author is a narrator and must secure the trust of their readers. Without research, without knowing the truth and science behind the story there is no trust. A reader will go with you if they feel they are in the “arms of a loving narrator.”
You have managed to write amid suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic daily migraine. As someone who lives with chronic daily migraine myself, I am in awe of you for your ability to keep writing despite all this pain. What motivates you to get out of bed and write even when the pain is so bad?
I am a stubborn person who had dreams before all this mess hit me. I refused to give up on a writing career and actually, the writing is a way to get away from the pain, as is quilting. I cannot do any of that right now and it is so frustrating. (I fell and among other injuries, I damaged the nerves in my dominant arm.) I also had goals of how I wanted to achieve my dream and I made it come true, but just so you know, it took 11 years after I finished my first novel to get a major publishing house to give me a contract. The day after I signed my first contract, I was told I had to rewrite the book and had 6 weeks to do it. It’s a tough job to rewrite a mystery because a mystery is a house of cards. They had me pull a bottom card and that meant rewriting the whole thing. It also meant that the two other books I had written that followed Pick Your Poison did not work anymore. So the books that followed in the series were completely new.
What did you love to read as a child, and what do you enjoy reading now? Do you read visual books or listen to audio books?
I read everything I could get my hands on, from historical, to true crime, to romance, to Victorian, to science fiction. But mysteries were always my first love and like most cozy writers, [Nancy Drew hooked me from day one. I also loved Perry Mason, James Bond and Nero Wolfe. But when I found Agatha Christie it was a dream come true. Right now, I am binging on British mysteries. Love them. Because my vision is not good, I read almost exclusively on audio and that is why I pushed my agent to make sure ALL my books were on audio as well as print. I know there are many people who must listen to books rather than read print.
Is there anything else you think your readers would like to know about you?
I love them. And I thank them for sticking with me.
Click here to read my review of Pick Your Poison
Click here to read my review of The Cat, the Quilt,
and the Corpse
Click here to read my review of The Cat, the Professor, and the Poison
Click here to read my review of The Cat, the Lady,
and the Liar
Click here to read my review of The Cat, the Mill,
and the Murder