Karin Kaufman grew up devouring murder mysteries, especially of the cozy kind. Give her a good mystery, a comfy couch, and her sweet dog at her side, and she’s in heaven. She’s the author of the Juniper Grove Mystery Series and the Anna Denning Mystery Series. The Witch Tree, the first book in her Anna Denning series, was a finalist for a Grace Award. Karin has also written a children’s book, The Adventures of Geraldine Woolkins.
How did you get started writing and publishing mysteries?
I’ve been creating stories in my head since I was a kid. I’m not sure why, but I rarely wrote them down. It seemed easier to create them and keep them going (they were always continuing stories) in my head, I suppose. I’ve loved reading mysteries since I was about 12 — or before that, if you include Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames books. So about 15 years ago, I decided to get off the stick and try my hand at mystery writing. When I was nominated for an award at a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in the mystery/suspense category, that was all the encouragement I needed. Because this was just prior to the explosion of indie publishing, I decided to follow the normal route for authors: find an agent and then wait for the agent to find a publisher. Wait and wait, turn down after turn down. So many authors have horror stories about waiting years to see a book published, but I was lucky, because after querying just one agent, I discovered indie publishing. I’ve never looked back.
Your Amazon page describes you as writing “cozy mysteries with an edge.” What does that mean?
In using that description, I was looking for a way to explain that although the Anna Denning series has cozy elements to it (small town setting, murders “off screen,” an amateur sleuth, etc.), it’s not quite cozy in that it tackles some weightier themes and features murderers who deal in a rather serious way with the occult. On the other hand, my Juniper Grove mysteries are straight cozies.
Your Anna Denning Mystery Series, starting with The Witch Tree, features “supernaturally tinged, faith- based mysteries,” according to Amazon. What drew you to writing about that?
I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural, though largely from a Christian perspective. Christianity is all about the supernatural! But I’m also interested in what draws people to wicca, witchcraft, astral projection, new age religions, Druidry, theosophy, the Golden Dawn, and so forth. I was drawn to wicca myself in my late teens, so I don’t approach the subject in a terribly antagonistic way, even though my lead character, Anna Denning, battles the occult in every book. I see these various philosophies as being contrary to Christianity, but the people involved in them — especially wiccans, I think —can be friendly people in real life. I’ve probably offended some of them with this series, but that was never my intent.
Your Juniper Grove Mystery Series features a mystery author who likes to solve mysteries. Have you ever tried your hand at solving a real- life mystery? Could you see yourself doing so?
I would love to! Though I confess I’d have to do it from an armchair. I couldn’t handle working in the field, like the police and medical examiners do, with a real murder. I haven’t the stomach for it. I’ve solved my own genealogical puzzles in my own family, which led to the creation of my Anna Denning character. As Anna often says, genealogical research involves gathering seemingly unrelated pieces of information and putting them together, like puzzle pieces, to form a picture. In a way, it’s detective work.
Your book All Souls is about a group of assassins trying to take over the world. This sounds like your Anna Denning series played out in the physical realm instead of the supernatural one. Was this your intention?
That’s an interesting question! I did want to continue with supernatural themes in All Souls, but the question that runs through the book is this: Are the Sacks supernatural or natural beings? Some of the state-sanctioned assassins are certain they’re supernatural, in part because they’re deeply and gleefully evil, hugely talented, and difficult to kill. Other assassins, like Jane Piper, my lead character, aren’t so sure. The twist at the end suggests an answer to that question without fully answering it, but I hope to write more books in the Gatehouse series so I can further explore that theme.
You wrote a book about a mouse, The Adventures of Geraldine Woolkins. What inspired your writing of this book?
About twenty years ago, at a wedding reception I attended, my uncle and I saw a mouse dashing across the floor with a bit of wedding cake in its mouth. We christened the mouse Nigel, and for the rest of the reception we made up stories about the mouse and his family. (The “Note from the Author” at the back of the book describes this germ of an idea.) Flash forward 20 years. I was trying to sleep one night — and doing a very bad job of it — when the idea of Geraldine and her mouse family popped into my head. I wrote the entire first chapter in my head just before I fell asleep, and the next morning I got up and started writing it all down. At first, I intended the book to be a comfort read for adults, but it turned into more of a children’s book (though I’ve had lovely reviews from adults who liked the book). I hope to write more books in the Geraldine series later this year.
You publicly state in the summary of each book that your books are written from a Christian worldview. Do you find that affects your readership, either in drawing Christians to your books or keeping others away?
A lot of authors who write from a Christian worldview state such a “disclaimer” somewhere in their books’ descriptions. I don’t know why, but some readers are offended by books that mention God in any serious way, so stating my worldview up front with my Anna Denning series warns them away! It’s always struck me as odd that authors who wrestle with religious themes in their books have to do this because the reverse isn’t true. In other words, authors of secular fiction don’t feel the need to state that their books don’t mention God or spirituality in any way. It’s peculiar, really. Personally, I can’t imagine writing a book about murder that doesn’t mention God. I’m not sure how my disclaimer affects my readership. My guess is that it draws in as many readers as it keeps away.
Your website describes you as loving to curl up with a book and your dog. We are all eager to learn about your fur babyies!
I love to talk about my dogs! I think I’ve probably got some old bios somewhere on the Web that mention my earlier dogs, Sophie and Cooper, but sadly, they died a couple years ago. They were both rescue dogs, and I still miss them terribly. My current sweet pup is Dakota Grace, an Aussie mix who was rescued as a stray from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I’ve had her two years now, and I love her to pieces. She’s smart (too smart!), energetic, and as sweet as can be to people and other dogs. I can’t imagine life without her.
What books or authors have you found to be most influential in your writing career?
The first author that comes to mind when I’m asked this question is always Tony Hillerman, though his books and mine are very different. I think he was a fantastic writer — the best ever in the mystery genre — and reading his books reawakened the love of writing in me at a time when it had gone dormant. I discovered his books about 16 years ago and devoured one after the other until I’d read all his old books. Then I waited eagerly each year for the new Tony Hillerman. Now I’m reading books by Anne Hillerman (his daughter), whose mysteries carry on with Tony’s characters.
I was probably most influenced by the traditional mysteries I read decades ago: Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Catherine Aird, Agatha Christie, and others. And these days I’m enjoying Robert B. Parker, J.A. Jance, and Craig Johnson, as well as cozy/traditional books by Cleo Coyle, Alison Golden, Hope Callaghan, CeeCee James, and loads of others.
To check out Karin, visit the following sites: