Saturday, March 10, 2007

Meet Mary Ellen Hughes

Hi everyone,

I’m delighted to have been invited to guest blog on the killer hobbies blogspot.
For those who may not be familiar with my Craft Corner series (which may cover most of you, since the first book, Wreath of Deception, only debuted last September), the series features Jo McAllister who has opened up a brand new arts and crafts shop in a small town in southern Maryland. Jo’s artist husband was killed in an accident a few months before, and Jo, who designs and makes jewelry, needs to have a more reliable source of income. Hence the craft shop.
Since Jo would be teaching various arts and crafts in the books, I needed to do significant research into several crafts in order to write about them intelligently. What fun that was! I had done a certain amount of crafting over the years, some of it only in a “dabbling” way, some more serious. But so many new crafts have been developed and grown so popular that I needed major re-educating.
I signed up for classes in wreath making for the first book, and ended up with a gorgeous Christmas wreath to hang on my wall. But for the wreath that is depicted on the cover (and directions for which appear at the back of the book) I went to a real pro – a florist whose shop is nearby and who let me watch as she designed the wreath. It was fascinating, watching her creative abilities go to work. I knew for a fact at that point (if I’d ever doubted it) that my major talents lay in writing about crafts, and, though I might be able to follow step-by-step directions, I would never be able to design an original piece on my own. I was so grateful to Julie Black, my florist friend, for sharing her expertise with me.
I also sat in on a few sessions of a stamping club and was amazed at the beautiful cards this group was making. The same with scrapbooking. Plus I watched how the women at these groups interacted, and tried to work some of that into the workshops in my book.
For the second book in the Craft Corner series, String of Lies, (which will be out next September) I focused on beading and went through similar steps in learning what I needed for the book: signing up for beading classes, making a few pieces for myself, then going to the real expert for a craft project to be included in the book.
During these processes I met some really terrific people, had a wonderful time, and thought how nice it would be to have more time to spend doing arts and crafts. That’s my catch-22. Through the research necessary for writing the books, I came across things that I’d almost rather be doing than to actually sit down and write the book. Almost.
My first love will always be writing. The crafts are important to my books, but I love creating the people who are doing the crafts, who are interacting with each other, growing and developing, and, of course, solving mysteries. So I’m probably not in any real danger of turning off my computer and turning to the glue gun or needlenose pliers, tempting though that may be. But I’ve certainly enriched my life through the writing of this new series. And if I ever run out of plot ideas, or just need to take a break from murder and mayhem, I’ll always have something intriguing and challenging to turn to.
That is, I will as long as I have step-by-step directions in front of me.

Visit Mary Ellen at


Monica Ferris said...

Oh, Mary Ellen, I know just how you feel. I suspect everyone blogging here knows how you feel, and you put it so eloquently! One of the great things about writing about crafts is that the research produces something useful or beautiful. Writing about medieval clergy was very interesting, but learning about the Holy Rule of St. Benedict and the late-medieval agrarian year wasn't exactly helpful in twenty-first century America. On the other hand, studying needlework often gives me a new scarf, sweater, purse, or Christmas gift!

Camille Minichino said...

I'm impressed with all the different crafts you've done, Mary Ellen! Here's another idea for the products of your classes and research (I may have missed this, reading too quickly) ... contribute to a conference auction. My new series is set in the world of dollhouses and miniatures, so I'm building small miniature scenes, with a reading/writing theme, to offer to the silent auctions. I'll take one to Malice, one to Mayhem ... and see how it goes!

Mary Ellen Hughes said...

What a good idea, Camille! I'll have to see what I can come up with for Malice. Hope to see you there. Your new series sounds really interesting. I'll look forward to seeing it as well as your miniatures.

Camille Minichino said...

It sounds like you already have a lot of items to choose from Mary Ellen. I'm building a little "reading corner" scene with piles of books, naturally! With your permission, I can do a miniature book with your cover (I just take images from amazon and shrink to fit).
Imagine having such fun and calling it "business!"

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see my book cover on one of your miniature books, Camille. And if you have a miniature reader in that corner, feel free to shrink my face (photographically-speaking) for the head. :-)

Mary Ellen

Camille Minichino said...

Wreath of Deception has a very colorful cover! When the piece is done, I'll send a photo.