I received a copy of Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum, the first in the Seaside Knitters series, and loved it! My full review is right here, but there's more! I was lucky to have the chance to "interview" Sally Goldenbaum by e-mail and to receive a brand-new copy to give away to one lucky reader. Contest information is after the interview. I hope you enjoy the chance to learn a little more about Death by Cashmere and Sally Goldenbaum!
One of my favorite parts of Death by Cashmere was the fantastic town of Sea Harbor. You draw the town and its inhabitants so vividly that it was almost a main character. Is it based on a real place you've lived, or a composite of different towns?
It made me quite happy to have you refer to Sea Harbor as ‘almost a character’ because I tried very hard to do exactly that. Since this was the first book in a series, I wanted the town to come alive, to welcome readers, to be a place they would feel at home and would want to visit again and again. It’s also great fun to create a town (how many times does one get such a chance?) especially one in which I’d love to have my own private retreat.
Although Sea Harbor is imagined, it was surely inspired by the wonderful small towns that dot Cape Ann, Massachusetts—by the architecture and shops and art galleries and seaside neighborhoods in that area north of Boston. I combined things, took away others, until I had exactly the kind of town in which I knew the knitters would live and love (not to mention solve murders) —and never want to leave. Birdie’s big home is one I spotted in Gloucester, Massachusetts, though I never saw its inside. And Nell’s is a home I want to live in some day—she has my dream kitchen.
There are many movies filmed on Cape Ann, which I watch for atmosphere and inspiration (and it provides a nice break from writing when I am stuck on a scene-- all in the name of research!). The Love Letter is one that captures a lot of what I see in Sea Harbor. But strolling the streets of these charming seaside towns with my family who live in that area, sitting together on an actual breakwater with the salty breeze whipping through our hair, talking to the fishermen and shop owners, and pushing my grandson on a swing in a park that overlooks the ocean—these things provide the best inspiration of all.
Did your experiences as a Catholic nun inform your writing? I imagine it must have given you the insight to create such nuanced characters.
It was an important life experience, that’s for sure, and as such became a part of who I am, and, consequently, of what and how I write. I met many wonderful people during those years. Probably one of the things that affected me most deeply was the power and richness of female friendship—and that is one of the pivotal elements in the lives of the Seaside Knitters—the bonds of such friendship.
There is one character in the book, especially, who was drawn in some ways from a wonderful mentor, philosophy teacher, and friend I had (and have) from convent years. Birdie Favazza (in Cashmere) has my nun friend’s wisdom, humor, and insight—her generous spirit and kind, lively personality. My friend marched during the civil rights struggle in Selma, Alabama—and Birdie, I am sure, would have done the same thing given the right circumstances. (Clearly Birdie’s four husbands show that she and my nun friend are not an exact match-up!)
I thought Birdie was a delight, and I want to be like her when I grow up! Do you have a favorite character in the series? Which character is the most like you?
I love that you love Birdie. And as I said, she’s important to me, too. I suppose Nell, though, is most like me. That’s partially because we are the closest in age, and I have lived out some fantasies through her — her house near the beach, her running so easily, her kitchen, her cooking for friends every Friday night (I’ve always wanted to start a tradition like that!). Nell’s niece Izzy is about the same age as my own daughter (who similarly went to school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and now lives in a seaside town). So the concern Nell sometimes has for her niece—and her sometimes-interference in Izzy’s life—comes about through my own urges.
I would guess I’m like many fiction writers, creating characters who say things that we might like to say, or do things that we would like to do. Our alter egos in print.
When/where did you learn to knit? What made you decide to incorporate knitting into a mystery?
My grandmother taught me to knit a lifetime ago, sitting in her rocking chair in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. And I picked it up now and again through the years. But it was when my grandson Luke was born that it began growing to the obsession level. And now I find it hard to leave home without needles and yarn in hand. I’m not a great knitter, but most definitely a dedicated one!
In discussing the development of a new mystery series with my agent (I had previously written a mystery series that revolved around quilters), I suggested knitting because I love it—and one of the agents, an accomplished knitter, loved the idea. In researching the market, we thought there might be room for another series using knitting as the bond that pulls the main characters together, and so the Seaside Knitters were born. When Penguin gave them a home, I was very happy, indeed!
Do you have a favorite type of knitting? Favorite pattern? Yarn you just love?
I love knitting little sweaters and hats in organic cotton or soft wool. I tried a shawl in seasilk yarn because it figured in Death by Cashmere. It’s lovely yarn! And I’m determined to master socks. My knitting shop friends tell me it’s “easy.” Hmmmm. But the seaside knitters have been trying them, and with their encouragement, I will, too. I hope that readers will send me the socks they knit so I can add photos on my website: sallygoldenbaum.com.
I have a knitting blog, so for my readers, I have to ask: English or Continental?
Oh, dear. Such a sticky question. I knit the way my grandmother taught me to knit—and that is English. I love the way the women in the knitting studio look when they are knitting continental—it looks so much faster. But I’ve tried…and failed…and am back to the way my Grams taught me to do it.
Thanks so much for the chance to reach readers through your blog and reviews, Allison. I hope they will come visit sallygoldenbaum.com and drop me a note. Also, the next Seaside Knitters mystery, Patterns in the Sand, will be out in May 2009. Hope you enjoy it!
I really appreciated the opportunity to have my nosy questions answered! Thank you to Sally Goldenbaum for taking the time to respond!
If you would like a brand-new, hardcover copy of Death by Cashmere (and I know you do!), here's what you do:
1. For one entry, leave a comment on this entry telling me your favorite cozy mystery series OR your favorite pattern to knit (a bonus entry if you share both!).
2. For another entry, leave a comment on my review and tell me why you want to read the book.
3. For THREE bonus entries, link to this contest on your blog and tell me that you did.
U.S.-only entries must be received by Monday, December 22 at noon, EST. Make sure I have a way to reach you (valid e-mail address, blog, etc.). Thank you for entering!