Mildred Abbott talks to us about the Cozy Corgi Mysteries Series

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: A pair of corgi dogs arrive on the second day of Crufts Dog Show at the NEC Arena on March 10, 2017 in Birmingham, England. First held in 1891, Crufts is said to be the largest show of its kind in the world, the annual four-day event, features thousands of dogs, with competitors travelling from countries across the globe to take part and vie for the coveted title of 'Best in Show'. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: A pair of corgi dogs arrive on the second day of Crufts Dog Show at the NEC Arena on March 10, 2017 in Birmingham, England. First held in 1891, Crufts is said to be the largest show of its kind in the world, the annual four-day event, features thousands of dogs, with competitors travelling from countries across the globe to take part and vie for the coveted title of 'Best in Show'. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) /
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Cruel Candy.. Image courtesy of Mildred Abbott

Wicked Wildlife.. Image courtesy of Mildred Abbott

Bickering Birds.. Image courtesy of Mildred Abbott

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

“I would say that this is probably true for most writers, but when I start a new book, from the second I begin planning, I split off into two people. One part of me, no matter where I am or what I am doing, is always with that book. To the point that I actually do very little else, once I begin, I dive in and immerse myself in the world and even when I’m not in front of the computer continue to live there until it’s done.

Once I type The End, there’s a huge relief, both of having told the story that’s been burning in my head and heart, and from the sense of permission to be fully a normal human being again who’s grounded firmly in  reality instead of living in this other world within my own head. Probably not a surprise to anyone, writers are absolutely bonkers.”

Where did the idea for a corgi themed cozy mystery series come from? And how did you come to the decision to include recipes in each book?

“I have read cozy mysteries my entire life, though I didn’t know that was the name of them. Even as a kid I read Nancy Drew, Hardy boys, and Agatha Christie. As I found myself reading more and more cozy mysteries, it was only a natural progression to begin writing them.

As for the cozy corgi theme, it too was a natural fit. I have had many corgis throughout my adult life and have come to love them and their quirky personalities. I felt having a Corgi as a stubborn, grumpy sidekick for my sleuth only made sense.

One of the charms of a cozy mystery is that the setting is most often a small British village.  I lived for several years in Estes Park, a little Colorado, tourist trap of a town, and I thought it would be a charming place to set the series. Kind of an American version of the British village. Not only do you have [the] perfect container for a fun cast of characters, but the unbelievable scenery of the Rocky Mountains and its wildlife is a perfect backdrop and often takes front and center through the stories.

In addition to the setting, a lot of cozy mysteries, at least my favorites, somehow revolve around food, often bakery or pastry items. That was simply a must for me, and as I love cooking, I wanted to share that particular passion with my readers.

Though all the stories and nearly all the characters are made up, I just blended a few of the favorite aspects of my own life,  my love of food, baking and pastries, threw in a murder, and it was a perfect fit.”

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your mystery series?

“I found that planning a mystery is very different from planning other types of novels. It’s not nearly as straightforward. I often find myself building the story around who I think the murderer is, often to get halfway or three-fourths through the outline only to realize that I had the murderer wrong, that while the person I’m thinking of may have plenty of motivation, the true killer is watching from the sidelines. It’s always a fun discovery when that happens.  I often feel like Winifred, the heroine of my stories, as I plan them, as I’m uncovering right along with her.”

What has been the hardest scene to write in the series?

“Honestly, the hard sections are few and far between, it’s one of the things I love most about writing the cozy mysteries. Some of the other genres I write in, there are certain sections that are expected that I don’t enjoy writing, for instance, when you write a romance, most readers desperately want a certain number of sex scenes during the book, which are my least favorite to write.

With cozy mysteries, there’s no scene that I don’t enjoy writing. The most difficult of the cozy series was the first two chapters of the very first book. I was planning on doing the series in third person and wrote the first few chapters that way. It wasn’t right, Winifred wanted to tell it from her perspective. When I rewrote it from that viewpoint, it all clicked.”

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

“The scariest part is right before you begin and right before you finish. I have now written over thirty-some books and that’s just as terrifying now as it was my first time. However, the most difficult part is turning it over to the rest of the world.

You pour your heart and your soul into every word you write, and you fall in love with your characters, even the bad ones, but when you make that choice to share it with the world, you invite their criticism, and their judgment of characters you love. You have to be willing to let that go. The flip side is that you receive the joy of sharing the stories and characters of people that fall in love with them and feel nearly as close to them as you do yourself. It’s an unexpected gift, one that I treasure.”

What inspires you to create these stories?

“For cozy mysteries specifically, my goal, at all times, is to entertain in an amusing and gentle way. The reason I read cozy mysteries is because I want to escape the stress or darkness of a particular moment in life, politics, etcetera. That’s my hope for the cozy corgi series, that it allows people a few hours of relaxation, joy, and revisiting a group of characters that begin to feel like family and friends. I want to be a beautiful escape.”

Are you planning any other cozy mysteries beyond the Cozy Corgi series? And will a dog or dogs continue to play a prominent role in your writing?

“I am. The timing of this question is perfect. I have a couple different cozy mystery series that I’m debating on which one to do first. I haven’t settled, but I’ve narrowed it down to two or three. One of them will be arriving late spring of 2019 if all goes according to plan.

This does not mean that the cozy corgi series is ending, just a sister series, if you will. At this point, I don’t think there will be a dog featured as there is in the cozy corgi mysteries. Anytime I write a new story or a new series I like to branch out and have it be something new. I don’t want to be another reincarnation of the cozy corgi, even though it will still have that fun, entertaining, and charming quality.”

Image courtesy of Mildred Abbott
Image courtesy of Mildred Abbott /

You recently released your 9th book in the series, how do you keep the stories fresh while still giving readers the characters they know and love?

“I’m sure this isn’t what a mystery writer should say, but the mystery is almost always a subplot. Even though it’s front and center the entire book. But for the series, it’s all about character development. The main characters change and grow in every single book. Secrets are revealed over time, and the opinions and relationships are altered, severed, or deepened.

In a long-running series, people keep returning because the cast of characters are their friends and family, the mysteries should keep them guessing, but even more importantly, they should reveal more and more of the lives of the characters we’ve all come to love and care for so deeply.”

Whatʼs next for the Cozy Corgi series?

“In book 8, there was the first huge secret reveal of the series, the kind of secret that changes everything. So for the next several books, relationships will be altering and the characters will be trying to get their footing once more seeing the world in a different light than what they thought it was before.

Over this next year, lots of questions that have been hanging out in the ether will be answered. Up until this point, Winifred, my sleuth, has had an on and off again relationship with the police department of the town, that’s going to become a much more symbiotic relationship, and will lead to greater uncoverings of secrets. In addition, personal entanglements will finally sort themselves out and big decisions that have been put on hold will finally be made. It’s all about to change! I’m excited for us all to go along on the ride!”

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We admit we are excited to see what comes next from Mildred Abbott, even if any new series won’t feature a dog at their heart. Luckily, it sounds like we will still be getting more books in the Cozy Corgi series, so we will still get our Winston fix for a while.