Sheila Connolly writes the Orchard Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. As Sarah Atwell, she also writes the Glassblowing Mysteries, whose debut book, Through a Glass, Deadly, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Sheila’s new series, the Museum Mysteries, opened in October 2010 with Fundraising the Dead. Size Matters is her first published short story. Sheila’s website is www.sheilaconnolly.com and she blogs at www.poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.com
The setting for “Size Matters” is a retail store in a mall. What inspired you to use this kind of setting for your story?
I think malls have a universal appeal. I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves in a mall other than our local one and recognized all the same stores–and sometimes even wondered where we were! They’re also like little self-contained communities, where you know your neighbors. Finally, in today’s uncertain economy, I wanted to use a setting where jobs were somewhat precarious, so my protagonist is fighting to keep hers: she knows a murder in the store could hurt business, so she has a personal stake in solving it quickly.
You have seven published novels but “Size Matters” is your first published short story. Somehow you manage to pack an amateur sleuth whodunnit into under 5000 words. How was your approach to this story different from a novel?
I don’t write short, so this was a challenge. My first completed book (never sold) came in around 80,000 words, and I was so caught up in the process of writing that other (equally unsold) manuscripts crept past 100,000 words. But Berkley Prime Crime prefers books in the 75,000-80,000 word range, so I had to make myself write leaner.
I haven’t tried many short stories, although I admire writers who can tell a complete story quickly and effectively. But as a writer I like to keep pushing myself. In a way that was also a reason that I chose the mall setting–it seemed a faster-paced place.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing two series, the Orchard Mysteries and the new Museum Mysteries, both for Berkley Prime Crime, with one book in each coming out in 2011. And believe it or not, my agent and I are kicking around ideas for yet another series. Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment. Or crazy.