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Column #62

Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue

Clare O’Donohue, author of the Someday Quilts mystery series, says she always knew she wanted to be a novelist. The daughter of immigrants from Ireland, O’Donohue displayed the Irish gift of storytelling early on, and she wrote her first mystery at the age of 15.

After college, she worked as a reporter and taught writing, and it was during this period in her life that she fell in love with quilts and quilting. She taught herself to quilt after she saw a pattern for a Grandmother’s Flower Garden and decided to make one. “It's not pretty, but it's held together,” laughs O’Donohue.

In 1998, O’Donohue moved from her hometown of Chicago to Los Angeles and landed a job as a writer for the HGTV show, “Simply Quilts.” She eventually became the supervising producer for that program.

“I got my job on Simply Quilts because I could quilt, and—more importantly—because I spoke the language of quilters,” she says. “I understood the craft.” She went on to write and produce for numerous other television shows, including those on A&E, the History Channel, Discovery, Food Network, and TLC, among others. Throughout that time, however, she never lost her dream of becoming a novelist.

“When I decided to write my first novel, I went with the age-old advice of writing what you know. I know quilting, so my first series is set in a quilt shop.” In 2008, she published The Lover’s Knot. The success of that effort led to additional offerings in her Someday Quilts series, including A Drunkard’s Path, The Double Cross, and most recently, The Devil’s Puzzle.

“I wanted to write books that reflected the generational span of quilters, and the fact that we come from so many different backgrounds. I wanted to talk about our love of the history of the quilt, its function, its art, and its future,” O’Donohue continues. “I wanted to use the terms we use (like half-square triangles, and fat quarters) and I wanted to share the love we all feel for it.”

The series stars 26-year-old Nell Fitzgerald, whose grandmother owns a quilt shop in the town of Archers Rest, New York. Nell encounters her fair share of love interests, friendships, and adventure as murdered bodies—usually done in by some sort of quilting tool—prompt her to discover and then hone her amateur sleuthing skills at the same time she learns to quilt.

When asked if she is anything like Nell, O’Donohue responds, “Aside from the quilting, not really. Nell is 26, and let's just say I passed that a while back. She's just starting off in many ways, making new choices, falling in love. She's definitely a busy body, but she's also unsure of herself. I think she's smarter than I was at that age, but tripping over one dead body after another has probably aged her.”

Despite her busy writing schedule, O’Donohue still finds time to quilt, and quilts are an important part of her life. “My first 'real' quilt—the one I made after I'd learned about quarter-inch seams—was a Log Cabin. It's creams and browns. If I were doing it now, I'd add even more fabrics to it, but at the time I thought you could have too many fabrics in a quilt…silly girl! It's a lovely quilt, to me anyway): soft, muted, warm. It's my blankie, my go-to quilt for naps or when I'm sick. I've had it for about 15 years, and so far, no seams have come undone.”

That’s a satisfying point to the author, because as a mystery writer, her subject matter is all about what happens when things come apart at the seams.

Clare O’Donohue is also the author of the Kate Conway Mysteries series. More information can be found on O’Donohue’s website: http://clareodonohue.com


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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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