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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Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
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