WILLMAR – Taking a story idea from page one to final publication can be almost as difficult as solving the toughest of mysteries. Willmar’s first author Mary Seifert was able to solve both of these puzzles, as she celebrates the publication of the first four novels in her Katie & Maverick Cozy Mysteries series.
“Surreal,” Seifert said of seeing his words turned into a real book. “It’s great, it’s wonderful, it’s busy.”
A math teacher for many years, Seifert has always loved reading and books, a passion she inherited from both sides of her family.
“My mother and grandfather were notorious mystery readers. I could borrow books as long as I brought them back, which I was very grateful for,” Seifert said. “My dad read non-fiction, but was an outrageous storyteller. His fish was always the biggest.”
She started writing decades ago. At first it was short stories, then she tried a full fantasy novel. But it wasn’t until recently, when the last of her children moved out, that Seifert was able to devote her time to writing. She also changed the genre she wrote, moving from fantasy to mysteries.
“I really enjoyed coming up with the puzzles that others might enjoy,” Seifert said.
In 2015, Seifert completed the first draft of what would become his first novel, “Maverick, Movies & Murder,” a murder mystery set in a fictional small town in Minnesota. She completed the final project in 2017.
“It went through multiple revisions, many rewrites,” Seifert said, adding that she took mystery writing classes and listened to the constructive criticism she received.
Seifert continued to write as she purchased her first book from various publishers. The final version of her second book was completed in 2019 and the third book was completed in 2020.
It wasn’t until December 2021 that Seifert finally got the news she was dreaming of. Columbine Publishing Group has taken an interest in its mystery series, but with a few changes.
“The mystery is the same, the characters are the same,” Seifert said. “The presentation is different.”
The biggest change was turning the original books into intimate mysteries. A cozy is a genre of mystery story usually set in a rural setting, where the protagonist is not a professional detective, there is not much violence or adult content, and it is a more short.
It’s like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple instead of maybe a John Grisham thriller, Seifert explained, “it’s very sweet.”
Starring the town’s new teacher, Katie Wilk, and her canine companion, a black lab named Maverick, the books are set in Columbia, Minnesota. Katie has moved to Columbia to start her life over after a tragedy, but there are a lot of intrigues and investigations that attract her attention in her new home.
Columbine, which publishes Seifert’s series under their Secret Staircase Books imprint, has been great to work with, Seifert said. She received non-responses and “positively negative” responses from other publishing houses before Columbine arrived.
Columbine helped her edit and reorganize her books, and helped her continue writing her Katie & Maverick books.
“They’re very practical, they’re very useful,” Seifert said. “I really got lucky.”
The first two books in Seifert’s series – “Maverick, Movies & Murder” and “Rescues, Rogues & Renegade” – can be purchased online through Bookshop, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It may also be available in some bookstores. Once Upon A Crime, a mystery bookstore in Minneapolis, has it in stock.
The third book in the series – “Tinsel, Trials & Traitors” – will be released on August 18. The fourth book, so far untitled, is expected to be published in late 2022 or early 2023. There is a link to purchase her works on Seifert’s website at www.maryseifertauthor.com.
Seifert said Columbine is open to having her book series last as long as she wants. Perhaps there could be a few books published per year.
Now a published author, Seifert is also learning all about the publicity aspect of the role. In the coming weeks, she will be participating in various book clubs and is excited to attend her first signing, which will take place in her hometown of New Prague.
“It’s fun,” Seifert said.
Of course, she is already thinking about her next books.
She already has a draft of new work, and her writing process includes writing in the morning on the veranda of her house. She also relies on her writing partner, Pirate the Black Labrador.
Like in the books, Seifert had a lab named Maverick, who sadly died before the first book was printed. However, Pirate plays an equally important role in the books, as Seifert bases most of the book’s Mavericks on Pirate.
She said sometimes she just looked at him to see what he would do next, so she could take inspiration from it.
“Antics are definitely pirate,” Seifert said. “He lives up to his name.”