HUDSON — A Summit County native is flourishing nationwide as a prolific novelist in which all but three of her 33 cozy mystery books keep readers smiling and laughing about everything — except for murder.
Author Amanda Flower controls her storytelling passion for murder in her books written either at her Tallmadge-area home or a nearby coffee shop where her laptop spits out prose an average of 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
The three books that don’t include murder are for kids and involve two youngsters solving mysteries set in Carroll County.
Flower, a skilled storyteller with a high-pitched, loud laugh and an infectious smile, knew at age 11 that writing books that made people smile, chuckle and laugh — along with a twist of suspense and murder — was what she wanted for a life career.
The writing bug bit Flower when she and her classmates at Redeemer Christian School in Cuyahoga Falls were assigned to write about their summer vacations.
Knowing her peers had had more fun than she that summer, Flower dazzled the class and teacher Connie Hoyer with a fictional story of going with her brother to Geauga Lake and riding the Ferris wheel, which caught fire and her brother fell out without getting hurt.
When she read her piece to the class, everyone, including the teacher, chuckled and laughed.
“That’s when I decided like this is what I’m going to do the rest of my life: Write stories that make people laugh,” Flower said. “Ever since then, that is what I’ve been shooting for. So primarily I write funny and amusing cozy mysteries.”
A 2002 graduate of Malone University, Flower received her master's degree in library science in 2003 from Kent State. She spent 15 years as a full-time librarian, including stints at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Ursuline College in Pepper Pike and three years as reference librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society, retiring in 2018 to devote full time to her writing career.
During 10 years as a librarian, she also was writing.
A self-admitted “pantser” and not a plotter, Flower writes various sections of a story as they come to her fertile mind and then puts the sections together to complete the book unlike a plotter, who maps out the whole story and then writes in order.
Asked why she combines love and murder, the author says, “I have always been a fan of mystery novels. I read adult mysteries as young as age 12. I have always been attracted to people who do bad things, like what would drive someone to kill someone else.
“In my books primarily, the [reason] people decide to do something like that is because they feel trapped and they feel like they don’t have any other options.
They are generally normal people, who make a bad choice, either in the heat of the moment or they plan to make a bad choice because murder is never a good option.
“A lot of my books have romance in them because I think it is just something that everyone can, in some way, relate.
“Many of my protagonists meet their potential significant other in the first or second book [of a series] and as the series unfolds and she’s solving these crimes she is also dealing with the personal aspect of relationship problems.
“I think that is something that everyone can relate to so I think it gives a little bit of a human element to a story that could potentially be very sad and scary. It is for the same reason that I add humor and funny animal characters and things like that to humanize the situation.”
Flower said she spends an average 10 hours a day, seven days a week, cranking out her prose.
Asked what she wears to work, Flower said, “When I’m writing, I wear my glasses all the time because I can’t see without them. And I don’t wear any jewelry when I write.
“I typically am wearing jeans and a sweatshirt when I write either at home or at a local coffee shop. I always write in complete silence. I can write with strangers around, but I don’t want someone else [I know] around because I am too easily distracted. Basically, I just need to be by myself and focus on the work.”
At a coffee shop, she can concentrate “because I don’t know any of the people so they don’t bother me and I’m clearly focused on the story and my computer.”
Her first book, “Maid of Murder,” came out in June 2010. “It was nominated that year for the Agatha Award for best first novel and that really catapulted my career,” she said.
She said her work was rejected over 40 times, including once by the same publisher (Five Star, Gale Cengage) that brought her novel to life after rejecting it earlier.
“It was a year after that rejection that a new acquisitions editor was hired. He found a copy of my “Maid of Murder” manuscript still in the computer and decided it should be published, which it was in 2010.
“It was kind of a miracle that I was unaware of until I got the email in my second-floor office at the Ursuline College library quiet study area. I screamed and scared a bunch of students, and then I ran out and told them I sold a book!
“That one editor’s decision really changed my life,” she said.
Because of her penchant for writing with success, Flower was commissioned to write eight books this year and four more next year.
To meet imposing deadlines, “Marshmallow Malice” was sent to the publisher July 31 and is due out next spring, while “Botched Butterscotch,” with a writing deadline of Aug. 15, is to be published before next Mother’s Day. Coming to bookstores for Christmas are “Verse and Vengeance” on Dec. 10 and “Matchmaking Can Be Murder” on Dec. 31.
Her writing awards are numerous, including selection as a USA Today bestseller list author in 2015 for her mystery, “Murder, Plain and Simple,” and in 2018 for “Assaulted Caramel.”
In 2015, her children’s book, “Andi Unstoppable,” the last of three in her Andi Boggs children’s series, won the Agatha Award for Best Children’s Book (young adult).
The other two Andi books were nominated for Agatha Awards in 2013 and 2014.
Currently, Flower is writing for four publishers: Kensington Publishing, Crooked Lane Books, Sourcebooks and Hallmark.
About her desire to be a writer, Flower said, "I left being a librarian because being a full-time writer was always my dream job since I was a child."
George W. Davis can be reached at: email@example.com