Amanda Flower
April 24, 2024

Amanda Flower is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning author of over thirty-five mystery novels. Her novels have received starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Romantic Times, and she had been featured in USA Today, First for Women, and Woman’s World. She currently writes for Penguin-Random House (Berkley), Kensington, Hallmark Publishing, Crooked Lane Books, and Sourcebooks. In addition to being a writer, she was a librarian for fifteen years. Today, Flower and her husband own a farm and recording studio, and they live in Northeast Ohio with their two adorable cats.

Interview by Elise Cooper

Q: Have you pioneered a unique genre by featuring historical women as amateur detectives?
Amanda: Yes. It started with the Emily Dickinson series and now the publisher has asked if I would start another one. This book features Katharine Wright, the sister of the Wright Brothers. Her brothers are household names, while she is not well known even though she is very involved with their success. I will probably be writing other series with other women. My parameters are American history, a woman, and a time period from 1812 to 1920. The woman might not be prominent, someone people do not know that much about, which allows me to have some liberty.

Q: What inspired you to choose Katharine Wright as your next subject?
Amanda: I knew I wanted to pick a woman from Ohio which is where I live. Katharine is really from a middle-class family that did not come from money and worked for everything they had. She was part of a different socio-economic class than Emily Dickinson. To me, in some ways she was more interesting than her brothers.

Q: Can you share some traits that make Katharine a compelling character in your book?
Amanda: Very outgoing and independent. She traveled by herself, had many friends, and later in life was a big supporter of a woman’s right to vote. Her brothers were soft spoken and quiet, so she became their spokesperson. She is also intellectual, opinionated, an observer, confident, conversationalist, and self-assured.

Q: How does Katharine influence her brothers’ lives and their inventions?
Amanda: She is kind of like an older sister even though she is the youngest. She was also a loyal and caring sister. In her letters she refers to her brothers as “the boys.” Their mother died when she was fifteen and she became the lady of the house including taking on the motherly role. After she became a teacher, she embodied the motherly aspect of teachers. Her brothers were very shy and did not like social settings, so she took over. She was extroverted while they were introverts. The brothers were encouraged by her to invent and tinker with objects.

Q: What elements in your story are purely fictional?
Amanda: The murder, the Shaw family, and the victim Herman Wheeler are all fictional.

Q: Could you describe the character of Herman Wheeler in your narrative?
Amanda: He was not nice and had bad business practices. He is smug, unkind, manipulative, and likes the quick fix.

Q: What significance do the missing papers with calculations hold in your plot?
Amanda: This was a very real fear of the brothers. They applied for the patent early 1903 and it was not approved until 1906. Those three years they were afraid someone would figure out how to power flights. I used it to make Orville Wright a suspect. It also showed the dynamics of the family.

Q: Can you talk about your other book, “Crime and Cherry Pits,” and how it differs from your other series?
Amanda: I wanted it to be different than the Amish Candy books. The family is very dysfunctional with a lot of tension. It focuses on how to keep a family business afloat in a rural setting. Across the series the focus is how to save the farm. The cherry festival is very real. It happens every year and people sell cherry items. It is a beautiful part of Michigan.

Q: What upcoming books can your readers look forward to?
Amanda: Gingerbread Danger comes out in October, the next Candy Shop Amish book. This will have Bailey’s Candy Factory up and running. There will be a Christmas in Harvest with a giant Candy Land game. One of Bailey’s workers falls off the factory roof, while trying to put up a Candy Land character. February 2025 the third Emily Dickinson book comes out, titled I Died for Beauty. In the summer/fall 2025 will be another Katharine Wright novel titled, Natural Barn Killer. There will be another Amish Matchmaker coming out late 2025.

Review by Elise Cooper

To Slip the Bonds of Earth by Amanda Flower is another winner. This book was a blend of historical fiction and cozy mystery, spotlighting the sister of the Wright brothers. The story weaves historical facts into a clever murder mystery. Like her famous brothers, Katharine is a woman ahead of her time.

Katharine is innovative, like her brothers, but not with gadgets, but in solving crimes. Living in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, she runs a bicycle shop and teaches Latin, while being a mother figure to her brothers, even though she is the younger sister. An intelligent woman, she is a hard-worker, strong-willed, and capable.  She is both a traditional and progressive woman with courage and drive.

The story has Orville and Wilbur Wright coming home to Dayton for Christmas. After having been invited to a Christmas Party Katharine decides to attend to discuss a lazy student, Benny Shaw, with his parents , who are hosting the party, and to attend with her best friend, Agnes, who wants her support.  Because she wants to be escorted, she talks her brother Orville to go with her. Unfortunately, he took the only copy of the unpatented flyer plans and placed them in his coat pocket.

At the party, Orville is baited by an old schoolmate, Herman Wheeler to participate in some games where he ends up getting mocked.  After having taken off his jacket, Orville discovers the airplane’s designs are missing.  To make matters worse, Herman is found covered in blood and dead with one of Orville’s screwdrivers covered in blood. Also, covered in blood is Benny Shaw who becomes the suspect after being discovered hiding in the room. Katharine feels it is her responsibility to clear her student and find the flying machine’s plans.

This mystery seems very realistic and plausible. There were twists at the end that readers will not anticipate. Katharine makes for a unique and engaging amateur sleuth. A bonus are the funny scenes that relieves some of the plot’s tension.

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