Monday, September 22, 2014

Evelyn Cullet, Guest Author

NOTE: A Well-Kept Family Secret – A Sandi Webster Mystery is now available in audio format at, iTunes and

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My guest this week is Evelyn Cullet who’s writing about choosing a setting, and she does it with humor. I think you’ll enjoy this post, and you just might find yourself chuckling throughout the day, thinking about reading the book.

How Did You Chose that Setting?

Editors and others, who shall remain nameless, often tell authors to write what you know. And that's how I chose my setting for Once Upon a Crime. This story takes place in Raven's Caw, Michigan, a hamlet so small you could probably drive right though town and have to turn back to find it. My protagonist's aunt lives in an old renovated school house near the summer cottages on Swan Lake.

This setting is a combination of two places. The lake setting is from my friend's summer cottage on Swan Lake in Michigan. The lake's name came from the fact that there are swans there in the summer, not from the Tchaikovsky ballet.

The school house and the small town were chosen for this novel because of an event I'd experienced in my early twenties. My niece, (who is two years older than me) was asked to stand up to a friend's wedding in a very small town in a nameless Midwestern state. She didn't want to go alone, so I went with her. We drove there, but went right past the town without finding it. We had to turn around and locate a gas station (there we no cell phones then) to call this girl's house for directions.

When we arrived, we were astounded to find that it was an isolated old school house in the middle of a forest, with nothing but a cemetery next door. Of course, the inside had been renovated…somewhat, and even though her parents had invited us, we didn't feel comfortable staying there so we ended up at a run-down motel along the roadside. We were the only two guests. The proprietor told us to make sure our door was locked and not to bring any food in because of the bears lurking around.

My niece's friend married a farmer, and while the wedding ceremony took place in a non-denominational church in the next town, the wedding breakfast was at his farm, outdoors at a long picnic table in the middle of a cow pasture. (I'm not making this up.) It was July. And yes, it was hot…there were cows... and mud…and flies…and other things. Having been born and raised in the city of Chicago, we both did a lot of eye rolling and facial gesturing.

The evening reception took place in the dance hall part of the local steak house. All the guests, other than myself and the wedding party, were wearing casual clothes. I was, of course, dressed to the hilt and spent most of my evening fending off several old men who were widowers, since all the young ones came with their wives.

Needless to say, my niece and I laughed a lot on the way home, mostly because it was so different from anything we'd ever experienced before. When you read Once Upon a Crime, I'm sure you'll recognize some of the places I've mentioned here.   

Thank you, Evelyn! That story is priceless. Marja

Evelyn Cullet has been an aspiring author since high school when she wrote short stories. She began her first novel while attending college later in life, and while working in the offices of a major soft drink company. After college, she continued taking writing classes. Now, with an early retirement, she finally has the chance to do what she loves best: write full time. As a life-long mystery buff, she was a former member of the Agatha Christie Society, and is a current member of Sisters In Crime. When she's not writing mysteries, reading them or reviewing them, she hosts other authors and their works on her writers blog. She also plays the piano, is an amateur lapidary, and an organic gardener. Evelyn and her husband live in a suburb of Chicago.

Book Blurb:
Love isn’t always a fairy tale…and Charlotte Ross has kissed her share of frogs, but that’s all behind her. Fleeing her life for a short break, Charlotte, along with her best friend Jane Marshall, find themselves at her aunt’s home in the sleepy town of Raven’s Caw, Michigan. Charlotte hopes to recover from another breakup with her fiancé, and her friend Jane, a new mystery writer, is looking forward to somewhere relaxing. But life has different plans for the two friends and they find themselves swept up in a whirlwind of romance, mystery and murder.
Sparks fly between Jane and Charlotte’s attractive, Machiavellian cousin, Kenny. But is the attraction too good to be true or just a diversion from a mystery that has piqued her interest? Charlotte is pulled along on this roller-coaster of emotion when she meets up with her first love, as she and Jane discover links between a murder that happened twelve years earlier and a recent crime. Risking their lives and hearts, the friends race against the past in an effort to solve the crimes before one of them becomes the next victim.
Once Upon a Crime is available at:
Barnes and Noble :

Other links:

Website and blog:

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (sorely in need of updating).
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

If you enjoy audio books, please give A Well-Kept Family Secret a try. Thank you!


  1. Evelyn, I enjoyed reading "Once Upon a Crime" and now I know where the inspiration for the setting came from. That's what I love most about writing - pulling bits and pieces from our own lives and things we've heard and read and then transforming them into a story. Preferably a mystery. :)

    1. Thanks Pat. I think most writers take their settings from places they either know or have been to. Explaining how I came upon this setting may have given you an idea of what I was thinking of when I wrote it..

  2. What a delightful true story and how wonderful you were able to use the setting in a novel. I'm looking forward to reading Once Upon a Crime.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy reading the novel a little more now that you understand how I got the setting for it.

  3. Love this story, Evelyn. It reminds me of friends' Jewish-Quaker wedding a few years ago on a horse farm. The "ceremony" Quaker-style was held outdoors, but we celebrated with music and wonderful food under a large tent. What fun it was!

  4. Don't get me wrong, I think outdoor weddings are great. I wish these people would have thought to put a tent over the table. There weren't may people invited to the breakfast and I guess they thought it would be like a huge picnic.

  5. Know about those almost invisible town weddings. Some like yours are a real adventure to give future chuckles. Great idea for a mystery setting will be looking forward to reading.

    1. Thanks Jake. I can't say that I've ever attended another wedding quite like it.