Prose 'n Cons™ Mystery Magazine


Mystery & True Crime • News, Features & Interviews

Laura Bradford:

This Best-Selling Author Lets Nothing Stand in Her Way

Reprinted from Summer 2015 issue of Prose ‘n Cons™ Mystery Magazine

Laura Bradford’s first published book, Jury of One, was released by a small, independent press in 2005. It was an Agatha nominee and, like her two subsequent books, was picked up by Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery Book Club. It was a fast start to an obviously promising career. Then, in 2006, Bradford received shocking news: she had multiple sclerosis.

  Life may have thrown her a curveball, but Bradford never stopped swinging for the fences.

  “Something about that news encouraged me to end that series and work toward getting in with a New York publishing house,” she says. “Two years later I signed my first contract with Penguin Publishing.”

  To date, Bradford has written 21 traditionally published books. She is perhaps best known for her Amish Mysteries series set in the fictional town of Heavenly, Pennsylvania. These stories feature shop owner and amateur sleuth Claire Weatherly, and former Amish community member Detective Jakob Fisher. Fisher is a “former” community member because the fictional police detective suffered the very real practice of shunning - an act that seems completely at odds with Amish pacifism and forgiveness. But, because Bradford prides herself on an accurate portrayal of the culture, this punishing exclusion is part of her storylines.

  Before each book, Bradford travels to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the site of the second-largest and oldest Amish settlement in North America. She possesses a rare, in-depth knowledge of this religious community that few other outsiders gain.

  Seven years ago, the nation at large got a small glimpse of what makes the Amish special. A gunman named Charles Roberts entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse in a small Lancaster County village called Nickel Mines. He barricaded the front door, taking children hostage.

   Roberts shot ten girls, five of whom died, before turning the weapon on himself. While the rest of the country grieved and raged, the Amish forgave. Rather than seek vengeance, they visited and comforted the wife and parents of the killer.

   “To this day,” Bradford admits, “I have a hard time understanding how they can forgive evil like that, yet turn their back so completely on a family member who chooses to leave the Amish life after baptism.”

  Since 2009, Bradford has written three or four books a year. Some of these are romance which, she says, is a genre that is on the back burner for now. She describes romance writing as “very internal” and reliant upon getting into the head and heart of those characters. With mysteries, on the other hand, “you get into the head and heart of the characters, but you also have the external devices - the crime to be solved, suspects to cull - that help move it along.”

  As for her actual process, her writing habit hasn’t changed since college days. “On my very first day as a newspaper intern, my editor encouraged me to write straight onto the computer. I haven’t looked back since.”

  Bradford is equally resolute with plotting. “I always know who did it and why before I start writing,” she says. “But in terms of where my series’ characters are left off at the end, that usually comes to me while I’m writing.”

  While her Amish Mysteries and past romances are written under her own name, her Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries are written for Berkley Prime Crime under the pen name Elizabeth Lynn Casey. “The benefit of a pen name for me,” she explains, “is that it helped me break into a New York publishing house for the first time.” Bradford’s focus now, however, is building her own name recognition.

  Suspendered Sentence, the fourth in the Amish Mysteries series, was released in March and almost immediately hit the Bookscan and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists. In it, a barn burns and - in keeping with Amish tradition - men from all over the community arrive to help rebuild. In the process, they discover the remains of a young woman believed to have run off to a life outside the closed culture. Together, Claire and Jakob work to solve the murder.

  2016 will be a very busy year for Bradford. Not only will the fifth Amish Mystery, A Churn for the Worse, be released - she is also introducing an entirely new series. Bradford says it’s too early to divulge specifics, but promises it will be a fun, cozy mystery.

  As for her M.S. diagnosis, Bradford has no plans to write about her experiences, but she does attack her challenge head on. She speaks openly about the illness, has participated in drug trials, and donated blood for genetics testing.

  “I’ve been very fortunate with my M.S. and I guess I want others to see that they, too, can keep reaching for their dream, hurdles be damned.”

  For more information about her appearances, published books, and upcoming releases, visit LauraBradford.com. PnC

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