It’s brilliant to welcome Jodi Casstevens-Short to my site, especially on the very special occasion of the launch of her debut novel tomorrow!

Jodi with her schnauzer puppies

I met Jodi when a handful of us decided to take advantage of the then new to us zoom technology to create small critique groups from Twitter’s #writingcommunity. Together with Texan-based Paula Peckham, Jodi and myself have been meeting pretty much every week since August 2020, and a few books have passed through our hands in that time.

Murdered by the Books is one of those, and it’s such a huge pleasure to have Jodi here to talk about her writing life and this book – the first in a series, by the way.

Tell us where you live and what a typical day might look like for you.

I live in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, a twin city about three hours directly south of Chicago. A typical day in my life consists of working part-time at my veterinarian’s office, writing and editing, spending time with my husband of almost 36 years and playing housemaid to my two miniature schnauzers, Finley and Riley [ed note: pictured above and always have to say hi on our zoom calls].

What kind of writing do you do and what led you to that?

I write a cozy mystery series called Murdered in Willow Springs. My debut novel, Murdered by the Books, releases on April 30. Cozy mystery is a genre I personally gravitate to, so I’m comfortable with its structure and nuances. When the characters for this book developed in my head, placing them in a cozy seemed natural for me.

In the early days of writing, were there authors whom you consciously modelled yourself on?

Cozy mysteries do tend to follow a “recipe” with an amateur sleuth, quirky characters, a smaller town setting and a romantic subplot. I enjoy reading cozies with these elements written by Laura Childs, Kate Carlisle, and Susan Wittig Albert, so it’s probably safe to say these authors have had an influence on my writing

How does writing begin for you? Is it an idea, a conversation, a title or an image?

Writing for me begins with an idea which most often wakes me in the middle of the night and sends me rifling through my nightstand to find the notebook and pen I keep there. Most often the idea is a character or characters and the relationship between them. I jot down all of their physical attributes and their personal info (age, career, relationship status, etc). By the time I’ve worked through these character outlines, the plot has begun to fall into place.

What challenges face you when writing, from finding time through to any case of writer’s block? And are there techniques you have to overcome them?

I used to think the biggest struggle for me with the writing process was managing and finding time for each project. Two very wise writer friends suggested making a daily schedule for writing, allotting time for each WIP. This has worked well for me. Having followed a rigid schedule for thirty-five years, I’m good with having my time planned down to the minute. Now I find the editing process the largest hurdle. Not the process itself, but knowing when enough is enough. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I could keep editing forever trying to improve it, but then I’d never get anything published.

What is your most recent book about?

Murdered by the Books introduces our heroine, Jillian Edwards, as she prepares to open her children’s bookstore, Whimsy & Wonder. The evening of her open house a woman is run down and killed in the street. Neighbors bring clues to Jillian knowing she has a close relationship with the detective on the case who happens to be her best friend’s husband.

Book cover

Despite his repeated warnings to stay out of his way and the ominous premonitions from her Aunt Grace, Jillian continues to place herself in the midst of the investigation which attracts the attention of the killer and puts a target on her back. There is also a budding romance for Jillian, but if you want to know more, you’ll need to read the book.

Find Murdered by the Books here

Writers draw constantly on their imaginations. How do you keep your well of creativity full?

My imagination and creativity are sparked by one of my favorite past times—I’m a big people watcher. Everywhere I go, I watch the person next to me at a red light, the woman across the street watering her garden, the man down the street washing his rocks (yes, that’s right) and the older couple at the restaurant celebrating their anniversary. I draw inspiration for my characters from these observations.

Are you close to other writers and how does that help you?

There are two writers I’ve become very close to in the last four years. We met, of all place, on Twitter during COVID. We immediately hit it off and chose to begin meeting via Zoom as critique partners. These fabulous women, Cheryl and Paula, have done so much for me. It is because of them, my book is finally getting published. [ed note: thank you so much Jodi – as I said above, the feeling’s mutual.]

What’s the best thing someone has said about your writing?

It’s early days, but here is a quote from a person from my launch team who read the ARC of Murdered by the Books. Of course, I was thrilled with her comments.

I finished reading your book today Let me just say, I devoured it!  Oh my gosh, I LOVE IT!!! Your writing and the way you develop the plot twists are amazing!! The entire story was absolutely fantastic (I still can’t believe the twists about Moira, Colin, and Maggie. OMG!!!). I cannot wait for the second book! 🙂 Right after finishing it, I perused Amazon for more cozy mystery books. Cozy mysteries are my new favorite genre.

[ed note: that is an amazing accolade! Well done!]

What are your future writing plans and especially, when can we expect a new book from you?

Book Two of the Murdered in Willow Springs series is finished and being edited, while I work to complete Book Three. I’m also writing a memoir of my teaching career which highlights some of the humorous, ridiculous, poignant and sometimes hard to believe things that occurred during my years of teaching. I’ve also finished a children’s Christmas book called Ho, Ho, Uh-Oh and am working on two more stories for kids. My years of experience as an elementary teacher should count for something in my retirement.


Jodi Casstevens-Short is a born and raised Midwesterner, proud University of Illinois alum and a third generation educator. She’s now retired after thirty-five years of teaching and spends her time writing her cozy mystery series, Murdered in Willow Springs. She lives in her hometown in Central Illinois with her firefighter husband and two sassy schnauzers, Riley and Finley.

Find Jodi –

My Journey to the Bookshelf for more information

She’s also on Facebook, so do follow her.

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