Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Cozy Chat With Diana Vickery

Diana Vickery is a Chicago-area writer who created the popular Cozy Library.

Diana, you created the Cozy Library Site, and you describe it as “a place for readers to connect with authors they might not have read ... and to learn more about their favorite authors.” What made you want to do this? Did you feel that people didn’t have enough reading options?
Readers have lots of options – that’s the problem. There are so many books to sort through and that’s where the Cozy Library, I believe, can help.

I spent much of my professional life as a writer. My last job before retirement was writing and editing two monthly internal newsletters for a Fortune 500 company. The Cozy Library was my way to continue writing (which I love) once I decided my days of working for pay were over. I asked myself, “What do I want to write about now that I can choose?”

At that time, I had been writing reviews for Mystery News for about four years and really enjoying it. I thought maybe I could just do more of that type of writing in retirement. Although I have always read both cozy and non-cozy books, my favorites are of the feel-good variety, so that’s why I decided on the cozy niche – fiction, non-fiction and mystery. I also discovered that many reviewers won’t touch anything that’s cozy – too lightweight in their view, I guess -- so, as a consequence, they’re reviewed less than harder-edged books. I’d like to help remedy that.

Has there been a large response to the Cozy Library?
I’ve got nothing to compare the statistics with, but I believe that having an average of 250-350 daily visitors is pretty good, especially considering I haven’t done much PR for the site. My website guru, Kim Washetas of Scout Computer Resources, Inc., is very impressed with the visitor loyalty. According to the statistics her company subscribes to, Cozy Library visitors are incredibly loyal – many visiting multiple days each month and spending considerable time viewing different pages. (She’s going to be writing an article for the next issue of Cozy Times newsletter about that very topic.)

What I really love is hearing from readers. They write with suggestions for new authors to include on the site (Deborah Grabien comes to mind) or with their thanks for the site’s helping locate a new author they love. One woman wrote that she was going through a tough patch and a book she found on the site was just what she needed to help her through it. It doesn’t get much better than that!

I’ve also received a great response from authors. Even before the site was live, the authors I contacted were extremely generous with their time, support and advice. Among the early cheerleaders were Gail R. Fraser, Joan Medlicott and Susan Wittig Albert (one mention on her blog generated 250 new subscribers to the Cozy Times). Elaine Viets helped spread the word about the Cozy Library among her fellow authors and Katherine Hall Page regularly expresses her appreciation of the Cozy Times newsletter. I almost hate to start mentioning names because many more authors have been so wonderful and I hate to miss anyone!

What a terrific response. How long have you been a book lover?
According to my mom’s notes in my baby book, I was a book lover before I reached my second birthday. (I’m attaching the relevant page.) By the time I was twelve, I had devoured every book in the bookmobile and was chomping at the bit to move upstairs into the adult section of the library in downtown Aurora, Illinois. My pleasure reading abated while I was in high school and college (although I read everything James Michener and John Hersey wrote back then). I started regularly reading fiction and mysteries in 1976 and haven’t stopped since. I estimate I’ve read 2-3 thousand of them. (If you’re wondering, I DO have a life outside books, too. I read pretty fast – although I don’t consider myself a speed reader because I read every word and seldom skim.)

That is impressive, though. On your site you link to a variety of blogs, and you cite the staggering statistic that there are more than 50 million blogs online. Wow! Are you surprised that so many people want to express themselves in blogular form?
Throughout history humans have had a burning desire to express themselves – I believe it’s a way of living on forever. That desire is demonstrated by cave paintings, diaries, journals, personal essays, etc. Blogs are just the latest thing. My degrees are in journalism and I’m quite disappointed in the quality of corporate-owned mass media today. But blogs are one way to carry on the true duty of journalism: “to print the news and raise hell” as Wilbur F. Storey said. Granted, many blogs have quite small audiences but more and more are generating huge followings and making a difference.

What are you reading now?
I just finished Lye in Wait, a fun cozy mystery by a new author, Cricket McRae. I’m also reading Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub for my non-fiction readers’ group. I’ve just started Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby. It’s the first in a new fiction series set in Second Creek, Mississippi – which is like Mitford on caffeine.

What a great description!

You have a link on your site called the “Holiday Page” in which you reference articles, recipes, and gift ideas. It’s terrific! Do you always think of new things to add to the library?

The Cozy Library is very personal – I put things on the site that I find interesting or entertaining. It’s not like I need to base my content decisions on whether I can make a profit – or that I need to run it by a committee to get someone’s approval. I just need to please me. (That sounds pretty decadent, doesn’t it?)

Yes, but wonderful. You are sponsoring a big event next year at your local library. What’s it all about?
When I started my site in Feb 2006, Debbie, the librarian who plans author visits, said, “We’re going to throw you a party to launch it.” So, she planned the Cozy Library Extravaganza for October that year. I invited authors featured in the Cozy Library to participate – and five of them did: Charlene Ann Baumbich, Rhys Bowen, Sharon Fiffer, Suzanne Strempek Shea and Denise Swanson. Dozens more sent materials for us to pass out at the event and an independent bookstore brought in the five authors’ books to sell. Debbie is planning another event for October 2008 – and we’re certain to have at least five authors attending. I can’t say who right now because not all the commitments are firm. It’s quite appropriate that the event is at a library because public libraries all over the country are great referrers to the Cozy Library site – many have a link to it on their sites.

You have retired, but you strike me as a very busy person. How much time do you devote to library things, both Cozy and otherwise?
If I count the hours spent reading books for review, I’d have to say I average 2-3 hours per day. As I mentioned earlier, I do have a life outside books. My husband and I sail on Lake Michigan and are getting more and more into genealogy. We love to hike nearby trails and do some traveling. Since my husband retired this summer, I spend less time on the site. With more than 500 pages of content, I can rest on my laurels, right?

What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you drive to downtown Chicago to see the lights?

We’re not big on holiday celebrations. Some years we don’t even put up a Christmas tree. But I do love Christmas media – I collect Christmas books, movies and music. My family has one traditional holiday dish, a French-Canadian recipe my mother learned from her mother. It’s called “creton,” a cold pork pate we spread on doughy white bread (Rainbo was the childhood choice), put on a little salt and pepper, and eat open-faced with a side of Jay’s Potato Chips. The recipe is published in the current issue of Ancestry’s online magazine here.

There’s a picture of you at age eight on the CL site. You look quite mischievous. Is this a word that describes you?

I don’t recall ever being called mischievous to my face, but I wouldn’t disagree.

What’s happening with you and Cozy Library in the coming year?
I won’t make any predictions about the Cozy Library – but whatever happens, I guarantee it will be cozy!

Thanks very much for chatting, Diana. Have a great New Year.


Kay said...

I'm so glad that you had this chat with Diana Vickery. I love the Cozy Library site. I'm starting a new mystery book group at my branch of the library in the new year and I plan to be handing out resources for the members. Not sure how many cozy readers we will have, but being one myself, I'll be passing on the word about this site. Thanks for a great reader resource!!

©Hotbutton Press said...

What a nice surprise to see YOU interviewed, Diana! I wish I had thought to tag you for the recent blogging meme. LOL. Happy hols ~ Dani

How off to see what Christmas tomes you're recommending.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Kay. I enjoy Diana's site, too, and I mostly just blog about things I enjoy. :)

Thanks for the visit, Hotbutton Press.

John Dandola said...

What a very nice, sincere, charming interview! Now that I know about the Cozy Library and the woman behind it, I'll be making regular visits.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, John! Diana is charming. I especially love her little girl photo. :)

Anonymous said...

Since Diana Vickery is from the Chicago area, I have to ask the question: Is she related to Charles Vickery, the painter? Although I am not familiar with Diana's work, I have several of Charles' paintings and just last evening I was at a gallery that sells his work. I will have to check out her site.
Mary Beth

Julia Buckley said...

Hmmm . . . what an interesting question. Diana?

Anonymous said...

It's possible my husband is related to that wonderful artist, although we haven't yet found the connection. He's a keen sailor, so there may be some maritime genes in there somewhere. There are three Vickery lines in the United States, but all come from a common ancestry. We've just began working on Vickery genealogy and HAVE discovered they are related to lots of famous people including Agatha Christie, Norman Rockwell, Bette Davis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a couple of presidents and one first lady. Diana

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a lineage. I am glad I asked the question.

Mary Beth

Martha Reed said...

Julia, it's wonderful to see you and Diana hook up! I was lucky enough to meet you both via the web, and I'm grateful for all your continued hard work supporting the mystery community.

Blog on!

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Martha! How's the writing going?

Cleo said...

Wonderful interview. I love Cozy Library!


Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Cleo!

Robert Dalby said...

Diana Vickery has been very kind to me as an author, reviewing my Piggly Wiggly series and inviting me to attend her Cozy Library Extravaganza on October 18th in the Chicago area at the Warren Newport library. At that time, the third novel in the series, "A Piggly Wiggly Wedding," will be out. I love her description of my Second Creek universe as like Mitford but on caffeine. Truth to tell, there are plenty of quirky characters and mysterious meteorological happenings to keep you up all night reading, I trust.

Anonymous said... Come & say Howdy Ya'll :) Help with my Vickery Brick Wall from Devon England: