— Taking a story idea from first page to final publication can be almost as difficult as solving the most challenging of mysteries. Debut author Mary Seifert of Willmar, has been able to solve both those puzzles, as she celebrates the publication of the first four novels in her Katie & Maverick Cozy Mysteries series.
"Surreal," Seifert said of seeing her words turned into an actual book. "It is great, it is wonderful, it is busy."
A math teacher for many years, Seifert has always had a love of reading and books, a passion she got from both sides of her family.
"My mom and grandfather were notorious mystery readers. I could borrow books as long as I brought them back, which I was very thankful for," Seifert said. "My dad read nonfiction, but was an outrageous storyteller. His fish was always the biggest."
She started writing decades ago. At first, it was short stories, and then she attempted a full-length fantasy novel. But it wasn't until rather recently, when the last of her children had moved away, that Seifert was able to devote her time to writing. She also changed the genre she wrote, from fantasy to mysteries.
"I really enjoyed coming up with the puzzles others might enjoy," Seifert said.
In 2015, Seifert finished the first draft of what would become her debut novel, "Maverick, Movies & Murder," a murder mystery that takes place in fictitious small-town Minnesota. She completed the final draft in 2017.
"It has undergone multiple revisions, lots of rewrites," Seifert said, adding she took some mystery writing classes and listened to the constructive criticism she received.
Seifert continued writing as she shopped her first book to various publishers. The final draft of her second book was finished in 2019 and the third book was completed in 2020.
It wasn't until December 2021 that Seifert finally got the news she had been dreaming about. Columbine Publishing Group was interested in her mystery series, but with some changes.
"The mystery is the same, the characters are the same," Seifert said. "The presentation is different."
The biggest change was turning the original books into cozy mysteries. A cozy is a genre of mystery story that usually takes place in a rural setting, where the protagonist is not a professional detective, there isn't a lot of violence or adult content and it is a shorter book.
It is like Agatha Christie's Miss Marple instead of perhaps a John Grisham thriller, Seifert explained, "it is very gentle."
Starring new-in-town teacher Katie Wilk and her canine companion, a black Lab named Maverick, the books take place in Columbia, Minnesota. Katie moved to Columbia to start her life again after a tragedy, but there's plenty of intrigue and investigation that catches her attention in her new home.
Columbine, which is publishing Seifert's series under their Secret Staircase Books imprint, has been great to work with, Seifert said. She received non-answers and some "positively negative" responses from other publishing houses before Columbine came along.
Columbine has been helping her edit and rearrange her books, and assisting as she continues to write more of her Katie & Maverick books.
"They are very hands-on, they are very helpful," Seifert said. "I was just really fortunate."
The first two books of Seifert's series — "Maverick, Movies & Murder" and "Rescues, Rogues & Renegade" — can be purchased online through
Barnes & Noble
. It might also be available in some bookstores. Once Upon A Crime, a mystery bookstore in Minneapolis, has it in stock.
The third book of the series — "Tinsel, Trials & Traitors" — will be out Aug. 18. The fourth book, so far untitled, should be published in late 2022 or early 2023. There is a link to purchase her works on Seifert's website at
Seifert said Columbine is open to her book series lasting as long as she wants to keep it running. There could perhaps be a couple books a year published.
Now a published author, Seifert is also learning all about the publicity aspect of the role. In the coming weeks she will be attending various book clubs and is excited about attending her first book signing, to take place in her hometown of New Prague.
"It is fun," Seifert said.
Of course, she is already thinking about her next books.
She already has a rough outline for new works, and her writing process includes writing in the morning in the sunroom of her home. She also relies on her writing partner, Pirate the black Labrador.
As in the books, Seifert had a Lab named Maverick, who sadly died before the first book was in print. However, Pirate is playing just as an integral role in the books, as Seifert is basing most of the book's Maverick on Pirate.
She said sometimes she just watches him to see what he will do next, so she can use that as inspiration.
"The antics are definitely Pirate," Seifert said. "He lives up to his name."