Kristine and Joyce Atkinson, The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason
I've never read a book quite like this, a new and exciting way to write a murder mystery, involving the reader to participate in putting the clues together. The book is a journal with various photos, notes and emails, dropping hints here and there about what happened to a wealthy doctor's wife named Amy Zoe Mason. Who was Amy? A young pretty wife and mother of two...well, you need to read the book and figure it out for yourself.
Each page of this book is artfully done, created to look like a real journal that someone left behind. The story is told throughout the pages. It's a completely new and creative way to tell a story and I applaud the authors for their smart project. I am already looking forward to what these sisters come up with next- hopefully a longer mystery as I did not want this one to end.
The idea to make this artistic journal with recipes, pressed flowers, family photos and cards is nothing short of brilliant. Clues and notes that we the readers can follow and sort of piece together was super creative. Where did the idea stem from? How long did it take you to make the journal and come up with a story?
Kristine: We both love mysteries and we wanted to create a book that presented a mystery in an entirely new way. So many people record their lives in diaries, art journals and scrapbooks, we felt would be a great premise for a mystery and tap into the voyeuristic appeal of reading a stranger’s diary. Unlike conventional mysteries in which the reader is a passive observer as the murder is neatly solved, the reader of JOURNAL is an active participant or detective, as they explore the pages of Amy’s diary.
Joyce: Amy’s artwork, the recipes, notes, newspaper clippings, emails and other items that she saved allow the reader allow to discover who she is, and give the sense of reading an actual journal.
We also wanted to push the boundaries of the traditional novel, not only with the visual component, but also by using the internet as one of our storytelling tools, merging the printed page with virtual world. Our website, AmyZoeMason explains how we “found” JOURNAL, links to other aspects of the story, and readers can interact with them: Amy’s daughter, Susan, is on
and all the characters’ email addresses are live. All together it probably took about eighteen months to create JOURNAL.
If you could peek into someone's journal, whose would it be and what would you hope to find?
Kristine: I would love to peek into Jane Austen’s diary. She writes about relationships so well. Did she ever have a secret love?
Joyce: I think that almost anyone’s diary could be interesting, and give a glimpse into another’s life.
Who do you think would have a more interesting journal, Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, or Elvis Presley?
Joyce: Marilyn Monroe—she was a complex person, with so many facets beyond her physical beauty.
Kristine: I would love to see John Lennon’s diary, and I would hope that it contained his drawings, as well as his writings.
I really like the artwork included in the journal. From it we learn that Amy was a creative, sentimental person but so sad as well. Did she contribute to her own untimely death?
Joyce: Amy was going through a very difficult time. Her artwork was her form of self-expression, and perhaps shows that she was falling into a depression. Because of changes in her life, she was very vulnerable, and lacked any kind of support network.
Do you have any plans to create another journal?
Kristine: We would love to tell another story this way. We have been so happy with the response from readers who enjoy the sense of discovery they have with JOURNAL, in a CSI-way it is up to them to look for clues and evidence and come up with a conclusion. Many readers write to us and say that after reading JOURNAL they came to one conclusion, but upon a second, closer reading, they had a different idea.
Where did the house listings and family photos come from? The newspaper clippings look so real! How did you do it?
Joyce: The photos are mostly family members, so JOURNAL is sort of a family journal. We created all the newspaper and magazine clippings, business cards, menus, real estate listings, etc, on the computer and printed them on appropriate paper, such as using newsprint for the newspaper articles to give a sense of authenticity.
Do you like antiques? Have you ever purchased a piece of furniture or something that you later found out had a story behind it?
Kristine: We love antiques. It is the story behind each one that makes them so intriguing—to wonder about the child who created and so carefully stitched her name onto an antique sampler or how many generations wrote letters at an old desk.
Joyce: Also, we have both have the lifelong fantasy of discovering a diary or letters hidden in an old piece of furniture. That would be so exciting. Since it hasn’t happened yet, we “found” JOURNAL.
I think it’s a coincidence that I just interviewed Ronlyn Domingue whose book The Mercy of Thin Air features an old desk with some pictures tucked away in a secret compartment, and in this book, there is a desk with a hidden journal. Should I start thinking maybe there is a clue hidden in the depths of my leather couches?
Kristine: There are secrets hidden everywhere!
So… was it Vanessa or Julia who was responsible for Amy’s fate? Don’t tell me the conclusion is up to the reader, who do you want us to think it was?
Joyce: What makes you think it was one of them?
Since the two of you made the book together, how did you divide up who wrote what or who made the artwork? Did you ever disagree on anything?
Kristine: We had a lot of fun creating JOURNAL. It was a total collaboration. Our creative process involved getting together at Starbucks and doing a lot of talking, which led to the initial ideas for JOURNAL. As we talked back and forth, we developed our characters, their story, and the format, then we worked on the pages together.
Joyce: So many people say, “I could never work with my sister!” but for us it was great. In fact, neither one of us could have done it on our own. Because we spent so much time discussing Amy’s story, and came to know her and the other characters so well, we feel like Amy told her own story, so of course we didn’t disagree about what she told us!
How are you celebrating the success of this book?
Kristine: It still doesn’t seem quite real to see JOURNAL in bookstores. This has been such an exciting time, and we are enjoying every minute!