What is journaling?

JOURNALED TO DEATH is a crafty cozy mystery starring journaling blogger and amateur sleuth Mandy Meadows, who strives to preserve her hyper-organised life while searching for her cousin’s killer. Heather Redmond explores her discovery of journaling and how she turned her hobby into a twisty mystery.

I had begun to journal in October of 2017 after following bullet journal YouTubers for several months. Ryder Carroll developed the bullet journal method, a simple yet complex way to download busy brains and reduce stress, and even wrote a book about it: The Bullet Journal Method, a New York Times bestseller.

I was attracted to the artsy aspects of journaling immediately. While Ryder Carroll’s system is flexible, many of the social media personalities I followed focused on the even more basic journal style of any sort of calendar/to-do list, surrounded by a lot of prettiness.

Once I discovered Instagram in the spring of 2018, all hope was lost. I had officially moved from purely the written word as a creative outlet to all things visual. I took photographs everywhere. I developed the sticker-purchasing habit of a seven-year-old girl. I even learned to paint. Approximately five days after I posted my first picture of a pretty tree on Instagram, I started working on a mystery featuring my barista-by-day, social media personality-by-night heroine, Mandy Meadows.

In plotting the book, I stole freely from my own life and that of my friends. The heroine had a last name from my family tree. Her home is a mix of the house I grew up in and a very long-time friend’s. The book is set in Seattle where I grew up. And Mandy is a barista in a hospital, spending her forty hours a week in a location I know extremely well as a consumer of hospital coffee bars. Oh yes, and she’s a journaler, making her second living selling her art and her knowledge online.

This is an example of the type of journaling videos Mandy creates, which demonstrate how to design pretty journal pages with a practical function!

I’m happy to say that while I do have one child, just like Mandy, I don’t have the lazy ex-husband I gave her. I leaned into the trope of single women in cozy mysteries. Many contemporary heroines are divorced, widowed, or never married, allowing us writers to give them a little romance in between finding corpses. It’s helpful if they date law enforcement professionals.

Personally though, I love a good love triangle, or something close to that, in my cozies. From Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum to Krista Davis’s Sophie Winston, I extra heart the books with more than one attractive male around.

(My new series has cops…and doctors. Just sayin’.)

I also needed the initial spark of a corpse. I combined my jumbled thoughts about all the cousins I’d been acquiring with my genealogical hobby, remembered stories of alcoholics who lived makeshift lives in relatives’ homes, and added a tragic story from other friends’ lives, wherein someone stumbled down their basement steps and died. There he was, a victim torn from my recollections.

In the book, someone actually had to kill the unfortunate victim. I had a great deal of fun puzzling that out, and I hope my readers enjoy following the web of clues along with Mandy Meadows.

JOURNALED TO DEATH is out now in the UK and from 4 February in the US. Read more here.

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