Creating Cozy Worlds: Karen MacInerney and Gray Whale Press


Hi! I’m Karen MacInerney, and I’m the author of several mystery series, including the Agatha-nominated Gray Whale Inn mysteries and the Dewberry Farm mysteries. I’ve been writing for many years. I love creating a cozy, warm world for my readers to escape to when everyday life just seems too glum for words.

My first series, the Gray Whale Inn mysteries, starts with Murder on the Rocks, which also happens to be the first book I ever wrote. It’s set in Cranberry Island, Maine, and is in many ways an homage to Pool’s Island, Newfoundland, where I visited my grandparents every summer (many of the names in the book are surnames from that part of the world). I have fond childhood memories of climbing the island’s granite boulders, picking wild blueberries, making steamed puddings in my grandmother’s kitchen, and going out to fish on the cold, cold water at six in the morning with my grandfather. I was hoping to capture some of that wonderful feeling and experience on the page, but I didn’t know how to do it at first. Newfoundland is hard to get to, and I didn’t feel I had a grasp of the dialect. They have lots of words like “yaffle,” which is an armload of dried fish, in case you were wondering. I knew I wanted to write something capturing those experiences, and after a while, I started thinking mystery would be the way to do it.

I grew up spending my allowance on Nancy Drew books, graduated to Agatha Christie books in junior high, and read through the entire cozy-mystery section of the bookstore from high school on. When we visited some friends on Little Cranberry Island in Maine, I knew I’d found my location. My parents visited an inn in California called the Lost Whale Inn, and their dreamy descriptions sparked my own fictional world. I created the Gray Whale Inn on Cranberry Island, Maine. Shortly thereafter, characters I have come to love leapt to life on the page, and the rest is history. The first book was nominated for an Agatha Award, and the series turned out to be my first publisher’s top-selling series.

But as much as I loved the East Coast, I always wanted to write about Texas, too… specifically a farm owned by friends of my family, and which we’d visited for years. I was always enchanted by the sweep of rolling hills, the vintage Texas farmhouse, the rich Czech and German history of the area, and of course, the fabulous food like kolaches. I love kolaches.

A few years back, I decided to write another book of my heart between other projects. It took a year or two and a few false starts, but former investigative reporter Lucy Resnick slowly came to life on the page, along with her veterinarian boyfriend Tobias, the annoying sheriff Rooster Kocurek (complete with a red wattle that jiggles), and all the other colorful characters of Buttercup, Texas. The town is based loosely on Fayetteville, Texas, near LaGrange, and every time I sit down to write, I feel like I’m transported to that cozy community. The farmhouse on the cover is actually based on photos I took of the actual farmhouse that inspired the book!

I’m now four books into the Dewberry Farm mystery series, with lots more ideas to come. And I’m working on another series, too, that takes place in Vermont and has a touch of magic in it. I can’t wait to share it.

These days, I’m not just an author. I picked up a second job, too. (Besides parenting. And walking dogs. And attempting to locate the counters in my kitchen. But I digress.)

Last year, as I watched Save Our Cozies on Facebook bemoan the loss of yet another wonderful cozy series, I thought to myself, “I know how to publish books. I actually enjoy publishing books, even though many authors don’t. Why don’t I step in and help bring some of these wonderful stories to readers?”

I did what any insane person in my position would do and started a publishing company specializing in cozy mysteries and (eventually) other feel-good books. It’s called Gray Whale Press!

So far, we’ve put out a half-dozen books under the new imprint, including the seventh Gray Whale Inn mystery, Whale of a Crime, and the fourth Dewberry Farm mystery, Mistletoe Murder, which will be out just in time for Christmas. The previous book in the series, Deadly Brew, is a fun Halloween-themed mystery and was released in September. I’m currently in negotiations with some established authors, and I’m talking with some exciting debut authors as well. I’m really looking forward to curating an incredible line of stories that will sweep readers into a cozy world populated with characters they’ll come to love as much as they love their own friends and family.

We’re starting small, so there are only a few available open slots in the schedule at the moment, but if you have a yen to create a cozy world that readers will fall into, or you’ve finished your book, drop me a line! A lot of our early books will be from authors whose series have been discontinued, but I’m also open to new cozy series with great characters and preferably a strong sense of place, to whisk readers away to a world they’d love to live in. It’s what I love to write, it’s what I love to read, and it’s what Gray Whale Press specializes in!

Our web site is under development, but in the meantime, you can find us at

To find out more about the Gray Whale Inn and Dewberry Farm mysteries or my other books, you can join my Readers’ Circle and download a free book at You can also connect with me at; I have giveaways every Wednesday.

And in the spirit of Halloween, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes from Deadly Brew: Halloween Pumpkin Bars, for when you’ve had enough candy!

Lucy’s Halloween Pumpkin Bars

½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup flour
¾ cup pumpkin, canned or cooked
3 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
6 tbs butter, softened
2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in eggs. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat until smooth, then beat in baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Mix in flour alternately with pumpkin. Do not overmix. Spread in buttered and floured 9″ x 13″ baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy, then add confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp almond extract. Beat until smooth. Frost cooled pumpkin bars.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What’s your favorite kind of cozy mystery? What draws you in? What book would you like to read that hasn’t been written yet?



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