By Tanner Kent
---- — WELLS — Julie Seedorf has always wanted to be a writer.
Even when the 63-year-old Wells resident was told as a young girl that writing for a career was "frivolous" and she was encouraged to pursue more practical, domestic applications of her ambition, she harbored a secret desire to someday write a book.
She kept her hope alive through the decades, even as her careers as mother, wife, non-profit organizer, bartender, waitress, office manager and computer technician took precedent. During that time, she rarely had time to write, let alone contemplate a career.
But a broken leg in 2006 afforded her a chance to take a risk. With six weeks of bed rest ordered by her doctor, she took the occasion to query the Albert Lea Tribune about writing a column. They accepted, and her "Something About Nothing" column has been widely read ever since.
Last year, an extended illness — and another round of doctor-prescribed rest — provided Seedorf with yet another opportunity. She seized it, writing a short mystery novel that eventually earned her a one-year contract with Illinois-based Cozy Cat Press. Her debut novel, "Granny Hooks a Crook," hit bookshelves last month.
"I spent a lot of time not doing what I love," said Seedorf, who still operates a computer repair business from her home (which she insists she enjoys). "All the while, my dream was to write. But I always needed a crisis point in life to get going."
Of course, her only crisis now is writing the next book.
"Granny Hooks a Crook" introduces readers to Granny, a lovably eccentric resident of Fuschia, Minn. Besides her racy nighttime attire, all-junk food diet and superb acting skills, Granny is also an undercover cop who prevent thefts from local stores. When a series of brazen burglaries shake the town's security, Granny's wits are put to the test.
The novel, Seedorf said, is written in the style of so-called "cozy mysteries," light capers and whodunits that often include a quaint setting, quirky protagonists and focus on engaging plots and characters rather than the technicalities of crime-solving. Such books also tend toward subtlety and humor, as opposed to racier and more hard-boiled iterations of the genre.
Though cozy mysteries are generally targeted to an older, female demographic, they occupy a stable niche in the industry.
Several larger publishing houses — including Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster — as well as a number of smaller presses publish a variety of mysteries each season. Cozy Cat Press itself has a stable of nearly 30 writers and 40 titles.
"There are so many great authors out there," said Seedorf, adding that she has already begun the installment of her Fuschia series. "One of the best things about this is being able to meet all the authors through the publishing company. I feel like I finally fit in."
As for the story, Seedorf said she started writing about Granny without any inkling of where the story would go, or how it would end.
"I woke up every day with a new chapter in my head," she said.
When she finished, Seedorf self-published the book for free through Amazon. A few months later, after reading a book from Cozy Cat Press, she sent a query letter to the publisher. When they showed interest, she sent her manuscript for review.
The publishing house asked her to add 25,000 words, which Seedorf completed in a few months.
The book debuted in July and is now available from Amazon in paperback and e-book formats. The book will further be available in some Barnes and Noble locations and Seedorf has begun developing a line of T-shirts and mugs featuring Granny's likeness.
"When I wrote ("Granny Hooks a Crook") in 2012, I never had any thoughts I'd possibly be any good," Seedorf said. "But at my age, what have I got to lose?"