Interview with Denise Domning Author of Servant of the Crown Mysteries

 

 

Denise Domning author image

 

 

 

Meet Denise Domning author of the Servant of Crown Mysteries  

 

 

mysteriousand magical image of woman's hand holding a gold crown over gothic black background. Medieval period concept.

 

 

 

How did you develop a love for medieval history?

I was ten when I decided I wanted to be an archeologist. I spent years studying hieroglyphics and became proficient enough to write a middle school essay using them, but my true love at the time was the Minoan culture. Then in the mid-80s I had a dream about the high Middle Ages in Europe. The light bulb went on and I started researching. I found myself drawn to one particular place and period – England in the years 1189 to 1199, or England under the absent King Richard. I’ve been researching that time period ever since although I’ve let my interests expand to his younger brother John. Suffice it to say I’m pretty focused.

 

 

You stated, The Final Toll was the hardest book you’ve ever written, but “I think I like it the best of all.” Can you tell us about this experience?

I blame the whole problem on my sleuth, Sir Faucon. You see, for the first time since he took the job of Warwickshire’s first Coronarius, he makes an error in judgment, one based on a common prejudice of his time. Neither he nor I knew he had this prejudice, mostly because it’s aimed at the people of his own class. Moreover, until this book, I’ve always been pretty certain who the murderer is from the moment I start writing. That’s not to say I don’t doubt. As each suspect presents him or herself and their story, I find myself saying, “Look! I was wrong. This is the one who did it!” In spite of my doubts, my first choice has ultimately been the right one.

I started The Final Toll with that same tenuous certainty, and it stayed with me even as I worked my way through the suspects. But when it came time for Faucon to make his accusation, I couldn’t get him to do it. No matter how I wrote the scene, he refused to agree with me. Even though I was certain I was right, I went back to the beginning and rewrote— not once or twice, but five times— trying to skew it so he would agree with my predetermined murderer. The clues refused to add up. Finally, the little piece I needed appeared, revealing that Faucon himself was the problem. Once he admitted that, et voila, as Faucon might say.

 

 

 

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What’s the historical context or background of this story?

This series of books is based on a snippet of history I discovered years ago. One of the most intriguing things about England in the Middle Ages is its ability to generate wealth for its king. Blame this on the Norman Conquest. Because of William and his Aunt Emma, all of England belongs to the English king who then grants pieces of it to those under him. That’s the perfect structure for a lucrative taxation system, something the Plantagenets did their best to exploit. In 1194, right after the English have already once emptied their coffers to pay King Richard’s ransom, Richard turns around and demands that his councillors find a way to wring even more silver out of his subjects, whom he detested and blamed for leaving him locked up in Germany too long.

Under Archbishop Hubert Walter, Richard’s councillors come up with a novel solution, or rather find an avenue that had yet to be fully exploited. It is the English king’s right to collect a fine—

as well as lives and limbs— from murderers, burglars, and rapists. However, collecting those fines depended on the royal justices appearing to hear the accusation and render a judgment when decades could pass between judicial visits to each shire. Life didn’t stand still in the interim. Appealers, the accused, or witnesses could disappear or die, or worse, accuser and accused could settle the matter privately between themselves, cutting the king and his fine right out of the picture.

Richard’s councillors introduce their solution at the Michaelmas court of 1194. First, they strip sheriffs of the right to investigate these capital crimes, mostly to prevent the common practice of the sheriff taking bribes from wrongdoers to look the other way. Then they pronounce that each shire must elect three honest knights, each knight having an income of more than twenty pounds a year, to become the new keepers of the pleas. Finally, the councillors make the most important change of all and require that these knights employ a clerk at their own expense. For the first time every plea for royal justice will now be written down. This notation must include not only the crime, the value of the estate of the wrongdoer, and the verdict of the inquest jury, but the names of witnesses and the jury members. The edict not only includes the capital crimes of murders, rapes, burglaries where the stolen item is worth more than a shilling, but “any foul act,” such as treason or outlawry, where property or goods might be forfeit to the king. Never again will the royal treasury be cheated because appealer and accused settled “out of court.”

And why did Hubert Walter and his colleagues limit the choice of knights to only those with a substantial income of their own? The brilliance of this new position of Coronarius, or servant of the crown, is that it’s unpaid. Now if that isn’t efficient government, I don’t know what is.

That’s where my sleuth, Sir Faucon de Ramis, finds himself in October of 1194, as the first coroner for Warwickshire. Unfortunately, or fortunately as Faucon soon finds, there is very little direction as to how to do this job. He swiftly realizes he needs to determine to his own satisfaction who committed the murder so he’s certain he’s assessing the right estate.

 

 

 

Knight Medieval kneeling image with sword

 

 

 

How important is setting in historical fiction versus the setting in other genres?

I can’t say that setting is any more or less important to historical fiction than any other genre as every genre has its conventions. What makes or breaks a novel is how deft an author is at conveying the expected milieu. In that, historical fiction can be unforgiving. Readers who love this genre already know their history. Beware the author who doesn’t check her facts for she will suffer the slings and arrows of critics who remind her that sycamores are an American tree and potatoes come from the New World. For the record, neither of those were my errors but I have heard from readers protesting facts that in other genres would be deemed unworthy of comment.

In historical fiction it’s not enough to be comfortable with the details of your chosen time period. You also have to get that information from your brain through your fingers and into the book in a way that doesn’t stop the flow. For me that requires writing out all the details I think I’ll need for a particular scene, say a meal in a merchant’s house. How many tables are there and how are they set? What’s on the floor? Where are the windows, if there are windows? Is there a newfangled chimney or is there a central hearth? What colors/designs are painted on the walls? What

furniture might there be besides the tables? Is there crockery? How does it smell? What sounds fill the air from nearby homes or their own workshops? Are they close enough to hear the bells from the nearest church? Are there regraters outside in the street selling goods? Is the neighboring merchant shouting out to passers-by about his wares?

Once I’ve answered those questions, I go back and tighten, tighten, tighten, eliminating this, shortening that, until there are just enough details to describe the scene without slowing the action. This is very hard to do for someone who writes history textbooks disguised as novels to educate unsuspecting readers. I want to share every cool fact I’ve learned. To protect my readers, I employ this mantra: “If I love it, take it out.”

 

 

 

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What are some of the customs of Warwickshire?

That’s a pretty broad question, so I’m assuming you mean the customs of Faucon’s time period. It’s surprisingly difficult to research local customs, celebrations and rituals. It’s even harder to verify that a particular ritual was practiced the same way in the 12 Century as it was when th someone finally wrote a description of it in the 14 Century. Fortunately for me, Faucon is new th to Warwickshire although his small inheritance, which comes to him through his mother, is in the forest of Arden. He isn’t aware of any customs although perhaps he’ll eventually find his way to the Rugby area on Martinmas, 1195 for the collection of Wroth Silver. Although he’ll be in near Atherstone in his next book, the onset of the Atherstone ball game is still five years distant.

With that said, there are plenty of general customs and traditions for me to employ. Life in this time period revolves around two calendars which often intersect. The first is the yearly progression of Catholic celebrations, festivals, and masses. The second is the seasonality of farming. For instance, Lady Day or Candlemas on February 2 is also the day to celebrate the nd beginning of the farming year with plow races. As for Edmund, he’s more likely to note the date on his scribblings as “third day after Martinmas in the third year of the reign of our holy Father, Celestine III.”

 

 

 

Warwickshire, vintage stamp on paper background

 

 

 

How is it different than a typical city of today?

For three days after the awful events of 9/11 an awesome quiet broken only by birdsong ruled our skies. That’s when I realized I’d never once experienced the world without the sound track of engine noise. It was a pivotal moment for me in my understanding of what it was like to live in the late 12 Century. th

Medieval people live within sight and sound of nature. In rural communities the days begin with everyone’s roosters crowing along with the honk of domesticated geese, the quack of ducks, and the cooing of doves from their dove cote. A truly riotous avian chorus erupts from every tree, thicket and bush. There’s the complex song of a lark, the shrill military chatter of a kingfisher from the nearby stream and the mundane chatter of the swallows nesting under the eaves of barns and sheds. In the spring and fall, the skies fill with vast flocks of migrating wild ducks, geese and swans, so many that the almost non-stop honking must have been deafening. In those areas kept

wild for the pleasure of noblemen, stags trumpet to attract mates, the rare wolf howls and boar offer up blood-curdling grunts.

In the barnyards, sheep and goats bleat, cows low (or moo, depending on which word you prefer), and pigs grunt, all of them demanding attention. Rats and mice skitter and rustle in the thatch along with the occasional hedgehog. Everyone coughs, because even though the smoke is supposed to wind its way out of the hole in the cottage roof, smoke is everywhere. And everything–absolutely everything–in the cottage smells like smoke.

The ring of blacksmith’s hammer is rhythmic and even as he brings it down again and again on the thick piece of metal he’s turning into a tool. The bellows that keep his fire hot enough to soften iron gust and whoosh. At the grist mill, the miller snaps the goad over the back of his ox and the big creature begins to walk an endless circle. The grinding stone rumbles, turning steadily, the sound loud enough that the miller has to raise his voice to speak to customers; the knife sharpener’s wheel rumbles; the potter’s wheel rumbles as he shapes clay into new pots. The carpenter’s saws rasp through lengths of wood. The hammers of the wheelwright and cooper thud dully as they work narrow strips of metal onto their wheels and barrels.

And everyone sings. At the fuller’s cottage newly woven cloth is being fulled— the process of tightening the weave so the fabric doesn’t unravel— to the cadence of a specific set of songs. More songs ring out from the fields where the men swing their scythes. They use the rhythm to keep their movements in sync and prevent accidental injury. Down at the stream, the women sing as they rub their clothing clean while their youngest children chatter and play.

It isn’t as pleasant for those who live in the burgeoning towns of this era. Walled cities mean limited space, so dwellings are crammed close to each other. Beware the second storey window for the household maid may use it to empty the master’s chamberpot onto the street. There’s no privacy either inside or outside of the home. Every marital spat, every man practicing his sackbut, every family celebrating some milestone can be overheard, whether by folks on the streets or the family next door. If things get a little rowdy, the watch will be called and the offenders asked to hold it down

This may be a city but the denizens keep all the same animals as their rural cousins. Roosters crow, cats yowl, dogs bark, pigs grunt, cows low and sweetly cooing doves rain you-know-what down from above. Although these urban householders might also hear the tumble of water from their windows— every town and city has a reliable water source— chances are that the water carries the stench of human and animal wastes, including pollution from local industries such as slaughterhouses and dyers. Oh yes, humans were hard at creating toxic waste even a thousand years ago.

12 Century merchants and priests depend on knowing the time and that means a church bell. In th London at this time there are thirteen monastic houses as well as one hundred parish churches. Imagine the cacophony, all the bells ringing every three hours during the day, and of course for every funeral or event that might need to be announced to the public. Here, new technology— water power— is changing the way work is done. Water now turns the wheels that turn the gears

that drop the hammers onto metal or cloth. The never-ending thumping and clanging is so overwhelming that town councils are passing ordinances limiting when these mills can run.

Very few homes in the towns and cities are just a place to live. Instead, most are also the homeowner’s business establishment, with his shop located on the ground floor. Every day our merchant throws open the shutters of his shop and pitches his goods to all passersby at a shout. Regraters— think of them as Medieval mobile food trucks— walk the streets with their handcarts or wheelbarrows filled with something to sell, be that fresh fruit, day-old bread, or cheese. As they walk, they shout for folk to come buy their excellent wares. Priests and monks ride past on braying donkeys.

Where there is trade, there’s wagon traffic moving goods from one place to another. Bellowing oxen, their owners shouting and snapping goads, drag wagons along narrow, mucky lanes. Mounted merchants lead long trains of pack animals from city to city along what we would consider nothing more than an animal track.

Just as they do today, day laborers stand on corners and call out in the hopes of being hired. At night they’ll be replaced by the women who sell themselves to earn their daily bread. And then there are the ale houses, the pubs of their day. Every alewife has her own recipe and some serve food as well as drink. The folk who frequent these establishments are generally travelers or people without the ability to cook their own meals. For the folk who makes homes in the corners of sheds or in warehouses, the alehouse is often their only chance to enjoy the warmth of a fire and of community, so the singing commences.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is the only differences are the combustion engine and the lack of television.

 

 

 

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If I sat down with Sir Faucon de Ramis for tea what would be my first impression?

You would find yourself sitting across from a dark-haired man of medium height who wears his skin easily, the way men who have often come face-to-face with death do. There’s a native intelligence in Faucon’s dark eyes. He could well have become a successful Churchman, as is the usual fate for second sons of his class, except that his elder brother suffered a head injury that left him with concussion-related spontaneous rages. Faucon’s father immediately pulled his younger son from his monastery school and turned him into a knight and heir-in-waiting, something Faucon’s elder brother resents deeply. Once knighted, Faucon joined King Richard on Crusade, mostly to escape his family’s difficult and guilt-ridden dynamics. As often happens, leaving the safety of home for unfamiliar circumstances has caused Faucon to mature beyond his years, and given him the ability to feel comfortable anywhere. These traits are what causes his great-uncle, Bishop William of Hereford, to endow Faucon with enough property that he qualifies to become a Coronarius.

 

 

 

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Who is Brother Edmund and what is his job description?

Brother Edmund is the scribe or clerk whose job it is to write down all the particulars of the crimes Sir Faucon investigates, including the assessment of the wrongdoer’s estate. We don’t know much about him, except that he is in his middle years, is from the Norman-French speaking higher classes, and is well educated in English law. That’s hardly the usual CV for a mere scribe, and sure enough, Edmund didn’t start out as a clerk. He has been a Benedictine monk for most of his life. Unfortunately, Edmund suffers from a surfeit of rigidity in his personality and this character flaw has caused him to be banished from more than one abbey. He describes himself to Faucon as an honest man who will only speak as his heart directs. And so he does, never recognizing that he wields his “truth” as ably as Faucon swings his sword. As much trouble as this creates for Faucon, he swiftly realizes this demoted monk repays honesty with loyalty and has a surprisingly fearless heart.

 

 

What’s next  for you

What’s next is book five in this series, entitled (so far) “Caught Red-handed.” I’ve once again come across an unusual factoid, this time about the walking dead of the Middle Ages. It was just too interesting to pass up, especially when I found evidence of it in Warwickshire.

 

 

 

mediaeval knights on horseback

 

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Historical Mystery with Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce

Interview with Alan Bradley

 

Describe the historical background during which your story takes place.

The Flavia de Luce novels are set about five years after the end of the Second World War. England is still impoverished from the conflict, and social recovery has scarcely begun. Rationing is still in effect and times are tough. Old England is gone, and everything now seems shambles and decay. Only by clinging to ancient traditions do the people find a sense of comfort and security.

 

 

A lot of your stories take place in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey. What were such places like during the 1950’s?

Before the building of the motorways, and the rise of the motor-car, English towns and villages were much more isolated than today. Transportation was by railway. There was a profusion of local institutions and government, each providing services to a relatively small area. Many people had never traveled far from where they were born, although that was beginning to change. The war had brought an influx of servicemen from the U.S. and what remained of the British Empire. Strangers were viewed with suspicion. Some things never change.

 

 

 

Recessed Country Map Britain

 

 

 

What did you learn about Flavia De Luce while writing this story?

Flavia never ceases to amaze me, especially her frightening grasp of the underside of chemistry. I am always as surprised as any reader at the things she says and does. In “The Golden Tresses of the Dead”, I began to discover Flavia’s underlying compassion. I began to suspect that she might, in the end, come to love a few people as much as she loves corpses. Well…almost.

 

 

I love all of the titles of your books. Describe how you came to name “The Golden Tresses of the Dead.”

The title is taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 68, and concerns a certain ghastly and despicable practice which was once fairly common among those who will stop at nothing in their lust for money. Does it still exist? I hope not, although you can never be sure about anything where money is concerned.

 

 

 

SHAKESPEARE - close-up of grungy vintage typeset word on metal backdrop

 

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing historical mysteries?

The research is always great fun. England in the 1950’s has always been of special interest to me, and ferreting out forgotten customs and folklore is like a paid holiday. It isn’t so much a case of finding ideas as weeding out the vast number that present themselves. Each book centres upon a particular long-lost English custom or peculiarity, ranging from sociopathic stamp-collecting to peculiar religious sects, and from Gypsy caravans to the exhumation of saints.

 

 

What can you tell us about Ophelia and her wedding?

Feely has come to the altar at last, after a protracted on-again-off-again courtship with former Luftwaffe pilot, Dieter, who has elected to remain in England after being shot down and kept captive as a prisoner of war – and all because of his love of the Bronte sisters! Their courtship has been a war in itself, with Feely as fierce as any Field Marshal. Now, just when peace seems about to break out, something nasty is found in the wedding cake.

 

 

 

wedding funny cake

 

 

 

What’s the relationship like between her and Flavia?

It has been mostly a life of revenge and re-revenge. Feely is as vain a creature as ever fogged mirror with her self-admiring breath. Flavia fancies poisons. The outcome is inevitable.

 

 

What role does Dogger play in this one?

Arthur Wellesley Dogger, who served with Flavia’s father, Colonel de Luce in the Far East, suffers from what would nowadays be diagnosed as PTSD. Because of his fragility, Dogger has worked at different times as gardener, manservant, and general all-round handyman. But much about the man himself remains shadowy. In “The Golden Tresses of the Dead” Flavia and Dogger found their own detective agency: Arthur Dogger and Associates – Discreet Investigations. Their first official case involves rogue missionaries, quack remedies and, of course, that abominable crime to which I have referred above. All typical, of course, of a sleepy country village.

 

 

I recently had the pleasure of listening to an interview you had with Jayne Entwistle on Audiophile. What was it like speaking with Jayne for the first time?

It was astounding to find how similar our experiences had been in my writing the books and her recording them for the audiobook versions. Jayne has won awards for her portrayal of Flavia, and with good reason: her ability to bring to life a whole cast of characters is a special gift. The interview was conducted by an interviewer in New York, with Jayne in Los Angeles, me in a tiny studio on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea. It was like getting Mercury and Pluto together for a good old chinwag and an abundance of laughs. What we had in common, of course, was Flavia de Luce, who seems to have approved. At least, she hasn’t poisoned either of us….yet.

 

 

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Behind the Mic with Audiophile Magazine: Interview with Alan Bradley & Jayne Entwistle

 

Originally appears on AudioFile Magazine Feb. 15, 2019. Duration 30 min. 

 

 

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About Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. His seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, “As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” will be published in the US and Canada on January 6, 2015, and in the UK on April 23.

 

www.alanbradleyauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Clara Benson Author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries

Clara Benson image

 

Please welcome historical mystery author Clara Benson!

Clara Benson is the author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures – traditional English mysteries in authentic style set in the 1920s and 30s. One day she would like to drink cocktails and solve mysteries in a sequinned dress and evening gloves. In the meantime she lives in the north of England with her family and doesn’t do any of those things.

 

Interview 

 

  1.    What was your path to becoming a writer?

–          I started out as a translator (Italian to English, since you asked), but I always thought I would write a book at some point, and eventually I decided that if I was going to do it I’d better get on with it! It took four years to write my first, in between moving, having kids, house renovations, etc, and I’m surprised I ever got it finished, to be honest. But once it was done and published and people were buying it, that spurred me on to write more. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

 

  1.    What do you enjoy most about historical mysteries?

I love the innocence of them! We’ve all read all the mysteries these days, so it’s difficult to truly surprise the reader, and nowadays the solution is far more likely to hang on a microscopic piece of forensic evidence than on anything else. But I love the fact that in historical mysteries the detective can sweep in, point at someone and say, “The clock said 6.05 instead of 6.08, and your train ticket was dated Wednesday not Tuesday, which proves you are the murderer! Inspector, arrest this man!” And the murderer always snarls and says, “Damn you, you’re as cunning as the devil!” And they arrest him and take him away and it’s all wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

 

 

Bow yellow blue box image gift

 

 

  1.    Why do you write English mysteries set in the 1920’s and 30’s?

–          Because that’s what I like to read. I’m a huge fan of Golden Age mystery writers – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey and so on, and I wanted to try and write something similar to the stories they wrote that I love so much.

 

 

  1.    Who is Angela Marchmont and why choose her as a protagonist?

–          Angela Marchmont is something of an enigma to start with, and we don’t know much about her except that she’s a wealthy, fashionable and independent woman in her late thirties who’s a bit secretive about her past. As the series continues, we find out more about her, and by the final two books there are a few revelations as all her secrets come out! I didn’t exactly choose her – she kind of developed herself along the way. She was meant to be older and more eccentric, but she had her own ideas, and emerged as a younger and much more charming character than I expected!

 

 

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  1.    What makes her a good detective?

–          She’s curious by nature, and has a questioning mind. She’s smart, obviously, but also very cool, logical and level-headed. She’s quite good at cutting through the red herrings and getting to the solution.

 

  1.    Tell us about the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series.

–          Freddy was an occasional sidekick of Angela’s, and he was such a strong character I thought he deserved his own series. He’s younger than Angela – only in his early twenties – and he works (I use the word loosely) as a reporter for an early tabloid newspaper, the Clarion. He’s hedonistic, chaotic, very full of himself, and prone to getting into awkward situations. In his attempts to solve a mystery he can often be found dangling off a rooftop, getting into a fight, or kissing someone else’s girlfriend – not always through any fault of his own.

 

 

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A Case of Duplicity in Dorset image

 

 

  1.    What was your experience transitioning from Angela Marchmont mysteries to writing Freddy Pilkington-Soames?

–          It’s quite different writing Freddy, as he’s a lot more active than Angela – partly because of his job – so I have to think of a lot of places for him to go, rather than just weekend country house parties. In addition, he’s a bit of an unruly sort, so I have to think up difficult situations for him to get out of. He’s a bit of a smart alec too, so I spend a lot of time rewriting his dialogue to make it wittier!

 

  1.    How do you conduct research for your books?

–          This is one of the best parts of writing! Although I’m not one for packing a lot of historical detail into my books, I do like to get things right, so I’ve read quite a few history books about the period, and I also make fairly heavy use of the Times Digital Archive (through my library) and the British Newspaper Archive (paid subscription). I’m a big stickler for using the correct language of the period, and for that I use the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (also via the library), which shows when words were first used. Then of course there’s Google and Wikipedia…

 

 

get the facts

 

 

  1.    What’s the historical background of A Case of Duplicity in Dorset?

–          None, I’m afraid! It all came out of my own head, although I did get some inspiration for Belsingham from some grand stately homes near where I live, most notably Nostell Priory and Harewood House.

 

 

  1.  Who are your favorite mystery authors?

–          As I said, I’m a big fan of Golden Age authors, but I’ve read all kinds of mystery writers, from Ruth Rendell and PD James to Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs. Unfortunately, I don’t get to read many new mysteries these days, as I find it interferes with the writing, so I find myself going back to the old favourites time and time again.

 

 

Opened book with flying letters

 

 

  1.  If you had to write in another genre which would it be?

–          I do occasionally branch out into romantic suspense, and I have a few ideas for future books in that genre which I will write when they pass a law to add more hours to the day…

 

  1.  What’s next for you?

–          I had a bit of a go-slow year last year, as I felt I needed to recharge after several years of frantic writing activity, but I’m well and truly back in the saddle now – possibly too much, as I’m busy trying to write two books at once! One is a historical novel set during World War 2, which is much more serious and sombre in tone than my usual style, and the other is Book 5 in the Freddy series, entitled A Case of Suicide in St. James’s, in which Freddy investigates the apparent suicide of a young man at a society ball. This one is turning out to be fun, and I hope to get it finished very soon!

 

Thanks Clara! 

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Historical Mystery with Karen Charlton Author of the Detective Lavender Series

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London, 1812. At a fashionable address in leafy Mayfair, a far cry from Detective Stephen Lavender’s usual haunts, a man is found dead in his room. He has been brutally stabbed, but the door is locked from the inside and the weapon is missing.

The deceased is David MacAdam, an Essex businessman with expensive tastes. As Lavender and Constable Ned Woods travel between London and Chelmsford seeking to understand MacAdam’s final hours and unearth the grisly truth, they uncover a tangled web of deceit behind his stylish facade. The unusual circumstances of MacAdam’s death are nothing compared to the shady nature of his life and it seems the house on Park Lane is at the heart of a dark conspiracy.

But when a second body turns up, everything they think they’ve learned is thrown into doubt. Can Lavender and Woods find out who’s behind these shocking murders before more lives are ruined?

 

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Interview

 

What motivated you to begin writing historical mysteries?


Many moons ago, I used to write murder mystery weekends for Raven Hall Hotel near Scarborough and I’d always been interested in crime fiction. While researching my husband’s family ancestors we discovered that he had a Regency gaol-bird roosting in his family tree; his 6 x Great-grandfather was Northumberland’s most notorious burglar. Following a massive robbery at Kirkley Hall and a very controversial trial, Jamie Charlton he was finally sentenced to transportation to New South Wales. I quickly realised that if I didn’t write about this miscarriage of justice in book, I would never fulfil my ambition to be a writer because the perfect plot had just landed in my lap. I wrote Jamie’s story in my debut novel, Catching the Eagle.

While researching this first novel, I was fascinated to discover that a Bow Street Principal Officer called Stephen Lavender had been brought up from London to investigate the Kirkley Hall Mystery. I had no idea at the time that Bow Street officers were hired out like private investigators to solve mysteries in the provinces. When it came to choosing a detective for a new crime series set in Regency London, Lavender was the perfect choice. I’d become quite fond of him and his genial sidekick, Constable Ned Woods and especially enjoyed writing the banter between the two men.

 

 

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What impressed you to write about Detective Stephen Lavender?

I enjoy writing about a real officer who was busy solving crime at the start of the nineteenth century. This was an age without forensics and fingerprints; crimes were solved with intelligent deduction and steady, plodding police work that left no stone unturned. I’ve found a lot of information about Lavender and his cases reported in the newspapers of the time and sometimes the real-life crimes he solved have inspired the plot of my novels.


 

What was the historical background of London 1812?


1812, the year of Murder in Park Lane, the fifth novel in the series was in the era we call the The Regency Period.  Mad King George III was the King and Napoleon Bonaparte was still terrorising Europe although Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, was now chasing him out of the Iberian Peninsula back to Paris. It was an era of dashing, scarlet-clad cavalry officers, women in pretty bonnets and floaty muslin gowns and a massive expansion of the British Empire. We’d lost the American colonies but Britain still had India and the powerful East India Company was opening up the Asian sub-continent, stripping it of its riches and shipping them back to London in massive cargo ships.  London was the biggest and richest city in the world and the British navy dominated the high seas.

 

 

 

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Who is David MacAdam and what role does he play in the story?


David MacAdam, an Essex businessman with expensive tastes, is the victim in Murder in Park Lane. His body is found in mysterious circumstances in his bed chamber in a lodging house in leafy Mayfair. He’d been stabbed to death but his door was locked on the inside and there was no sign of the murder weapon in the room. But as Lavender and Woods soon discover, the unusual circumstances of MacAdam’s death are nothing compared to the shady nature of his life and it seems the house on Park Lane is at the heart of a dark conspiracy. MacAdam was a man of secrets.

 

 

What is Park Lane?

Park Lane is a major road in the City of Westminster in London. It runs from Hyde Park Corner in the south to Marble Arch in the north. Hyde Park was opened in the 16th century for wealthy Londoners to enjoy and the houses that overlook it on Park Lane have been some of the most-sought after properties in London ever since. Park Lane is the second most expensive property on the London Monopoly board.

 

 

 

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What was the police department like during this time period?

There was no official police force in the United Kingdom at this time. The British police force wasn’t formed until 1829.  In the Regency Period, crimes were usually investigated by local magistrates and a few police constables attached to their office. They used the reward system or a string of informers (usually fellow criminals) to track down the villains but both of these systems were notoriously unreliable and justice wasn’t always achieved or fair in Britain at this time. The officers at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Office in London had the best reputation in the country for crime solving and, as I’ve explained above, their Principal Officers, including Stephen Lavender, were often hired out to help provincial magistrates or wealthy private landowners solve difficult crimes.

 

 

Tell us some interesting facts from researching for Murder in Park Lane.

While researching the manufacture and export ready-to-wear male garments for this novel, I was particularly intrigued by the sheer scale of trade between Britain and the United States during this period when we were supposed to be at war with each other (The War of 1812).

As most lovers of Regency fiction will be aware, women’s fashion of this era was highly ornate and dependent on a precise fit, so ready-to-wear garments for women weren’t widely available. However, the relatively simple, flattering cuts and muted tones of men’s fashion made proportionate sizing possible in mass production. I learnt from my research that by the late 1700s, the English city of Bristol, was home to over 200 businesses that exported hats, gloves, drawers, pants, stockings, shirts, jackets, and footwear, mostly to the United States. When you consider the vast array of other businesses manufacturing items for export to America in Bristol – and in London and the other cities of Britain – the breathtaking scale of our trans-Atlantic trade becomes clear.

 

 

 

 

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About Karen Charlton

 

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle,’ and the joint author of the cosy chicklit series, ‘The Silver Sex Kittens’. She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher,
Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time and is currently working on the sixth Detective Lavender Mystery for Thomas & Mercer.

A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.

Find out more about Karen’s work at http://www.karencharlton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Mysteries with K.B. Owen

KB Owen

 

 

INTERVIEW

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing historical mysteries?

I’ve always enjoyed reading historical mysteries, and writing them feels much the same (though more work, haha). I love stepping back into a different time, whether it’s through research or while plotting within the worlds of my characters. I’ve known them all for so long now, after seven books in one series and three books in another.

 

 

How important is the setting in historical fiction?

Since the term “setting” indicates both place and time, I would say that setting is absolutely crucial to historical mysteries. A given time period will influence and constrain the main characters of a story in terms of travel, communication, the interpretation of evidence, their comportment while out in society, and so on.

 

 

 

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What is the Pinkerton Agency?

It was the first major private investigation and security agency, founded by Scotsman-turned-American Allan Pinkerton in 1855. The icon is an open eye that reads “We Never Sleep,” hence the term “private eye.” The Pinkertons were mostly men, and the work was both subtle (acting as covert operatives and infiltrating criminal organizations) and brutish (strike-breaking and security). Pinkertons have broken up criminal syndicates, protected President Lincoln in one early attempt called the Baltimore Plot (this was before the Secret Service guarded presidents), thwarted bank robberies and train robberies…the list goes on.

There were a few women operatives—Kate Warne being the most notable of them—and their assignments were more of the covert variety, which is where my protagonist, Pen Hamilton, comes in.

In Never Sleep: The Chronicle of a Lady Detective #1, describe the nature of Penelope’s relationship with her estranged husband.

If it were a Facebook designation, it would read: It’s Complicated. As the Chronicles continue, I reveal more of their past, both the good and the bad. Frank Wynch is a recovering alcoholic and that of course makes any relationship difficult. The two love each other after a fashion, but whether they can make it work is another question—especially on Pen’s side, as she’s quite guarded around him. In Never Sleep, Frank asks Pen to help him with a case. It’s the first time they’ve spent any time together since their separation. She agrees, despite her discomfort—she wants to secure a job in her own right at the Pinkerton Agency, and the successful outcome of the case with Frank would make that possible.

By the way, any interested readers can get a free ebook of NEVER SLEEP when they sign up for my book news (twice yearly) newsletter: Subscribe

 

 

 

Never Sleep KB Owens

 

 

 

In The Mystery of Schroon Lake Inn: the Chronicle of a Lady Detective #2, who is William Pinkerton and what is his role in the story?

William Pinkerton, son of the agency’s founder Allan Pinkerton, runs the Pinkerton Chicago office by this time. He assigns this case (and others) to Pen. He gets a bit more involved this time around, as he comes up with a disguise Pen can use to better infiltrate the inn and keep an eye on the guests. Pen has never posed as a spirit medium before…can she pull it off? She’d have to be truly clairvoyant to know….

 

In The Case of the Runaway Girl: The Chronicle of a Lady Detective #3, what is Penelope going up against?

Pen is up against quandaries that are both professional and personal in book #3. Professionally, she’s navigating the powerful worlds of big business and back-room politics (with some anarchists thrown in) as she works to keep the two young ladies in her charge safe from unscrupulous people.

Personally, there is the complication of another love interest in the form of the dashing, somewhat-reformed Phillip Kendall. He’s very interested in Pen and she’s drawn to him despite herself, even though she doesn’t fully trust him. Is he truly reformed, or is he out for himself?

 

 

 

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What are some interesting historical facts of the 1880’s?

That’s quite an open-ended question, but I’m happy to share a fun backstory I picked up while researching THE CASE OF THE RUNAWAY GIRL. Several scenes from that book take place at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (now the site of the Renwick Gallery). The building was so grand in its heyday and housed such a wonderful collection it was dubbed “The American Louvre.”

William Corcoran, a very wealthy businessman with southern sympathies, had acquired an extensive art collection and in 1859 commissioned the gallery to be built to house it all. The site was prime real estate, at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street.

However, when the Civil War started, things got too hot for him, so he decided to move himself and his family to Europe to wait out the war. The Corcoran Gallery was mostly completed by then, though not the interior. The Quartermaster Corps seized Corcoran’s building to use as a supply depot for the Union Army, and proceeded to finish the interior with cheap materials and partition the space into storage rooms and offices.

William Corcoran returned after the war and wanted his gallery back. It was returned to him in 1869, but not the back rent that he claimed he should be paid. He worked with the original architect to have all the modifications ripped out and the gallery completed, which opened in 1874.

If you want to read more, I recommend American Louvre by Charles J. Robertson (D. Giles Ltd, 2015).

 


What’s next for you?

I just finished book #7 of the Concordia Wells mysteries…UNSEEMLY FATE. By the time this interview comes out, it will be released!

 

 

 

 

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Beware of rich men bearing gifts…

It’s the fall of 1899 and the new Mrs. David Bradley—formerly Professor Concordia Wells of Hartford Women’s College—is chafing against the hum-drum routine of domestic life.

That routine is soon disrupted, however, by the return to Hartford of the long-hated but quite rich patriarch of her husband’s family, Isaiah Symond. His belated wedding gift is a rare catalogue by artist/poet William Blake, to be exhibited in the college’s antiquities gallery.

But when Symond is discovered in the gallery with his head bashed in and the catalogue gone, suspicion quickly turns from a hypothetical thief to the inheritors of Symond’s millions—Concordia’s own in-laws. She’s convinced of their innocence, but the alternatives are equally distressing. The gallery curator whom she’s known for years? The school’s beloved handyman?

Once again, unseemly fate propels Concordia into sleuthing, but she should know by now that unearthing bitter grudges and long-protected secrets to expose a murderer may land her in a fight for her life.

 

 

Available May 1st at these online retailers:

Amazon: Amazon

BN, Apple, Kobo: books2read.com

 

 

KB Owen

 

 

 

 

About K.B. Owen

 

K.B. taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.

A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells. There are seven books in the Concordia Wells Mysteries so far.

K.B. also has another series, about the adventures of a lady Pinkerton in the 1880s, entitled Chronicles of a Lady Detective. There are three novellas/novels in the Lady Detective series so far.

 

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Writing Historical Mystery with Rhys Bowen

Rhys in LA 2006

 

 

Interview with Rhys Bowen

 

I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing historical mystery author Rhys Bowen regarding her writing, and more specifically, the 12th book of the Royal Spyness series – Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.

 

 

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In the days leading up to her wedding to Darcy O’Mara, Lady Georgiana Rannoch takes on the responsibilities of a grand estate, but proving she can run a household just may be the death of her in the new Royal Spyness Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service.

If only Darcy and I had eloped! What I thought would be a simple wedding has been transformed into a grand affair, thanks to the attendance of the queen, who has offered up the princesses as bridesmaids. Silly me! I thought that withdrawing from the royal line of succession would simplify my life. But before Darcy and I tie the knot in front of queen and country, we have to find a place to live as man and wife…

House hunting turns out to be a pretty grim affair. Just as we start to lose hope, my globetrotting godfather offers us his fully staffed country estate. Mistress of Eynsleigh I shall be! With Darcy off in parts unknown, I head to Eynsleigh alone, only to have my hopes dashed. The grounds are in disarray and the small staff is suspiciously incompetent. Not to mention the gas tap leak in my bedroom, which I can only imagine was an attempt on my life. Something rotten is afoot—and bringing the place up to snuff may put me six feet under before I even get a chance to walk down the aisle…

 

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AUDIOBOOK REVIEW

 

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding is book #12 in the Royal Spyness series set in 1930’s London. An absolute blast to read and very entertaining on many levels. Told in the point of view of Lady Victoria Georgiana Rannoch, the story unravels seamlessly until the very end. I was very captivated by the humorous tone and style of writing by Rhys Bowen. I listened to the audiobook version and laughed out loud several times! The ability to capture each character within the time period was very impressive. Lady Georgiana, affectionately “Georgy” is so adorable as she plans for her wedding, prepares a new home, and attempts to solve a mysterious murder. This review is based on the audiobook version with exceptional new series narrator Jasmine Blackborow.

 

 

INTERVIEW

 

What do you love most about writing history?

Rhys: I love writing about the 1930’s in the Royal Spyness series because it was such a fascinating time, poised between two world wars. A time of great contrasts, haves and have-nots, Fascism and Communism fighting for control of Europe and of course my delicious Royal scandals. My big stand alone novels take place in WWI and II, times of heightened emotion, of good vs evil and the comforting knowledge that good prevailed.

And for historical mysteries all those lovely motives: I love Another but I am not free etc!

 

 

“History will be kind to me; for I intend to write it.” – Winston Churchill

 

 

Do you have a certain method for researching a story?

Rhys: it all starts with a sense of place. I do my background reading of the true historical framework then I have to go to the place and experience it myself

 

 

 

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How important is setting for historical fiction writers?

Rhys: for me setting drives many of my stories. NAUGHTY IN NICE. TIME OF FOG AND FIRE. Etc etc

And it’s important to get every detail right. I read biographies, accounts of battles, diaries, study old maps

 

 

What’s the historical context behind Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding?

Rhys:  it was high time that my protagonist got married. It is summer 1935 and as she goes to Ascot with Queen Mary and King George she realizes the king does not look well. He will, of course, die that winter. And I’m looking forward to stories when the Prince of Wales becomes king.

 

 

 

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Who is Lady Georgiana Rannoch’s godfather and what role does he play in the story?

He is Sir Hubert Anstruther, a mountaineer and explorer. Her mother was once married to him and she has fond memories of the childhood days at his house. He was fond of her and wanted to adopt her. She was one of three heirs but the other two came to bad ends in the first book of the series,

 

 

What did inheriting a country estate detail back then?

Rhys: she hasn’t inherited it as he is still alive. This is lucky as if Sir Hubert had died she’d have to pay a fortune in death duties ( estate taxes)

I imagine this is an informal arrangement between them with the understanding that the estate will be legally hers when he dies.

 

 

 

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Describe the emotional state of Lady Georgiana and Darcy O’Mara as they prepare for marriage.

Goodness, they are British! They don’t have emotional states. They just get on with things!  Actually Georgie in naturally excited. Darcy seems to be taking it in his stride. Georgie can’t believe that everything is going right for once… This is before the various roadblocks appear.

 

 

What were weddings like in that time period?

Much simpler than now. An afternoon ceremony, then cake, champagne, a few speeches and the couple drives off on their honeymoon.

 

 

 

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What’s next for you?

I have just published another stand-alone, THE VICTORY GARDEN.

 

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IN August another Georgie novel, this time set in Kenya. It’s called LOVE AND DEATH AMONG THE CHEETAHS. Pre-order now and available August 6, 2019. 

AND I’m just finishing a book about Queen Victoria.

Not idle!

 

 

 

Rhys in LA 2006

 

 

“I’m a New York Times bestselling mystery author, winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards for my Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1902 New York City.

I have recently published two internationally bestselling WWII novels, one of them a #1 Kindle bestseller, the other selling almost half a million copies to date.

I also write the Agatha-winning Royal Spyness series, about the British royal family in the 1930s. It’s lighter, sexier, funnier, wicked satire. It was voted by readers as best mystery series one year.

I am also known for my Constable Evans books, set in North Wales, and for my award-winning short stories. “

I was born and raised in England but currently divide my time between California and Arizona where I go to escape from the harsh California winters

When I am not writing I love to travel, sing, hike, play my Celtic harp.

 

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Blog Tour: Restorations by Charles Strickler

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When Miles West discovers a mysterious treasure in an old car he acquires, he thinks his broken life is on the mend. But the 1928 Stutz Black Hawk Boat Tail Roadster contains a secret that has remained hidden for almost ninety years, left there by the infamous bank robber “Lefty” Webber. Jewels, old gold pieces and a coded journal force Miles to dig into the past. With the assistance of the resourceful Bramley Ann Fairchild, West sets out on an adrenaline-fueled adventure. They must evade ruthless Mafia boss Carlo Bello, who seeks to acquire the car and the treasure for himself, no matter the cost. Will West unravel the decades old mystery, rescue his friend, and help a man restore his family name? Or will he simply become another victim of the Roadster’s murky history?

 

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Restorations by Charles Strickler is an excellent story and a well written mystery all centered on an old 1928 Stutz Blackhawk Boat tail roadster. But this is no ordinary classic. This Stutz is a modified mob car with secret compartments housing a decades old treasure and coded journal linked to the mafia.  I loved the simple yet resilient Miles West and his assistant Bramley. I found myself transported into their lives in the peaceful countryside. Well, sort of peaceful.

 

 

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Charles Strickler

 

 

About the Author

Charles Strickler is a native Virginian. He graduated from Virginia Tech where he also met his future bride Mary. An entrepreneur with work experiences that range from the barnyard to the Board Room, Charles brings a unique perspective to his mysteries. Like many others, the only mystery that Charles does not like is Polycystic Kidney Disease. PKD is a genetic disease affecting 200,000 people per year. While there is no cure yet, the PKD Foundation continues to fund promising research to discover treatments that can slow the progression and eventually end PKD.

Interview with Historical Mystery Author Jennifer Kincheloe

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Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. Her novels take place in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD and combine, mystery, history, humor, and romance. THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK was released in November, 2017. Her debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a finalist in the Lefty Awards for Best Historical Mystery, The Colorado Author’s League Award for Best Genre Fiction, the Macavity Sue Feder Award for Historical Mystery, and is the WINNER of the Mystery & Mayhem Award for Historical Mystery and the Colorado Gold for Best Mystery.

Jennifer grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She’s been a block layer, a nurse’s aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. Jennifer currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers, two dogs, and a cat. There she conducts research on the jails.

 

 

 

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*What’s a typical day like for you?

 

I’m a corrections researcher, so by day, I’m coding multi-level statistical models and shadowing deputies in the jails. By 6:00 AM I’m at my desk at the Sheriff’s Department. It’s culturally so different from academia, where I came from. After work, I lift weights with my personal trainer in the jail. I’ll go over to a weight machine and someone will have left their gun on the seat. Then I go home, take care of my teenagers,do an interview, arrange a reading in a bookstore, write a little, fall asleep on my laptop.

 

 

*Do you still struggle with Chronic fatigue?

I gave up sugar and that helped me a lot.

 

 

 

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*What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Art inspires me. Music inspires me. When readers respond to my work in a positive way, it’s a huge jolt to my creative energies. I love readers.

 

 

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*On your website you state the following, So when I wasn’t writing or conducting research, I was reading every writing book I could get my hands on. I treated it like one more graduate degree. This took a couple of years.”  

 

  • During this time frame name some of the writing books that helped you the most.

I started writing screenplays before I wrote fiction. I sent my first screenplay off to my Oscar-nominated screenwriter x-boyfriend, David, who graciously read it and told me it stank. It did. He recommended three books to me: Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee; The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives by Lajos Egri; and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. They changed my game. Screenwriting books are incredibly instructive for fiction writers because they teach you story structure. Now David is a big Anna Blanc fan (and I know he’d tell me if he wasn’t).

  • Any favorite quotes, tips, techniques?

Give into your voice. Don’t self censor. There’s a Neil Gaiman quote that is right on the money.

 

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”  

  • Were you ever overwhelmed by the amount of information?

I was famished for information. Writing was a fresh discovery for me. I hadn’t known that I could do it or love it so much. And once I made that discovery, it’s all I wanted to do or talk about. So, I was like, ‘bring it!’

 

 

Write Sign, Love for Writing, for writers and authors.

 

 

 

* “I treated it like one more graduate degree…” Tell us more about this and your approach to learning the craft.

 

When I first started writing fiction and screenplays almost ten years ago, I was surprised that I wasn’t good at it.  I thought it would be easier because I was a already a competent non-fiction writer. It wasn’t. Writing fiction or screenplays is a whole different beast and you have to learn the craft. You’ve got to put in your ten thousand hours. I read dozens of screenplays and dissected them. I diagrammed novels. I would read books I loved five times in a row. Each time I’d look for something new. What was the ratio of description to action? What rules did they break? How did the author make me feel so deeply? I would study first paragraphs of novels that were effective and mimic them. When I presented my writers’ group with my first sex scene, they laughed, because it was unintentionally hilarious. So I started reading romance novels–just the dirty parts–to try to figure out what made a good love scene.

And, I wrote. Some days, I wrote for fourteen hours. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and write. I wrote first thing in the morning. I wasn’t working much at the time, so I could do it.

 

 

 

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*With a MPH (I’m guessing it’s a Masters of Public Health–My wife has one of those), a Ph.D, a love of reading, and what you’ve accomplished so far in writing, I’ve assumed the following.

 

-You love to learn new things. Is this true?

Yes, which is why I love corrections research so much. I get to learn a whole new discipline that also ties into my fiction.

 

-You have great self discipline. How did you develop such great character?

Thank you. I don’t know. My mother worked us pretty hard when we were kids, be it doing chores or hiking up mountains, and I’m grateful. Then I traveled extensively in the developing world, so I know about cold showers and picking bugs out of your food. Working hard and pushing through when things are tough is key. But it’s crucial to know where to focus your energies. I let a lot of things slide because they would take me away from writing or time with my kids.

 

-I can also tell you have a sense of humor, which I love in Anna Blanc, The Woman in the Camphor Trunk. Where does your sense of humor come from?

 

Boredom. Childhood used to be filled with boredom. Wonder too, but in the 60s and 70s we had to make our own entertainment. I liked to amuse myself by finding the humor in things. Even now, I’m often giggling behind my hand.

 

 

 

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*How do you utilize research for your novels?

 

I love to use primary sources for my Anna Blanc research. The Los Angeles newspapers from the early 1900s enthrall me. Most of my story lines come straight out of the papers. I steal events from the newspapers, descriptions of technology, prices from advertisements, fashion, entertainment. I love eyewitness accounts. I harvest slang and social morays from novels written in that period — things that Anna Blanc would have read. Text books from the period. Magazines. Photography is my very favorite source I’ve collected thousands of pictures of the 1900s on my Pinterest page. Here’s the link. Prepare to be amazed https://www.pinterest.com/jrobin66/

 

 

 

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*I love Anna Blanc! She’s such a unique character. This sounds weird but, did it take a while to create her?

 

Thank you so much!. I was planning on writing someone else entirely and she forced her way onto the page. She’s maturing a bit, and that takes time. But her voice is in the very first paragraphs of the first draft I wrote. In some ways, Anna is like me at 19 only magnified. I was self-absorbed. She’s even more self-absorbed. I was naive and privileged. She’s sheltered and filthy rich. I was relatively smart and brave. She’s even braver and more brilliant. And, like most women of my generation, I was frequently dismissed. So Anna is dismissed.

 

 

*What’s next in the Anna Blanc series?

 

Book three will be out next Spring. It’s based on a true story and involves a white slavery ring, a murder in Griffith Park, and a mysterious man who comes into Anna’s life and drives Joe Singer crazy. There’s a trip in the Blanc’s luxurious private train car, a brutal trek in the desert, family drama, and lots of skeletons in closets.

 

 

 

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Interview with Author of the Flavia De Luce Mysteries Alan Bradley

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Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. His seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, “As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” will be published in the US and Canada on January 6, 2015, and in the UK on April 23.

The first-ever Flavia short story, “The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse” has recently been published in eBook format, as has his 2006 memoir, “The Shoebox Bible”.

 

 

 

 

Interview Key Shows Interviewing Interviews Or Interviewer

 

 

 

This is your 9th Flavia de Luce novel. What stuck out to you as you were writing this one?

Flavia’s always buoyant enthusiasm and (dare I say it?) lust for life always impresses me. She goes on from strength to strength no matter what. Even though she’s growing older, her irrepressible spirit is never quenched. I think there might be a message in it somewhere.

 

I love the titles of all your books. Describe how you came up with this one.

Most of the books’ titles reflect Flavia’s enthusiasm for tombs and graves, and what lies within. This one, of course, came from one of my favourite poets, Andrew Marvell. “The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace”. What else is there to say?

 

 

 

The Grave's a fine and private place

 

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During this book, what motivates Flavia at this point in her life?

Flavia is motivated primarily by Chemistry, and the knowledge of what it can achieve, including power. She is beginning to think about her future, too, and what lies beyond Buckshaw.

 

As your 9th Flavia de Luce novel what’s it like to write about her as a person?

I am in awe of Flavia. She is a constant surprise and delight. It is a great honour and a privilege to be allowed to sit quietly in her presence and write down what she’s thinking and doing. Does she frighten me? Yes, definitely. Those around her are not really aware of how dangerous she is – or could be.

 

If you were to meet Flavia in person what would you say to her?

“Thank you, Flavia.”

 

 

 

Thank you image with finger in background

 

 

Tell us a little about the setting where the story takes place.

The setting is a crumbling country house somewhere in England a few years after the end of WWII. Buckshaw has been handed down in the de Luce family for many generations, and contains echoes and memories of everyone who has ever lived in it. For most of its occupants, the past coexists with the present, and sometimes, the only reality is Death. Nearby is the village of Bishop’s Lacey, which provides almost everything that one could ever want in life, including a ready supply of victims.

 

 

Can’t wait for the audiobook! What is your role in the audiobook process?

The lovely folks at Random House Audio are always kind enough to allow me to point them towards interpretations which might be somewhat obscure in today’s world. We always have a lively exchange before and during the production of every audiobook. I must say that it was only recently that I had the opportunity to speak, live, to Jayne Entwistle, and I think both of us were in tears to discover the commonality of writing and becoming Flavia de Luce. We could have, as the saying goes, talked all night.

 

 

 

The Graves a fine and private place Audiobook image

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The world’s greatest adolescent British chemist/busybody/sleuth” (The Seattle Times), Flavia de Luce, returns in a twisty mystery novel from award-winning author Alan Bradley.

In the wake of an unthinkable family tragedy, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is struggling to fill her empty days. For a needed escape, Dogger, the loyal family servant, suggests a boating trip for Flavia and her two older sisters. As their punt drifts past the church where a notorious vicar had recently dispatched three of his female parishioners by spiking their communion wine with cyanide, Flavia, an expert chemist with a passion for poisons, is ecstatic. Suddenly something grazes her fingers as she dangles them in the water. She clamps down on the object, imagining herself Ernest Hemingway battling a marlin, and pulls up what she expects will be a giant fish. But in Flavia’s grip is something far better: a human head, attached to a human body. If anything could take Flavia’s mind off sorrow, it is solving a murder—although one that may lead the young sleuth to an early grave.

 

Audible

 

 

 

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Historical Mystery Book Recommendations with Daniella Bernett & Benjamin Thomas

HISTORY -   3D stock image of Red text on white background

 

 

 

Let’s go back in time and visit some historical mysteries…

 

 

 

Watch old school pocket watch

 

 

 

 Charles Lenox Mysteries #10 Takes place in Victorian England

 

The Inheritance Charles Lenox

 

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A mysterious bequest of money leads to a murder in this new novel in the critically acclaimed and bestselling series whose last installment The New York Times called “a sterling addition to this well-polished series.”

Charles Lenox has received a cryptic plea for help from an old Harrow schoolmate, Gerald Leigh, but when he looks into the matter he finds that his friend has suddenly disappeared. As boys they had shared a secret: a bequest from a mysterious benefactor had smoothed Leigh’s way into the world after the death of his father. Lenox, already with a passionate interest in detective work, made discovering the benefactor’s identity his first case – but was never able to solve it.

Now, years later, Leigh has been the recipient of a second, even more generous bequest. Is it from the same anonymous sponsor? Or is the money poisoned by ulterior motives? Leigh’s disappearance suggests the latter, and as Lenox tries, desperately, to save his friend’s life, he’s forced into confrontations with both the most dangerous of east end gangs and the far more genteel denizens of the illustrious Royal Society. When someone close to the bequest dies, Lenox must finally delve deep into the past to uncover at last the identity of the person who is either his friend’s savior – or his lethal enemy.

 

 

 

Sebastian St. Cyr #13 Takes place in Regency England

 

 

Why kill the innocent

 

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In the newest mystery from the national bestselling author of Where the Dead Lie, a brutal murder draws Sebastian St. Cyr into the web of the royal court, where intrigue abounds and betrayal awaits.

London, 1814. As a cruel winter holds the city in its icy grip, the bloody body of a beautiful young musician is found half-buried in a snowdrift. Jane Ambrose’s ties to Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent and heir presumptive to the throne, panic the palace, which moves quickly to shut down any investigation into the death of the talented pianist. But Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and his wife Hero refuse to allow Jane’s murderer to escape justice.

Untangling the secrets of Jane’s world leads Sebastian into a maze of dangerous treachery where each player has his or her own unsavory agenda and no one can be trusted. As the Thames freezes over and the people of London pour onto the ice for a Frost Fair, Sebastian and Hero find their investigation circling back to the palace and building to a chilling crescendo of deceit and death . . .

 

 

Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope Mystery #8 Takes place during WWII

 

 

The Prisoners castle

 

Available August 7, 2018 Pre-order now

 

American-born spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope must solve a baffling series of murders among a group of captive agents on an isolated Scottish island as the acclaimed World War II mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal continues.

Maggie Hope is being held prisoner on a remote Scottish island with other SOE agents who know too much for the enemy’s comfort. All the spies on the island are trained to kill–and when they start dropping off one-by-one, Maggie needs to find the murderer… before she becomes the next victim.

 

 

Alyssa Maxwell’s A Lady & Lady’s Maid Mystery #3  Which takes place in the early 1920’s in England.

 

 

A Devious Death

 

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In the sobering yet hopeful years following the First World War, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, find their summer plans marred by an instance of murder . . .
 
Phoebe and her sister Julia are eager for a summer getaway at High Head Lodge, the newly purchased estate of their cousin Regina. But they are not the only houseguests. Regina’s odd friend, Olive, is far from friendly, and Regina’s mother and brother—bitter over the unequal distribution of her father’s inheritance—have descended on the house to confront Regina.

In addition to the family tension, Eva is increasingly suspicious of Lady Julia’s new maid. She questions Miss Stanley’s loyalty and integrity, wondering why she left her former employer so suddenly. And why does Regina seem ill at ease around the maid, as if they were previously acquainted? Everyone, it appears, is on edge.

But things go from tense to tragic when their hostess meets an untimely end—mysteriously murdered in her bed with no signs of struggle. Now, with suspects in every room, Lady Phoebe and Eva must uncover secrets hidden behind closed doors—before a killer ensures they never leave High Head Lodge . . . alive.

 

 

Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily #12  Takes place in Victorian England.

 

Death in St. Petersburg

 

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A dance with death…

After the final curtain of Swan Lake, an animated crowd exits the Mariinsky theatre brimming with excitement. But outside the scene is somber. A ballerina’s body lies face down in the snow, blood splattered like rose petals over the costume of the Swan Queen. The crowd is silenced by a single cry –Nemetseva is dead!

Among the theatergoers is Lady Emily, accompanying her dashing husband Colin in Russia on assignment from the Crown. But it soon becomes clear that Colin isn’t the only one with work to do. When the dead ballerina’s aristocratic lover comes begging for justice, Emily must apply her own set of skills to discover the rising star’s murderer. Her investigation takes her on a dance across the stage of Tsarist Russia, from the opulence of the Winter Palace, to the modest flats of ex-ballerinas and the locked attics of political radicals. A mysterious dancer in white follows closely behind, making waves through St. Petersburg with her surprise performances and trail of red scarves. Is it the sweet Katenka, Nemetseva’s childhood friend and favorite rival? The ghost of the murdered étoile herself? Or, something even more sinister?

 

 

 

Jennifer Kincheloe’s Anna Blanc Mysteries #2 Takes place in the early 1900’s in Los Angeles. 

 

The woman in the camphor trunk

 

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Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. Her lover has fled. If news gets out that a white woman was murdered in Chinatown, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna plan to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret. So does good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent Chinese leader who has mixed feelings about helping the LAPD and about Anna.

Meanwhile, the Hop Sing tong has kidnapped two slave girls from the Bing Kong tong, fuelling existing tensions. They are poised on the verge of a bloody tong war that would put all Chinatown residents in danger.

Joe orders Anna out of Chinatown to keep her safe, but to atone for her own family’s sins, Anna must stay to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.

 

 

Karen Charlton’s Detective Lavender Mysteries #4 Take place in early 1800’s London. 

 

Plague Pits and river bones

 

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London 1812: Treacherous gangs roam the capital, and not even the Palace of Westminster is safe. When Detective Stephen Lavender is called in to investigate a highway robbery and a cold-blooded murder, both the cases take a dangerous and disturbing personal twist.

And when Lavender’s trusted deputy, Constable Ned Woods, finds a mysterious severed foot washed up on Greenwich Beach, they soon realise that these ancient bones are more sinister than they first appeared.

With Bow Street Police Office undermanned and in disarray, it will take all of Lavender and Woods’s wit and skill—and some help from Lavender’s spirited wife, Magdalena—to unmask the fiend behind the mayhem, restore peace and justice to the beleaguered city and solve the tragic mystery of the severed foot.

But will they do so in time to foil a plot that threatens to plunge the country into chaos?

 

 

 

Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce Mysteries #9 -Takes place in Buckshaw 1950’s England. 

 

 

The Grave's a fine and private place

 

Amazon | Goodreads

 

Flavia is enjoying the summer, spending her days punting along the river with her reluctant family. Languishing in boredom, she drags a slack hand in the water, and catches her fingers in the open mouth of a drowned corpse.

Brought to shore, the dead man is found to be dressed in blue silk with ribbons at the knee, and wearing a single red ballet slipper.

Flavia needs to put her super-sleuthing skills to the test to investigate the murder of three gossips in the local church, and to keep her sisters out of danger. But what could possibly connect the son of an executed killer, a far too canny police constable, a travelling circus, and the publican’s mysteriously talented wife?

 

 

Enjoy!