Talking Cozy Mysteries with Author Ritter Ames

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

 

 

 

Interview 

 

Who is Laurel Beacham and what does she do as one of the world’s premier art recovery experts?

Laurel Beacham’s total job objective is to recover stolen art. If she can catch the baddies, too, that’s wonderful. However, if it comes down to having to choose, art recovery triumphs for her every time–and she’ll use any means to meet her objective. Even out-thief the thieves.

 

 

Fatal Forgeries imageBronze betrayals image

 

 

Who is Kate McKenzie and what does it mean she’s an organization expert?

Kate McKenzie is a busy mother of two who finally able to plant some roots now that her formerly pro-hockey husband has retired from professional sports and become a hometown sports anchor at a radio station. But all those moves and all that chaos early in her married life has taught her more than a few ways to keep families and individuals on track and clutter free. Her girls (twins) are in elementary school, and she’s finally able to start her own business too, so with the help of her best friend and neighbor, Meg Berman, the pair are set to organize Hazelton, Vermont. And solve a few murders at the same time.

 

 

Organzied for Scheduled Sabotage imageOrganized for S'more Death image

 

 

Who is Melissa Eller and why is she called Frugal Lissa?

Melissa Eller goes by Lissa unless she’s in trouble, but she goes by Frugal Lissa because that’s the name of the blog she publishes regularly to help all her subscribers save money and help stretch their family budgets. Unfortunately, she finds herself in big trouble when she discovers the body of a man who recently started a very public argument with her. She’s set up her business to meet her stay-at-home needs, but now she’s the police’s prime suspect, and she’s worried she’ll be working in the Big House if she can’t figure out whodunit before they slap the cuffs on her.

 

 

Frugal Lissa finds a body image

 

 

If Laurel, Kate, and Lissa were to meet would they get along?

Kate gets along well with Meg, even though their personalities are different–she connects with the way they are alike, and appreciates when Meg does (or says) things Kate can’t. So, I think she would have no problem doing the same with Laurel and Lissa. And Lissa is a lot like Meg, and uses her best friend, Abby, to keep her balanced, much like Kate does for Meg–so again, I think Lissa would work well with Kate. Laurel is used to Cassie trying to rein her in–though it seldom works, so she’s used to that personality, too, and makes me think all three women would like each other and get along as friends.

 

Could they work together to solve crimes?

Laurel is kind of a wild card, since she leaps first and looks later, and even Cassie in mom-mode can’t keep her in line. So, no, I think she would just drive Lissa and Kate crazy if they tried to work with her–and vice versa. I do, however, feel that Kate and Lissa could solve a crime successfully as a team, but I would expect Meg would make sure she played a role too.

 

 

 

Frugal Lissa finds a body image

 

Specially priced during preorder! 
Melissa Eller looks for ways to save people money. She never wanted to find a dead body…

Especially since she and the victim argued in public the previous evening. And she kind of threatened him (all a big misunderstanding – really).

When would she learn to keep her big mouth shut?

Now, she’s suspect number one in the guy’s murder. Worse, the detective in charge of the case is someone Lissa made fun of in high school—because he made fun of her—and he holds more leverage than just the threat of getting her sent to detention. Her boys don’t need a mom in prison!

She should never have moved back home.

Who said small towns were safer?

Frugal Lissa Finds a Body is the first title in the new cozy Frugal Lissa Mysteries series from USA TODAY bestselling author Ritter Ames.

BONUS: Along with solving the crime, Lissa finds ways to save her blog subscribers money and shares those methods with readers. Also included are terrific family-friendly recipes.

This is a NEW cozy mystery series: 
Book 1: Frugal Lissa Finds a Body
Book 2: Frugal Lissa Digs Up a Body (preorder soon)
Book 3: Frugal Lissa Hunts for a Body (coming soon)
And more to follow!

 

Preorder | Goodreads

 

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

Ritter Ames is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Organized Mysteries series and the Bodies of Art Mysteries series. When she’s not writing or brainstorming new mysteries Ritter is usually trying to get her favorite yellow Lab to stay out of the pond, or keep her grouchy black cat from trying to give the dog away on Freecycle. Ritter would love to live on a boat and write from far flung locations around the globe, but the dog would constantly have to be fished from the water, and her husband and cat would just complain endlessly about the dog’s smell, so staying on land seems to be the only good option to keep her sanity and not get sidetracked from writing.

Ritter tries to blog regularly at RitterAmes.com and subscribe there to get the latest news about upcoming releases, and inside scoops on her characters and series. She uses her Pinterest boards at www.pinterest.com/ritterames to capture great places and ideas she wants to use in both series. Go to her website to subscribe to her newsletter and get the first alert about new books in her series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Christine Carbo Author of the Glacier Park Mysteries

 

 

Christine Carbo image

 

 

 

A SHARP SOLITUDE – A GLACIER PARK MYSTERY

Interview for Benjamin Thomas


 

What’s your creative approach to writing a book?

I usually get my ideas from small things that spark my interest: an interesting article, a unique person, a story I’ve heard in the past that sticks with me, a line from a poem or a song…. If that thing of interest stays with me, I know I have the seed of an idea I’m willing sit with during the time it takes to write a novel. Once I have that idea, I will take some notes and brainstorm more ideas around the topic or character, but I’m not much of an outliner. I often simply end up diving in and writing as far as the headlights. Sometimes I’m at a loss for what should come next, get frustrated, and force myself to outline, but I rarely end up writing what I outline anyway, so it always comes out differently than I imagine it will. I also have no set writing schedule. I fit it in whenever it makes sense, sometimes in the morning, sometimes over the weekends, sometimes later in the day after my other job. I realize this is different from many other authors, but it has worked for me so far. I always think, someday I will create and stick to a writing schedule, but so far it hasn’t happened. Ha, I’m reminded of the saying: someday is no day.


 

Creativity

 

 

 

You write great characters in the Glacier Park mysteries. What’s the first thing you begin with? How do you develop them and bring out their flaws?

I often begin by thinking about a character’s childhood. So much of a character’s makeup depends on their upbringing: some important family dynamic (or even the lack of a family), a relationship with a parent, a traumatic event that may have happened. Our upbringings so often shape how we deal with circumstances that pop up later in life. Sometimes they prepare us well or sometimes our pasts leave us ill-equipped to deal with various situations and we end up making them so much worse than we want because of our own baggage. I find it interesting when a certain case or criminal situation that my detective or sleuth finds themselves embroiled in brings up unexpected emotions that have not been fully dealt with because of things that have occurred in their pasts.

For example, in my my first book, The Wild Inside, my main character is a lead detective – a Series 1811 – for the Department of the Interior who is called to the federal land of Glacier National Park to investigate a murder that occurs there. However, Glacier is the last place he wants to be because when he was young, something very traumatic occurred while he was camping there with his father. Right from the get-go, I know my character will be haunted by not only the place but by the crime he’s investigating. In my fourth book, A Sharp Solitude, my main character is a local, resident FBI agent in northwest Montana. She is also a single mom of a daughter she fiercely wants to protect and shield from having the type of childhood she had because when she was young, her father was not present and was even in prison for some time. She does not want her daughter to experience the lack of a father and makes sure she is able to spend plenty of time with her dad. However, he ends being a prime suspect in a local case, and my main character gets tangled up professionally because she is driven to protect her daughter. She gets involved in the case in spite of the professional conflict of interest. So, essentially, the things we throw at our characters can often resonate more deeply if they somehow brush up against past experiences of their lives.



 

 

Welcome to Glacier National Park

 

 

 

What’s the relationship like between Reeve Landon and FBI investigator Ali Paige?

Reeve is someone Ali actually respects. She admires his steady, persistent drive to go into the woods and do the work he does, which is part of the University of Montana’s canine detection program in which dogs are trained to help find the scat of certain wild animals for biologists to study. She does not view him as a deadbeat dad, like she saw her own father, yet, she does get irritated with him for putting his work first at times. Plus, in general, she does not understand how they can make a relationship work because, in fact, she sees him as being a little too much like herself. At one point, she thinks: “We both seemed to be followed by a certain darkness like a stray dog you can’t convince to go away. It was if we were always reminding each other that people never rid themselves of lonesomeness even in the company of a partner.” And of course, they both feel this way because of things that occurred in their lives when they were younger.



 

“We both seemed to be followed by a certain darkness like a stray dog you can’t convince to go away. It was if we were always reminding each other that people never rid themselves of lonesomeness even in the company of a partner.”

 

 

 

The settings are woven perfectly into your books. How important is it in your writing?

Setting is very important to me, but I like to point out that setting does not always have to be an entire area or town, or even nature. A strong setting can be a well-described trailer park, a busy, concrete-laden city, a popular bar, an old Victorian home, a cold cell in a jail, a small house not far from a refinery where the windows need to be shut when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction….

So, for me, the question is less about a particular setting, and more about the entire place that is the larger backdrop, or locale, for my stories which are made up of specific scenes in specific places. I don’t dwell on how to weave it in because I think that occurs naturally for the most part, but I do believe describing place is essential to creating good characters and stories because people are shaped by the places they reside, just as they are by their past experiences. And even past experiences took place somewhere, and that area will often inform how that experience played out and the character’s memories of what happened.

Because I reside in northwest Montana – where the landscape is such a huge part of our lives, where its grandness is obvious, I tend to weave geography and nature into my stories. I think many writers from the northwest and the west in general are well-aware of the area’s exceptionalism and therefore, incorporate it into their stories. I’m only about a half-hour drive from Glacier National Park, and at my house, where I usually write, I often see deer, elk, bear and sometimes a stray moose meander through my yard. Already this spring, I’ve seen a herd of up to seventy or eighty elk pass through about three times a week. It tends to inform our existence when every time we look out a window, we see something wild or dramatic, even if it’s simply the jutting mountains in the distance. When we drive to the store, we see fields with eagles perched on telephone poles looking for prey, reminding us that we’re never far from the wilderness. When I walk my dogs, I wouldn’t think of going into the woods without bear spray when the grizzlies are out of hibernation since I live close enough to fairly undeveloped areas, and even the developed ones have bears that meander through.

Also, Glacier brings millions of tourists to see its grandness, and I love Glacier, so it’s fun to set some of my stories in it or near it. I try not to preach in any of my novels, but I do keep in mind that nature is not something separate from us. And although Glacier is, in essence, an island of undeveloped, unmined, unlogged land – a place of unfettered beauty which is sometimes experienced by people like it’s an amusement park to be enjoyed briefly and then departed to return home where nature is not so obvious – I know that we are all a part of nature, even if we’re surrounded by concrete. I’m thrilled that we have conserved certain areas as we have, and I hope that people understand that these places should not simply be islands for enjoyment for a few weeks out of their lives and then left for their homes that might be viewed as less natural. No matter where we live, we are not separate from nature, and although concrete can create the illusion that we are, it’s important to understand how we are a part of it, even when we’re in the center of a city.

Because I carry these personal beliefs about the natural world, and because I’ve mainly written about characters living in northwest Montana, I tend to make characters that are acutely aware of their natural surroundings. I believe I would do this no matter where my book was taking place, even if not among the wilderness of my state. Over-description can definitely bore a reader, but a little attention to the clouds above and the trees on the sidewalk –even if they’re dying – and how characters notice these things or even the lack of them and how they treat them goes a long way to seat a story in geography, in place, and thereby create atmosphere. I do think that’s essential to a good story with deep characters.


 

 

Grunge state of Montana flag map

 

 

 

Have you been to a lot of sites you write about?

Yes, I’ve been to most of them, but every once in a while I make a place up: a landmark, a restaurant or a bar, a house, a campground….  In A Sharp Solitude, I have a scene about a shooting range near Tallahassee, Florida, and I made it up entirely because I have not been to a shooting range in Florida. Of course, even when making up a place, I still try to pay attention to the details that I imagine make that place unique.

 

In A Sharp Solitude, who is officially on the case of Anne Marie Johnson?

The county sheriff’s office has jurisdiction over the case since her body was found on county land, not far from Glacier National Park. She wasn’t found within the park; if she had been, the case would fall primarily under federal jurisdiction. Nor was she discovered in the city limits, so the police department is not involved either. In some instances, the county might ask for help from the city police department or from the resident FBI agents. However, I did not have my county characters corroborating with other agencies in A Sharp Solitude. The county runs the investigation on their own with two Flathead County deputies working for the detective division who are leading the investigation. The police department and the local FBI resident agents, however, would be well-aware of the crime and have access to its developments, which allowed me to have Ali, a resident agent, nudge up closely – too closely – to the investigation in spite of having a conflict of interest. When I was doing my research for the novel, I had called the lead detective from the county, and I asked her, would it be plausible for one of the local resident agents to just pop in to the county building while a detective from the county is interrogating a person of interest for a local crime without any reason other than to see how things are going? I had thought I was stretching things a little too far, but to my delight, she said that it happens all the time and that they all work closely together – that’s it’s not uncommon for the local resident agents to check in and see what’s going on and that they wouldn’t think twice of it. Sometimes, she said, the county asks for their opinion, their advice or for their help.

 

 

 

A Sharp Solitude image

 

 

 

What has helped your writing craft over the years?

Lots of reading, hanging around with other writers, going to workshops and learning to trust my own intuitions about my work. At times, especially when I first began writing, I have been insecure – as all writers tend to be at one point or another – and I have learned that insecurities can be helpful. So often, we think of the feelings of insecurity as awful and unwanted, but insecurities can actually provide fuel to get it right. They helped to keep me wanting to learn more, to never quit trying to do better, and to take advice.

On the other hand, I’m a little bull-headed too, which is also a useful trait in the world of writing. If you’re always taking advice from readers and critique groups, you can revise forever, especially if you can’t parse the good from the bad. It’s important to trust when you think you have it right and to stick to your guns when you do. Knowing when to listen to the critiques and when to shut them out can be a tricky balance. In other words, you need to know when it’s time to fully go with your story and trust in it, and that does take a certain amount of confidence. So, in other words, I’ve learned to use both my insecurities and my bull-headedness to my advantage, which has ultimately led me to be more confident in the process. But, it’s definitely a fluctuating process and some projects go more easily than others.


 

What are you working on next?

I am working on my fifth novel – one that has been a bit of a challenge for me (speaking of projects that go more easily than others). I have heard that sometimes a manuscript will resist us, no matter how much we love a subject, and this is my first experience with that. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be written. Quite the contrary – it means we’re onto something that is worth working harder on to get right. It just means we struggle a little more. In this novel, the main character has a very unusual job that not many people are aware of. She is a death-row mitigation specialist, which means she helps research, understand and interpret the dark case histories of criminals destined for death row to present recommendations to judges and jurors with the goal of mitigating their sentence. Only, she is currently taking a break from that job because she has had a crisis of conviction that has compelled her to retreat to a cabin in northwest Montana. A crime occurs in her neck of the woods that draws her back into that world which now haunts her, and she is forced to reckon with who she believes she is as a person.

 

Thanks so much, Benjamin, for asking such great questions!

All best, Christine

 

 

 

Christine Carbo image

 

Christine Carbo is the author of The Wild Inside, Mortal Fall, The Weight of Night, and A Sharp Solitude (all from Atria Books/Simon and Schuster) and a recipient of the Womens’ National Book Association Pinckley Prize, the Silver Falchion Award and the High Plains Book Award. After earning a pilot’s license, pursuing various adventures in Norway, and working a brief stint as a flight attendant, she got an MA in English and linguistics and taught college-level courses. She still teaches, in a vastly different realm, as the owner of a Pilates studio. A Florida native, she and her family live in Whitefish, Montana. Find out more at ChristineCarbo.com.

 

 

www.ChristineCarbo.com

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Final toll image

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

Medieval castle middle ages image

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Medieval town image

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Tea being poured image

 

 

 

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

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Alice K. Boatwright Author of the Ellie Kent Mysteries

 

 

Alice K Boatwright image

 

 

 

Alice K. Boatwright

Alice K. Boatwright is the author of the award-winning Ellie Kent mysteries. In the first book, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, life brings the skeptical American Ellie Kent to an English village as the vicar’s new wife; but death keeps her guessing how long she’ll be there. Winner of the 2016 Mystery & Mayhem Grand Prize for best mystery, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN has attracted an enthusiastic following.

The series continues with WHAT CHILD IS THIS? It’s now Christmas in Little Beecham . . . a season to celebrate with caroling, mistletoe, and mince pies. Ellie Kent is looking forward to her first English village Christmas, but a missing Oxford student and an abandoned baby soon draw her away from the fireside into danger.

 

 

Under an English Heaven image

 

 

What child is this image

 

 

 

Interview

 

Who is Ellie Kent and where did she come from?

Ellie Kent is a divorced American professor of English literature in her mid-30s who falls in love with Graham Kent, a widowed English vicar in his mid-40s, marries him, and moves from San Francisco to his home in a Cotswold village. That is her biography, but, as to where the idea for her came from, I would have to say that, like all of my characters, she began as a mixture of me and not-me characteristics and slowly revealed herself as an independent being through the stories about her.

 

 

What is your method of character creation?

I don’t have any one method. Characters come to me in a variety of ways – for example, I wrote a story about a girl I saw on BART (the Bay Area subway) who had her hair dyed like a rainbow. Another was inspired by the idea of writing about someone who thought Marilyn Monroe should star in the movie of her life. Often I give my characters qualities that are the opposite of mine, which I think is a way of telling myself “This is not me.” For example, my women characters are almost always taller than I am and have dark hair. Wish fulfillment! They can also do all sorts of things that I would never attempt to do. . . such as solve a murder mystery. When I first conceived of Ellie, I was visiting England, but I lived in San Francisco, taught part-time, and longed to be able to move to England.

 

 

 

Create Ideas Aspiration Solution Inspiration Concept

 

 

 

How do you go from character creation to telling her story?

By the time I began writing UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, my husband (who is neither English nor a vicar) and I had left the US and were living in an English village. I knew from the start that I wanted to write about my love for England, its culture and traditions – as well as all of the changes Ellie would be faced with as an ex-pat and newlywed in a strange country. These issues became the backdrop for the mystery and an integral part of the book. I also knew that I wanted to write about the period from Halloween to Remembrance Day and plot elements, such as that Ellie would be accused of murder and would try to solve the mystery to clear her name. I knew the identity of the dead man from the first . . . but all of the details of his story took several drafts to become clear. I never outline. I prefer to let a story to evolve like a photograph that develops gradually and comes into focus over time.

 

What are the elements of good storytelling?

The bottom line is that the story offers believable characters striving against the odds to achieve what they need or think they want – and succeeding or not.

 

 

 

Storytelling Puzzle Audience Emotion Engagement 3d Illustration

 

 

 

How did Ellie and Graham meet?

They met by accident at the home of Ellie’s parents in Berkeley, California. Her father is a retired professor who taught for a year at Oxford during Graham’s time as a student there. Years later, when Graham is on a sabbatical in the Bay Area, he visits his former professor – and meets Ellie. Over several months, they become friends and lovers, and then decide to marry when it is time for him to return to England.  The first book takes place less than two months after their marriage.

 

What is the Cotswold village of Little Beecham like?

Little Beecham is a fictional, but typical, Cotswold village of honey-colored limestone cottages and shops, originally built to support a now-ruined manor house. The high street boasts a village store/post office, butcher shop, pub, antique shop, used bookstore, and library. It is book-ended by the 800-year-old St. Martin and All Angels Church at one end and the village school at the other, with a village hall just on the outskirts. Surrounded by woods and fields, it is picturesque without being a tourist attraction. It is located in Oxfordshire about 25 miles from Oxford.

 

Describe your editing process and the importance of rewriting.

For me, writing is rewriting.  I do my first draft very fast – like a sketch covering the whole canvas. Then I carefully build up the picture over about seven main drafts. Along the way I make notes, write character studies, draw maps, create timelines, consult experts, do research. As I get closer to the end, I print out the whole manuscript and read it aloud. Very close to the end, I share the manuscript with readers whose perspective I value and an editor. I also do my own final copyedit.

 

 

 

Diagram of Writing Process.

 

 

 

What do you like about having an amateur sleuth?

I love the traditional English mysteries with amateur sleuths, especially Miss Marple, Miss Silver, Harriet Vane, Agatha Raisin, Mary Stewart’s heroines, and others. Amateurs have to be brave, imaginative, and willing to improvise. They have no structure to rely on, no job description, no license.  Although I enjoy reading many types of mysteries, I have never been interested in writing any other kind.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing mysteries?

I like the fact that the traditional plot structure provides a scaffold on which to build the story, but you can vary the other elements as you wish. Creating the puzzle at the core of the story is a very interesting challenge because, as author, you know too much to experience it as the reader will. Finally, it is satisfying to write books where justice is served and good triumphs (at least to some extent). I think we all need that message these days.

 

 

 

woman hands

 

 

 

What are the most challenging aspects of writing?

The most challenging aspect of writing is sticking with your project through all the phases of uncertainty until it is the best book you can write. . . then following it through the further uncertainties of publication and public response. In writing, persistence is at least as important as talent.

 

What’s next for you?

I am working on the third Ellie Kent mystery, another book that has a mystery element but is not a murder mystery, and several short stories.

 

 

 

Alice K Boatwright image

 

 

Alice is also the author of the award-winning COLLATERAL DAMAGE, three linked stories about the Vietnam War told from the perspective of those who fought, those who resisted, and the family and friends caught in the crossfire.

She has taught writing at UC Berkeley Extension, the University of New Hampshire, and the American School of Paris. After 10 years of living in England and France, she now makes her home in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Website | Newsletter | Twitter | Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

****

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

 

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

 

 

Alan Bradley image

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Mystery with Karen Charlton Author of the Detective Lavender Series

Murder in Park Lane image

 

 

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?

 

Amazon | Goodreads | B&N

 

 

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.

 

 

Start image with road.jpeg

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

London 1812 image

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Partk Lane image.jpeg

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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.

 

 

 

Setting bridge colorful image.jpeg

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Dilemma with block letters image with man.jpeg

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

UnseemlyFate.jpg

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Author of the Flavia De Luce Mysteries Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley image

 

 

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

 

Amazon | Goodreads

 

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

 

 

 

Maximum Quality concept - quality level meter - 3d rendering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ode to the Career of Narrator Dick Hill

Broadcasting.

 

 

 

*What experiences led you to become a narrator?

I was working onstage in a regional theater.  A colleague, a Brit, had been recording occasional classics (perhaps that should be “occasionally recording classics”.  As is it seems a bit unclear, like visiting a furniture store or brothel in search of an occasional piece.)  The audio publisher, Brilliance, was just moving from public domain work to newly published books.  They were looking for an American voice to record some sort of WWII combat novel, and he suggested I grab something in that genre and send them a demo.  I did that, on a crappy cassette recorder, recording in a closet.  I got the gig, and never looked back.  Much as I enjoyed conventional acting, I found this work much more appealing.  One of the chief attributes in my reckoning was that I got to play all the parts.  I always felt, completely unjustifiably, that’s what I should have been doing anyway.  (I am ruefully and somewhat embarrassingly chuckling as I write this)  Another great advantage was that the pay was better.

 

 

 

Narration image shadow.jpeg

 

 

 

*How long have you been narrating?

Thirty some years?  Not really sure.

 

*Was it hard to retire after being so successful?

Not in the least.  I’d had a long career, been lucky enough to garner some awards, and made a decent living.  We live a fairly modest lifestyle, so I think we’ll be okay without the income.  Although there was great fun and reward in meeting the various challenges, doing the best job possible serving some great, even brilliant works, or facing the task of elevating some not so great, I was ready to move on to the different challenges of becoming an artist.  In that pursuit I know I will never rise to the level of competence, or garner the awards and recognition I achieved behind the mike, that’s okay.  The exhilaration I find painting, the freedom to tackle anything I want in any style I want, is fulfilling.  No chance I’ll ever become complacent, little chance I’ll ever rise above the level of enthusiastic amateur, but that’s okay.  And luckily I don’t need to make money at it, though there’s a special rush the few times someone wants to buy a piece.  I am quite excited at the prospect of  dismantling my recording booth and claiming the extra space to make my studio/office a bit larger.   

 

 

 

mixing paint

 

 

 

*What are some things you’ll miss the most? 

The people.  Authors, directors and other narrators I’ve come to know, many wonderful folks at the various publishers I’ve worked for.  Most of those relationships are online for the past dozen or more years because I built my own home studio where I work with my wife Susie Breck (an award winning narrator and director in her own right) and simply upload the work to the east or west coast and points in between.  I’ll maintain those.

 

 

*Name some things you’ll miss the least. 

The occasional clunkers.  Although I jealously guarded right of refusal on works I found objectionable (the biography of Sheriff Joe Arpaio?  Not a feckin’ chance boy-o) or revealed themselves as being inferior or not to my taste, some so-so or worse stuff gets through.  Having worked with so many truly gifted authors and accomplished pros we are acutely aware of those who fall too short of that level.  And poorly edited work.  Even the best writers may sometimes have some little problematic thing, typos, a misstated fact etc.  The top notch pros were happy to hear from us if we came across something, and quite willing to fix it if the determined we had something that needed fixing, and weren’t just full of shit.  Proud to say that didn’t happen often.  However a surprising number of works come through with not just typos, spelling errors, but terribly clumsy downright crappy groaners and plotting and pacing sins that jumped off the page.  We’d sometimes wonder who the hell, if anybody, edited the work.  

 

 

 

 

Grief, man covering fsce and crying

 

 

 

*Did you have any favorite characters?

Indeed.  Jack Reacher certainly is a favorite, by dint of long association the great skill Lee Child has in creating this dependably interesting and satisfying anti-hero.  Lee’s rhythms lend themselves to audio.  Stephen White’s Dr. Alan Gregory series featured a supporting character that may have been an all time favorite in Detective Sam Purdy.  I’ve done over a thousand books and found great characters to voice in many of them.  I did Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct books, thirty or so, the first ensemble police procedurals, that featured a score of characters who showed up regularly, and who we really got to know and cultivate.  Voicing some of the classics, Dickens, some of the Russians, gave me the opportunity to do some of the all time greats of literature.  And Twain, particularly Huck and Jim.  I recorded that, my favorite work in the world, three times for different publishers.  I think some are still available.  That work was not only great, it was and is important.  Never told the publishers, but I’d have done that one for free.  

 

 

 

The Midnight line auido image

 

 

 

Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And find the woman. And return her ring. Why not?

So begins a harrowing journey that takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a lowlife bar on the sad side of small town to a dirt-blown crossroads in the middle of nowhere, encountering bikers, cops, crooks, muscle, and a missing persons PI who wears a suit and a tie in the Wyoming wilderness.

The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes. Turns out the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain. Powerful forces are guarding a vast criminal enterprise. Some lines should never be crossed. But then, neither should Reacher.

 

 

*What was it like working with so many great authors? 

Great.  Great authors tend to be great professionals and generous open minded people eager to collaborate when needed, willing to recognize that a narrator can bring something of value to the table, and to trust us at what we do.  Some authors try to direct with precise suggestions about how the work should be handled.  Those are usually hacks.

 

 

*What’s next for you?

Painting.  Every day painting.  I fall asleep thinking about it, wake up, brew coffee, and get into it.  Not always putting paint on the canvas, but staring at the pieces I have going, noting fuckups, determining what to do next, lamenting the limitations of skill and understanding, marveling at the work of others so available online, speaking with artist friends and learning from them, cursing the tremor I’ve had for decades.  Sometimes doing something I’m actually pleased with.  It’s an all engrossing, exhilarating, marvelous pursuit.  I also greatly enjoy working in the kitchen, not a gourmet cook, but a pretty decent one who delights in having good knives and cookware, a decent stove, and ready access to an incredible variety of wonderful mostly organic foods.

 

 

Paint splash

 

 

 

 

Oil painting of  eiffel tower, france, art work

 

 

 

Dick Hill has had the pleasure of working with authors such as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Arthur C. Clarke, Tim Tigner, Greg Iles, Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, Randy White, Bill Walsh, Dean Koontz, W.E.B. Griffin, Nora Roberts, Andrew Peterson, Randy Wayne White, Terry Brooks, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anne McCaffrey, Mark Twain, Bob Knight, J.A. Konrath, Rad Bradbury, Catherine Coulter, David Ignatius, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ed Mcbain, Stephen Coonts, David Ellis, Jack Higgins, Russell Blake, Stephen White, Nelson Demille, and many more!

 

He has narrated everything from the Bible, history, sports, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, comedy, religion to Plato.  When I first approached Dick for an interview after his retirement I had no idea how decorated he actually was. Legendary actually. His body of work is truly amazing and will be a voice not soon forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Hall of Fame Words Marble Columns Famous Celebrity Legendary Ind

 

 

 

 

Historical Division: Mark Julian mysteries

 

history

 

 

 

Before I begin let me give a tremendous thank you for asking me to do a guest comment. Venues like this let a writer connect to his readers and potential new ones. I hope, after reading this one, no one regrets this offer to me.

I also think introductions are in order before I tackle this subject. My name is L.G. Fabbo-Gonnella. I write the Mark Julian Vampire PI and the Max, Brad & Maisie mystery series. Yes, that is a plug just in case anyone reading that line was unsure about it.

Continue reading “Historical Division: Mark Julian mysteries”