Interview with Denise Domning Author of Servant of the Crown Mysteries

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

The Elements of a Bestselling Thriller: Top Tips for Authors

 

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The Elements of a Bestselling Thriller: Top Tips for Authors

by Adam Durnham

 

When it comes to conjuring ideas for a thriller or mystery, authors should create perspectives that are relevant to current readers with a special attention to market trends. What are the possible elements of a bestselling thriller? Read to know more.

After reading a gripping mystery or thriller, do you find yourself thinking about how interesting it was? If you’re an author, there are elements to bestselling thrillers that can help your readers stay on the edges of their seats.

In order to do this, authors may want to strike a balance between the foundational elements of their work and current trends in thrillers and mysteries. Here are some top tips for authors who are planning to create pieces in these special genres.

 

Pick the type of thriller or mystery genre that you want to create

Thriller or mystery novels are broad categories on their own. It is important to know who your target readers are. Knowing your target audiences will help you determine the literary subgenre that you will use. Some thriller subgenres include:

 

  • Psychological thrillers: These thrillers include themes relating to psychological or mental health conditions. The protagonist or the perpetrators in such stories might have mental health issues.
  • Mystery thrillers: These thrillers feature mysteries that revolve around a crime, accident, or another incident. The protagonists in these works find and analyze clues throughout the stories.
  • Science fiction thrillers: These popular thrillers incorporate science fiction topics. Authors may be particularly creative with this subgenre, which may include futuristic themes such as aliens, monsters, human cloning, and entirely new worlds.

 

Developing clear ideas about your subgenres gives you a laser-sharp focus on the elements that you want to place in your story. The focus helps readers feel that your characters, settings, plot twists, and other crucial parts of your work are thematic and fit together cohesively.

 

Choose relevant themes

Theme is quite different from your subgenre. It unifies your story and gives something for your readers to think about as they progress through your story. This is helpful if you want to create a thriller or mystery novel, since you want to provide puzzle pieces that the readers can think about as they approach the end.

 

Consider using thriller or mystery story themes that people find relatable. They can involve problems such as mental health, addiction rehab, crime, or social injustices. These themes can bring value to your readers, especially if your readers advocate for such topics. Your book has a better chance at reaching the best-seller lists if many of your readers have firsthand experience with or knowledge of your themes.

 

Successful writers pay attention to what is happening in the larger culture. When topics about mental health, addictions, crime, or social problems appear in the news, books and movies associated with these relevant themes also appear.

 

Plot your story before beginning to write

Before starting your first chapter, consider creating an outline of your thriller or mystery to develop your plot. Outlines are important for many types of work, but they are especially crucial for thrillers and mysteries because those genres include large amounts of action. Creating a well-plotted story can help you avoid unnecessary fluff and irrelevant elements in your writing.

 

Your plot should include a buildup of conflict, and your characters’ goals and motivations should be consistent with your themes. Thrillers or mysteries can start at the middle of the action to create a thrilling atmosphere that you can heighten for effect.

 

Experiment with multiple points of view

One sign of a great author is his or her flexibility in presenting the points of view of various characters. Some bestselling thrillers and novels shift between the viewpoints of the protagonists and the villains in the stories instead of presenting the story entirely in the third person perspective.

 

Shifting between multiple points of view depends on your theme and other elements of your story. But multiple viewpoints can greatly benefit mystery and psychological thrillers. They can showcase the depth of the story and portray the intrinsic motivations, thoughts, and actions of the characters.

 

Create interesting plot twists

To develop an interesting plot twist, you need to get inside the minds of readers. One element of bestselling thrillers or mystery novels is that many plot twists can appear quite predictable at the beginnings of stories yet profound and surprising at the ends of the same pieces.

You can create these puzzle pieces to appear one way at the beginning and middle of your stories while creating a sense of jeopardy and conflict. Such story construction encourages readers to exercise their common sense and typical thought processes as they proceed through the plot.

When they encounter your story’s plot twist, readers may be surprised and pleased when your writing reveals your actual story. This shift is what makes the story gripping and exciting for readers. Well-written plot twists are one of your greatest tools as an author of mysteries or thrillers.

 

Ready, set, write!

If you keep in mind these elements of writing a bestselling novel, you can stay on top of your game. Great authors create solid foundations for their stories, incorporate creativity, and understand trends that matter to readers.

 

 

Golden Best Seller Award Over Black Paper Background

 

 

 

 

 

Audiobook Blog Tour: The Stiff in the Study by Shea Macleod

 

 

Viola Roberts Banner

 

 

 

Stiff in the study image Viola Roberts book 2

 

 

 

About Audiobook #2

 

Author: Shéa MacLeod

Narrator: Yvette Keller

Length: 4 hours 20 minutes

Publisher: Shéa MacLeod⎮2017

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Series: The Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries, Book 2

Release date: May 17, 2017

 

Synopsis: Viola Roberts is at it again! The sleepy seaside town of Astoria, Oregon is the last place you’d expect to find a dead body. That is until the director of the local museum turns up dead in the study and Viola’s friend, Portia, is accused of the crime. Viola ignores her looming deadline and bout of writer’s block and sets out with her best friend, Cheryl, to solve the murder. From starting riots at local dive bars to breaking into crime scenes, Viola will stop at nothing to prove Portia innocent even if it means putting herself in the cross-hairs of the killer.

 

Buy Links for Audiobook #2

Buy on Audible

 

 

Mystery Letterpress

 

 

I’ve come to love the hilarious adventures of Viola Roberts and her sidekick Cheryl. Listening to this audiobook reminded me of the Golden Girls, or Laverne and Shirley from the old days of television. They feed off one another, complement each other. Narrator Yvette Keller plays the part perfectly. Her voice characterizations are on the money and color each personality just enough draw you into the story.

 

 

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Shea Macleod image

 

 

About the Author: Shéa MacLeod

 

Shéa MacLeod writes urban fantasy post-apocalyptic sci-fi paranormal romances with a twist of steampunk.  Mostly because she can’t make up her mind which genre she likes best so she decided to write them all.

After six years living in an Edwardian town house in London just a stone’s throw from the local cemetery, Shéa headed back to her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She plans to live out her days eating mushroom pizza, drinking too many caramel lattes, exploring exotic locales, and avoiding spiders.

Shéa is the author of the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries and the bestselling Lady Rample Mysteries.

 

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www.rewindphotography.com Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer
www.rewindphotography.com Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer

 

 

About the Narrator: Yvette Keller

 

Yvette Keller’s first job as a narrator was reading aloud to keep her little brother out of trouble. Her favorite party trick is reading words upside down. Little kids need to see the pictures. Yvette lives in her beloved home town of Santa Barbara, using a lifetime of vocal stamina in her home studio. She produces technical VO industrials for Mesa Steps Consulting clients in addition to audiobooks. A lifetime of reading and speaking has proven one thing: Yvette loves stories. She is thrilled to be making books accessible and engaging through her narration work.

 

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The Motivating Factor By Daniella Bernett

Criminal Motive concept

 

 

The Motivating Factor

By Daniella Bernett

 

What is crime?

It begins as a kernel of an idea that metamorphoses itself into a series of thoughts that lead to a transgression against the law and, sometimes, the taking of a human life. It upsets the balance in a safe and ordered world. But this turmoil and chaos are precisely what an author craves and desperately needs when guiding the reader down the dark twists and turns—and dare I say dead ends?—of a mystery or thriller. But before an author can permit his or her imagination to completely unravel the tale one tantalizing layer at a time, there must be a reason, a motive. Without a motive, there would be no story because there would be no crime.

Motive is just as critical as character. A reader must suspend belief for a time and think, “This could happen.” “This person could be real.” For a story to have an air of authenticity, it is essential that an author thoroughly understand the criminal’s, and the sleuth’s, mindset before sitting down to write.

 

 

 

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In life, each one of us is shaped by the myriad people with whom we come into contact; the situations in which we find ourselves; and the opportunities we’re given or let slip through our fingers. It is this confluence of factors, combined with our inherent nature and temperament, which make us unique. So too must it be in a mystery. One character’s motives are different from another’s because of his or her reactions to a particular situation, whether it be a perceived slight, a kind gesture or downright duplicity.

Among the juicy plethora of motives for murder tucked in an author’s arsenal are love (both romantic and unrequited); jealousy; greed; revenge; blackmail; and insanity. I must admit I find insanity (although terrifying) a boring motive. Rather than devising a knotty reason for the crime, an author is taking the easy road by suggesting the killer could not help himself or herself. I believe it is much more fun coming up with a complex motive, or even better a melding of motives, and then leading the reader on a merry chase for the clues. It’s wicked, but quite necessary, to coax the dear reader down a few blind alleys. A red herring or two simply adds a smidgen of spice to the story and keeps it hurtling forward to a dramatic (and one hopes satisfying) denouement. On the same token, a sleuth’s motive is to seek justice—whether for the victim or society as a whole—to ensure that someone pays for the crime.

 

 

 

Stop Crime

 

 

 

My series features journalist Emmeline Kirby as the sleuth. The core fabric of her being is finding the truth and seeing that justice is served. For her, it is anathema to allow a murderer or any other criminal to go free. Although noble and admirable, these motives at times have so consumed her that it has made her heedless of danger and plunged her into some harrowing predicaments. This impetuous streak is aided and abetted by Emmeline’s short temper. I mention this to highlight the human foibles to which all characters must succumb to make the story plausible. If readers can recognize and immediately relate to a character’s motives, the author has succeeded in making a connection.

My other protagonist is Gregory Longdon, a dashing jewel thief who is a gentleman at heart. Where to begin with Gregory? Is he a criminal or a sleuth? Well, the answer is a bit of both. His past is steeped in so many secrets and he’s trying to keep them from seeing the light of day. As opposed to Emmeline, he is not above stretching the truth upon occasion. Meanwhile wielding a rapier wit and charm, he takes tremendous pleasure in needling long-suffering Chief Inspector Oliver Burnell of Scotland Yard. Poor Burnell knows, without any doubt whatsoever, that Gregory has been responsible for a string of notorious jewel robberies in the U.K. and across Europe, but he has never been able to catch him red-handed. Burnell will never give up, though. His mission in life is to make sure that Gregory winds up as a guest of Her Majesty’s prison system. However while Gregory enjoys the thrill of the chase, one thing he could never condone is murder. Therefore, he is more than willing to offer his criminal—skills shall we say?—to help Emmeline and Burnell search for the culprit. After all, who better than a criminal to instantly understand the devious workings of another criminal’s mind.

What the author must remember is that humans are curious creatures. Readers must know why. You have to play on this thirst for answers to conjure up a nuanced motive that is at once intriguing but grounded in reason. A reason that at least your criminal rationalizes as justification for taking that fatal next step. If done with loving care and attention to detail, the reader will eagerly follow the story into the world of lawlessness, mayhem and murder that has risen like the phoenix from the smoldering ashes of your imagination.

 

 

 

Daniella Bernett Author Photo

 

 

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America New York Chapter. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University. Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy, From Beyond The Grave and A Checkered Past are the first four books in the Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on Emmeline and Gregory’s next adventure.

Visit www.daniellabernett.com or follow her on Facebook or on Goodreads.

 

 

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.

 

 

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding ebook image

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Wedding engagement pic

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Champagne wedding

 

 

 

What’s next for you?

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

 

Victory Garden image

 

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.

 

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour Blast: The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett

Scent of Death book image

 

 

It has been a good summer for forensics expert Dr David Hunter. His relationship is going well and he’s in demand again as a police consultant. His life seems to be on an even keel.

But not for long. The call comes from an old associate: a body has been found, and she’d like Hunter to take a look . . .

St Jude’s Hospital now stands empty. Slowly rotting and silently awaiting demolition, the vast, oppressive building’s only visitors have been society’s outcasts, addicts and dealers. And it’s here that the partially mummified corpse has been discovered. Hunter is not sure how long the body has been hidden in the hospital’s cavernous loft, but he’s seen enough to know it’s a young woman. And that she was pregnant.

As the remains are removed for closer examination, a floor collapses revealing a previously sealed off part of a ward. Bricked up inside this hidden chamber are three beds. Two of them are occupied . . .
What other grisly secrets will St Jude’s reveal? The local community is alarmed and the police need answers. For David Hunter, what began as a challenging if straightforward case is about to become a twisted nightmare threatening him and those around him.

Featuring his trademark authentic forensics, claustrophobic sense of place and nerve-shredding tension, Simon Beckett’s new thriller will leave you gasping.

 

 

Scent of Death blog tour banner

 

 

 

Enjoy the Tour with these beautiful book blogs

 

2/18 – @Karen55555 – Go Buy The Book Blog

 

2/19 – @sephine – Live to Read. Read to Live Blog

 

2/20 – @clairsharpe – Always Need More Books

 

2/21 – @annebonnybook – Anne Bonny Book Reviews

 

2/22 – @rae_reads1 – Rae Reads

 

2/23 – @kaishajayneh –  The Writing Gamet

 

2/24 – @Lizzy11268 – Liz Loves Books

 

2/25 – @polesofie – Romantics, Rebels, and Reviews

 

2/26 – @ClaireKreads – A Knight’s Reads

 

2/27 – @AmandaDuncan12 – My Bookish Blogspot

 

2/28 – @dmmaguire391 – Donna’s Book Blog

 

3/1 – @JoannaLouisePar – Over the Rainbow Book Blog

 

3/2 – @Agi_mybookshelf – On My bookshelf

 

3/3 – @Shazsbookblog – Shaz’s Book Blog

 

3/4 – @vinsbookcase – Vincent’s Bookcase

 

 

 

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After an MA in English, Simon Beckett spent several years as a property repairer before a stint teaching in Spain. Back in the UK, he played percussion in several bands. He has been a freelance journalist since 1992, writing for The Times, The Independent on Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer and other major British publications. In 2002, as part of an article on the National Forensic Academy, he visited the Body Farm in Tennessee. This last commission was the inspiration behind the internationally bestselling The Chemistry of Death, which was shortlisted for the CWA’s Duncan Lawrie Dagger and has been translated into 21 languages. Simon Beckett is married and lives in Sheffield. The author of six novels, his second David Hunter thriller, Written in Bone, is published as a Bantam paperback in April 2008.

 

simonbeckett.com | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Morgan Summer Author of the Jean Stone Crime Series

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*What do you love most about mysteries and thrillers?

The edge of your seat feeling you get while reading through the pages to discover who done it.

 

*What’s it like writing your own?

Nerve wracking, but fun all at the same time using my imagination to bring my stories to life.

 

*How did you come up with the name Jean Stone for your story?

It came to me a few days after I began writing the book. Jean is my grandmother’s name, my mom’s middle name, and my mother in law’s name. I found out later that my grandmother’s last name, Raulston is derived from the ancestral version of Raulstone. It was meant to be.

 

 

light bulb cable idea

 

 

 

*Can you tell us a little more about the setting?

A small rural town in Texas at a local high school nestled in the piney woods. It has aspects of my hometown and many other places I lived around the state of Texas. Jean is a new high school science teacher who has found herself stuck in the middle of a mystery at Harmony High School.

 

 

 

Texas Patriotic Map in White Wood Board Textured

 

 

 

*Why did you choose an amateur sleuth?

Jean finds herself in the middle of a mystery. Utilizing her educational background in forensics, she is able to put her skills to use. It is a way for self-discovery, here she sharpens her skills and learns as she goes.

 

 

虫眼鏡を持った男性,たくさんの本

 

 

*What makes her a good one?

Her passion, her desire for the truth and to save a student of hers from harm.

 

*What separates a decent mystery from a great one?

A decent mystery is either too slow in the story or not building enough anticipation to where it falls flat while a great one moves at a decent pace building up the momentum to knock your socks off!

 

*Who are your favorite mystery, crime writers?

Peter James, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson

 

*What’s up next for you?

I have about 20 books outlined for the Jean Stone Crime Series, Book 2 is in storyboarding and Book 3 is in pre-production plus I am working on a young adult unnamed mystery series inspired by my daughter.

 

Thanks Morgan!

 

Mysteries, thrillers, authors, readers, true crime. Bring your voice. Make some noise in this year’s MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK May 13-24 2019.  #MTW2019 Spread the word.  Sign up to participate:  Participate in MTW 2019

 

 

MTW 2019 Facebook Event Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John David Bethel Discusses His Writing Process With No Immaculate Conceptions

No Immaculae Conceptions image

 

 

One month after his college graduation, Dean Eaton is writing speeches for presumptive presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Peter Dottier. Two months later, he is being pursued by a psychopath.

Dean Eaton is determined to make his own way after college. He wants to break away from the life paved for him by his parents. His first step is a week or so camping to clear his head and rejuvenate his spirit. What begins well ends with him witnessing the assassination of an undercover FBI agent. This brings Eaton into the orbit of Special Agent Steven Blanchard who convinces Dean to join him to bring down the deadly arms dealer who had the agent murdered. This partnership calls for Eaton to be placed on the staff of Senator Peter Dottier in order to track down a contact of the murdered FBI agent who, according to Blanchard, is a member of the senator’s staff.

As he struggles to learn and fit in to the confusing and often devious world of politics and public policy, Dean finds a mentor in his landlord, Ambassador Belmont Towbin, a respected eminence grise in Washington.

Throughout his learning process, Dean is also dealing with the dangers of his role identifying the contact. It soon becomes obvious that all is not as Blanchard has represented. Not even close. As Dean’s suspicions grow, Reisa Winston, Blanchard’s partner, reveals that he is the contact, and things go south from there.

No Immaculate Conceptions is a novel of politics and a study of the deadly ambitions of significant players in Washington who often use their power and positions for personal ends.

 

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welcome word in wood type

 

 

 

Meet author John David Bethel a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been published in popular consumer magazines and respected political journals. He is the author of Evil Town, a novel of political intrigue, and Blood Moon, a psychological crime thriller inspired by a true story of kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder.

 

 

John David Bethel image

 

 

Did you outline this book or was it more intuitive?

I don’t work from an outline.  I begin with a kernel of an idea and build on that foundation.  In the case of No Immaculate Conceptions that kernel was the main character’s camping trip during which he discovers a wounded, and soon to be dead, federal agent.  From there it’s off to Washington, where – one month after his college graduation – Dean Eaton is writing speeches for presumptive presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Peter Dottier.  Two months later, he is being pursued by a psychopath.

 

*Is your writing approach to every book the same?

Yes, and in the case of No Immaculate Conceptions, I set Dean down in Washington with Senator Dottier in order to track down a contact of the murdered FBI agent who, according to Dean’s FBI handler, is a member of the senator’s staff.

 

Washington DC National Mall, including Washington Monument and Thomas Jefferson Memorial with mirror reflections on water

 

 

*Where did the kernel of the idea for No Immaculate Conceptions begin?

From a daydream.  I was wondering how I would react in a situation where outside forces put my life in danger and I hadn’t a clue what they wanted.  That evolved into the initial plot-line for the novel whereby Dean is wandering around a lovely, pristine environment and realizes he is being followed, and then shot at.  This brings him into the orbit of FBI Special Agent Steven Blanchard who convinces Dean to join him to bring down the deadly arms dealer who had the agent murdered.

 

*Who is Dean Eaton and what motivates him?

Eaton is a child of privilege who has had all the advantages of life and wants to find his own way.  This has created in him not only a drive toward independence, but also the willingness to take chances, go out on a limb to gain new experiences.  In the novel, he goes so far out on that limb there is a high likelihood it will break off.

 

 

3D rendering of a compass with a Motivation icon.

 

 

 

*How do you create characters for your books?

There are authors who create back stories for their characters to understand how they will react as the plot advances.  My technique is to place the characters in the action and let that dictate the development of their personalities. It fits with the intuitive way I develop my novels.

 

*Name some struggles you had writing this book.  

Fortunately, I’ve not had struggles with writing any of my novels.  It sounds overly simplistic but I begin at the beginning and stop at the end.  The editing process often takes a good bit longer than does writing the original draft.  

 

 

 

Hiker on peak with tall mountain in background

 

 

*No Immaculate Conceptions is lengthy book. Had you been writing this for a while, or did it just flow naturally?  

Once the kernel of the plot line was on paper (on the screen), things advanced naturally and fairly swiftly.  

There is the advice given to all writers to “write what you know.”  I know politics and I write about it. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I find the going easy when I put it all down.  I mine my experiences in Washington as a speechwriter and communications strategist – adding drama – and it all seems to work out.  

 

 

*Describe your mindset when you begin to write.

My wife tells me I go into a zone and it takes some prodding to get back into the present.  A “fugue state” perhaps describes it best.

 

 

*What kind of advice would you give to new writers?

Write because you enjoy the creative process, and believe in yourself.   

I’m often asked why I write and my answer is because I have to.  The urge to create has to be satisfied…as presumptuous as that sounds.

 

 

John David Bethel image

 

 

Mr. Bethel spent 35 years in politics and government. He served in the Senior Executive Service as a political appointee where he was Senior Adviser/Director of Speechwriting for the Secretary of Commerce; directed speechwriting offices for other Cabinet officials, serving as Chief Speechwriter to the Secretary of Education; and lead speechwriter in the Department of Transportation’s Office of Policy and International Affairs. He also served as press secretary/speechwriter to members of U.S. Congress.

Mr. Bethel works as a media consultant for a number of prominent communications management firms. He writes speeches, opinion editorials and Congressional testimony for CEOs of the nation’s largest corporations, including the Hilton Hotels Corporation, and Royal Caribbean Lines. His op-ed pieces have appeared in The Washington Post and other prominent newspapers around the country.

David Bethel graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Tulane University and lives in Miami, Florida.

 

David Bethel is a writer of fiction and non-fiction.  He is the author of Evil Town and Blood Moon. www.johndavidbethel.com