Gillian Flynn and Gone
Girl. Paula Hawkins and The Girl
on the Train. Lee Child, Patricia
Cornwell, Jo Nesbø, Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Sue
Grafton, Stieg Larsson, or (insert your favorite author here). But what makes them special? Do the quirky British characters of Agatha
Christie awaken your inner Anglophile? Are
the pages of a Carl Hiaasen book tinged with sultry weirdness, coconut oil and
mosquito repellant? Or does Janet
Evanovich’s over-the-top bounty hunter protagonist make you secretly wish for
big hair, hoop earrings and a Joisey accent?
(hint: you know it does)
And more importantly,
as writers how do we tap into this nebulous and diabolical vein of readership desire? After all, we can string words together too. But it’s concocting that #%$*& secret
sauce. That pinch of missing ingredient,
to create the perfect combination of plot, dialogue, mood, character, setting .
. . whatever. Crafting the right
proportions to make people feel. Think
about us on the subway ride to work. Taking
a shower. Being trapped in a
conversation with a boring neighbor. Having
that last, final conscious thought before drowsing off to sleep at night. How do we occupy that space?
If you want to know,
join us on Saturday, October 19, at the Hilliard Library (4500 Hickory Chase
Way), from 12:30 – 2:30. Together we
will discuss our favorite authors, what we like about them, then list and compare
those traits to (hopefully) create a roadmap for how to reach that same
rarified level of Hamilton-like popularity.
Note: whether you’re a reader,
writer or both, novice or expert, this will be an interactive discussion so be
prepared to participate. Pinkie-finger-promise
though, it will be an awesome, transformational and inspiring experience (or at
the very least, a good way to kill a couple of hours). And as usual, please feel free to join us for
lunch afterwards, where we will discuss writing, the Buckeyes, home repair, Balinese
shadow puppetry, or whatever else strikes our fancy. But until then . . . keep writing.
Connie Berry’s follow-up novel to the riveting A Dream of Death is coming out this
month! A Legacy of Murder hits the
shelves Oct. 8. Connie took a break from writing about Kate Hamilton to discuss
the latest launch with BCW’s Jim Sabin.
JS: Congratulations on the publication of your second novel, A Legacy of Murder. How does it feel to have your first two books published in the same year?
CB: It feels really fast—and probably will never happen again. When Crooked Lane acquired the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, I had the first book, A Dream of Death, ready to go and the second, A Legacy of Murder, well under way. I know plenty of authors who write multiple series, and I give them credit. Writing two books a year is one thing. Publicizing and promoting them is another—and way harder.
JS: You’ve taken Kate Hamilton from the Hebrides in Scotland to the east coast of England. What prompted you to choose settings so far from home?
CB: Writers are often encouraged to write what they know, and I do know Britain quite well, having gone to college in Oxford and now traveling there a couple of times a year. My paternal grandparents were Scottish, so I grew up with the Scots’ accent and food. Today the cuisine in Scotland is marvelous, but back then, Scottish food meant oats porridge for breakfast, peas porridge for lunch, and lots of well-done roasts and overcooked veg for dinner. But there’s another reason I chose the UK for my setting. When I was in graduate school, my thesis advisor encouraged me to choose a topic I really loved because I’d be spending a lot of time there. I’m a card-carrying, died-in-the-wool Anglophile. Setting books in the UK means I ‘m able to spend lots of mental time there. And then there’s in-country research, which is the best.
JS: Kate Hamilton, your main character, is rather inquisitive, as you might expect from an antiques dealer. How does that help her solve mysteries in the present day?
CB: Like me, Kate can’t abide a mystery. My kids used to call me “Sherlock Holmes” because when something didn’t make sense, I would track it down until I learned the truth. Several years ago I solved a real mystery—finding a long-lost Scottish relative (then deceased) and learning what happened to her after she vanished. Kate’s desire to solve mysteries and her ability to discern patterns and connections, helpful in the antiques trade, give her an advantage as an amateur sleuth. But amateur sleuths need more than curiosity. They need a believable motivation for sleuthing. In A Dream of Death, Kate’s motivation was to save her husband’s best childhood friend from wrongful prosecution. In A Legacy of Murder, her motivation is even more compelling.
JS: You devote a lot of time to the craft of writing, including doing outlines for your books. How does that help you when it comes time to actually sit down and write?
CB: I’m proof of the old adage: If you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t get there. I know many wonderful authors who call themselves “pantsers” (writing by the seat of their pants), but I write better when I know where I’m going. However, planning doesn’t rule out the unexpected. Sometimes my characters say and do things I’d never planned, and I have to adjust my outline. Usually for the better.
JS: Your first book, A Dream of Death, seems to have opened up some opportunities for you to join panels and other activities. What has changed for you since it came out?
CB: First I had to learn to be a writer. Now I’m learning how to be an author. Today, being an author is a business that includes promotion, advertising, developing an audience, travel, speaking, expenses, attending conferences. Right now I’m blogging with two online groups: Miss Demeanors and Writers Who Kill. This year I will attend four conferences—in Dallas, Boston, San Diego, and Bethesda, MD—so I’ll be flying coast-to-coast twice. At the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in early November, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Amateur.” In December, I’ll be speaking at libraries in Mayfield Village, Ohio, and Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Besides writing, what I love most is talking about the world of crime fiction.
JS: So, tell us a bit about A Legacy of Murder.
CB: What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, steaming wassail, and Tom Mallory, the detective inspector she met during a recent murder investigation in Scotland. Kate also looks forward to spending time with her daughter, Christine, an intern at Finchley Hall, famous for the unearthing in 1818 of a treasure trove known as The Finchley Hoard. When the body of a young woman, an intern planning an exhibition of the hoard, is found floating in Blackwater Lake, Kate is naturally concerned for her daughter’s safely. But when another murder and an attack on a second intern occur, Christine becomes the prime suspect. Determined to prove her daughter’s innocence, Kate launches her own investigation. What she finds are clues pointing backward four hundred years to a missing blood-red ruby ring and an infamous legacy of murder.
JS: And how can we get a copy?
CB: A Legacy of Murder, second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, is available in hardcover and e-book at all outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Indiebound, Kobo, Target, Walmart. And discerning bookshops, of course!
Thanks for the great questions,
Jim. If anyone lives in central Ohio, I hope they can attend the launch party
for A Legacy of Murder — Saturday,
October 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Fortin Ironworks, 944 W. 5th Ave.,
Columbus, Ohio 43212. Parking in the small Fortin lot for handicapped only.
Parking for others in the lot across the street, in The View on the corner of
W. 5th and Holly, or on the street. Besides champagne and a real
English tea, there will be book signing and a drawing for prizes. Books
available through The Book Loft.