The Second Black Beacon Book of Mystery will be released on the 8th of July (but the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99, and you can add it to your Goodreads list today) and to celebrate this new volume of short mysteries bound to get armchair detectives the world over donning their deerstalkers, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. Are you ready to glimpse the inner workings of these criminally clever minds? Sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy the following interview—on second thoughts, don’t drink that!
It’s always tricky interviewing a mystery writer about a particular story because we don’t want to give anything away, but can you tell us (carefully) where the idea for your story came from?
There are several sub-genres of mystery fiction, but the stories in this anthology are traditional fair-play mysteries in which the reader can try to solve the puzzle before all is revealed. What makes this kind of mystery so timeless?
I think these types of mysteries will always be popular as long as there are people who are addicted to puzzles of any kind. It’s fun to try to read between the lines and pick out the difference between genuine clues and red herrings. Such stories appeal to the intellect more than the emotions, and make an intriguing and restful break from the more dramatic or scary tales. All have their place within the genre.
Give us one classic mystery writer you admire and one new talent (not from this anthology) readers ought to discover?
I love many of the classic mystery writers but will list Dorothy Sayers as my current number one since I’ve been re-reading her books lately, along with the delightful sequels written by Jill Paton Walsh. The last mystery book I read by a current author was Ticket to Ride by Winona Kent. Witty, entertaining and a good mystery to boot.
Is this the first mystery your protagonist has solved?
Actually, no. A couple of years ago, another phenomenon born of the lagoon inspired “The Light on the Lagoon” which was published in EQMM, and was subsequently on their podcast. When writing “There is a Tide”, I pretty much had to use the same two characters who live on the lagoon, although the story itself was quite different.
If you were a detective, private investigator, investigative journalist, or amateur sleuth, what would be your trademark quirk?
I’d be an amateur sleuth who was also a singer/actress, since that’s how I spent my youth. I actually have a singer as my amateur sleuth in the six books of the Beary Family Mystery series I wrote some years back. Of all the things that inspire me, theatre and intriguing settings are at the top of the list.
Have you ever solved a real-life mystery?
Yes, and it was horrendous, because it was the result of a member of our family facing three criminal charges after being falsely accused of causing a catastrophic accident. The trials, criminal and civil, dragged on over four years and nearly bankrupted us, but if my husband and I hadn’t done the detective work and fed our lawyer the information he needed, there would have been a miscarriage of justice. We ended up hiring an accident-reconstruction expert who, he later informed us, had been asked by the El Fayed family to deal with the Princess Di crash, but had refused as he told us he was nervous as to what might happen if he didn’t come up with the answers all the powers-that-be wanted. However, it made me feel pretty good when he fed all my information into his fancy computer programs and informed me that the scenario that I had worked out was the only one to fit all the evidence. The experience certainly proved to me that the fictitious Miss Marple characters who come in and clean up the police mistakes really do exist in real life.
Have you lived or visited where your story is set?
Oh, I already answered that, didn’t I? Yes, I live right on my fictitious lagoon, and love it here. Setting is important to me. I remember reading once that P.D. James had said she was inspired by settings, and I completely relate to that. Many of my stories were born of visits to places that were so lovely or intriguing or mysterious or loaded with historical significance that I simply had to build a story around them, just for the joy of describing them. One of the nicest compliments I received from a reader was about a story I had written after my first trip to New York. She said reading it made her feel that she was there herself, visiting the city and touring the sights.
What do you aim to give your readers?
With this story, an intriguing puzzle and a visit to the wind-driven coast. At other times, I love to write more witty or satirical stories, but this one is more in the classic mystery tradition.
What are you working on now?
I’m taking a break from short stories and going back to look at the manuscript of a novel I drafted some years ago. I feel in the mood for a change of pace. One of my plays is also scheduled to be on this fall, so I may get involved directing again. I do have a couple of short story outlines, though, so will go back to those here and there between the other projects.
Where can we find you online?
Thanks for playing along. Enjoy the tea!