I'm following on from Frances Brody, who writes the wonderful Kate Shackleton mysteries, answering a few questions about my next book out.
What’s the working title of your book?I have lot of trouble with titles, but this time was pretty easy. It was called The New Book and then The Hydro Book and then I sat down to think it out properly. After that it was A Goodly Measure of Brimstone. Then it ran through Deadly Dose, Strong Solution and Brimming Phial before we settled on . . . drumroll . . . Dandy Gilver and A Deadly Measure of Brimstone. It’s out in the UK next July.
Where did the idea come from?I was up to 1929, so I knew when the story would be set. And it just so happened that the day before I was going to sit down and open a file called "New Book 1st Draft", a reader emailed me and said she was missing my detective’s family. Dandy Gilver has a stuffed shirt of a husband and two gormless teenaged sons, as well as a supercilious butler, a bossy maid and a devoted cook. I was missing them too, after a couple of stories where we don’t see much of them, so in they went.
As for the setting . . . I’ve just been truffling in my filing cabinet for the very first notes I made and here’s what I found:Temperance Hotel in the Highlands
**Magazine Publisher!!!** Fashion? Ladies? Film????
The finished story is set in the Lowlands; the temperance hotel became a hydropathic hotel; there is no magazine publisher (depsite all those asterisks and exclamation marks)When it comes to the plot, I have no clue where the idea came from. I never do.
What genre is does your book fall under?In the UK it’s what's known as a detective story, a sub-genre of crime novel. In the US it’s a traditional mystery or cozy (slight shudder), a sub-genre of mystery novel. Actually, though, I’ve just won the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Macavity Award, so maybe I should say the series is historical. Only, “historical” still says bonnets to me. Victoria Wood explains it best. Look at 01.55-2.51 on this priceless Dinnerladies excerpt (although don’t fast forward through Dolly’s “Ooooh, I can't even look.” And whatever you do, stay for Clint’s mum and Jean’s line about camping. I love Dinnerladies.))
What actor would you choose to play your central character in a movie rendition?
Anna Chancellor, without a doubt. She looks exactly like Dandy, and she’s marvellousness made flesh. But that Ann Cleeves has snaffled Douglas Henshall or, as I think of him, Alec Osborne, to be Jimmy Perez.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
“Perthshire 1929 and the menfolk of the Gilver family have come dow with influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy. When an outbreak of scarlet fever strikes the village Dandy the devoted wife and mother decides it time to decamp. Dandy the intrepid detective, however, decides to decamp to the scene of a murder she would dearly love to solve.Along with stalwart Pallister the butler, doughty Mrs Tilling the cook and the irrepressible Grant, Dandy’s lady’s maid, all of whom are recuperating too, the family repairs to the Borders town of Moffat, there to drink the sulphurous Moffat waters straight from the well and to submit to the galvanic wraps, ionized heat lamps and cold salt rubs of the splendid Laidlaw Hydropathic Hotel.
But all is not well at the Hydro. The Laidlaw family is at war, the guests are an uneasy mix of old faithfuls and giddy upstarts, and the secret of the lady who arrived but never left cannot be kept for long. And what of those drifting shapes in the Turkish bath? Just steam shifting in the air? Probably. But then the Hydro was built in the lee of a Gallow Hill and in this town the dead can be as much trouble as the living.”
Will your book be self-published?Hah! If I was a self-published author I’d be better at one sentence pitches. Hodder and Stoughton publish Dandy in the UK and Minotaur have given her a home in the US.
How long did it take you to write the first draft?I started as soon as the shortbread tin went away after New Year and the date on the printed-out first draft – more truffling in the filing cabinet - is April the 20th, so . . . getting on for three months. Then comes the hard bit.
Happy NaNoWriMo everyone,