Thursday, 31 October 2019

What is it about Seven?

When I began to write my Inspector de Silva Mysteries series, my goal was to finish seven books. Why? Well, even though I'm not particularly superstitious, I think it's generally acknowledged that  there's something special and mystical about the number. It crops up all over the place - in history, mythology, folklore, and even religion.

The Book of Revelations has numerous references - the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Churches, the Seven Trumpets and so on. Salomé danced the Dance of the Seven Veils for King Herod.

There are seven days of the week. We talk about being in seventh heaven. Legend has it that the seventh son of a seventh son will be lucky. Three sevens are a winner on jackpot machines. The ancient world had seven wonders. I could go on as, I expect, could you! The upshot is that I'm delighted to have reached my goal, but now I don't want to stop. On with the next seven!

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Joys of Binge Reading

Everybody's doing it - especially as the days get shorter. I'm talking about catching up on those book series and box sets you couldn't resist buying and then didn't find the time for when the sun beckoned you outside. But now winter's almost upon us, it's time to snuggle up and enjoy them.
It was one of the reasons why I was so pleased when New Zealand podcaster, Jenny  Wheeler, invited me along to talk to her on her podcast, The Joys of Binge Reading. I hope you'll join us. There's lots to explore.

The Joys of Binge Reading

And if you love vintage mysteries, I'm sure you'll enjoy the podcast series, All About Agatha. You guessed it - Agatha Christie. The hosts, Catherine Brobeck and Kemper Donovan, are working their way through all of Christie's remarkable catalogue of works (it includes 66 novels as well as short stories and plays) discussing, summarizing, and attempting to rank them according to plot, setting and characterisation. It's a massive project, and whether you're a reader or a writer of detective fiction, you'll find plenty of food for thought. To add to the entertainment, the podcast intersperses excerpts from Christie films, music and TV shows.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019


I'm delighted to announced that book 7 of the Inspector de Silva Mysteries is out soon. To find out more, click on the cover image in the sidebar.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Meet Sara Rosett, a Queen of Cozy Crime

I'm delighted to welcome USA Today and Audible bestselling author, Sara Rosett, to my blog. Sara writes light-hearted mysteries for readers who enjoy puzzling whodunits, atmospheric settings, and quirky characters. She is the author of the Ellie Avery series, the On the Run series, the Murder on Location series, and the High Society Lady Detective series. Sara also teaches an online course, How to Outline a Cozy Mystery. Publishers Weekly called her books "satisfying," "well-executed," and "sparkling." She loves to get new stamps in her passport and considers dark chocolate a daily requirement.

Sarah, welcome, would you like to tell us a bit more about your career?

Sure! I started out with a traditional publisher for my first series, the Ellie Avery series. Those books are about a mom who is a military spouse. She finds murder and mayhem wherever she goes! I branched out into indie publishing for my next two series—the On the Run series (travel, intrigue, and a dash of romance) and the Murder on Location series (cozies about a location scout who travels around the English countryside looking for filming locations for Jane Austen adaptations.) Recently I moved to historical mysteries with the High Society Lady Detective series. It’s set in 1920s England.

Olive Belgrave and Kate Sharp, your detectives, are both feisty, independent ladies. How did you go about creating their characters? Is there anything of yourself in them?

I think there’s always a little of myself in the characters I write about. Kate is much more “take-charge” than I am. She sees a problem and wants to solve it, which is a good characteristic for an amateur sleuth! I’d read an interview with a location scout and thought it sounded like a fascinating profession, so I dug in and researched it. Kate grew out of what I learned about location scouting and the type of personality it takes to succeed in the profession. For Olive, I knew I wanted to write about a young woman who was brought up as a lady, but who wanted to make her own way in the world. I wanted her to be smart and plucky and have a sense of humor. Her background with the growing up connected to high society is both a help and and a hindrance for Olive.

Olive is a name one doesn’t hear very often nowadays, and it has a great period ring to it. I imagine it’s no accident that her surname isn’t a million miles from the swanky London district of Belgravia! How do you choose names for your characters and how highly do you rate the importance of names in fiction?

Names are so important in fiction! I love deciding on character names. For the High Society Lady Detective series I searched historical name lists to find period names. But sometimes it takes a while to work out the right name for a character. When I began writing Murder at Archly Manor, I named the main character Violet, but the name wasn’t a perfect fit. Then I realized that Olive, the name I’d given to a cousin was a better choice. It was a classic name, but had a little extra zing to it that I wanted. I swapped the names and it felt right.

Why do you write mysteries?

I’ve always loved reading mysteries. I enjoy the puzzle aspect of the plot. I grew up on Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I moved on to Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters. When I sat down to attempt to write a novel, I knew it would be a mystery.

What’s the most difficult part about writing for you? What do you enjoy the most?

Getting the first draft down is the most difficult part for me. Once I have “the bones” done I go back and revise. I like the revision stage much more. Research is my absolute favorite part. If I’m not careful, I can lose hours reading about train schedules in 1923 or what type of food was served at The Savoy. Fun stuff!

How do you go about the historical research for your novels? What drew you to the times you’ve chosen?

I enjoy Golden Age mysteries. Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Patricia Wentworth are some of my favorite authors. I find interesting tidbits about everyday life in fiction from the 1920s and 1930s. I also read quite a bit of nonfiction about that time period, and little details from those books have become important clues and red herrings. Browsing vintage images on Pinterest and watching Downton Abbey are all “research” in my book.

Do you have a special place where you like to write?

I write in my office, which has a window at one side of my desk. I need that window! For some reason I find it easier to write near a window. I suppose it’s the fact that I can gaze outside when I get stuck!

Have any other writers influenced your work?

Mary Stewart’s classic romantic suspense books were some of the first “grown-up” books I read. I loved that the women were always clever and resourceful. The exotic locations were great, too! Stewart had a wonderful way of capturing settings. Reading her books inspired me to find the tiny details that make a reader feel like they’re right there with the protagonist, experiencing the story along with her.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing a book for my travel mystery series, the On the Run series, and then I’ll focus on promotion for the release of the fourth book in the High Society Lady Detective series, Murder in Black Tie. I have more books planned in that series and will be working on those. I’m having so much fun in the nineteen twenties and readers are enjoying them, so I have to write more!

Steven King once said 'If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.' Do you agree?

Absolutely! Reading is what I do in my down time. If I don’t have a book to read, I get antsy! I learn so much from the reading I do for pleasure. As a writer, it’s hard to turn my “author brain” off and just enjoy the story, but I do try to do that. However, I’ll often be reading along and I’ll notice things that I like—or things that bother me—about a story. I mull over them and then I can either incorporate those techniques—or avoid them!—in my own writing.

You can find out more about Sara  on social media.

      Instagram: https//
      Twitter: @SaraRosett

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

A Moving Tribute

Runnymede in Berkshire is famous as the place where in 1215, the Magna Carta was sealed by King John at the instigation of his barons. It’s a fascinating place to visit. The American Memorial and the memorial to JFK have been there for many years, but the 800th anniversary added new features.

 One of these is The Jurors, twelve bronze chairs that incorporate images and symbols of humanity’s struggle for freedom, the rule of law and equal rights.

 Themes range from a tribute to Phillis Wheatley, the first African American woman to be published (1773) and Mary Prince, the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to the British parliament (1828), to the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. It was the huge spillage from this tanker that led to the establishment of many of today’s principles of environmental conduct. There is also a model of the key to Nelson Mandela’s prison cell and of one of the keys to the notorious Bastille prison that was presented to George Washington after the French Revolution.

Other symbols are more abstract, including a representation of the  ancient Egyptian god, Ma’at. The god is shown weighing a human heart against a feather to decide whether the owner is fit to enter paradise. This symbol is remembered in the modern scales of justice.

With so much to look at and reflect on, it’s a place to linger. The National Trust, who care for Runnymede, have a great deal of interesting information on their website  if you'd like to find out more.

I finished my day with a visit to the Air Force Memorial - a humbling reminder of those who gave their lives for freedom.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Bestselling mystery author, Faith Martin, talks about astrophysics, Hereward the Wake, and writing success.

Faith, welcome and many thanks for joining me. Your books are enjoyed by legions of murder mystery fans, would you like to tell readers how you became a writer?

Thank you for inviting me, Harriet. I started writing when I became a carer for my parents and needed something to do to tax my mind/creativity.

Hillary Greene and Jenny Starling are both strong women but still sympathetic and engaging. How did you go about creating their characters? Is there anything of yourself in them?

I created Hillary Greene when Morse was dominating Oxford, so I wanted a strong female character who might try to compete! I've lived near the Oxford Canal all my life, so having her live on a narrow boat seemed ideal - and could give my readers a glimpse into a different kind of lifestyle. Jenny Starling is also strong, but much funnier, and she is the 'voice' for my more plot-driven whodunits. Her job is to navigate my readers around the clues and red herrings, interview the suspects and lead them to their own conclusions as to who the killer is, before the big reveal. So, the reader learns less about her private life than about Hillary's, as the police procedurals are more character-driven, whereas the murder mysteries are more about solving the puzzle. But I wanted both women to be strong, independent and a 'character' in their own - very different - right.

I wish there was something of myself in both of them. Alas, I can't cook (unless you count warming up shop-bought chicken Kiev in the oven) so Jenny Starling would be disgusted with me. And I am nowhere near as competent or brave as Hillary! If I was confronted by an armed robber I'd probably just squeak and fall over! So, ditto for Hillary. I think though that both these characters have traits which I'd like to have, and if I live vicariously through them - well, so do my readers, so I'm in good company!

Why do you write the kind of books you do?

I like to write the kind of books I like to read. Don't forget, I was a reader long before I began writing. I loved the Agatha Christie books when I was in my teens, hence I've always wanted to write those kinds of books. And later, when great characters/police procedurals like Rebus and DI Banks came out, I loved those too - hence DI Hillary Greene.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I'm a full-time writer, so I don't have much time - but I have a dog, and like walking him in the countryside. I love wildlife, nature, flora etc, and as you've probably noticed, a lot of that seeps into my novels. 

With dozens of published books to your credit and approaching a million sales for the D I Hillary Greene series alone, you must have a very strong work ethic. How do you keep going?

Yes, the D I Hillary Greene series sold over a million copies worldwide in almost 1 year exactly, and I was absolutely stunned. Never thought or imagined that could happen, and a lot of it is due to Joffe Books and their great promotions. At one point I think she was No 1 in the UK and Australia and also in the USA and Canada top 50 too! I write every day (or in between books, researching and plotting the next one.) I've always loved writing, and I suppose I would feel guilty if I wasn't working. I grew up in a working-class family and I would probably get bored if I was idle! Right now, I have deadlines to meet for Harper Collins HQ's Ryder and Loveday series. The next book is due in October - so I'm not allowed to slack! But creating so many different characters, in so many genres, and set in different times (Ryder and Loveday are set in the 1960s) is always pushing me to come up with something different. I think this helps me stay 'fresh' and so provides my readers with 'fresh' things too. (At least that's what I hope it does!) 

 What’s the most difficult part about writing to you? What do you enjoy the most?

The only difficult thing I find about writing is sometimes getting motivated - I've been writing for 30 years now and have had more than 50 books published. But once I put the computer on and look at a blank page, I can feel my characters clamouring to get out and onto the screen - so away I go. And it is very satisfying writing a funny scene for Jenny (usually with an animal antagonist) or giving Trudy Loveday an emotional moment, or a hard lesson to learn about women's roles back before the 'swinging sixties' really got going. But I think most writers will tell you how hard but also satisfying writing a book can be.

How important is setting in your novels?

I set my novels in the area I've always lived in - and describing the countryside as it is now is very important - because I have an awful feeling that for generations to come, they might only know about it from literature from the past.

Who would you like to sit next to on a long flight? (Up to two people, living or dead.)

I don't fly - so I wouldn't ever find myself sitting next to someone! But on a train - hmmmmm. As for my 'dead' companion, I think I would quite like to see what Hereward the Wake would have to say. He must have been a real character - and lived during a fascinating time in history. As for my live candidate - probably the astrophysicist, Dr Cox. It must be really something to know so much about the universe and how it works - and I could listen to that sort of stuff all day long! (Not necessarily understand it mind!)

What are you most proud of, specifically in relation to your writing – an award, story or plot twist?

The only award I've ever won was when I first began writing as Maxine Barry. These were modern romances, and I won the Scarlet Award. I still have the silver platter on my bookcase. Mind you, I was the ONLY one to win it, since soon after, my publisher at the time joined forces with Constable, and they stopped producing romances and concentrated on crime instead. (You have to laugh at the irony!)

I suppose the only thing you might say I had any right to be proud of (more like surprised really) was to have got published at all. At the time I started writing, there was no self-publishing industry and it took me 5 years to get my first novel published (by Orion). I was beginning to think it wouldn't happen - but I stubbornly never gave up. So my advice to anyone struggling to find writing success is always the same - don't give up!

Faith, many, many thanks for coming. It’s been such a pleasure talking with you. With all your achievements, you remain so modest and funny - a shining example to us all. 

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Monkeys of Saint Hill

Saint Hill Manor in East Sussex in the UK is considered to be one of the finest sandstone buildings in the county, but it’s much better known for its connection with L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, who bought the estate from the Maharajah of Jaipur in 1959 and made it his family home for nearly 10 years before returning to America.

The Orangery
Saint Hill Manor

Hubbard was also an explorer, a master mariner, a talented photographer and the author of more than 500 published works of fiction and non-fiction. The Saint Hill library has copies of them all. Hubbard went to great lengths to restore Saint Hill which is still in beautiful condition today. 

A remarkable and unique feature of the house is the Monkey Room.  The murals were commissioned in 1945 by the wife of an American ambassador who wanted a conversation piece to amuse her guests. She certainly got it. Her chosen artist was John Spencer Churchill, nephew of Sir Winston Churchill, who spent months studying the monkeys at London zoo before he picked up his brush. The result is a delightful, mischievous work where, as Churchill said: Much as I tried the help it happening, the monkeys resemble human beings.

The artist's parents, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough!
The artist's uncle, Sir Winston Churchill.

I leave it up to you to decide whether you believe that was true or whether an impish nature got away with him. The room has had a variety for uses from dining room to cinema room. It’s now the most charming tea room I’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping tea in.
The Tea Room (Many famous people and politicians of the day featured on its walls  as well as the artist's relations.)

L Ron Hubbard's study