Whenever I’m asked to write a blog for the release of a new book, I always turn to my readers on social media to ask them if there are any questions they would like answered. As an author, it isn’t always easy to know what readers are most curious about. So I’m grateful for their input.
One reader queried: I have wondered if Lady Darby will use her artistic knowledge and talent in the future, related to a case or otherwise.
Those of you who read the series know that Lady Darby is a gifted portrait artist, and she’s used these skills in numerous ways in the past to help with investigations. And, yes, she will definitely continue to do so, whether it’s sketching possible suspects, or her keen artistic eye, or spotting something off in a potentially forged piece of artwork. As alluded to at the end of As Death Draws Near, she will also be painting a series of portraits based on the people she met in Ireland—The Faces of Ireland—with the goal to exhibit them and showcase their humanity. Readers will also recall her notoriety has made her portraits all the rage, so she will also continue to accept commissions, but only for subjects she’s interested in painting.
Another reader asked: I just would like to know how you come up with your plots, and also how you decided to let your readers get into Kiera’s head.
My plots have been inspired in a number of different ways. The plot for The Anatomist’s Wife emerged from the development of Kiera’s character and background, as well as the necessity for a mystery in an isolated setting. For Mortal Arts, the story actually started with a dream I had of the scene where Will is drawing on the walls and Kiera comes to sit beside him and help him. For A Grave Matter, I was inspired by a documentary I watched about how criminals planned to steal President Lincoln’s corpse and ransom it. For A Study in Death, it was the desire to pursue the topic of domestic violence in that period. For As Death Draws Near, I’d had the idea early on for Kiera to investigate the death of a nun, for it seemed feasible that in such a murder, a woman might be requested to view the body rather than a man. For the latest Lady Darby book, A Brush with Shadows, the plot was entirely inspired by the setting, as well as a desire to force Gage to return to his childhood home. I’d already established this manor stood at the edge of Dartmoor—a place I have visited and long wanted to set a book in. There is so much rich history and myth and mystery already surrounding that patch of England, so it was ripe with material.
As far as choosing to write in first person, inside Kiera’s head, I simply enjoy it. And I also think it adds a layer of suspense and uncertainty to a mystery, as well as immediacy.
A third reader asked: Will Gage inherit his father’s title? If he inherits his father’s title, then will Kiera be Lady Gage? Considering everything Gage has done for the Crown, will he receive his own title?
Yes, upon Lord Gage’s death, his son—Sebastian Gage—will inherit his title and become Baron Gage. And Kiera will become Lady Gage, a baroness, both by right and courtesy, as the title of baron is higher-ranked than her first husband (Sir Anthony), who was a baronet. As far as Gage receiving his own title from the Crown, only time will tell. No spoilers. Although, there are a number of factors against this happening—namely the fact that Gage will be inheriting a title eventually, and Lord Gage, who is good friends with the King, would likely be displeased to see his son ranked higher than or equal to him. But that doesn’t mean something extraordinary couldn’t happen. Readers will have to wait and see.
Another reader asked: How did you choose the names for your lady protagonists? I love the name Ella & am familiar with it, but Kiera &, especially, Verity, were new to me.
I am a bit idiosyncratic when it comes to names. It’s one of the first things I have to know about a character, and it MUST fit them in my mind, or I simply can’t move forward with them. I wrangle with names a lot. But fortunately, my main female protagonists seem to tell me their names rather quickly when they’re forming in my head. From what I can recall, and bizarre as it sounds, Kiera simply told me that was her name, and that was that. Verity (from my Verity Kent Mystery series) was slightly trickier. I wanted something a bit unique, so I started searching through name lists and stumbled across Verity, which means “truth.” Quite fitting for a mystery sleuth, huh? And her last name simply slid into place once I had her first name.
One final question: Your settings are often unique. How do you choose them?
Other than character, I would say setting is the element of my stories I enjoy crafting most. It’s something I’m drawn to, and I love exploring new places through fiction. Sometimes, I’m inspired by a picture. Sometimes, I happened to visit the site and connected with the place. Other times, a location pops up while I’m doing research and presents itself as the perfect setting for a mystery. I love London, but sometimes I get tired of seeing it used so often in 19th century mysteries, so I gravitate more toward Edinburgh and rural settings. That being said, Lady Darby Book 7 (out April 2019), is set in London, but only because a piece of 1831 history demanded Kiera be there. However, Book 8 will find Kiera and Gage venturing to some distinctive locale yet again.
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