If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

An Interview with T E Kinsey, Historic Cozy Author by E. B. Davis

Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.

But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her
self-imposed retirement. There’s a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation…

As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries and resentment, they uncover a web of intrigue that extends far beyond the village. With almost no one free from suspicion, they can be certain of only one fact: there is no such thing as a quiet life in the country.
T E Kinsey writes the Lady Hardcastle historical cozy mystery series. I found the first book, A Quiet Life in the Country, on Kindle Unlimited, to which I subscribe, downloaded it without anticipation, and read a delightful, historical cozy. Well, aside from a bit of bother at the end. I found the second, In the Market for Murder, also on Kindle Unlimited, downloaded and enjoyed it as well. The third book in the series, Death Around the Bend, won’t be out until May, but I suspect it will also get downloaded and gobbled up much like the Easter Candy, which has disappeared from my basket at an alarming rate. Jolly good fun!

Please welcome T E Kinsey to WWK.                                                                                       E. B. Davis
Spring, 1909, and Lady Hardcastle, amateur sleuth and all-round eccentric, is enjoying a well-deserved rest. But a week after a trip to the cattle market, Spencer Caradine, a local farmer, turns up dead in the pub, face-down in his beef and mushroom pie. Once again, it is up to Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence, to solve the case.

Armed with wit and whimsy, not to mention Florence’s mean right hook, the pair set out to discover what really happened and why. Was it poison or just ill luck?

As they delve further into their investigation, they encounter a theft where nothing is stolen, a séance with a troubled ghost and an ever-increasing number of Spencer’s family and friends who might just have motive for murder. One thing’s for sure: Lady Hardcastle has a mystery on her hands.


The Lady Hardcastle series starts in 1908. You read history at Bristol in your youth. What is it about these years prior to WWI that attracts you to set your books then?
I actually specialized in medieval history, although I did at least one course on Victorian social history.

The Edwardian period in England is a bit of a weird no-man’s-land for British historians. Nothing very much happens. The Victorian age winds gently down. A few things begin (of which more in a moment), but there are no major changes. Very few people study it in isolation.

To the Victorian specialists it’s a sort of jaunty coda to the Victorian era. All the social and economic upheaval brought about by the Industrial Revolution is more or less done. Urban poverty is still a problem, but nowhere near as much as it had been. Workers are beginning to get more rights. Developments in medicine mean that public health is greatly improved. Life for the working class is far from grand, but it’s far less grim.

The upper classes, too, are settling into their new roles. The newly-rich industrialists are now firmly part of the establishment. Landowners are slowly accepting the changes to their own lives that have come about as a result of industrialization and urbanization. The idea of “The Great Binge” is a new one, but it’s true that drink and drugs were enthusiastically consumed by the end of the Victorian era and we now have this soft-focus image of Edwardian England as being a ten-year party for the wealthy.

Generally, though, it’s not as exciting as the Victorian era at all. It’s Victorian Lite.

For scholars concentrating on the Great War and beyond, the Edwardian age is the place where everything begins, but nothing really happens.

The Labour Party was founded in 1900 but didn’t really become a major force in British politics until after the war. The Women’s Suffrage movement gets going in 1903, but doesn’t really start making headlines until 1910. There are political shenanigans across Europe, but they don’t explode until 1914.

All of this means that for a writer of fiction, it’s rather a pleasant playground. It’s a hazy blend of old and new and it’s possible, without breaking anything at all, to make it into pretty much whatever you want to be. It’s old enough to be exotic. The class system is still very much in place and the nature of people’s lives was very much governed by the class they happened to be born into. But it’s also new enough to be familiar. People were talking about workers’ rights and women’s suffrage. Technology that we now take for granted (phones and cars, for instance) was new, but not weirdly so.

During my research, I repeatedly find that the limits on what did and did not, what could and could not, happen, are actually pretty loose. If I decide that a character should talk or act in a particular way, it’s usually possible to justify it – everything was just a little bit more flexible than it had been during the previous sixty years and a lot of the attitudes and behaviours were surprisingly modern. I steadfastly maintain, for instance, that the friendship between Lady Hardcastle and Flo wasn’t impossible (especially under the circumstances I devised for them) – the times, they were a-changin’.

I explain the origin of the characters below, and in their first incarnation they were Victorians. When I came to write them as detectives, though, I brought them forward a little. There’s a ton of Victorian (and Victorian-style) fiction out there already, so making them Edwardian would make them a little different. It also adds the possibility of widespread use of telephones and motor cars. I already knew they were going to live in the countryside where hailing a cab or sending a wire would be impossible most of the time, so I needed them to be able to communicate and get about.

That’s already far too much and probably doesn’t answer the question. Sorry.

Where is Gloucestershire, and how do you pronounce the name?
If you head due west from London, Bristol is the last city you hit before you fall into the River Severn (actually, since the 1960s, the Severn Bridge will carry you into Wales so there’s no actual danger of fluvial catastrophe). Weirdly, Bristol is both a city and a county (trust me, it’s a thing). Anyway. To the south of Bristol is the county of Somerset. To the north is Gloucestershire. It’s pronounced GLOSS-ta-sheer. The city of Gloucester, in case it ever comes up, is pronounced GLOSS-ter (and the locals, like everyone down the left-hand side of England, use a rounded R sound (I can’t remember what it’s called and I’m in a beach bar in Antigua so I can’t look it up – is it “rhotic”? Maybe).

Lady Hardcastle went to Cambridge to study, but she didn’t obtain a degree. Why not?
Technically, she didn’t actually go to Cambridge at all. She studied at Girton College, which in the late nineteenth century was a women-only college on the outskirts of Cambridge. The women undertook rigorous courses of study in mathematics, natural sciences, or classics but it wasn’t actually part of the university until 1948. At that point, women were finally awarded the same degrees as men (one source says 1947, but I’m dubious about that).

For the purposes of the stories, she always says she was up at Cambridge. Her older brother, Harry, was there at the same time, and she’s the sort of person who can’t be bothered to explain all the intricacies. As far as she’s concerned she worked just as hard as he did and learned just as much, so the petty distinctions of who was at which university and who gained what degree don’t really concern her.

Miss Armstrong, employed by Lady Hardcastle as a servant, is well read and traveled, partly due to her employer. Because of the ease in their relationship, she rarely has many household duties to perform. Lady Hardcastle actually employs day labors of a cook and maid, freeing Miss Armstrong. She’s more friend than servant. Did you base her character on someone you read about or knew of through family lore?
No, she’s not based on anyone. Not really.

That said, though, there is a sort of family connection which got the whole thing started. My maternal grandmother (whose name was Margaret Kinsey and whose surname I borrow as my pen name) was a cook in domestic service in the 1920s and ’30s. She came from Aberdare in South Wales (just like Flo) but at some point she moved to London where she met and married my grandfather.

She died of a brain tumour in 1940 when my mother was only two. There are no family stories about her - that’s pretty much all I know.

In the ’70s my mother was a big fan of Upstairs Downstairs and The Duchess of Duke Street (it took me years to figure out why she was so interested in early-twentieth century domestic service – I didn’t know anything about Grandma) and so I was exposed to them, too. My entire understanding of servants and their duties came originally from Upstairs Downstairs. When Downton Abbey started, I thought about it all some more.

Both shows depict (for obvious dramatic reasons) large families with a large household of servants.  “Us and them” - Upstairs Downstairs even hints at that in the title. There are lots of stories to tell within each group, and lots more to tell about the interactions between the two groups. It’s a story motherlode.

But, I thought, that’s not typical. Yes, those sorts of households existed, but they were far from the norm. There would be smaller families with smaller retinues. Even, I reasoned, sometimes a single employer with a single servant. “Us and them” would sometimes be “Me and you”.

And what would their relationship be? Would the fact that they were living together in the same house day and night break down the social rules and allow them to be friends? Of course not, don’t be silly.

Ok, but what if they were put under pressure? What if circumstances arose which forced them to rely on each other not just as a payer of wages and a cooker of food, but for their very survival. Maybe not if they were men. Englishmen can be best friends all their lives but social pressure prevents them from ever saying how much they mean to each other. Women? Maybe.

So I devised a story where a young couple moves to a remote hill station in India where he runs a tea plantation and she plays the piano, and paints, and tries to teach the local children to read and write English. They are happy to hire local servants for the most part, but she insists on taking her lady’s maid with her. The husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly (of natural causes) and the wife decides she has to return home. She dismisses the local servants and makes her own way across country to Calcutta with only her maid for company.

It’s a hard journey, beset with difficulties and slowly the two women become actual friends. The social barriers, which ought to keep them apart, start to seem absurd. By the time they return to Blighty they’re talking to each other as equals. Some problems, obviously, ensue.

It all seemed like a splendid idea, but it also seemed like a properly grown-up novel of the sort which I’m not in the least bit qualified to write. I mostly do glib and flippant. I put the characters and the idea to one side.

When I came to write a murder mystery, I realized I already had a detective and sidekick on the character shelf, fully developed and ready to go. I tweaked the back story to put them in China (mostly so that Flo could learn martial arts - something I still find funny). I made Sir Roderick a diplomat rather than a tea planter and his wife a spy rather than a teacher. I had him murdered by foreign agents rather than dying of a fever. But the way that the relationship between Lady Hardcastle and Flo came about was essentially the same. They escaped, mostly alone, across China. They’ve been through extraordinary things together and class distinction doesn’t mean a great deal to them any more.

When they get back to England in 1901, they find the world has plodded on without them, largely unchanged. They’re both canny enough to know that they still have to play the game, that the social rules still apply, but they tend to regard the whole thing as slightly absurd.

It’s all a bit subtexty now. The explicit details of all that got gradually chopped out during the editing process when we changed the structure of the first two books from four, linked stories each to full-length novels and now it’s not at all obvious.

At one point in the first book, Inspector Sunderland and Miss Armstrong discuss their positions and find similarities. Although they enjoy great autonomy in their jobs, they both must answer to their respective employers. They are hired, but they are in respected positions. They’re almost a new middle-class. What was happening in England at the time that would give rise to these more independent professionals?
That’ll teach me to read all the questions before I start writing. See above, really – the Edwardian age was a time of great change and, yes, this blurring of class roles was already happening.

It depends on whose opinion you read, but a police inspector like Sunderland could certainly have been classified as “middle class” even by Victorian standards. The rank of police inspector is broadly equivalent to the rank of first lieutenant in the British army (they were the same shoulder insignia – though as a detective, Sunderland would have been in plain clothes, obviously). As such, he might even be a borderline “gentleman”, though no one would accept him as such.

Flo is a special case. She comes from a working class background and has a very working class job. In practice, though, she’s more like a “companion” than a lady’s maid and that would place her well into the middle classes. They had a conversation about this in one draft, where Flo eventually decided that she preferred being a maid because of the access it gave her in their espionage days. As a maid, it was easy for her to be accepted in working class circles, whereas as a companion she would be regarded with suspicion. I’m not sure if they addressed the fact that she frequently played the role of an upper class lady in some of their skullduggery and could just as easily have played the role of downtrodden maid, but I’m sure they would have argued their way round it somehow.

‘Perhaps not, my lady, but it was thanks to the power of your deductions that
the inspector was persuaded to search Summer’s room.’

‘Abductions, dear.’

‘What?’ I said.

‘It’s abductive reasoning, not deductive. Working from observation to
theory is abduction, not deduction.’

‘But I thought—‘

‘Yes, you and so many other people. We know who to blame, of course, and I’ve
written to him more than once care of his publisher, but he takes no notice.’
T E Kinsey, A Quiet Life in The Country/Kindle Loc. 3231

Is the answer Arthur Conan Doyle? George Bernard Shaw? You like to get everyone guessing, don’t you?
It’s Arthur Conan Doyle. I remembered a segment on QI where this error was pointed out and felt that it was something Lady Hardcastle would know about.

During the edit, we had a bit of a to-and-fro about whether it was abduction or induction. The differences between inductive and abductive reasoning seemed very subtle to we non-philosophers and they both seemed to describe the process that Conan Doyle always calls deduction. Abduction seemed to us to be ‘going from an incomplete set of observations to the most likely explanation for them’. Induction, as far as we could make out was ‘going from specific observations to a general conclusion’. Superficially, they seem so similar as to make no difference. We were stumped.

In the end, though, we plumped for abduction because that was what I’d first heard. One source referred to abductive reasoning as the basis of a medical diagnosis, and we thought that was more like what we were looking for. Abduction is a less commonly used word in a ‘reasoning’ context so it sounds more like the sort of thing that Lady Hardcastle would say (whether she was right or wrong). And that general definition (going from an incomplete set of observations to the most likely explanation for them) seemed best to fit the detective's art. There was something about “induction” that didn't quite seem to match what we thought detectives did.

We might have made the wrong choice but we decided that if we had, it was because there was a better choice, not because ours was completely incorrect.

Would you explain the following terms?

Tiifin has a couple of meanings, but to the English ladies and gentlemen in Colonial India it was the name for afternoon tea. In fact it was the name for any number of meals between lunch and dinner, but it soon became almost exclusively associated with teatime. Sir Hector clings to the word, having fond memories of his days in the Raj.

Black Maria?
It’s a police van for carrying prisoners. For American readers: Paddy Wagon. Incidentally, it’s pronounced as if it were Mariah (as in Carey).

Charlatans and swindlers.

How did Miss Armstrong learn martial arts?
We’ll probably get to that in Book 4.

Three stories were cut from the original self-published editions of the first two books. One of them (The Circus comes to Town) may well resurface at some point. The other two were “thrillers” and concentrated more on the ladies’ espionage skills. This gave me a splendid chance for flashbacks and backstories where all this was explained.

I’m dropping in titbits here and there as we go, but I’ve not got to the death of Sir Roderick Hardcastle and the subsequent adventures.

Short answer: while they were fleeing across China in 1898.

When you say, “I was pleased as Punch…” are your referring to Punch and Judy? What was the big deal about them? I know they were popular. But how did they perform to mass appeal when there was no media advertising, TV, etc.?
We sometimes make the mistake of imagining that we invented the idea of “everyone knowing about stuff”. Fads, fashions, songs, jokes, stories, words, ideas have been travelling around our countries at remarkable speed for centuries.

Punch and Judy were already deeply entrenched in British popular culture and the reference would be well known. They started out in theatre shows in the seventeenth century and became marionette and later glove-puppet shows. They were everywhere.

By the time of our stories, theatre shows had long since closed, but Punch and Judy shows were still popular throughout England even into the 1970s (I’ve seen more than one). The little stripy tent with its head-high “stage” was a regular feature on promenades and piers in almost every seaside town in the country, and in Victorian times the shows would have toured towns, too.

Punch and Judy had been around for so long and had been seen by so many, that it would be more interesting to try to find someone who didn’t know about them.

‘Oh pish and fiddlesticks,’ she said. ‘Gertie Farley-Stroud was here a little while ago, all at sixes and sevens and swooning like a mopsy in a penny dreadful.’
T E Kinsey, In the Market for Murder, Kindle Loc. 470

Would you provide a current translation of that sentence for our American audience?
‘Nonsense,’ she said. ‘Gertie Farley-Stroud was here a little while ago in a state of distress and befuddlement, and fainting like a young woman in a cheap, sensational story.

Lady Hardcastle decides to buy a car and learn to drive. Had she not been a peer and/or a widow, would she have been sold one?

Just a quick point before we go on here. She’s not a “peer”, but she does have her late-husband’s title (he was granted a knighthood for services to the Foreign Office – it wasn’t an inherited title).

But anyway.

The short answer is yes, she would. And no, she wouldn’t.

It all depends on whether we’re talking about the same woman, but in different circumstances, or on some other woman entirely.

Despite the rigid social code, and the dreadful state of women’s rights, trade was trade. If you had the money, you could buy the car. That’s not to say that it would have been easy, or that she wouldn’t have been turned away by one or two disapproving dealers before she managed to get her hands on a bright red Rover 6. But Emily Hardcastle wouldn’t have stood for any of their nonsense and would have insisted that her money was as good as anyone else’s. Eventually she would have bought the car.

A weaker-willed woman with no title? Perhaps she’d have given up at the first mocking smirk. But not our Emily.

How did you obtain your contract with Thomas and Mercer?
I published A Quiet Life in the Country and The Spirit is Willing (which eventually became In the Market for Murder) myself through Kindle Direct Publishing (a service offered by Amazon). I’d written the stories for fun and I thought it would be a lark to publish them and see what happened.

As it turns out, what happened was a surprising amount of interest and enthusiasm from readers of cozy mysteries. Sales were good, the reviews were (largely) good and somehow (I suspect that automated systems were in play) it came to the attention of a commissioning editor at Amazon Publishing.

She emailed me and asked if I’d like to talk. We talked. She wanted to know if there was going to be a Book 3. I said it was already underway and she asked to see it. We talked again a week later and a deal was struck.

I’m afraid I’m a dreadful role model for aspiring writers. I did no marketing, no promotion, and I made no effort to find an agent or a traditional publisher. I just wrote my books and got on with my day job. Sometimes, good stuff just happens.

Thanks so much for the interview. I’m looking forward to reading the third book in your series!
September 1909, and Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence, have been invited to Lord Riddlethorpe’s country estate for a week of motor racing and parties. They both agree that it sounds like a perfectly charming holiday. But when one of the drivers dies in a crash during the very first race, they discover that what seemed like an uncharacteristic error in judgement may have a more sinister explanation…

Closer investigation reveals that the driver’s car was sabotaged—and the driver murdered. The local constabulary are quick to dismiss the case, but Flo and Lady Hardcastle are determined to find out just who has committed this dastardly act, and why.

As the pair begin to make enquiries of Lord Riddlethorpe’s servants and guests, it seems that, below stairs and above, there is more to this case than meets the eye. And, even in the quiet of the countryside, death is always just around the bend.                         


Kait said...

How delightful. And another series for my TBR.

Warren Bull said...

You clearly know the period of time well. Reading about life in earlier times is part of the fun with historical mysteries.

E. B. Davis said...

These mysteries don't lag. I had a fun time reading them. Some books written for this time are stuffy and and written in a stilted fashion. TE's ladies' attitudes are refreshing. I think the third book is due out in May. Look them up. You're in for a treat.

Judy Alter said...

Love the background on the Edwardian era. Fascinating stuff, and the books go on my TBR list too. Thanks, Elaine, for doing this blog.

Margaret Turkevich said...

what fun! I've always enjoyed the Edwardian era, particularly focused on the "downstairs" element. I look forward to exploring the fictional world you've created.

Julie Tollefson said...

More for my TBR pile!

KM Rockwood said...

The whole project, from writing delightful-sounding novels to self-publishing on Amazon, sounds like a wonder adventure!

I'll be checking these out soon.

Gloria Alden said...

It sounds like a wonderful series. I wrote down your first book to order since I always like to start at the beginning.