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

August Interview Schedule
8/7 Rhys Bowen Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
8/14 Heather Gilbert Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
8/21 Lynn Chandler Willis Tell Me No Secrets
8/28 Cynthia Kuhn The Subject of Malice
8/31 Bernard Schaffer An Unsettled Grave

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/3 M. S. Spencer, 8/10 Zaida Alfaro

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 8/24 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

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 will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

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.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

An Interview With Connie Berry

by Grace Topping

One of the joys of writing a book is creating an engaging story that incorporates things the author loves or finds interesting. Connie Berry, in her debut novel, A Dream of Death, wrote an intriguing mystery; set it in a place she loves, the British Isles; worked in her family’s background in antiques; tucked in some history; and created interesting characters. For Connie, it was a joy to write, and for readers, the promise of a very entertaining read. 

A Dream of Death
Jacket copy

Autumn has come and gone on Scotland’s Isle of Glenroth, and the islanders gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist-season gala. Spirits are high. A recently published novel about island history has brought hordes of tourists to the small Hebridean resort community. On the guest list is American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. Kate returns reluctantly to the island where her husband died, determined to repair her relationship with his sister, proprietor of the island’s luxe country house hotel, famous for its connection with Bonnie Prince Charlie. The next morning a body is found, murdered in a reenactment of an infamous crime described in the novel. The Scottish police discount the historical connection, but when a much-loved local handyman is arrested, Kate teams up with a vacationing detective inspector from Suffolk, England, to unmask a killer determined to rewrite island history–and Kate’s future. 

Welcome, Connie, to Writers Who Kill.

A Dream of Death is your debut novel. What inspired you to write a mystery?

Connie Berry
I've always been fascinated with deciphering clues and figuring out puzzles. Like so many other mystery writers, I began reading the Nancy Drew series and went on to devour the Golden Agers—Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, G. K. Chesterton, Georges Simenon, Cyril Hare, Dorothy L. Sayers. As a child, I wrote my own stories, most of them involving mysteries, puzzles, and unexplained events. Now, as an adult, I appreciate finely drawn characters, intriguing settings, complex plots, and beautiful prose. Mysteries have it all.

Kate Hamilton is an American, but you chose to set A Dream of Death in Scotland, and the sequel in Suffolk, England. Why in Scotland and then the move to England?

Well, there's something about an English village, isn't there—the idyllic façade with a dark underbelly? "One sees so much evil in a village," Miss Marple famously said. I always wanted the series to end up in Suffolk, one of the most historic and least-visited parts of England. I've spent time there, following the many walking paths, exploring impossibly quaint villages, and delving into the area's fascinating Anglo-Saxon and medieval history. My first book, however, is set on a fictional island in the Scottish Hebrides because I wanted my two main characters—Kate, an American antiques dealer, and Tom, an English detective inspector—to meet in a location where they were both outsiders and could team up to solve a crime. Tom obviously has experience with criminal investigation and the instincts of a detective. Kate has a specialized knowledge of antiques and an ability to notice details and discern patterns. The second book builds on this relationship.

Setting a book in another country must require a fair bit of research. What have you been doing to make the settings sound so authentic? 

My paternal grandparents were Scottish, so I grew up with the sounds, tastes, and tales of the "auld country" in my head and heart. Today, research is facilitated by handy online tools such as Google maps and local websites. For information about policing in Scotland, I enlisted the help of a detective inspector from Fort William and the chief of police on the Isle of Skye. There's nothing like actually being there, however. Before sending the manuscript to my publisher, my husband and I spent two weeks tracing Kate's steps from Inverness to Fort William and the famous "Road to the Isles." We took the "roll-on, roll-off" ferry to the Isle of Skye. We talked to people and filled our senses with the incredible beauty of autumn in the Highlands—the brooding lochs, the tall pines, and the mountains, carpeted with golden gorse. I hope my readers will get a sense of that magical area and want to visit for themselves.

Kate runs her own antique business and experiences physical sensations when she handles certain antiques. Tell us about her business in the U. S. and her unique experiences.  

Kate owns a shop, specializing in fine antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. She grew up in the antiques trade (as I did) and learned all she knows from her parents. Her father teasingly called her a divvy, an antiques whisperer, drawn instinctively to the single treasure in a roomful of junk, able to spot a fake at fifty paces. In the presence of a fine antique, Kate often experiences a vague sense of joy or sadness or fear, as if the emotional atmosphere in which the object existed had crept into the joints and crevices along with the dust and grime. Sometimes these feelings distill into a word or a phrase. Kate dismisses these symptoms, chalking them up to her notoriously over-active imagination and filing them away under the category of Unexplained Things like déjà vu and why men can never find anything in a refrigerator. 

In A Dream of Death, the story centers around the discovery of a diary that is about two hundred years old. Reading the diary entries is like getting two stories in one book. Why the parallel stories? 

As a child, I once asked my mother why we didn't have new furniture like everyone else. "Our things have a history," she said. "So much more interesting." That line made it into the book because it's an idea that has always fueled my imagination. Today, where we live, is only the thin top layer of a deeper history that adds context and meaning to our experience. At least that's how I see it. My series begins with that premise—the layering of past and present. Kate's profession as an antiques dealer reflects it, as do the lives of the characters. In that sense, the diary provides a place for past and present to meet. As Kate reads the diary, the historical murder and the present-day murder entwine, until they meet at the end, and both are solved.

What is your favorite thing about Kate? 

I admire many qualities in Kate—her integrity and sense of justice, her self-deprecation, her sly sense of humor, and her logical mind. But my favorite thing about Kate is her curiosity because it often gets her into trouble.

I’ve read that you should give your main character a flaw. Did you give Kate a flaw? If so, what is it and how is she dealing with it?

Everyone has flaws, and I hope Kate's make her a three-dimensional character, someone you might actually meet. Unexpected losses in Kate's life—the death of her beloved Down Syndrome brother when she was five, the death of her father when she was seventeen, and the premature death of her husband when she was forty-three—have made her self-protective and unwilling to risk her heart again. That becomes a problem when she finds herself attracted to Tom Mallory. When Kate's husband died, there was unresolved conflict between them. Before she can move forward, Kate must face her past.

Kate teams up with Detective Inspector Tom Mallory of the Suffolk Constabulary to solve a murder. What is an inspector with the Suffolk Constabulary doing working on a case in Scotland?

Tom is spending two weeks on the Isle of Glenroth for a much-needed break after a particularly difficult case. While the Suffolk Constabulary and Police Scotland are separate entities, police in both countries work (ostensibly) for the Queen and are technically never off-duty. As a police professional actually on-scene when a murder occurs, Tom assists the local police, whose resources are stretched, on an informal basis. More is involved, as you might imagine, but to find out, you'll have to read the book. 

What is your favorite thing about Tom?

Tom is a serious-minded person by nature, which makes him easy to wind up. Unfortunately, Kate finds this irresistible. Good thing for her, Tom is slow to take offense and intensely loyal. Once he gives his heart, he's a lost man.  

How was your journey to publication? Was it a long journey? What kept you going?

This first book took almost ten years to get into publishable form. I made all the newbie mistakes and had to learn the craft, one painful step at a time. What kept me going was a love for the story, a passion for the written word, and a stubborn unwillingness to give up. What held me back was a near-fatal compulsion to polish and revise words without addressing the underlying structural issues. Once I set my mind to do that, the story came together.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently on the way?

Where do I start? I made all the mistakes. But the one thing I never experienced was writing fatigue. I've loved every minute I spent on this book.

What was the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? And what advice would you give writers just starting out? 

The best piece of advice? That's hard to pin down. So many writers have given me advice and practical help, from wonderful critique partners, to authors of books on craft such as Chris Roerden and Jane Cleland, to other writers generous enough to listen and review my work. Gretchen Archer, author of the Davis Way mysteries, advised me to change my POV from third to first person. When I did that, Kate got her voice. Second, Hank Phillippi Ryan advised me to "take away everything that isn't the book." When I did that, the story came together. I'd give new writers two pieces of advice: learn the craft and persevere.

Writing is such an isolated activity. How do you stay connected to other writers?

Staying connected is easy these days through social media. But real relationships are made face-to-face. I've met many wonderful friends at writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Crime Bake, Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and Killer Nashville. I like to attend at least two conferences a year and look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, both local and national chapters, and Mystery Writers of America. The writing community is incredibly generous. As someone said (wish I could remember who): "You don't have to fail so I can succeed."

What’s next for Kate Hamilton and Detective Inspector Tom Mallory?

Since Kate's daughter is a student at Magdalen College, Oxford, Kate will have further opportunities to spend time with Tom in the UK. In the second book, A Legacy of Murder, Kate travels to Suffolk, Tom's patch, where her daughter has an internship between terms at one of the local stately homes. Trouble, as they say, ensues.

Thank you, Connie.

For more information about Connie Berry, visit her on Facebook and at www.connieberry.com

Coming October 2019

A Legacy of Murder

Book Two in the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series 

What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, steaming wassail, and Tom Mallory, the detective inspector she met during a recent murder investigation in Scotland. Kate also looks forward to spending time with her daughter, Christine, an intern at Finchley Hall, famous for the unearthing in 1818 of a treasure trove known as The Finchley Hoard. But when the body of another intern is found on the estate, romance must take a back seat. Long Barston is on Tom Mallory’s patch, and the clues to the killer’s identity point backward more than four hundred years to a legacy of murder and a blood-red ruby ring.


Jim Jackson said...

Connie -- I think you've hit the mystery-writing community on the head with your quoted line about one of us succeeding does not require another of us to fail. It's such a relief from the competitive nature of many jobs.

Maria Hudgins said...

I'm interested in your change from third to first person. I've had the same experience. Twice no, I've made the change and found the main character coming to life. I've written all my Dotsy Lamb books in first person. Why is that? Is there a certain type of story or a certain type of character that comes across better in first?

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Great interview, Grace and Connie. Congratulations on your upcoming release. I have a special fondness for characters bearing the Hamilton surname.

Margaret S. Hamilton

Meg said...

SO PROUD of you, Connie!!! I'm waiting for my book to arrive - wish I could be at Malice for you to sign it, but alas, not this year. Can't wait to read it, and book 2 as well. Sounds FASCINATING! Best wishes on continuing the series!!

Kait said...

What a wonderful interview. The premise of these books is wonderful. Can't wait to add them to my Kindle! Best of the best on the series. I'll be looking for it.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Great interview, Grace and Connie!
Connie I'm so glad your first book will soon be out. It sounds wonderful!
See you both at Malice!

Connie Berry said...

Jim Jackson, that is one of the most amazing things I've learned about the mystery-writing community. We support each other and cheer our successes. A rare thing in our hyper-competitive world.

Connie Berry said...

And to prove my point: thank you Meg Mims, Maria Hudgins, and Marilyn Levinson. You have all been encouragers and friends. Meg, you will be missed at Malice! Hope to see you there, Maria and Marilyn.

Connie Berry said...

Thank you, Margaret and Kait. I hope you like the book!

KM Rockwood said...

Thank you for introducing us to a new author! This sounds fascinating.

JudyinBoston said...

I can't wait to read the finished product. Your perseverance and dedication to craft are admirable. Raising a toast to you.

Judy Copek

Connie Berry said...

Judy, we've been in this together for a long time. Except you're way ahead!

Connie Berry said...

I hope you like the book, KM!