I'm pleased to welcome Richard Audry back to the blog today. This time we're discussing his Mary MacDougall Mystery series. A DAUGHTER'S DOUBT was released just last month.
Kathy: A DAUGHTER'S DOUBT is the third book in your Mary MacDougall Mystery series and is set in 1902. What made you decide upon writing a historical cozy and why this era?
RA: Back in the ’90s I created the first version of Mary. She came out of an epiphany I had when I first saw A Room with a View, starring Helena Bonham Carter. Wouldn’t it be fun to mash up Lucy Honeychurch with Sherlock Holmes? That first book was the result. But the mistakes I made were to emulate Holmes’s cool temperament for Mary and write in an archaic style. It had a good plot, but the cool, detached Mary was wrong and the style was off-putting. I set that book in 1903 because it was still the era of Holmes and there were certain real historical circumstances that the plot required.
Fast forward two decades. My wife had been urging me to revive Mary—but a more sympathetic, friendlier Mary in more of a cozy style. So, three years ago I wrote the first new Mary novella, A PRETTY LITTLE PLOT, as a birthday present for her. The reaction from my beta readers was good enough to encourage me to write a second story and now a third.
Kathy: Historical mysteries require an extra special brand of research. What's your favorite method to research this time period?
RA: I had done a lot of library research back in the ’90s, for the first novel. For example, I discovered that lady detectives—while not common in that era—were working here and there. Much of that detail has carried over. Now, of course, with Google and Wikipedia, no more trips to the library are required. I don’t worry about conveying every little historical detail, but work at getting the important things right.
Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?
RA: Yes, there were several. There was a certain incident that involved my great-grandfather—according to family lore. And my research turned up other situations from roughly that period. They provided the jumping-off points for the plot. Unfortunately, any further details I could give would be spoilers.
Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Mary MacDougall?
RA: I plan to write at least two more novels. The first will have Mary unraveling a deadly plot involving a royal house of Eastern Europe. The next will be that very first story that I wrote twenty years ago, rebooted with the new, friendlier Mary and in a cozy style. I even have the title ready for that one—Blood on the Birches.
Kathy: The protagonist is a woman in the Mary MacDougall Mystery series, while your King Harald series features a man (and a male dog) in the lead role. Does a different gender point of view affect the way you write? Is one way easier?
RA: It does indeed. When your protagonist is female and you’re male, you need to look at things differently. Just as you would if your POV character was older or younger than you, richer or poorer, educated or uneducated. I write Mary based on my best assumptions of a smart, headstrong young heiress of 1902. And then I have my editors and beta readers—all female—review what I’ve come up with. To answer your second question, yes, it’s easier for me to see Andy’s POV than Mary’s. I just have a lot more in common with him. But having said that, a good writer should be able to write any POV, no matter how dissimilar to herself or himself.
Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pantsers, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or do you fall somewhere in between?
RA: I’m a plotter. Writing a book can take hundreds of hours, and I could end up with something useless if I wrote as a pantser. So I like having a road map of where I’m going and the primary stops along the way. It’s fine to improvise and adapt and tweak a bit, but that map is what propels me forward.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
RA: The next two or three books I’m writing will be King Harald canine cozies. I’m working now on the first of those, in which Andy and Harald are stranded by a blizzard at a resort hotel. And I expect to get back to Mary MacDougall sometime in 2017.
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