I'm delighted to welcome Paula Paul to Cozy Up With Kathy today.Paula writes the Alexandra Gladstone Mystery series. For Dead Men Only is the second book in the series and was released this past week.
Kathy: The Alexandra Gladstone Mystery series is set in Victorian England. What made you choose this time period for your series?
PP. The Victorian era began to intrigue me when I realized my that growing up in the 50s and 60s in a Southern culture was akin to the culture of the Victorian age in so many ways. My grandmother especially had Victorian sensibilities. Since I felt so steeped in Victoriana that I guess it seemed natural to write about it.
Kathy: Alexandra Gladstone is a doctor, an unusual profession for a woman in Victorian England. How did you decide upon Alexandra having a profession, let alone that of a physician?
PP. The reason Alexandra is a doctor doesn’t really have particularly interesting roots. An editor asked me to write a historical mystery and to make the heroine interesting and unusual. I started doing research and discovered how difficult it was for women to have any kind of career in the era I had chosen. Medicine seemed one of the most difficult careers for a woman to pursue, and I discovered that Victorian medicine with all of its herbal cures was fascinating.
Kathy: Freemasons play a major role in For Dead Men Only. The history of Freemasons is fascinating. Had you known much about them prior to researching this book? Are they a particular interest of yours?
PP: I knew a little about the Freemasons before I began the research for For Dead Men Only, but I didn’t know of their connection to the Knights Templar until perhaps twenty years ago when I met an elderly man in my church who was a Templar in the Freemasons. I had never heard of that group. He explained that their mission is to provide funds for ministers who wish to visit Jerusalem, which is what his group did for our minister. Of course I’d heard of the Templars and had a vague notion that they protected pilgrims who visited the Holy Land during the Crusades. The old gentleman’s remarks stirred my interest, and I started reading books about the Templar history and learned of the disputed idea that Freemasons is an outgrowth of the Templars. There are many stories about the Templars, many of them unproven, but all of them fascinating.
Kathy: Historical mysteries require an extra special brand of research. What’s your favorite method to research this time period?
PP: Since I am an incurable bibliophile, my favorite method of historical research is to read books about the subject. I also use the Internet to a great extent to search for information, but there’s nothing like a good book—fiction or nonfiction. Certainly, I also like to visit the places I write about as well.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
PP: Reading books by Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers were the first to draw me in when I was young. I have always preferred the genre to hard-boiled mysteries or thrillers because the plots are so intricate. While I have wanted to be a writer almost all of my life, I didn’t think, at first, that I could write mysteries because of the demands of the plot.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
PP: Yes, I write historical novels, the latest is Sins of the Empress about Catherine the Great of Russia. I also write literary novels which I love. The latest is Forgetting Tommie.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
PP: The series features Dr. Alexandra Gladstone, a doctor in the fictitious village of Newton-Upon-Sea in Essex in the 1880s when female doctors were frowned upon and even forbidden to take medical classes in some instances. She and her maid, Nancy, get themselves involved in solving mysteries, and Alexandra has to use her hard-earned medical knowledge to solve them.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
PP: My favorite character is Constable Robert Snow. He is a former school master who has turned to the constabulary as a career. He is so taciturn and so reluctant to reveal his feelings and his secret life that he fascinates me.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
PP: As I have mentioned, an editor asked me to write a historical mystery. That means I stared with a blank slate, but research into what life was like for women in the Victorian era inspired me to create Alexandra, her village, her friends, and, of course, her marvelous dog, Zack.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
PP: I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a published writer. I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision. I just always knew.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite four authors, living or dead, in any genre, whom would you invite?
PP:Margaret Attwood, Pat Conroy, Agatha Christie, and William Shakespeare.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
PP: Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
PP: Aside from reading, which I’ve already confessed, I love playing the piano and taking Spanish classes. I also love to travel to exotic places. I just returned from the Amazon in Peru and will leave in May for South Africa. Before Peru, I tracked gorillas in Uganda.
Kathy: Name four items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
PP: I always have the staples: one-percent milk, real butter, eggs, and wine.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books in your current series or a new series?
PP: I hope to write several more books in the Gladstone series. I would love to take her to Uganda in the next one. As for a new series, I have just finished the first book in a series set in modern-day Santa Fe featuring a woman who owns a consignment high-end clothing store. I don’t have a pub date yet, but I already have a contract for a second one.
Kathy: What’s your favorite thing about being an author?
PP: At the risk of sounding like a boring nerd, I have to say my favorite part is the research.
FOR DEAD MEN ONLY by Paula Paul
The Second Alexandra Gladstone Mystery
Something's going on in Newton-upon-Sea. A Freemason is found dead
inside the Masonic Lodge of the Ninth Daughter and a Templar Knight is
seen riding through the village. While the enigmatic Constable Snow
considers the death to be a heart attack as there are no obvious wounds,
the Grand Master of the lodge believes it to be murder and calls upon
Dr. Alexandra Gladstone. Before Alexandra can even consider
investigating the matter the Grand Master himself is found dead. Even
though she is a doctor with all the necessary training and talent, Dr.
Gladstone is not allowed to perform autopsies-it just wouldn't be proper
for a woman to see an unclothed man, even for this purpose. However,
biased townspeople and discriminatory laws won't stop this Victorian
doctor and her friends. With her housekeeper/nurse Nancy, the two lads
she has taken in to work for her, her faithful dog, Zeke, and the
dashing Lord Dunsford to help, Dr. Alexandra Gladstone will search for
answers despite the risks.
FOR DEAD MEN ONLY looks at both class and gender while delivering an interesting mystery. Alexandra Gladstone is a doctor, an uncommon profession for a woman in the Victorian age. Yet although she has the skill and knowledge the fact that she's a woman prevents her from performing some rudimentary tasks; performing an autopsy on a man, for example or even being called a physician. Some townspeople don't view her as a doctor at all and get up in arms when they think she is overstepping her bounds. Gender isn't the only discriminating issue at work here. The class system is keeping romance slightly at bay. Lord Dunsford is a friend to Alexandra and, whether consciously or not, both have romantic feelings for each other. Yet Alexandra is even more aware of their class distinction and the impossibility of a relationship between them. Though I, and I'm sure most readers, are rooting for them as a couple.A constant in this book, however, is loyalty. Nancy, Lord Dunsforth, Artie, Rob, and Zeke prove their loyalty time and again, creating a family, even without blood.
Paul's vivid descriptions capture English village life in the late 19th century and readers are transported to Alexandra Gladstone's world. FOR DEAD MEN ONLY provides a mystery which calls upon ancient lore and modern Freemasons creating an atmosphere of suspense. A historical mystery which is able to resonate with modern readers, FOR DEAD MEN ONLY takes us back in time with meaning for today.