An Interview and a Giveaway with Deanna Raybourn

Happy Monday, everyone!  It gives me great pleasure to announce that we have a very special guest with us today – the fabulous Deanna Raybourn, author of the Lady Julia mystery series and four stand alone novels.

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I discovered Deanna’s work when I drove to Charlottesville, VA in 2012 to hear Lauren Willig speak in a panel discussion called “Pistols, Petticoats and Poisons: Researching History to Writing Historical Fiction.”  The other authors on the panel were Joanna Bourne, Cathy Maxwell and Deanna Raybourn.  I was freaking out about having a chance to meet Lauren, and Jo and Cathy were a treat, but when Deanna started quoting Madeline Kahn’s best monologue from Clue, I knew I would be in her tribe.  Since my first reading of Silent in the Grave, I’ve been pushing Deanna’s books into the hands of anyone who asked me for recommendations.  Her stand alone novel A Spear of Summer Grass was one of the best books I read in 2013.  And just so you know, if you’re not following Deanna on Twitter, then you are using Twitter incorrectly.  Today, Deanna has taken a break from working on the first book in her upcoming Veronica Speedwell series to answer some questions about herself and her writing.

Deanna, do you have any unique talents or hobbies? 

None whatsoever, but I have been bitten by both a tiger cub and a ferret, so apparently I’m tasty…

What are five of your favorite things?

Five favorite meals: Tex-Mex combination plate, full English breakfast, proper Southern fried chicken dinner with all the trimmings, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes, and tapas with a nice Tempranillo. And I just realized that is a LOT of food.

If you stopped writing books (please don’t), what would you do for a living?

I haven’t the faintest idea; I taught high school English and history for three years, but I wasn’t terribly good at it, and I was written up for being insubordinate at every other job I’ve ever had. I would actually be quite good at running a stately home, I think. I find the challenges of maintaining a historic property and balancing its needs against the demands of modern life to be deeply fascinating. I guess that means I’d look into professional duchessing. (And not writing simply isn’t an option for me. I’d wither.)

If I took a sneak peek into your writing space, what would I find?

It is small and pink with a chandelier and a pale blue ceiling. The shelves are stuffed with books—favorites and reference, and I always have a collage relating to my current manuscript hanging opposite my desk. There are also always a few tactile bits on my desk for inspiration—a replica lion’s tooth when I was writing A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, a boxing nun called Sister Mary Pugnacious when I’m feeling testy. Right now I have a Funko POP Maleficent that my daughter gave me for my birthday. She appreciates my dark side.

If you were having a dinner party, and you could invite 6 characters (other than yours) to attend, who would you pick?

I would only invite Sir Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and it would be an intimate dinner for two. I’d get Lucy Eyelesbarrow to cook, Bunter to serve, and Julian Kestrel to drop by and sing for our entertainment. That leaves me two characters to invite to dinner another night—probably Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes. I’d love to see him tearing his hair out when she starts dithering about the gill of shrimps.

You always create a really fascinating cast of supporting characters in your novels – I’m thinking particularly of Aunt Dove here!  Do you have a favorite of these characters to write?  If you could give any of these characters their own novel, which one would it be?

Aunt Dove, hands down. Her story is so intriguing to me—and because I didn’t have to tell it completely in CITY OF JASMINE, I was able just to throw in these ridiculously dramatic tidbits about what she’s been up to her whole life. She is just a swirling cauldron of trouble in all the best ways, and she did actually help inspire the heroine of my current project. I had initially planned a much more staid sort of person, but as soon as I thought about writing an Aunt Dove type of character, that’s the minute I knew I finally “got” her. Writing about an adventuresome, intrepid woman who was doing the unexpected is just so much more fun than writing someone who was doing as she was told. Luckily for me, there are loads of real-life inspirations in history for just that sort of woman—Lady Hester Stanhope, Jane Digby, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark, Gertrude Bell, Isabella Bishop, etc.

How important are the names of the characters in your books? Do you choose names based on their sound or meaning, or something else entirely?

The names are very important to me and almost always have some sort of coded meaning. For instance, in every book I’ve ever written there has been a name used in homage to Agatha Christie. (The heroine of THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST was called Theodora Lestrange as a tribute to her.) I called my hero in A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS Ryder White because he’s a game hunter—and it’s a deliberate joke because he’s actually a terrible “great white hunter.” He wants to leave hunting and focus on conservation, so he’s really the antithesis of what the phrase means.

What is an interesting fact or subject you’ve come across in your research that you haven’t yet included in your books?

That there was actually a lesbian collective in mid-Victorian London that was so organized it actually had its own newspaper.

What books do you recommend to readers who enjoy your work?

Anything by Elizabeth Peters, Victoria Holt, Tasha Alexander, Lauren Willig, Tracy Grant, Susanna Kearsley.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m hard at work on the first book in my brand new Victorian mystery series for NAL/Penguin! It features a very intrepid butterfly-hunting heroine and a sidekick who is a little rough around the edges…I’m having a wonderful time writing it, and I think it’s going to be just as much fun for readers. We will be able to announce a title and release date soon, but fingers are crossed for the autumn of 2015.

If readers would like to learn more about you and your work, how would they do that?

My website: www.deannaraybourn.com (twice-weekly blog; newsletter sign-up on the right-hand sidebar of the blog)

Twitter: @deannaraybourn

FB: https://www.facebook.com/deannaraybournauthor

Don’t you wish you could have a glass of wine with Deanna and ask her for more details about being bitten by a tiger?  Deanna has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of Night of a Thousand Stars to a lucky reader of today’s interview. To enter yourself for this giveaway, just leave a comment below. You have until midnight EST on October 23 to enter. I will announce the winner on Friday.

Want to earn extra entries for this giveaway? You can enter up to three times. Here’s how:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. Follow the blog! If you are already a follower, just mention that in your comment. There are links in the top right corner of this page to become a follower.
  3. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter. Again, you can just let me know in your comment that you’ve done this. I trust you.

On Friday, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck! And thank you again, Deanna, for sharing your time with us today.

Release Day Tomorrow, and “Ask the Author” with Lauren Willig

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Tomorrow is the last day of September, so Lauren Willig will be stopping by the blog to answer any questions we have about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Then on Wednesday, we’ll start Masque of the Black Tulip. I can’t believe it’s almost October!

Tomorrow is also a big day for book releases. Deanna Raybourn’s latest novel, Night of a Thousand Stars, will be available for purchase. Deanna is another author that I found thanks to Lauren’s website. Her Lady Julia historical mysteries were a treat, but my favorite book of hers is A Spear of Summer Grass – a novel set in Kenya in the 1920s, published around the same time as Lauren’s Ashford Affair. If you’ve never read anything by Deanna, her e-novellas are available on Kindle and Nook at super-low prices.

Here’s what Harlequin MIRA has to say about Night of a Thousand Stars:

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

I’ve got my copy preordered!

Top Five Friday: Historical Mystery Series

In the spirit of gearing up for Pink for All Seasons, I have been thinking a lot lately about my favorite historical mystery series. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that historical mysteries were a thing – but now, they make up a surprising percentage of my reading! So for today’s Top Five Friday, here are my favorite historical mystery series. You’ll never guess which series is number one…

 

 pink carnation 1. Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. I’ve talked endlessly about this series, so for now I won’t reiterate all the reasons why the books are great. If you haven’t tried this series yet, make sure to drop by in September, when we’ll start reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.
 vienna 2. Tracy Grant’s Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch series. The series begins with Vienna Waltz, and I have to tell you, I was hooked absolutely from the first line. I tore through that book and have snapped up each installment in the series as it was published. The first book is set in Vienna in 1814, just after Napoleon’s defeat, when major players from the dominant European countries are getting together to determine the fate of the Continent. It’s a fascinating time historically, so Tracy’s first murder mystery has an excellent backdrop. Suzanne and Malcolm are really wonderful, complex characters, and Tracy just keeps making them more interesting with each book.
 silent 3. Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series. How can you not love a story that begins like this: “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” The first book, Silent in the Grave, introduces us to Lady Julia Gray, a Victorian aristocrat whose eccentric family and unconventional interests make for really interesting reading.
 anatomist 4. Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series. This series caught my eye because I thought the premise for the first book was really unique. Kiera Darby is a widow whose ghastly late husband forced her to use her considerable artistic talent to illustrate his cadaver dissections for an anatomy textbook. After his death, she is considered a freak (or something even more sinister) by most of society, and she gets caught up in a murder investigation when her knowledge of human anatomy comes in handy. The first book is The Anatomist’s Wife, and there are now three books in the series.
 blue death 5. Charles Finch’s Lenox series. Finch’s books are set in Victorian London (no pattern to see here, folks), and they revolve around a private detective named Charles Lenox. In the first book, A Beautiful Blue Death, Lenox investigates a maid’s death in the household of his lifelong friend Lady Jane. The maid appears to have committed suicide, but Lenox discovers that the poison that killed her was rare and expensive – not something the maid would have easy access to. As Lenox tries to uncover a motive for murder, another dead body turns up in a ballroom at the height of the Season. This series is possibly “cozier” than the others (Finch describes Lenox as “an armchair explorer who likes nothing more than to relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book”), but it is still a great one.

 

I have to also give an honorable mention to C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries and Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series – I’ve read several of these as well, and they are excellent. C.S. Harris is particularly good if you’re looking for fewer ballrooms and more fistfights with Bow Street runners.

I know that this list is skewed towards female protagonists and stories set in Britain. Am I missing out on a great historical mystery series? If you’ve got a favorite that you don’t see listed, let me know!

Happy Belated Release Day, Deanna Raybourn!

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Lots of new books are out today, but none of them are as exciting to me as Deanna Raybourn’s release from June 1. No offense to Hillary Clinton intended – I do know Hard Choices was released today, and I’m sure if insider accounts of political events are your cup of tea, it will be a great read for you. But I’d much rather tell you about Deanna’s e-novella Twelfth Night.

I missed posting about it because Twelfth Night was released on a Sunday rather than a Tuesday. This seems to be the case with all of Deanna’s novellas. This is the third one she has published now related to her Lady Julia series, and it catches readers up with where we left Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane at the end of The Dark Enquiry.

The Dark Enquiry was the last new release in the Lady Julia series, and it came out in 2011. Many readers (including myself) have been wondering if Deanna has any plans to return to Lady Julia for a full-length novel. If you’re a fan of the series, and you’ve been wondering the same thing, definitely read Twelfth Night. If you haven’t read anything by Deanna, I would recommend either Silent in the Grave (the first of the Lady Julia novels) or City of Jasmine, her standalone novel from March of this year.

Anyway, here is what Harlequin MIRA has to say about Twelfth Night:

To mark the passing of another decade, the esteemed (and eccentric) March family have assembled at Bellmont Abbey to perform the Twelfth Night Revels for their sleepy English village. But before Lady Julia and her handsome sleuthing husband, Nicolas Brisbane, can take to the stage, a ruckus in the stable yard demands their attention. An abandoned infant is found nestled in the steel helm of St. George. What’s more, their only lead is the local legend of a haunted cottage and its ghastly inhabitant—who seems to have returned.

Once again, Lady Julia and Nicholas take up the challenge to investigate, and when the source of the mystery is revealed, they’ll be faced with an impossible choice—one that will alter the course of their lives forever.

Any time Deanna throws Julia together with a crowd of her siblings, things get interesting quickly! It’s a very good and very fast read.