Actually, with my new Regency Mystery release, Murder at Morland Manor, there are two “somethings” I have never done before. One, even
though I’ve written more than twenty books, I had never before written an
entire novel using first person viewpoint and two, I had never before written a
Regency-set mystery. Not sure “why” I wanted to write a mystery set in the
Regency period, it was just an idea that had been churning around in my mind
for a while.
So, when I finished writing The Wrong Miss Fairfax, a
traditional Regency Romance released in print and e-book in January 2016, which
I also wrote in first person although I switched back and forth from the
heroine to the hero and found it a lot of fun, I was already in that mind-set
so I began my Morland Manor mystery the same way except that I stayed
exclusively in the heroine’s viewpoint. Partly because there is no hero, per
se, although Juliette, being young and attractive, does notice the gentlemen in the story and she does find one more appealing than the others,
still there is no real hero in this Regency-set murder mystery.
Back when I first started writing, I remember it helped me
to “get into my character’s head” if I first wrote out her internal dialog in
first person and then when I felt comfortable with her (or his) feelings and
emotions I would rewrite everything in third person. Now that I’ve completed
two books in first person, I find I like the discipline. With first person your
main character must be in every scene
and you cannot “show” or “reveal” anything to the reader that your character
isn’t looking at, or thinking about. To maintain that degree of focus as a
writer can sometimes be a challenge since you have to figure out ways that she
can “learn” something that did not happen while she was right there on the
premises. With third person, and certainly with omniscient viewpoint, you (the
author) can take your readers all over the place. With first person, the
viewpoint is by definition limited. However, a pitfall for the writer is to
think it’s okay to reveal every little
thing she is thinking about, but you have to remember to sift through her
random thoughts and choose only those
that apply to the situation at hand and that move the story forward.
My next choice as I began to set up my Regency-set mystery
was to decide “when”, as in exactly what year, the story would take place.
Because I knew that this plot, meaning the murder and solving the crime, would
happen within a scant fortnight, I did not want to choose a year in which a lot
was happening in England politically. I did not want political events, such as
the war, or the death of a royal, to overshadow the heightened drama and
emotional angst that the murder itself would create for my characters, i.e. I
did not want anything to distract anyone, so I chose a two-week period in the
fall of 1820.
To be certain that this was the exact time period I wanted to go with, I consulted my stack of back
issues of The Regency Plume Newsletter, which I must say still come in handy
even though the publisher (oh wait,
that’s me!) is no longer publishing. I re-read every Regency Plume article
containing information that would add details and authenticity to my story,
such as how the Bow Street Runners operated, the English judicial system, who
was sent to what prison and exactly where it was located, and more. I needed to
know what happened when one merely suspected
a person of having committed a crime, how to go about having them arrested and
what happened to the criminal afterward such as, where was a suspect held over
for trial? Exactly who made the arrest? In a small village in the English
countryside was there a great difference between a constable and a magistrate?
Would there even be a magistrate in,
or nearby, a small village? And what about a medical examiner? Would one of
them also be called in, and what did he do?
I also went on-line and looked up a period calendar for
October 1820 so when I noted the date at the beginning of a chapter, I would be
putting in the correct day, such as
Saturday 14 October and so on. In some cases, little details like these don’t
stump a writer until she comes face-to-face with them while she’s writing the
book, but then, you have to abandon your story while you go in search of the
answer. I like to anticipate what sort of information I’ll need and have the
answers at my fingertips before I even start writing. Of course, I never think
of everything, but I do my best. And,
having all those little notes I write to myself scattered here and there amid
back issues of The Regency Plume, which are generally strewn across several
thick books open to a particular page containing information I anticipate
needing, does make for a pretty messy desk, but . . . I live with it. And when
I finish the book, I sort through everything so at least when I’m ready to
start another book, I begin with fresh notes that apply only to the new story.
For this particular book, Murder at Morland Manor, I knew I
would have at least five young ladies at the house party at Morland Manor who
would be from aristocratic families, so I wanted to be certain that I got their
titles correct and also those of their parents. You’d think that by now, this
would not be an issue, but hey, I’m an American and much about the British
title system is still Greek to me, so I also dug out those Regency Plume articles
written by the late Jo Beverley and other fabulous Regency authors on English
titles and made my choices. In the list of characters that I put at the
beginning of my book, I included little notes for readers on English titles and
why different ranks were addressed in the manner they are.
I also chose personalities and physical characteristics for
each of the young ladies and attempted to give them and their lady’s maids
enough differences that it would not be difficult for readers to keep the
characters straight. So, that meant no two names that began with the same
letter; not all of the girls are blonde with blue eyes, or all petite, or even
all pretty. I admit I was half way through writing the book before I quit
consulting my cheat sheet on the characters and remembered who was who.
The next thing I had to decide was the age of my lead
character Juliette Abbott. Since I intend this to be an on-going series, I knew
Juliette would be solving a number of murders so I decided to have her start
out young and age as each story unfolds, rather than have her be in her
twenties in the first book and “on the shelf” by book three or four. At the end
of Murder at Morland Manor Juliette is on her way . . . oh, I guess I shouldn’t
give away the ending of the story. Anyhow . . . the next book in the series
picks up right where this one leaves off. I hope you’ll want to follow along
and find out what crime Miss Juliette Abbott is obliged to solve next.
I will tell you this much, the next story in the Juliette
Abbott Regency Mystery Series takes place in London. In the meantime, you can
become acquainted with Juliette Abbott in Murder at Morland Manor
from most online e-book sites and also in print here
or from Amazon.
If you’d like to read more about my other Regency romance
novels, or my Colonial American historical suspense novels, DANGEROUS
DECEPTIONS or DANGEROUS SECRETS, both published a few years ago in hardcover,
or about my BETSY ROSS
: ACCIDENTAL SPY
story, please visit my author website here.
Of course, all
these titles and more are also available on Amazon and other online e-book
Happy Reading everyone!