Binge Reading Giveaway for January 2022
Before we get to the Top Ten–we’ve got a Giveaway draw for January–three E book copies every week of my Three Holiday Novellas Book Bundle–A mix of mystery and Christmas romance set in historic New York, Hawaii and California, Books #4 #6 and #8 in the Of Gold & Blood historic mystery series. Enter the draw on our website, the joys of binge reading.com and be in to one of three copies going to lucky readers every week in January. Offer closes January 31.
Martin Walker’s – Bruno The Perigord Police Chief
Introducing the Best of All Time – The top rating Ten Most Popular Episodes out of the first 200
Martin Walker’s Bruno, the French police chief at the heart of his best-selling Perigord mystery series, is everyone’s ideal cop – as well as the town’s most eligible bachelor and a talented host with an international award-winning cookbook in his name . . . .
But before he turned to fiction, Martin had a stellar career in journalism, haunting the world’s corridors of power reporting from Moscow during Perestroika and President Bill Clinton’s Washington for top newspapers.
He’s hugely popular in Germany, where a German TV series about Bruno is in production and where he regularly pre pandemic – went on book tours. Here he is talking about his international audience:
Martin: Well, I’ve got this absolutely stupendously good German publisher Diogenes, and when they first decided that they would take on my novels, I was invited to dinner with the founder of the company, an old man called Daniel Keel. His son Phillip has now taken over, and Daniel at dinner said, well, Martin, we’re going to be behind you, but you have to be behind us. And that means I’d like you to promise me this evening, you will do at least two weeks book tour every year in Germany. And I said, well, okay, but why is that so important?
He said, because in Germany, they don’t just want to read, they want to see, they want to smell it and want to really feel what an author is like. And it turns out that in Germany, there is this huge tradition of author’s readings. And partly because they have fixed prices on all book sales, every small town in Germany has its own bookstore, and it acts like a kind of a cultural settlement.
Bruno the French policeman popular in Germany
It brings in authors on a regular basis for readings. And so this last tour I did in October, I actually did my 500th reading in German language countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and we’ve worked out something like over 40,000 people have actually attended these live events and that an extraordinary kind of loyalty base.
I rather enjoy it, partly because I believe we should all have fun. So sometimes I will sing and so on and try and make a bit of a show of it for them. I mean, whenever there’s a song taking place in the book, I will sing the song.
Jenny: I asked Martin if he was comfortable in the German language.
My German is a lot better than it was. I always start off giving a talk in German and then there’ll always be a German actor to do the German bits. I will read in English. Then we’ll do Q and A in German. I’ve learned more about Germany, thanks to Bruno, in these last few years, and indeed I’ve seen more Germany than most Germans.
Jenny: I was surprised and moved by Martin’s answer when I asked him the classic question I ask most authors – looking back over your writing life at the stage of your career, if you were doing it all again, is there anything that you would change? And if so, what?
What Martin would change if he could…
Martin: Well, I’d endeavor to meet my wife earlier and have been married to her for longer, I guess. Other than that, no, not really. I just think that like so many people of my generation who were born in World War II, we saw extraordinary economic growth.
We enjoyed public free education and in Britain free healthcare. I mean, we were so lucky in all of that. And then in my career, being in Moscow for years at the end of the Cold War and then in Washington, I am just so lucky with all the things I’ve been through. I think if I have to put anything on my gravestone, it will be, “He didn’t miss much.”
Jenny: So when did Martin and Julia meet?
I can tell you the date. It was the 26th of February 19, 1977 and we got married in May of the following year, and we’ve been together ever since. So it’s 41 years. And we’ve got two wonderful daughters, and Julia has been with me all the way. Moscow, and then in Washington and in Brussels, and . . . I don’t know. She’s an extraordinary woman and I will never understand her. I admire her and go along with the flow.
Martin Walker Joys of Binge Reading Episode: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/martin-walker-bruno-police-chief/
Martin Walker Website: http://www.brunochiefofpolice.com/
Deanna Raybourn – Best selling historical mystery series
Deanna Raybourn’s motto in life and writing is “expect the unexpected”–and her best-selling historical mysteries are the perfect expression of that–they are plotted with the intricacy of a symphony.
Her Victorian mystery series about butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell is up to six books with a seventh due later this year. The obvious question – why choose a lepidopterist as your central character?
Deanna: I started really getting interested in the Victorians, right after I graduated from college, I was curious as to what the women were doing. I figured not all of them were sitting in the parlor pouring tea for the vicar.
You know, they had to be doing something more interesting. And so I started reading, and I got very intrigued by the Victorian lady explorers. You know this kind of subset of women who packed up the petticoats and the parasols and set out to see the world, and a lot of times they were travelling to places where European women had never been before.
You know, when the men travelled sometimes, it was in the nature of scientific inquiry. But it was very often in the nature of we’re going to proselytize or we’re going to colonize. A lot of the time when women travelled it was they wanted to learn or they wanted to escape. And so the more I read about them the more fascinated I became by them.
Chasing butterflies and the amazing Victorians
And one in particular was a lepidopterist, a butterfly hunter by the name of Margaret Fountaine and the cool thing about butterfly hunting for Victorian women is it was considered a genteel occupation. You could do it and almost be a lady even though you were making money at it. And so Margaret was able to make a living hunting butterflies and she hunted all around the world.
She went to six continents hunting butterflies and she was able to amass a gorgeous collection of them. And she kept journals of all of her travels. And after she did this for about 50 years she dropped dead on the island of Santo Domingo with her butterfly net in her hand aged 78.
She willed her diaries and her butterflies to a university in England, with instructions they were not to be opened until 1978. After 70 years, they cracked her journals open and found out that Margaret had not just been hunting butterflies. Margaret had lovers all over the world.
And she wrote about it. She had boyfriends everywhere. She had relationships that were interracial, that you just don’t think of Victorian women as doing.
The advice Deanna Raybourn gives to beginner writers
Margaret was doing it. Margaret was writing about it. And I was so intrigued by this that I knew if I was ever going to do a second Victorian series that I was absolutely going to kind of pay homage to Margaret and make my Victorian heroine a lepidopterist. So that’s how Veronica Speedwell came to be a butterfly hunter. It is as a love note to Margaret Fountaine and as a thank you for all the hours of enjoyment I got from reading about her adventures.
Jenny: Deanna frequently gets asked for advice by beginner authors, and her response is down to earth and succinct.
Deanna: I get a fair number of people contacting me, wanting advice on how to become a writer and how to get published. And so the first thing I used to send back this really long very detailed message and then I realized nobody ever followed through on it. Like literally, not once did anybody ever follow through on it. And so I finally started telling people, you know what? Finish the book first and then come back and I will tell you everything I know. But you can’t do anything till you have a finished book. Because you absolutely can’t.
What separates the people who are writers from wannabe writers
That’s what separates people who like the idea of writing from people who actually are writers. You know this, starting is the bright, the new, the shiny. Oh God. That’s the fun part. When you get to fall in love with the new idea and you’re infatuated with these new characters and you get to create a new world.
So you get to play God for a little while. That is intoxicating. But you can’t stay there, because if you do, you never get through to the end. You just keep starting new projects and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with doing that as a hobby but that will never be a professional unless you learn how to be a closer.
I think people get so hung up on the idea of ‘oh it’s got to be good.’ That they don’t focus on the fact that it has to be done. It needs to be done and crap before it can be done and good. And that’s the whole point. Let it be crap. Just finish it and then at that point you can rewrite it until the cows come home and you can make it so much better because all that pressure is off. You’ve built that skeleton. Now you’re just putting on the flesh. Now you’re dressing it. Now you’re putting on a party hat because you’ve done the hardest part.
Learning to enjoy re-rites is part of the magic
You’ve gotten through to the end. It took me a long time to get really comfortable with rewriting and to enjoy revisions. And now I do. Now I really love it. It’s actually one of my favorite things to go in and tear apart a book and say Aha, I see where you’re not working and rip it all apart and stitch it back together and make a freaking book out of it.
Deanna Raybourn on The Joys of Binge Reading: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/deanna-raybourn-expect-the-unexpected/
Deanna Raybourn Website: https://www.deannaraybourn.com/
S. W. Hubbard – Twisty edgy domestic thrillers
SW Hubbard’s twisty edgy domestic thrillers are favorites with readers who also enjoy her complex characters and sly humor.
SW – she doesn’t mind being called Sue – explained why she is drawn to the mystery genre – and she’s done some deep thinking about it.
SW: Mysteries help us to explore the dark side of ourselves and help us to deal with our fears, I think. And then in the end, usually justice is served and so the world comes around and is restored to rightness again. That’s what appeals to me.
I always try to take the crime in my books very seriously. I don’t think there’s anything funny about murder, but I do think that every one of us is capable possibly of committing a violent act if something that we love or care about is threatened. So that’s what I try to explore in my books.
I ask the question: ‘What would drive average people to commit a crime?’ I never write about serial killers or people who were assassins or hit men or professional criminals in any way. I always write about just average people who are driven to do something extraordinary in the course of their lives.
SW Hubbard – experiencing publishing on both sides of the fence
Jenny: Sue has seen the best of publishing – starting out with a contract for three books for top league publisher Simon and Schuster, and then moving on into indie publishing after Simon and Schuster cancelled their mystery line.
SW: When I was first accepted by Simon and Schuster, I thought it was a dream come true. It was like my ship had come in and I wrote three books for them, and then they decided to cancel their mystery line.
And so I was out of luck. I didn’t have a contract anymore. I was not renewed. I thought, well how hard could it be? I’ll just move to a different publisher. But it turned out to be extremely challenging. It was just as hard to try to get published again by a traditional publisher the second time, as it had been the first time.
I wrote Another Man’s Treasure, which is the first book in the Estate Sale series. And my agent loved it and she sent it around to every publisher in New York, and they all got great responses and the low-level editor would read it and say, Oh, I love it. I love it.
Learning the ins and outs of indie publishing
And then it would have to go up the food chain to the highest editors in the publishing house. And somehow it would work its way all the way up, and then they would say, no, you know, they would pass on it. I was really devastated when it didn’t sell. My agent said, well just put it in a drawer and write something else.
And I was like, no way. No, I’m not going to just throw this away. Everyone said it was good. No one said that they didn’t like it? So I said, well, I’m gonna self publish it. And she said, Oh, that’ll never work. And she lived to regret those words because although I certainly I made a lot of mistakes along the way,
I taught myself the ins and outs of self publishing and I really loved it. I love driving my own bus. I love doing the marketing and I love being in control. And so it’s turned out really, really well for me. So it was definitely a case of one door closing and another door opening.
SW Hubbard The Joys of Binge Reading Episode: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/sw-hubbard-twisty-domestic-thrillers/
S. W. Hubbard Website: https://swhubbard.net/
Hazel Gaynor – Best sellers on how history affects the ‘little people’
Hazel Gaynor’s best-selling historical novels take famous events and look at how they affected the lives of the “little people.” Her most recent work–her eighth–Meet Me in Monaco–does just that with the events surrounding Grace Kelly’s Monaco marriage to Princess Rainier.
I asked Hazel about a quote in the book from Grace in which the actress transformed into a princess says, “I avoid looking back. I prefer good memories to regrets.” Was she hinting at the fact that she had regrets, but she was ignoring them, or was that more the overall theme of the story?
Hazel: A little bit of both, really. I mean, Grace really acts, we’ve talked about this and said she really acts as a fairy godmother in the book, and it’s how her romance and all of the media circus that surrounded that wedding, how that impacted on other people who would otherwise not have been in any way associated with the Royal family or a princess to be.
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier – one of the first global celebrity couples
And as I said, you know, this was one of the first global media celebrity couples. As we see exactly the same today, the newspapers could not get enough of them. And of course, where there’s love, there will always follow gossip, speculation. Are they really happy, is she really giving up her fabulous acting career to marry this curious man who nobody knew much about. It was really interesting.
She was a very quotable woman. She was a very complex woman, you know, much more than perhaps she’s been given credit for in terms of the charitable work she did and, and how important her role as a princess was to her.
It really opened up that whole avenue of missed opportunities, those sliding doors, moments in life that mean we’re in just the right place at just the right time or not. Um, and do we live with regret or are we content with the decisions that we’ve made? We did an awful lot of research.
There are certainly some schools of thought that would say she had a very unhappy marriage. And there are others. We read books, for example, written by one of her bridesmaids, a very dear friend who said she was very much in love. And of course, all marriages have problems and challenges, and she was very aware of that.
The story of the Irish passengers on the Titanic – in steerage
She was a really fascinating woman to inspire a book around.
Jenny: I asked Hazel – who lives in Ireland – about her first book – an ambitious undertaking for a debut author – about a group of Irish passengers in steerage on the Titanic. Publication coincided with the 100th anniversary of the ship going down.
Hazel: I was about 14 or 15 years old when the wreck was found and suddenly this footage of this iconic ship and a child’s toy and a boot and a plate and a saucer, – it suddenly humanized the whole thing. I was very, very interested in it. And I suppose my novelist gaze started to wonder.
I thought to myself one day, do you know, I could write about the Titanic, but then I thought, no, you can’t. That’s ridiculous. That’s terrifying. It’s enormous and too tragic. And how would I even do that? But anyway, I think sometimes an idea finds you, rather than you finding the idea and living in Ireland, I understood, obviously the boat was built in Belfast and its last port of call before it’s set off across the Atlantic was in County Cork.
An appropriate way to remember the Titanic’s centenary
I started to look into who were the Irish passengers, and obviously they were the least wealthy, most of them. And so they would’ve been in steerage, which had the greatest loss of life. I started to research the Irish passengers on the Titanic, and that was what again led me to this, this nugget of what I felt was a relatively untold story of the Titanic.
We associate it with the very wealthy, with the Astors and the Strauses and the finery of first-class accommodation. And I found a story of a group of 14 friends and family from County Mayo who traveled together and it was their story.
Although I didn’t use real names, I fictionalized and amalgamated some of those people into my version of their experience of sailing together on the Titanic and what happened to them.
When I’d started to research and write, I hadn’t actually realized that 2012 would be the centenary. So it was a very fortunate everything coming together, the stars aligning, if you like, and it really did give me the extra impetus to write that book and put it out there.
I originally self-published it, and that subsequently led to it being noticed by the person who is now my agent and represents me. And that then led to my publishing deal with Harper Collins, who I’ve been with ever since it.
Hazel Gaynor on The Joys of Binge Reading podcast: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/hazel-gaynor-riviera-romance/
Hazel Gaynor Website: https://www.hazelgaynor.com/
J.A. Jance – Feisty independent female characters a mysteries winner
Bestselling, much beloved crime fiction author JA Jance has the distinction of being the only one of our 200 authors to feature in both of our Best Of Top Podcasts lists…She’s made feisty independent female leads like Arizona County Sheriff Joanna Brady, and news anchor turned investigator Ali Reynolds, into international reader favorites.
JA says her first 1400 page manuscript was triggered by the intense experience of having her husband meet up with a serial. We covered this in the Best of 2021 episode, so tune in there for more details. This is what happened next.
JA: Jack Lyons, who was Pima County’s chief homicide investigator, came to our house and interviewed my husband from six o’clock in the morning until 3.30 in the afternoon.
I listened to that whole interview, and when I went to write that first book, the one that was never published, I could recall that interview almost verbatim. That’s one of the reasons the book was so long, it’s one of the reasons the book never sold.
Writing 1400 pages of her first novel taught her to write
I thinly fictionalized the story, but the editors who turned it down said the stuff that was fiction was fine, and the stuff that was real would never happen, even though it already had
But in the process of writing 1400 pages, I wasn’t allowed in the creative writing program at the University of Arizona in 1964 because, as the professor told me, I was a girl, so writing those 1400 pages was my on-the-job training in writing. Writing 1400 pages is the same as writing three full length novels, and in doing that, I learned how to do pacing, I learned how to do plotting, I learned how to do scene setting, I learned how to do dialogue. I learned all of those skills that you have to have to become a writer.
Jenny: And the use of the pen name JA Jance on her first book, Until Proven Guilty. I asked Judith how did that come about?
JA: When I gave my agent the manuscript for Until Proven Guilty, the title page said Until Proven Guilty by Judith Ann Jance. My agent had worked in New York publishing, and she understood the dynamics of how female authors were viewed, so before she sent the manuscript to New York, she changed the title page to read Until Proven Guilty by JA Jance.
How JA came to be JA, not Judith Jance
The second editor who saw that manuscript called her up and said, the guy who wrote Until Proven Guilty is a good writer, and she said, what would you say if I told you the guy who wrote Until Proven Guilty is a woman? He said, I’d say she was a hell of a good writer.
He bought Until Proven Guilty as the first book in a series. I thought I had written a standalone, I had no idea it was a series.
So they bought it. Time passed. Marketing got hold of it and said, wait a minute. Male readers are not going to accept a police procedural written by somebody named Judy. We are going to use your initials. Well, I’m from a small mining town in Arizona.
I was being published by a New York publishing house. I didn’t care if they used my initials, so I said fine. That is how JA Jance came into existence.
And then the urban fantasies began
For the first nine Beaumont books, there was no author bio, there was no author photo, and that gave rise to the rumor that a retired Seattle homicide cop writes these books. When they started putting my picture on the books, I thought that rumor would change. It did, but only slightly. They said JA Jance is a retired homicide cop and she’s just up front for him.
I have fans who had husbands who didn’t read books by women authors, and so they took the cover off and gave them to them and they read them anyway.
Jenny: And JA reckons one thing that’s helped her become a writer is her birthplace in the family line up…
JA: One thing that is really important in my becoming a writer is my birth order. I’m from a family of seven children. My two older sisters, Janice and Jeanie, were two years apart, and then there was a four-year gap, and I came along. After me there was another four-year gap before my three brothers and my baby sister came along.
What that meant is, in this family of seven kids I was sort of an only child, because I was too young to play with the older kids and too old to play with the younger ones. That turned me into an observer as opposed to a participant, and being an observer is another important skill for someone who wants to be a writer, because I’ve gone through life observing details that I’ve been able to put into my books.
J. A. Jance On The Joys of Binge Reading Website: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/in-the-cross-hairs-j-a-jance/
J. A. Jance Website: https://www.jajance.com/
Lucinda Brant – Top 20 in Romance
Award winning author Lucinda Brant fell in love with the 18th century as an 11 year old who picked up a dusty historical tome and started reading about a world she felt she’d once lived in. Fast forward a decade or two, and she’s writing international best sellers and running a popular Pinterest account reflecting the fashions, the art and artefacts of the 18th century .
The internationally best selling Roxton series – and the book Midnight Marriage – is based on a remarkable story founded on historical fact. I asked Lucinda to elaborate for us:
Lucinda: I read Stella Tillyard’s book, Aristocrats, which was based on the Lennox family. The first Duke of Richmond was an illegitimate son of Charles II and his son was married off to settle a gambling debt. He was brought into a room to this girl who I think was 12, because it was the age of consent that girls could marry, and they were married off there and then. The gambling debt was settled, and she was sent back to the nursery and the boy was sent off on the grand tour. I thought, this is a fantastic story.
Sometimes real life is even more unbelievable than fiction
Then what happened? He returned from the grand tour, was at the theater, saw a girl across the theater in a box and thought, she looks very nice, I want to be introduced to her. Can someone tell me her name? And someone said, well actually, that’s your wife.
Jenny: A reviewer has commented that Lucinda’s books give the Golden Age of Romance a modern voice? Does she see it that way?
Lucinda: I suppose the Golden Age of romance for me was the high Victorians like Anthony Trollope and Leo Tolstoy.
The setting itself for the books is just as important as the characters and the events that were going on in the stories. There are a lot of characters, there are events, there’s this big sweeping historical setting. To me, that’s the Golden Age of romance.
Lucinda Brant – Bringing a 20th century mindset to historical stories
As for the modern voice, we all write to our time period in a way. Georgette Heyer, although she wrote Regencies, had very much an Edwardian mindset when she was writing those. We are a product of our times. I bring my late 20th century mindset to the stories, even though I’m trying to write them as historically accurately as possible.
Lucinda Brant on The Joys of Binge Reading: www.thejoysofbingereading.com/lucinda-brant-romance-top-20/
Lucinda Brant Website: https://www.lucindabrant.com/
Michael Robotham – Stephen King praised him as ‘absolute master’
Stephen King called international crime writer Michael Robotham an “absolute master” so it’s no surprise that he’s sold millions of books all around the world. His first thriller, The Suspect, was snapped up in more than twenty countries in just three hours and the superlatives have kept on rolling in ever since.
But Michael’s life started on a totally different plane. He grew up in rural Australia in country towns, places., you’ve said, where you said there were more dogs than people and more flies than dogs Then he talked his way into a cadetship on a Sydney daily and went on to a stellar career in journalism before he began writing, firstly as a ghost writer for famous people’s stories…
Hitting the wall in Michael Robtham’s journalism career
Michael: I had never lost my desire to be a writer, to be a novelist. But I guess when you’re very young, and that confidence and bravado I had is very much a sign of the arrogance of youth, you think you’re bulletproof and you’re God’s gift to life. I thought all those things. I worked with some of the great journalists and I realized how good they were compared to me, and I tried to get better all the time.
But I reached a point in journalism in the UK where, you know, they owned you. They paid you well and you traveled the world but you couldn’t have a relationship or a family, because you didn’t know from one day to the next whether you’d be in Russia or America or India. It sounds very exciting, but you can’t make a plan.
I thought I would go as far and as fast as I could, but by the age of 35 I didn’t want to be an editor. I loved writing too much, so I thought I’ll get out by 35, I’ll try my hand at writing. What happened was I was Acting Features Editor of the Mail on Sunday in London, and a young guy came in who was a ghostwriter. I had never heard of a ghostwriter. He was helping pen celebrity memoirs and autobiographies, and he had worked on things like Robert Swan, the polar ice walker/explorer and Simon Weston, the Falklands hero who was very badly burned in the Falklands War.
Michael Robotham’s ‘fiction’ career began as a ghost writer
I became fascinated with this idea of ghostwriting. I suddenly thought, do I have the patience to sit and write long term. Could I spend six to twelve months or longer writing just the one thing, when I’d grown up for the previous 10, 12, 14 years doing something different every day. I guess ghostwriting was the next step along. I was offered an opportunity to ghostwrite, and I decided to put journalism aside. For the next ten years I was a ghostwriter.
Jenny: Then The Suspect, your first thriller, was in big demand from several different publishers and went up for auction. Tell us how that happened?
Michael: Yes. If you tried to arrange it, you couldn’t have done it because I was in between ghost writing projects. For my sins, I had just finished working with Rolf Harris, obviously before all the Rolf Harris thing blew up. And I had been asked to write Lulu’s autobiography, the sixties pop star, Lulu, famous for To Sir, With Love.
The fast move from ghost writing to thrillers
I had a window of about three months between those two projects and I sat down and wrote 117 pages of a book that became The Suspect. I showed it to my agent because I didn’t want to have to finish it if no one wanted it. I thought, I’ve got a family now and a mortgage and I can’t afford to write for nothing, and ghostwriting was making me a good living.
I showed it to him and said, should I finish this? He said, oh yes, definitely finish it. I think a lot of people will want to buy this. I said, can you not sell it now, so I know they want to buy it rather than me spending 12 months. I know that sounds very naive. And he said, no, no, finish it. I put it aside and then I was having lunch with a UK publisher to discuss the Lulu project, and she said, what are you working on? I told her just one chapter of The Suspect, one little story, and I could see the hair on her arms sort of raise.
She said, I have to read the 117 pages and I said, you’re not allowed to. She badgered my agent for two weeks and finally he gave it to her, and she read it on a flight to Australia. She landed and rang up and I had a very modest figure in my head of what I would need to give ghost riding away for a year to finish the book. She offered three times that amount and the same agent who said finish it was saying, take the money.
A bidding war for Michael Robtham’s first book
News of that offer leaked at the London Book Fair, again I don’t know how, in February 2002. This is about five months later and suddenly there was this feeding frenzy because the more publishers were told they couldn’t read the 117 pages, the more they demanded to read it. It got to the point where they were offering money to my agent just to read the 117 pages.
I was living back in Australia and at 3 o’clock in the morning the phone was ringing and my agent was literally in the back of taxis doing deals, saying there are seven French publishers bidding, there are five German publishers bidding, four American publishers are bidding and the Spanish have offered this and the Portuguese, and it sold into more than 20 translations in three hours.
Every dream I had ever had of being a full-time writer, and I dreamed of being a novelist since I was 11 years old, it came true in that three hours.
Michael Robotham on the Joys of Binge Reading: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/michael-robotham-international-crime-master/
Michael Robotham Website: https://www.michaelrobotham.com/
Fiona Valpy – Best Selling World War II French Drama
Fiona Valpy’s French romances are like a glass of wine in French sunshine – a perfect summer – and pandemic escape. But she writes more than romance.
Fiona’s best-selling World War II fiction tells stories of remarkable women, generations apart, who use adversity to their advantage and find resilience deep within.
What drew Fiona to specifically French romance:
It was definitely finding a new home in France for those seven years. The inspiration for romance is just everywhere in France, it’s all around you. It’s such a beautiful country and the food, the wine, everything, the countryside, it all feeds in. There’s also the sort of joie de vivre of the people that live there, their very own French sense of humor. That was really the romance side. It was there all around me.
In terms of World War II, the location of the home that we bought, we didn’t really know it at the time, it wasn’t something I was aware of, but it was right in the area where the demarcation line was between German occupied France and Vichy France, the so-called unoccupied part of France for the first couple of years of the Second World War.
Extraordinary tales of resistance and resilience
As I delved below the surface a little more, these extraordinary tales of resistance, of people’s wartime experiences and of the resilience that those people had to show, started to come out. Quite slowly because people are always still these days reluctant to talk about those awful years but I think being on that line of connection between occupied and unoccupied France meant that there was an increase in the resistance activity, inevitably, along that line.
As I made friends with French people locally, those stories that started to come out were quite extraordinary and I felt these stories need to be told and especially they need to be told now, because that generation is dying out. There are very few people now who actually lived through those war years. They are getting older. And so that gave me the idea of combining the two, my love of the country and the beauty that surrounded me, but just beneath the surface this dark undercurrent of the legacy of the war years.
Jenny: The Dressmaker’s Gift makes it clear how the Nazi’s valued the couture sector in Paris. the enjoyed privileged status didn’t they?
People were starving, but couture was thriving
Fiona: That’s just one at one of those extraordinary things. It was a fact that I unearthed during my research that food was really strictly rationed. The French people were literally starving and any surplus food tended to be diverted to the German front anyway to support their war effort.
So the French people were literally starving, but buttons and braid were not rationed. It’s just so bizarre because the Germans prioritize the couture industry and the French Vichy government also wanted to go along with that.
I think it became almost an emblem of the French, that France hadn’t completely been defeated. They took a pride in their couture industry. Obviously the Vichy government, that’s a whole other can of worms there, because they were put in place by the Nazi occupiers, so obviously they were going to go along with what the Germans were saying.
But it did suit the French as well to have this couture industry still open for business as a kind of world flagship. Like everything, it’s more complicated. It’s never black and white. But it was so extraordinary that the dressmakers who were working on these amazing couture creations were starving.
Fiona Valpy On the Joys of Binge Reading: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/fiona-valpy-ww-ii-drama/
Fiona Valpy Website: https://www.fionavalpy.com/
L.B. Hathaway – Posy Parker 1920s Mysteries
L.B. Hathaway’s Posie Parker mysteries are Amazon bestsellers and that’s not surprising because they combine the charm of the classic Golden Age country house mystery – the Agatha Christie set – with the glamour and excitement of 1920s London.
A hiatus in life’s normal flow for Lily working as a London lawyer created the opportunity for her to try her hand at fiction.
I think storytelling has always been important to me, since I was a child. I always did write fiction, little bits here and there, poetry and short stories. I never thought I could be a fiction writer as my career to earn money, and so I studied hard and I became a lawyer, and I spent my twenties doing that. The once upon a time moment didn’t happen. It was more of a catalyst in my own life.
It was an odd time. I had met my husband and we moved to Switzerland. I had resigned from my job as a lawyer in the UK, in London, and I was starting to look for other jobs in Switzerland. I had this time, this period of time, this kind of bubble ahead of me.
Downtime in Switzerland resulted in the first two Posie Parker mysteries
It was a real gift, actually. It was the first time I had not been working or studying pretty much my whole life, and I decided it was the time to write a book. I wrote two books one after the other and they became the first two Posie Parker novels, so it came out of a career break in a way.
What happened was that the Posie Parker series really took off and I never did have to look for that job as a lawyer again. I also had my first child about a year later so then I became a full-time mum as well and started to balance and juggle the two together.
Jenny: And the Posie Parker period – the 1920s, between two world wars. What was interesting about that period?
LB: For me, it’s always been a fascinating time. I’m focused very much on Britain, but mainly London, in the Posie Parker novels. It’s such an interesting time, the 1920s, between the two wars. It’s a very hedonistic time for fashion and for music.
There are people dancing to jazz on tables at the Café de Paris, it’s a great time. But at the same time, it’s a terrible time. There’s evidence of the war everywhere. There are men sitting on every street corner in London begging, back from the war, there is no one looking after them.
The 1920’s – a fascinating hedonistic time between two World Wars
Exploring a very strong female character is interesting, putting her in a 1920s context as well, because it’s an interesting time for women. All these men have died and there’s a lost generation of women as well, women who might have been wanting to get married or get engaged, or have gone down that path, suddenly find themselves having to reinvent themselves as single women, having to get a job, maybe for the first time, or to carry on with the job they had taken on in World War II.
It’s a time when women are fighting for equal pay in the UK, they’re fighting for the right to vote. I think it’s a really interesting time for placing a female character there. I wanted to put Posie Parker there, I wanted to explore a character who was facing all of that. But not just facing that – facing that and thriving as well.
LB Hathaway On The Joys of Binge Reading: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/lb-lily-hathaway-posie-parker-mysteries/
L. B. Hathaway Website: https://www.lbhathaway.com/
Anne Hillerman – Best selling Navajo Mysteries
Anne Hillerman had some very big shoes to fill when she stepped up to continue her father Tony Hillerman’s much loved Joe and Jim Navajo mysteries, an 18-book series adored by fans as well as admired by critics.
Tony was a legend. His obituary in The New York Times noted that he was a “rare figure, a best-selling author who was adored by his fans, admired by fellow authors, and respected by critics.”
She has assumed her father’s mantle and written five more Navajo mysteries which are all New York Times best sellers, but she never planned it that way. Anne explains:
Anne: My father started the mystery series that people have loved for a long time 50 years ago. He came up with the character of Joe Leaphorn, Navajo detective. In that first book he hadn’t really intended to write a series about the Navajo Indians.
Anne Hillerman – Following in the footsteps of her father Tony
He had always loved mysteries and his idea was that he would bring in this interesting character and do a setting that people weren’t familiar with and that that would give his books a little something different. The Blessing Way came out on March 11, 1970, 50 years ago. It’s amazing.
Three of his books were turned into movies. He won many, many prizes for his mystery writing. At the time, I had always been a big reader and I loved my dad and I loved reading his stories, but I didn’t quite realize what an icon, I guess you could use that word, what an icon he was in the mystery world until after he died
My background was nonfiction, and I had been working on a nonfiction book about the places in the Navajo world that my father wrote about – places that he visited and loved.
My husband and I, my husband’s a professional photographer, had spent I guess about two years traveling all through Navajo land, talking to people, taking photos.
I was almost done with the book when my dad died so my husband and I finished the book and a year after my father’s death, the book was published and my husband and I did a little book tour to libraries and bookstores and we’re talking about the book. Every time I would do the talk, the first or second or maybe third question would be, are there any more books in the series?
People were always asking for more of his stories
Was there something that your father was working on that was at the publisher, something another editor could finish, you know, a collection of short stories?
And I would say no, sorry, my dad really took care of business before he died. Then the person asking the question would say oh, I love those characters. I love those stories, oh no, this is the worst news I’ve ever heard. I heard that longing for those stories so many times, and at the same time of course, I was dealing with my own grief at my father’s death, and after a while it dawned on me that just like those fans, besides missing my father,
I was thinking how can it be that there will be no more Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn stories? This just isn’t right. I had never written a novel, but I thought I could give it a try and the worst thing that happens is that I use up a few years of my life and then I get it out of my system.
Those things were the combination that led me to think maybe I could continue the series
Jenny: But Anne knew she couldn’t be her father, so how did she put her own stamp on the series?
How Anne Hillerman put her own stamp on a classic mystery series
Anne: Dad had this minor character who I always had enjoyed, Bernadette Manuelito, and in his last book, Bernie has married Jim Chee. He doesn’t show the wedding but she’s settled into that and I think if my dad had written more books, he probably would have abandoned her to married life and babies and gone on with the two guys he loved.
But I always thought she had more potential than just being the girlfriend who brings the coffee, the sweet young thing who has to get rescued. My idea was that it was time for her to really become a full-fledged crime solver. If I’m going to introduce her as being on on the same level as the boys, I need to come up with a big crime for her to solve,
I did come up with what I thought was a pretty big crime for Bernie to solve. Bernadette Manuelito, she’s known as Bernie. So anyway, she solves the crime and in the process she also manages to rescue her husband Jim Chee, who gets caught up in and endangered by the bad guys. So. Yeah.
And I wondered when I finished that book, I wondered, so dad stands are so used to the guys being the ones who solve everything. What are they going to think about having a new girl who comes up and basically steals the spotlight in this book? But luckily my father’s fans had big hearts and they took a chance on me and on Bernie and on Spider Woman’s Daughter.
Anne Hillerman on The Joys of Binge Reading: https://thejoysofbingereading.com/anne-hillerman/
Anne Hillerman Website: https://www.annehillerman.com/