Guest: Anna Loan-Wilsey

Edith here, enjoying the steamy summer (remember kids, it’s going to snow soon…).

I’m delighted to welcome historical mystery author Anna Loan-Wilsey to the blog today. Loan_Wilsey_headshot_mediumWe share a publisher, Kensington, and a love of telling made-up stories from the past. I first met Anna at Bouchercon in Albany, I think, and I loved Anything But Civil, her second Hattie Davish mystery, as well as her third, A Sense of Entitlement. (Note to self: catch up with book one, A Lack of Temperance.) Anna has a new book out, and I wanted to find out more about the book and Anna, and share her with our readers here.

E: So tell us about your new book.

Hattie's father's hat shop
Hattie’s father’s hat shop

A: In A Deceptive Homecoming, Hattie Davish, my traveling private secretary, goes home for the funeral of her closest friend. She’s hoping to reconnect with her friend, her teachers from her alma mater (Mrs. Chaplin’s School for Women), visit her parents’ graves, and indulge in nostalgia of a simpler time in her life. But nothing about this trip home is simple. Her friend is anything but happy to see Hattie, the body in the casket appears not to be whom it’s supposed to be, and strange incidents at her alma mater have everyone on edge. Throw in a very unwelcome, unexpected trip to the local lunatic asylum and you have an idea how wrong a trip home can go.

E: That sounds great. “How wrong a trip home can go” – love it. Hattie travels all over the place. Have you lived in each of the places where you set the books, like Missouri in the current one? How do you research these places in the era in which you write?

deceptivehomecoming_mediumA: I’ve never lived in any of the places where I’ve set my books but I had visited them all previous to choosing them for a book. I have also visited each one to specifically research a book. I usually have a general plot idea in mind before I visit but often take much of the plot from the actual history of the town itself. For example, when I went to St. Joseph, MO for A Deceptive Homecoming, I knew I wanted Hattie to wonder whether a body in a coffin was the person it was supposed to be and that’s all. Everything else came after I walked the streets, visited the local museums, read the historic newspapers on microfiche in the local library, and spoke with the local historians. It’s part of the fun. I never know what I’ll discover.

E: Why did you decide to write historical mysteries? Do you have any plans to write a contemporary series, too?

State Lunatic Asylum #2
State Lunatic Asylum #2

A: I decided to write an historical mystery for one reason. I love history. Even as a biology major in college, I was one class shy of a minor in history. I feel that reading and writing about history is the closest any of us will ever get to time travel. I currently don’t have any plans to write a contemporary series but who knows?

E: What do you find most challenging about writing an historical, and what’s the most fun?

jessejameshouseadmission (2)
Jesse James’ house

A: The most challenging part of writing an historical is getting all of your facts right. Since I must rely on historical sources, and not my own experience, it is sometimes very time consuming to verify a detail. The most fun is the minute details you discover that bring history to life. For example, Hattie lived in St. Joseph when Jesse James was killed there. I had known the basic story behind his death before visiting. However, it was the little details about what happened afterward that was so much fun. For example, after his death, Jesse James’ wife was forced to auction off the contents of their house. Like today, people were clamoring to buy anything they could get their hands on. The coffee pot sold for 10 cents, a baby chair for 75 cents, and the chamber pot for $1.00. N How much fun is that!

E: I think you have young children and a day job. How and when do you find time to write?

A: I have no idea and I don’t even have the day job any more! Actually when she was small, I wrote while my daughter was napping. She’s six now and goes to school, giving me several hours a day to write. Luckily, since I get very little writing done during the summer. Needless to say, I’m going to be working very hard to meet my deadline when she goes back to school!

E: If you could invite four authors, alive or dead, to dinner, who would they be, and what would you cook?

A: Only four? You’re kidding right? I’d have to have a large several-course, Victorian-style dinner party (so we could talk for hours and hours) and would invite (and this is really paring it down): Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, George Elliot, Theodore Geisel, Elizabeth Caskell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If Irving Stone and James Michener didn’t mind escorting each other in to dinner, I’d make room at the table for them too!

E: That’s a great group! Now, some flash questions:

  • Pizza or chocolate? Pizza and chocolate! There is NO way I could choose.
  • Eating out or cooking at home? My husband’s cooking at home
  • Vacation at the beach or in the mountains? The beach
  • Wine or mixed drinks? Mixed drinks if the mixed drink is grenadine and seltzer water
  • Creativity time: morning or night time? Morning, I’m worthless after 4pm.

E: What’s something surprising about you that most people don’t know?

A: As a biologist, I once worked with large mammals including monkeys, seals and sea lions.

E: Ooh, sea lions  – which always seem a little scary to me. Finally, give us a glimpse into where Hattie is going next.

A: Hattie is heading to Washington D.C. next. In book 5, A March to Remember, she not only must face a life-changing decision but she’ll be there just in time to encounter the historic first march on Washington by a group called The Commonweal of Christ or simply Coxey’s Army. As I like to say, “And then bad things happen…”

Just want to say thank you to the Wicked Cozies, not only for inviting me but for inspiring sleuthsintimeme. After I met your wonderful bunch of authors, I knew I wanted to be a part of such group. And now I belong to Sleuths In Time, a gathering of authors who love to read and write historical mysteries.

E: You’re most welcome!

Readers: Do you read historical fiction? Any favorite authors? Have any questions for Anna? She’ll drop by and respond throughout the day.

21 Thoughts

  1. I love historical fiction. I need to read more historical mysteries. I read the third of Anna’s books last year and enjoyed it, but I haven’t gotten a chance to read the others in the series. And now I’m one more book behind.

  2. Thanks so much Anna for visiting with us today. I love Hattie and the premise of your series! The next one sounds great! And thanks for letting us know the Wickeds inspired your own group blog. That’s such a joy to hear!

  3. I love your line, how wrong a trip home can go! We recently had a discussion on the blog about factual writing and is it okay for things to be authentic enough. Do you think that’s harder to do with historicals? Do you find your readers questioning authenticity? I’d admire all of the research you do!

    1. Sherry, I do think it is difficult to “recreate” the authenticity of another time period and that is why I try to be as thorough and accurate in my research as possible. Luckily I’ve had very few readers question the authenticity of my research and the way in which I present it to them. I think the biggest issue is how a woman of the 19th century would act. I try very hard to keep Hattie as authentic as possible to her time period while having her do things (like solve murders) that few women (of any century) would do. However, with contemporary fiction, the reader is more well versed in the world you are creating so that seems like that would be just as difficult to write.

      1. Ooh, that’s true, Anna. A few history geeks will check every detail, but for sure if you get something wrong in a contemporary story, you’ll get nailed!

  4. Welcome, Anna! Your series sounds wonderful. My favorite historical mystery series right now is Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness mysteries–and there’s a new one out today, hooray! Once I finish that one I will definitely check yours out.

    1. Thank you, Susannah. I love Rhys Bowen’s mysteries too! And Malice in the Palace is such a great title. I hope you enjoy my series when you get to it!

  5. I love this series, I have read Bk 1 and 2… 3 and 4 are definitely on my TBR…. 🙂

  6. I love historical fiction. My favorites are writers like Allan W. Eckert (I’m currently re-reading “That Dark And Bloody River” about the settlement of the Ohio River Valley), Jean Plaidy, Alison Weir, etc. I also like historical mysteries, with Anne Perry being a particular favorite. I haven’t read any of your mysteries yet, Anna, but they just moved to the top of my list.

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