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. We 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.
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?
A: 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?
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?
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 me. 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.