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Weaving Threads

Congratulations Melissa and Judy! You are the ARC winners! Jessie will email you to arrange to send your copy.

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the weather is turning distinctly autumnal.

One of the most interesting aspects of writing historical fiction for me is the research involved and having the pleasure of discovering where it will lead and the sorts of storylines that it will end up suggesting. Often I find a surprising number of parallels with the present day.

I generally start each of my historical novels with an idea of approximately which month the story will take place within and I use it as a lauching point for researching events that were current at that time. It never fails to provide me with all manner of interesting bits of information around which to build a narrative. Often the most seemingly unrelated threads seem to suggest themselves as building blocks for a twisty and tangly mystery.

For my upcoming Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Comes to Call, which I planned to take place in June, 1921, I ran across the information that the UK Census was conducted at that time. Like the U.S. 2020 Census, the process needed to be conducted differently than it had in the past, albeit for different reasons. While the pandemic is requiring adjustments to the count this time, concern for civil unrest did so in the the U.K. in 1921.

Economic conditions in the U.K. during the post-war period, along with sweeping cultural changes, led to a push by many members of sociey for reforms to the rights and privileges for workers. Individual unions began working together to form even larger collectives and they weilded more power than ever before. The government at that time held serious concerns that enormous numbers of union members would refuse to participate in the census as a way to bargain for better pay and conditions.

That, in itself, was enough to suggest to my mind some intriguing possibilities for a mystery. After all, tensions running high are always fertile ground for murder and mayhem. But, because I never seem to like to stop the research, I kept poking along through a variety of sources and realised that Fathers’ Day was the same date as the census was to be conducted. All sorts of possibilities combined as those two bits of information swirled together in my brain.

Before long an entire story had constructed itself in my mind’s eye. I could see the characters who would be involved, the concerns both officials and members of the public faced and a number of reasons why criminality would spring readily from such events. It was such fun to drop Beryl and Edwina down into the middle of all of it.

I have thought of the book and its upcoming release every time I spot a census sign as I am out walking my dog or driving past on errands. It feels as though the past and the present are weaving over and under and through each other in constant and delightful ways. Well, at least it does if the crimes stay safely on the page!

Readers, are you ever surprised at the way different threads of a story pull together? Do you find yourself thinking about how history repeats itself? I have two advance reader copies of Murder Comes to Call to give away to randomly selected commenters.

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