I was a co-editor/co-publisher of the Best New England Crime stories series for six years. The anthology, with stories by authors from each of the six New England states, comes out every year in November, timed for release with the New England Crime Bake mystery writers conference. Editing the anthology was one of the major, formative experiences for me as a writer.
When I was a co-editor, we were thrilled to publish Christine Bagley’s debut story in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold. Now the wheel had turned and Christine is the newest co-editor of the series.
Christine is here today to talk about how her stories are inspired by setting. She’s giving away a copy of the latest anthology, Best New England Crime Stories: Deadly Nightshade, to one lucky commenter below. (Note: Wicked Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day has a story in the collection.)
Take it away, Christine!
Inspired by Setting
For decades, Daphne du Maurier’s name has been synonymous with suspense, aura, and setting. At fourteen, after reading Rebecca, I became a lifelong fan of mystery and suspense inspired by du Maurier’s novels. Years later, I went to Fowey, Cornwall, based solely on her vivid descriptions of the landscape. I walked in her footsteps down a muddy road to Pridmouth Beach, and stared wide-eyed at the hundreds of flapping birds surrounding me, the same images that ignited her short story, The Birds. As I wandered the grounds of Menabilly (the real name of Manderley), I wanted to live her perfect writer’s life; mistress of her own vast estate, a cottage on the ocean in which to write, and wealthy enough to write full time with the help of nannies, nursemaids, cooks, and caretakers. She loved the outdoors and I imagined a solitary figure, walking with stick in hand, interior monologues filling her head as she inhaled the scent of nature. It was then I truly understood why Cornwall had often been her muse.
Because of Daphne du Maurier, landscape is still one of the most important elements of my short stories. While studying at Lesley University my thesis seminar was entitled, “Landscape as Character,” and du Maurier was a prime example. Like many of her settings, my stories often include the ocean and stately manors.
On a frigid January day at Marblehead lighthouse, overlooking a deep plunge to the harbor, the idea came to me for On a Winter’s Night. On West Beach in Beverly Farms, walking in front of the enormous mansions that border the shoreline, I imagined someone living in the basement of one of those mansions during the pandemic, and the idea for Valhalla materialized. During a thrilling whale watch in Gloucester, I wrote The Beauport Incident, where Hammond Castle played a pivotal role. In Ireland, the isolation of a rocky moor dating back to the Bronze Age, compelled me to write The Burren. And, after a fascination with the empty stone house across the street, The Madness of Ida Mae was born and became a finalist for the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction Award. All of these stories appeared in Best New England Crime Stories’ anthologies.
Recently, at a time when I was unsure what path to take in my writing, I was invited to be a co-editor/co-publisher at Crime Spell Books, publishers of Best New England Crime Stories. I was flattered by the invitation and realized this was a path where I could learn something new in a field that I loved. Best New England Crime Stories holds a special place in my heart and published my very first crime story, The Elevator. Now, I’m on the other side of submissions, reading and editing other writers’ manuscripts. While trying to choose which stories to select for Deadly Nightshade, I was overwhelmed by the talent, cleverness, and originality of the authors who submitted. They were so good it became very difficult to narrow down the final list. I was sorry to tell authors they hadn’t been selected, and thrilled to tell others that they were.
It’s been a real treat to be the new co-editor/co-publisher for Crime Spell Books. I’m especially proud of Deadly Nightshade, a varied and skilled compilation of thought-provoking tales, where each story has something different to engage mystery and crime lovers. Of course, there’s always that one story you find yourself thinking about long after you finish. Well maybe two, no three, okay four, certainly five, wait – six…oh heck they’re all criminally delicious.
Readers: Tell me what your favorite crime story or novel is – and why it’s your favorite, or just say, “hi!” to be entered to win a copy of Deadly Nightshade.
About the book
After seven years clean a man finds himself once again in a police cell; a man commits suicide for no apparent reason; the muscle for a mobster reviews his mentor’s life lessons; a longtime widow takes up a life of crime; a librarian proves formidable if occasionally oblivious; a young man escapes the nightmare of a future; a librarian outwits the police; and a killer is trapped—these and other tales of murder, deception, trickery, and rough justice fill the pages of the eagerly awaited anthology, Deadly Nightshade: Best New England Crime Stories 2022 . Now available at Amazon.
Christine Bagley has published a number of stories in both crime anthologies and literary journals. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and taught writing and presentation skills to foreign national scientists and physicians at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She was also awarded a seat at the 2016 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Currently, Bagley is working on her own collection of short stories entitled, Unleashed.
Learn more about Christine Bagley at www.christinebagley.com