Jessie: In NH where the weather fluctuates between abysmal and heartbreakingly delicious!
Today we are lucky to have Liz Ireland as our guest. I had the pleasure of meeting her some time ago and am pleased as punch to have her with us today! Over to
Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom, a writer was sweating bullets over her latest historical mystery…
Okay, the kingdom was a duplex in Victoria, British Columbia, and the writer was me. I’m not a perfectionist by any stretch, but as I wrote those stories I buried myself in histories and old reference books, trying to weed out every anachronism and factual error. If I didn’t find them, I knew that sharp-eyed readers would.
Then came the call. It was my editor, offering me a chance to write a cozy holiday mystery featuring a Mrs. Claus character. She could be the owner of a Christmas store, he suggested, or a bakery, or a—
“No, she’s the real Mrs. Claus,” I said. No question. I was headed to Santaland, a place that couldn’t be Googled, without a single element to be fact-checked! I envisioned a golden future where the most intense research I had to do involved reclining on my couch and watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the squillionth time. Easy peasy.
Ten minutes into working on the first story, I realized that I couldn’t simply plop my characters into a cartoon universe. Obviously, this place needed to have its own geography, history, and social structure. I began by constructing the world: A bit of Bavaria, a touch of small towns I’d lived in, and also a few places I’d only dreamed of visiting (looking at you, Neuschwanstein castle). To organize the society of the book, a bit of The Crown seeped into the Claus family hierarchy, and a touch of Downton Abbey made its way into the upstairs-downstairs world of Castle Kringle, where Santa Claus lives. Instead of researching history, I was inventing a history. Every fictional world, I discovered yet again, is its own reality.
The more I built the world, the more I saw its possibilities. How would it be to be dropped into the North Pole as an outsider newly married to Santa Claus? What does it mean to live in a single-industry town, especially if the industry is Christmas? And how would a murder affect such a close-knit, determinedly merry community? Murder is a serious business, after all, even when it takes place in the coziest of cozy villages.
In other words, all of the issues raised in crime fiction applied to this off-center Santaland world taking shape in my imagination. And as for my research-free crime writing? Just a dream. So far in writing the Mrs. Claus series, I’ve tumbled down research rabbit holes about poisonous plants of the arctic, and time zone issues involved in round-the-world sleigh trips, and I now feel as if I could host my own David Attenborough-style documentary on reindeer.
Maybe you can’t Google a street map of Christmastown, but if you’re a crime fiction reader, the themes and issues won’t be unfamiliar. Only with elves, and talking reindeer, and sentient snowmen.
Readers: Have you enjoyed any mysteries with a touch of fantasy? I’m a huge fan of Gigi Pandian’s Accidental Alchemist series, among others. If you have any recommendations, leave them in a comment for a chance to win a print copy of Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys. (North America only, please.)
And thank you so much, Wickeds, for inviting me to be a guest today!
Short blurb: In Santaland, it’s beginning to look a lot like…Thanksgiving…and in between the festivities, April Claus must track down a killer hiding amid a parade of suspects…
Liz’s bio: Liz Ireland grew up in Texas, where she experienced nothing but green Christmases for most of her life—until she moved to Canada. She also writes books under the names Elizabeth Bass and Liz Freeland. She currently lives on beautiful Vancouver Island in British Columbia.