Please join us today in welcoming author Tracy Kiely on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, a new Persuasion-inspired mystery novel published today by Minotaur Books.
Murder, Jane Austen, and Me
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little. That’s not to say that I was one of those child prodigies who effortlessly create witty/insightful/touching tomes at a tender age, and land on the couch with Ophra. Far from it. In fact, here’s a little sample of one of my earliest works that proves my point quite nicely. It was my first (and, thankfully, only) attempt at poetry. Ready? Here goes:
The rain comes down
Upon the ground
Will it ever stop?
I’ll get the mop.
See, what I mean? But, despite my rather shaky start, I still loved the idea of being a writer. As the years went by, I narrowed that down to being a mystery writer. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time reading Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, and watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. I loved the twisty, deviously clever plots of Christie, the sublime wit of Austen, and the “average man caught in extraordinary circumstances” themes of Hitchcock.
Anyway, when I began to think of writing my own mystery, I realized it would have to include those elements. As I struggled to come up with something in the way of a viable storyline, the characters of Pride and Prejudice kept swirling around in my head. It dawned on me that while there is no murder in Pride and Prejudice, there are plenty of characters who certainly inspire murderous thoughts. I began to wonder, what, if after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? Or, if one day Charlotte snapped and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? I realized that most likely no one would be surprised had Jane written these plot twists into follow-up versions of her books as these characters were exactly the sort of odious creatures that would be bumped of in a mystery novel.
But, I didn’t want to write a period piece, and I definitely didn’t want to take over existing characters and try and make them my own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading other authors who do exactly that. It’s just as Dirty Harry once said in one of his movies, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I know mine, and recreating Elizabeth and Darcy is not one of then. So, I instead I tried to figure out a way to work in the themes and personality clashes of Pride and Prejudice into a modern-day mystery.
Then one day I was watching the news and – lo and behold – there was a story about a woman on the eastern shore who killed her husband at a B&B after they attended a Host-A-Murder Dinner. I had my murder plot!
Next, I created my main character, Elizabeth Parker. She’s a young single woman in her late twenties. She’s in a dead-end job, has an older (married) sister who routinely reminds her that her chances of ever getting married are fading with each passing year, and (in the first book, Murder at Longbourn) is beginning to think that Mr. Darcy is just a fictional character.
The second book in the series, Murder on the Bride’s Side, parallels aspects of Sense and Sensibility, just as the first one did with Pride and Prejudice. My latest, Murder Most Persuasive, however, picks up on the themes of my second favorite Austen book, Persuasion.
In Murder Most Persuasive, Elizabeth’s great-uncle has just died and the family’s house in the picturesque Maryland town of St. Michaels is sold. When the new owners dig up the pool, they find the body of the man thought to have run off eight years earlier after embezzling over a million dollars from the family business. This grisly discovery not only unearths old questions about what really happened to the stolen money, but it brings Detective Joe Muldoon back into the family’s lives. Eight years earlier, Elizabeth’s cousin Ann reluctantly broke off her relationship with Joe due to family pressure. Ann always regretted that decision and now fears that it is too late for her and Joe–especially after she becomes the main suspect.
As with all the books, I had a lot of fun writing this one. I really get a kick putting in the little winks for the Janeite readers – I suppose it’s a kind of literary Easter egg hunt. And say what you like, it’s waaaaaay better than my poetry!
Tracy Kiely graduated from Trinity College in 1990 with a degree in English. This accomplishment, however, merely seemed to prompt most job interviewers to ask “how fast can you type?” Her standard answer of “not so fast” usually put an end to further questions.
She was eventually hired by the American Urological Association (AUA), who were kind enough to overlook the whole typing thing, mainly because they knew just what kind of stuff she’d be typing. Beggars can’t be choosers, you know. After several years, Tracy left the AUA taking with her a trove of anecdotal stories that would eventually result in her banishment from polite society.
That’s when she thought writing a novel might be a good idea.
Tracy’s novels combine her love of the classic English country house murder and all things Jane Austen.
Most will be pleased to note that it contains no anecdotal stories of urological conditions.
Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you most about reading a Jane Austen-inspired mystery, or which character in the original novel Persuasion is your favorite, by midnight PT, Wednesday, September 7th, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, September 8th, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur Books, NY (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
© 2007 – 2011 Tracy Kiely, Austenprose