Joining us today is author Elizabeth Bailey. Ms. Bailey is dropping by to discuss her latest release The Deathly Portent, the second book in her Lady Fan Mystery series.
Kathy: Ms. Bailey, thank you so much for dropping by to chat with us today. I am infinitely curious about what motivates an author to begin their writing career. What prompted you to try your hand at writing? How long did it take for you to become a published author?
Ms. Bailey: I’ve always written, but I didn’t think about writing as a career until I was in my thirties. My sister started a co-operative writing group and I joined in, but short stories didn’t do it for me. I loved historical romance and had run out of reading matter, so I plunged in and wrote one myself. Of course I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and sent it straight off to publishers, but I soon learned my mistake! I wrote four romances in quick succession, by which time I was hooked on writing and had realised it was my true metier. It took eight books and eight years before my first novel came off the presses at Harlequin Mills & Boon and by then I was writing in different genres too.
Kathy: There are not many historical novels with a crime solving heroine. What made you chose that particular time period as your setting?
Ms. Bailey: The love of my teen life was Georgette Heyer, and I particularly enjoyed the Georgian stories. When I began writing historicals myself, it felt natural to choose that era. Ottilia had been germinating in the back of my mind for a long time, and when I decided to turn to crime, she leaped out immediately as the obvious sleuth.
Kathy: What inspires your storylines? Imagination? Real life? Or a combination of both?
Ms. Bailey: Oh, gosh! Anything really. Something I see, read, dream about can spark things off. This is part of the magic of being a writer, I think. You never know when it’s going to strike. One learns to write it down quick before it proves evanescent to a wayward memory. What I do know is that I have far more ideas for stories than I’m ever going to have the time to write!
Kathy: Are your characters strictly from your imagination? Do you see yourself in any of your heroines?
Ms. Bailey: Characters for me tend either to leap onto the page fully formed or gradually appear like a picture in a mist. I think it’s a combination of imagination and snippets of people I’ve known. The theatre background is a big influence here because one takes from oneself and others to recreate a person on the stage. I don’t believe you can write main characters without putting something of yourself into them – your values, moral concepts, that kind of thing at least.
Kathy: As a reader, what types of books do you read? Do your choices as a reader influence the books you write?
Ms. Bailey: I’ve always enjoyed mysteries and romance, but I’m rather an eclectic reader. I’ll pick up what catches my attention and read it if the style grabs me, regardless of genre. Recently I’ve read The Hunger Games and Before I Go to Sleep, for example – very different. I have been influenced by what I’ve read, it’s how one learns. Certainly my love of Heyer prompted my genre and historical era.
Kathy: You are a very busy lady. Can you tell us how you became involved with the publishing world? And could you describe for us how your critique service for other authors works?
Ms. Bailey: Until the internet, I was little involved except in my membership of our Romantic Novelists’ Association here. But the enormous expansion of communication and the digital revolution changed that. Authors are much more causative over their work these days, and our choices are enormous. I love that one can take leaps into the unknown and publish something out of the ordinary.
What is important to me as an assessor is to encourage a writer’s particular talent and validate that. Craft can be learned, but the wellspring of ideas and voice is unique to each writer. I try to pass along those craft points I have learned myself which help to make a story a page-turner. My personal criteria is that if, after receiving my assessment, the client writer isn’t raring to go, then I’ve failed. Thank goodness that is infrequent!
Kathy: What is the typical day for author Elizabeth Bailey? Do you write every day?
Ms. Bailey: I wish. If I could, I would, though you have to take time out to breathe every so often. There is so much “life” outside of writing that inevitably takes me away from the computer, so I doubt I have a typical day. I tend to be most productive in the afternoon, so I generally get as much non-writing stuff done in the morning as I can. On a good day I’ll get through 2000 plus words. If I’m late and writing to deadline, I can manage 5000, but it’s a killer. I usually write a first draft on my Alphasmart because it keeps me from checking my emails and sneaking into social networks. With words done, I transfer them to the PC and read through once. I’ll reread that the next day before carrying on – mainly to refresh my mind with the story so far. I also confess to being a tea addict and take frequent breaks to make a cup!
Kathy: Could you please give us a little background information on the Lady Fan Mystery series?
Ms. Bailey: Ottilia falls into sleuthing by accident really. She bases her thinking on human behaviour, mostly gleaned by caring for her nephews, and she can read a corpse, having learned medical lore from her doctor brother. These factors, together with a knack of acute observation – which is the only skill she admits to – equip her to solve crimes. But her status and sex in the Georgian era can be disadvantages, which is where Francis comes in. He can go where she can’t and he proves an invaluable assistant, in addition to joyous companion and stalwart protector. I love their relationship and I’m enjoying its development as the series progresses.
Kathy: Can you tell us a little about The Deathly Portent?
Ms. Bailey: A blacksmith has been murdered, and the locals blame Cassie, a young girl with second sight. The Fanshawes have broken down nearby and are in need of a blacksmith. When Ottilia hears what’s going on, her curiosity is aroused and she cajoles Francis into allowing her to check things out. Within hours, she is involved in a full-scale investigation with a raft of suspects, which leads her into personal danger before she is able to point the finger at the guilty party.
Kathy: What projects are you currently working on? What can readers look forward to from you in the upcoming year?
Ms. Bailey: I’m working on the third book in the series, where Ottilia encounters a beautiful girl whose mental state is dubious. When her guardian drops down dead, there is some doubt about whether a murder has indeed been committed. Ottilia’s suspicions are thoroughly aroused when she finds the girl surrounded by cross-currents of charged emotions emanating from the odd collection of individuals recently returned from a sugar plantation in Barbados. Outside of the series, I’m also collaborating on a spy thriller and readying a couple of historical romances for publication.
Kathy: I have thoroughly enjoyed our visit today. Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
Ms. Bailey: I’d like to thank you for having me, Kathy. Like all my writer friends, I enjoy nothing better than being given the chance to talk writing!
Kathy: Ms. Bailey, congratulations on the release of The Deathly Portent and thank you again for stopping by to chat with us. Feel free to drop by anytime you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Title: The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey
Lady Fan Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Berkley Trade/Penguin Publishing
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 384 pages
Her charm and cajolery may fool the unwary.
Unscrupulous and cunning, as dauntless as she is resolute, the incomparable “Lady Fan” is as ruthless as the killer she is tracking in…
A violent murder has left the village of Witherley aghast. The locals are convinced that a witch doing the devil’s work is to blame-a young woman believed to have second sight. The new vicar, Aidan, taking up the cudgels in her defence, fears the witch hunt is escalating out of his control. But help is at hand.
The bright and perceptive Ottilia, once a lady’s companion and now bride to Lord Francis Fanshawe, is drawn to Witherley by an insatiable curiosity. Ottilia rapidly uncovers a raft of suspects with grudges against the dead man, one of whom is determined to incriminate the “witch.” And as foul play runs rampant, Ottilia must wade through the growing hysteria to unravel the tangle and point a finger at the one true menace…