Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with mystery author Carola Dunn

Today at Reviews and Interviews we have mystery author Carola Dunn.

Welcome, Carola. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and grew up in England. After graduating from Manchester University (Russian and French), I set out to travel around the world. I made it halfway, to Fiji, but then returned to the US to marry a Californian. If I'd foreseen the future, I'd have studied Spanish. After 20 years mostly in Southern California, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, where I now live, with my border collie, Trillian. I still visit California often, as my surfer/schoolteacher son and my grandkids are there. Though I've been in the US for over 40 years, I still sound thoroughly English (as if I stepped off the boat yesterday, people say) and most of my books are set there, giving me an excuse to go back to do research.

I wrote my first book, a Regency, in 1979, proceeding thereafter to produce 32 Regencies plus 4 novella anthologies (all now available as e-books). I was writing for two publishers when, within 6 months, both stopped publishing the genre. I switched to writing mysteries and have never regretted it. I now write two series, the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries (1920s) and the Cornish Mysteries (1960s), both published by Minotaur.

Please tell us about your current release.
Anthem for Doomed Youth is the nineteenth of my Daisy Dalrymple mystery series, set in England in the 1920s. Daisy is a journalist and an accidental sleuth—she just can't seem to help getting involved in suspicious deaths. Since the ninth book, she has been married to Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard. She now has toddler twins, as well as a teenage stepdaughter.

In Anthem for Doomed Youth, Alec is called in to investigate the discovery of three bodies buried on the outskirts of London. He's in a race to find out what links the three and to catch the killer before he strikes again.

This upsets his plans to attend his daughter's boarding school sports day. Instead, Daisy goes with friends who have girls at the same school. Exploring a maze in a public garden, the girls find the body of their least-favourite teacher. To protect the children from police interrogation at the hands of an incompetent and obnoxious detective, Daisy does her best to discover the murderer.

Then it seems that Alec's investigation is converging with Daisy's, that maybe one killer is responsible for all four deaths... And that the Law may clash with Daisy's idea of Justice!

What inspired you to write this book?
Too many news stories about soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from horrendous wounds, both physical and mental. Now we call the latter PTSD, a nice clean clinical acronym; it used to be known as shell-shock, then battle fatigue.

This came together with the First World War poem by Wilfred Owen, whose title I use for the book. (Owen was killed in action a week before the Armistice.) Though the general tone of the series is lighthearted, many of the books have characters damaged in one way or another by the war. Daisy herself lost her brother and her fiancĂ©. In Anthem for Doomed Youth, I explore the theme more deeply, with the multiple murders all having their roots in the aftermath—the unhealed wounds—of war.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Gone West, the next Daisy book, is "in production" at my publishers. It's a much less serious story set in the Derbyshire Dales. I'm currently working on the third Cornish mystery, Valley of the Shadow. Like Anthem, it has a serious theme, though the treatment is quite light-hearted. I don't know what's come over me!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably 1982, when I sold my second and third books, so the first could no longer be regarded as sheer fluke.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I've been writing full-time since 1988. I work 6 days a week, about 6 hours at the computer, plus time for research. Not to mention that ideas pop up at 2 a.m. Or when I'm walking the dog. In a way, it's really a 24/7 job, especially if you include the promotion aspect.

Walking the dog, gardening, reading—that's pretty much what I do other than writing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
An obsession with words. Until I find exactly the right word, I can't go on. I spend a lot of time checking words and phrases to make sure they were current at the period I'm writing about—one of the disadvantages of writing historical fiction.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Briefly, I wanted to be a pilot. Apart from that, I never did decide. It was when my (ex)husband said it was past time I chose a proper career that I sat down and wrote my first book, just to put off the evil moment.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Drop in to say hi on my blog/website or on Facebook.

Thanks for being here today, Carola. I didn't hear any UK accent at all. :)


Jackie King said...

Love the title ANTHEM OF DOOMED YOUTH, and also the cover. Very pretty. Books where children are involved pull me into the story quickly and hold me to the last page. I'm looking forward to this read.

Jackie King

Jackie King said...

Love the title ANTHEM OF DOOMED YOUTH, and also the cover. Very pretty. Books where children are involved pull me into the story quickly and hold me to the last page. I'm looking forward to this read.

Jackie King

Carola Dunn said...

Hope you enjoy it, Jackie. I love writing about children.