Anita Davison talks about the Flora Maguire Mystery series.
1. Can you tell us more about A Knightsbridge Scandal?
This is the third book in the Flora Maguire Mystery series and apart from the murders Flora helps solve, her personal story develops a little more in each book. Flora was raised by a head butler at a country estate in the belief her mother died when she was a small child. In book 2 Flora unearths family secrets which contradict these details and set Flora on a path to find out the truth about her past.
2. Do you have a favourite character you can tell us a bit more about?
They are all my favourites for different reasons, well I invented them after all. Flora is a complicated character in herself in that she was brought up in the servants’ hall so is accustomed to being discreet and unobtrusive. However she has an enquiring mind and hates mysteries, so applies her tenacious nature to situations she feels are out of kilter.
I quite like her mother-in-law, Beatrice Harrington, mainly because I gave her all the characteristics which most people hate. Arrogance, an inflated opinion of herself and disdain for others when she does not understand or sympathize with their story. I wrote her this way because she is the only person Flora doesn’t get along with – apart from the police Inspector whose feathers she frequently ruffles.
He’s an interesting character too – in that he resents Flora’s interferene in police business but harbours a secret admiration for her ability to find things out. He insists she understands he is the policeman and she’s the civilian, but gives her more leeway than he would most people.
There are others, but to discuss them might give away some of the plots, and these stories are mysteries.
3. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?
I like to include actual historical events in my stories, not simply details of the way people lived, dressed and behaved in Edwardian times. Emmeline Pankhurst formed the WSPU in the year A Knightsbridge Scandal is set, and Flora being a modern young woman it seemed appropriate that she would be curious, if not keen to join the movement. The WSPU were the militant arm of the movement and not all suffragists agreed with their methods.
That was also the year of the May Coup, when King Alexander of Serbia and his queen were assassinated. I used both these events as the basis of the novel and moved the setting into London.
One piece of trivia I unearthed from a book of Edwardian etiquette, was that at dinner parties, if you told a joke the teller was expected to laugh as well as his audience – not to do so was considered bad form. How interesting that the opposite is true today.
4. What was the hardest part of the book to write?
The hardest part of any of this series is sprinkling clues and setting misleading trails for the reader to follow without giving away too much and making the culprit too obvious, or being too enigmatic so the reader gets bored and has no idea what is going on. The latter I find frustrating in the mysteries I read so I try to avoid this.
5. What does your average writing day look like?
My blog is called The Disorganised Author, which gives you a clue – I need to be in the right frame of mind to write. Sometimes I can sit down at my computer with a free day in front of me and plenty of coffee and ready-made snacks, boot up the screen and – nothing. Then on other days I type for twelve hours straight with no concept of the passing of time and wonder why the room has suddenly gone dark – that has actually happened!
6. What is the best thing about being a writer?
Being able to work when I want to. Except when edits are due and then I have to be more disciplined.
7. What is the worst thing about being a writer?
That you are only as good as your last book, the pressure to keep readers interested in your characters and keep the stories fresh is hard. When I get a mediocre review, and I am fortunate I don’t get many, it bothers me for days wondering if I am not developing my characters the way readers want them. But then reading is objective and no one is going to agree with everything.
8. What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?
Penhaligon’s Attic by Terri Nixon. Having lived in Cornwall, the author took me right back there with her vivid descriptions of a fishing village where newcomers are viewed with suspicion. It’s a heartwarming and insightful romance and the main characters harbor tantalizing secrets. I love the title too.
9. What is one thing about you your readers would be surprised to know?
Nothing I am prepared to include here!
10. What’s next for you?
Number four in the Flora Maguire Mysteries, which will be released later this year and about to go through the first round of edits.
1903 London is bustling and glamourous. With troubling secrets simmering and worrying signs of war Flora Maguire must solve a deadly mystery which leads right to the heart of the corridors of power.
Flora Maguire has escaped the country to enjoy some time in fashionable Knightsbridge, London. Extravagant shops, exuberant theatres and decadent restaurants mean 1903’s London is a thrilling adventure, but there are dark secrets threatening from the continent.
When the body of a London socialite, and leading light of the burgeoning women’s movement, is found outside The Grenadier public house, Flora can’t resist investigating. Mysterious letters are discovered in the victim’s belongings, strange links to the foreign office and why do the clues keep coming back to the assassination of a Baltic king? As Flora closes in on the killer, it soon becomes clear she is no longer safe in London, but will her husband Bunny be able to get to her before it’s too late?
Anita Davison’s earlier novels are set in 17th century England, with a family saga set in Exeter during the Monmouth Rebellion and a biographical novel about Elizabeth Murray during the English Civil War in Surrey. She has a fascination with the revival of cosy mysteries made her turn to the early 1900s for inspiration where she found Flora Maguire lurking. The series of five novels was taken up for publication by Aria Fiction, a digital imprint of Head of Zeus Publishing.