Interview Feature with Rachel Heffington | "Anon, Sir, Anon"
Some truly amazing books are being released this month, or have just been released: Plenilune by Jenny, Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Counted Worthy by Leah Good. . . truly, we are being spoilt ;). But let's not complain, shall we? Books, books are wonderful!
Especially one like, "Anon, Sir, Anon".Today, I have with me the wonderful Rachel Heffington who has only five days ago published her latest novel, a charming, cozy-English mystery titled "Anon, Sir, Anon". If the title, and the auspicious date of its publication doesn't intrigue you enough, I don't know what you're made of. But here is a review I wrote last month that might help you along if you are totally clueless about this lovely little gem! When you're done with that, dig right into the first part of my interview with Rachel, and then head over to Rachel's blog, The Inkpen Authoress for part 2 :).
A Chat with The Inkpen Authoress
1. Hello, Rachel, what a delight it is to have you on Fullness of Joy blog! To start this off, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself as a writer? Also some of the interests/random happy details that colour your life, like which is your favourite flavor of tea, least favourite chore at home, a secret hobby, and whether you like cats over dogs, or dogs over cats . . (that sort of thing)?
I am partial to cats, I delight in creating gourmet food, I am always up for cheesecake, and P.G. Tips is a good substitute when loose-leaf can’t be had. Which it usually can. But P.G. Tips is good stuff.
2. Without giving too much away, could you be persuaded to tell us a bit about your newly released novel, Anon, Sir, Anon?
Essentially, the back-cover blurb gives it for me. I do write these things for ease of use. ;)
THE 12:55 OUT OF DARLINGTON BROUGHT MORE THAN ORVILLE FARNHAM'S NIECE; MURDER WAS PASSENGER.IN COMING TO WHISTLECREIG, GENEVIEVE LANGLEY EXPECTED TO FIND AN AILING UNCLE IN NEED OF GENTLE CARE. IN REALITY, HER CHARGE IS A CANTANKEROUS SHAKESPEAREAN ACTOR WITH A PENCHANT FOR FENCING AND AN AFFINITY FOR PLACING IMPOSSIBLE BETS.WHEN A BODY SHOWS UP IN A FIELD NEAR WHISTLECREIG MANOR AND VIVI IS THE ONLY ONE TO RECOGNIZE THE VICTIM, SHE IS UNCEREMONIOUSLY BAPTIZED INTO THE ART OF CRIME-SOLVING: A FIELD IN WHICH FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE SELDOM LASTING AND PERSONAL INTEREST KNOCKS AT THE FRONT DOOR.SET AGAINST THE RUSSET BACKDROP OF A NORTHAMPTONSHIRE FOG, ANON, SIR, ANON CUTS A COZY PATH TO A CHILLING CRIME.
3. Cast your mind back if you can; at what age did you first start writing and develop a love for wordcrafting? Was there someone or something that influenced you to start this journey?
To be blunt, I was a presumptuous young toad at the age of twelve and figured I had read all the books worth reading, and had better write some myself. Thus, I penned my first book (A Year With the Manders) at that age. It was 50,000 words long and full of tragicomedy. We are pleased to announce we have improved rather than otherwise since that project. In a serious vein, my love of word-crafting was born from my love of good books.
4. This is always rather a difficult question, but can you recall what inspired the plot of Anon, Sir, Anon?
Oddly enough, I can answer this question without a qualm: P.D. James on Detective Fiction. It was a random pick-up from a library shelf, it looked interesting, and I thought I’d read it as random information-collecting for the all-elusive someday. By the end, I had an idea for my detective characters, Vivi and Farnham.
5. Isaac Newton was known to have said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Who have been the literary giants or “Greats” that have inspired your writing and perhaps even your life thus far?
I hate being cliche, but I would be amiss if I did not mention C.S. Lewis as one of the inspirations. He taught me the joy of coming across an indescribable thing described. The largest influences in my early years were L.M. Montgomery and L.M. Alcott. In recent years, my tone has picked up a bit of P.G. Wodehouse and A.A. Milne. (Read: you will laugh while reading my books)
6. Now, if you could have been the author of any published book besides your own, what would it have been?
Oh, now this isn’t fair! Plagiarism, even imaginary, smarts. But if I could say it, I’d be cliche again and choose Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I think it’d be amusing to see the journey of what I wrote as a social, satirical comedy becoming Western Civilization’s measure of a proper romance.
7. Readers of your other works (Fly Away Home, The Windy Side of Care) as well as your “Inkpen Authoress” blog would probably collectively agree that you have a truly beautiful gift of writing in a sparkling and witty flair of prose, with cosy, tongue-in-cheek, almost whimsical scenes of banter and dialogue that is both truly unique and charming. How do you feel you may have matured and developed in this gift with “Anon, Sir, Anon” and your other latest works? Is there ever a time in writing when you feel that too much “wit” can remove some of the power of storytelling?
It’s up to the reader, really. In Anon, Sir, Anon, I deal with graver subjects (murder, gore, damsels in distress) which automatically changes the tone of this book. You can’t be but so jovial about these things. All the same, it is a cozy mystery and my classic tongue-in-cheek shows through where best. I have been told that I can lay it on too thick...which always strikes me as intriguing because most conversations that occur in my books could (and do) very easily happen in my family. You ask if too much “wit” could remove some of the power of story-telling. To me, that depends on a combo of the reader and the skill of the writer. Supposing the writer has done her work well, it is up to the reader to react. If the reader’s sense of humor does not shimmy well with dry, sometimes sarcastic, always whimsical descriptions, I could see how it would distract them from the story. On the other hand, if you “get” that humor, I think it enhance the experience.
8. What part of the writing process do you dread the most? Can you tell us what your favourite part is?
I dread plotting. It can keep me awake at night. My favorite parts are the initial first inklings, which I generally hand-write, and revision rounds, actually.
9. Can you imagine your novel being adapted into a movie? In the stuff of your day-dreams, who would you choose to direct the films, and who would you cast for your main characters?
It was easier for me with Fly Away Home. I went through the cast several times and though it was impossible (some actors being dead) I assembled a good dream-cast. For this book...eeesh. I will do it for four principal characters:
Farnham: Anton Lesser could do the job.
Vivi: Carey Mulligan (She’s a bit too pretty but she could be plain-ed up.)
Dr. Breen: Denis Lawson
Michael Maynor: Dan Stevens (I know we all think of him as a good guy, but it could work.)
10. Characters, like Vivi, often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
I...I tend not to get out of them. Or at least, the situations I have got in are usually not so bad it is imperative I get out. On the other hand, there are small moments of occasional terror. I can usually keep calm, get quiet, and think sensibly. I’m really not awful in a crisis.
11. While writing, did you find yourself learning any lessons or going through any of the journeys/struggles that your characters went through yourself?
Not so much. Of course there are the day-to-day struggles that everyone goes through, but none of the large ones were experienced by me while writing.
12. As a Christian as well as an author, how do you feel your faith affects your writing generally and your mystery novel specifically?
The largest impact my faith has on my writing is in its optimism and storytelling. There is a bigger Story I am a part of, and life is precious. I firmly believe that and my world-view leaks onto the page. It can’t help it. In my mystery, life is precious. You aren’t left with any doubt of that.
13. In writing in the mystery genre, do you hold to any convictions or guidelines on how you approach details of murder, immorality and crime in your books, as well as drawing out when/how justice as well as mercy should be administered?
I’m afraid I can’t tell you everything I would like on this subject (spoilers), but my convictions are that the sin can be portrayed as long as it is portrayed tastefully and not glorified. Also, there are varying practical consequences for varying sins and you see that in this book. Obviously, murder gets a stricter penalty than philandering or anger or lust, but they all have consequences.
14. Do you have any strange writing habits/quirks (like standing on your head for research or plotting assassinations in the shower)?
Not...not that I can think of.
15. How much of a similarity in genre-style do you think your novel is to an Agatha Christie murder mystery or to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes? Who is your favourite mystery-genre author?
The similarity between my novel and an Agatha Christie is the setting: early 1930’s, rural England. There, it ends. My mystery is a cozy mystery...the authors you mentioned are a little more hardboiled. My favorite mystery writer is Dorothy L. Sayers. :)
About Rachel Heffington:
Rachel Heffington is a novelist, a nanny, and a people-lover living in rural
Virginia with her family and black cat, Cricket. Her first novel, Fly Away Home, was independently published in February of 2014, while her novella, The Windy Side of Care, was published by Rooglewood Press in the Five Glass Slippers anthology in June of 2014. Visit Rachel online at www.inkpenauthoress.blogspot.com
The jollification isn't quite over yet, folks. Rachel is hosting a Cozy Quagmire Party Pack!! Oh, it is something warm, cozy and really scrumpteous, so. . . be sure to enter to win a complete party in a box! The Cozy Quagmire Party Pack includes everything you’ll need to have an evening worthy of guests such as Vivi, Farnham, and Dr. Breen. Prize includes P.G. Tips (my favorite British black tea), a $5 Panera Bread gift-card for toasting-bread, a Yankee candle, matchbook, and a paperback copy of Anon, Sir, Anon.
Cozy Quagmire Party Giveaway!