Today we welcome Agatha and Edgar® nominated author of the Gaslight Mystery Series, Victoria Thompson. Her latest is Murder on Amsterdam Avenue.
A: Oddly enough, the idea was generated by Berkley. They did that a lot in the early days at Berkley Prime Crime. My agent called me one day to tell me she’d just had lunch with a Prime Crime editor who was looking for someone to write a series set in turn-of-the-century New York City where the heroine was a midwife. My agent thought of me, since I’d recently written a book set in that time period and I had been putting mystery subplots in my historical romances for a while. They sent me their ideas for the series. I liked some of them and threw out a few others. Then I realized that my midwife, Sarah, would need a male cohort, preferably someone who would logically be solving murder mysteries, so I created Police Detective Frank Malloy. Berkley had suggested that Sarah be a poor relation of a rich family, but I made her the rebellious daughter of a rich family, which would give her entre into all levels of society.
Q: The Gaslight Mystery Series has been going on for a long time now. Isn’t this the 17th book in the series? Do you even remember your life before Gaslight?
A: I remember it only vaguely! Before I started writing the Gaslight Series, I published 20 historical romances. I’ve been around since just after Gutenberg invented moveable type!
Q: Well, maybe not that long! Was it hard making the transition from romance to mystery?
A: Not as hard as I thought it would be, except for one thing. I had created two wonderful protagonists for the Gaslight series, Frank Malloy and Sarah Brandt. They were about as opposite as two people living in New York City in that time period could be, so naturally they were the perfect protagonists for a romance novel. They should have spent the entire first book overcoming everything that kept then apart, fallen in love, and lived happily ever after.
Q: And why didn’t they?
A: Because everyone told me (and told me!) that mystery readers don’t like romance in their mysteries. My editor and my agent and other mystery writers all warned me. This is why I put so many barriers between Frank and Sarah. They could never get together, so I made it impossible for them to get together. Then a strange thing happened. I started getting fan letters. They would say something nice about the book and oh, by the way, when are Frank and Sarah going to get together?” Everyone wanted to know about a romance between Frank and Sarah. So obviously, mystery readers don’t mind a little romance in their mysteries at all! And after fifteen years of keeping them apart, the fans were getting angry! So I knew something had to happen. The problem was that I’d put up so many barriers between them, I couldn’t figure out how to get them married without ruining the series. Fortunately, one of my writer friends, who
had never read a single one of the books, came up with the perfect solution, which I won’t mention in case somebody hasn’t read that book yet.
Q: Is it a spoiler to ask if they finally get married in this book?
A: I don’t think so. They’ve been engaged for two books now, so it’s certainly time! Of course they solve a mystery first and it’s a dandy, but then they finally do tie the knot.
Q: What's the secret to your series longevity?
A: An excellent question! I actually teach mystery writing in the Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction, and I cover this very topic. I always tell my students that readers will pick up your book because they want a good mystery, but they’ll keep coming back to your series time and again because they care about your protagonists. I learned this secret from fans themselves. They write me letters, saying how much they loved this or that about a particular book, but they always ended by asking when Frank and Sarah would get together. That was when I realized they really cared about Frank and Sarah as people, so I have tried to make their personal journeys as interesting as the mysteries they solve. So far so good! I just hope they’ll be equally as interesting now that they’re married.
Q: And is this the end of the series?
A: Not at all! In fact, the next book is already written, and I’m contracted for at least two more after that (that’s me signing the contract in the picture!). Frank and Sarah will keep solving mysteries as along as readers keep buying the books. What I want to know now is, were all those people right or wrong to warn me against putting a romance in my mysteries? Tell me your opinions.
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue
Frank and Sarah put their family business on hold to investigate the death of an old family friend. As they unravel secrets that reach back to the War Between the States, they also discover that they are in the company of a very present danger…”
Meet the author:
Edgar® and Agatha Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, MURDER IN MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, is a May 2016 release from Berkley Prime Crime. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook MANY GENRES/ONE CRAFT. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master's program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Indiana with her husband and a very spoiled little dog. You can find Victoria at www.victoriathompson.com. Follow her on Facebook at Victoria Thompson.Author or on Twitter @gaslightvt.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thank you Ms. Thompson for this interview, I enjoyed every bit of it.