Monday, June 15, 2009

Interview with Elizabeth J. Duncan

Last week, I reviewed Elizabeth J. Duncan's debut mystery, The Cold Light of Mourning. I was very impressed, so I asked if I could interview her in order to introduce her. It's my pleasure to share that interview.

Lesa - Thank you, Elizabeth, for taking time to answer some questions. I was very impressed with your debut novel, The Cold Light of Mourning. It won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Congratulations! how did you come to enter the competition, and how did you hear you won?

Elizabeth - Malice Domestic has been very good to me. In 2005 a friend discovered the Malice Domestic convention online and suggested I enter my manuscript in the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic competition for unpublished writers, which I did -- and won. So I attended my first Malice in 2006 as a prize winner. I returned in 2008 as the winner of the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition, so Malice proved to be my path to publication. And in 2009 I attended as a published author. I now know that if you want to be successful at something, you need to get yourself in with the people who are doing what you aspire to.
I heard I had won on a blustery March day when legendary editor Ruth Cavin called from St. Martin's Press in New York with the wonderful news. I couldn't believe it!

Lesa - You had another career before you starting writing. Would you tell us about yourself?

Elizabeth - I have always been a writer of one kind or another -- I was a journalist for many years, but more writer than reporter and then I made a career change into public relations where a large component of the job can be writing. Different styles and objectives, but always a writer, I guess.

Lesa - Why did you decide you wanted to write, particularly crime fiction?

Elizabeth - I had never thought about writing fiction but one day the bug bit me and I started work on what became The Cold Light of Mourning. I am very fortunate that it was published -- it is my first piece of fiction. I believe that writers write the kind of book they like to read and for me, that is crime fiction. I like fictional crime and true crime. I also like biography, so I would like to have a go at that one day.

Lesa - Elizabeth, The Cold Light of Mourning is a wonderful debut mystery. Would you tell us about the book?

Elizabeth - The book features Penny Brannigan, a Canadian who has lived in Wales for many years. She is a water colour artist and the local manicurist in Llanelen, a village in North Wales. When a posh bride goes missing on her wedding day and Penny is thought to have been the last person to see her, the mystery is on!

Lesa - I have two questions. (And, tell me if you can't answer these without giving something away. I don't want you to give away spoilers.) In your book, you mentioned it was a newspaper article that gave you the idea for the book. What was the article about?

Elizabeth - I can't reveal too much, but it was a pivotal plot point that involved a dead body. I read what two teenagers in Manitoba had done and that sparked the idea for the whole book. Everything -- the setting, characters and story -- was created around this event. Many writers are inspired by things they read in newspapers. Human nature is a bottomless well of unimaginable behaviour, passion and motivation that you could not dream up.

Lesa - You told me in your email that I brought things out in my review that you had never thought about in the book. What could that have been?

Elizabeth - I was amused that you seemed to like the fact that Penny and Victoria weren't the type of dotty amateur sleuths who trample all over the evidence and generally get in the way of the official investigation. I hadn't thought about that before ... that they worked cooperatively with the police. They were warned off, however, and went ahead anyway with their sleuthing. And managed, of course, to mess things up.

Lesa - Elizabeth, what has been the most exciting thing about being a published author? What have you enjoyed the most? Is there anything that surprised you?

Elizabeth - I am still not used to the author role ... I think it is something you grow into. Holding the book for the first time was amazing and participating on panels with established mystery authors seems very strange. I think what surprises me the most is being asked to sign copies of the book. That someone would want me to sign something for her. I love hearing from readers who enjoyed the book -- that's the best part. I am grateful that they read it and really appreciate that they take time to write to me. And thank you for inviting me to take part in this interview!

Lesa - I liked Penny, her friends, and the police officers in The Cold Light of Mourning. Are you working on a sequel? Can you tell us anything about it?

Elizabeth - I am working on a sequel called Left for Dead which we hope will be out next spring. It starts the day after The Cold Light of Mourning ends. Penny discovers things in Emma's cottage that reveal a secret in her life, and a cold case of murder. The underlying theme is that objects hold memories.

Lesa - Elizabeth, I really want to wish you good luck with your book. And, I always end with the same question. I'm a public librarian. Do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?

Elizabeth - I love libraries and the most rewarding part of being published is knowing that my book is available through the wonderful public library systems of Canada and the United States. That a woman I will never meet in say, Kansas, can go to her local library and borrow a copy of the book. I have loved libraries all my life and in fact, my mother thought I should have been a librarian. The first place I ever went on my own was to the public library in Peterborough, Ontario to change my library books. I was six and really liked the Dr. Doolittle stories. I could hardly wait to get home and get stuck into my most recent library book. I still feel like that!

Lesa - Thank you, Elizabeth. And, I hope readers try The Cold Light of Mourning.

Elizabeth J. Duncan's website is

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The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan. St. Martin's Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780312558536 (hardcover), 288p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Very interesting interview...thanks for posting it. I'll add "The Cold Light of Mourning" to my summer reading list.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...

Thanks for stopping by to read the interview, Elizabeth. I hope you enjoy the book!

Clea Simon said...

Thanks for posting this! Somehow, even as an occasional Malice attendee I had missed this woman and her book - she sounds wonderful and smart and I look forward to reading her work!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Clea. That's why it's so great to read DorothyL and some of the blogs, to discover the books we might have missed.