Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Interview with Carol K. Carr

Every once in a while I discover a debut mystery author and enjoy their book so much I want to find out more about the author.  I loved the characters in Carol K. Carr's historical mystery, India Black.  If I get the chance to interview an author, you might be intrigued and want to pick up the book.  So, today, I'd like to welcome Carol, and thank her for taking time to answer questions.

Lesa - Carol, I was impressed with India Black, your first historical mystery.  But, before we talk about the book, let's talk about you.  Would you introduce yourself to my readers?

Carol - With pleasure!  I grew up in the midwest and went to college there, and then wandered off to the east coast where I got my law degree at George Washington University.   I'm coming to the writing party a little late, having already had a career as a lawyer and a corporate executive.  I moved back to Missouri a few years ago, and live here with my husband and two German Shepherds.  When I'm not writing, I'm an avid golfer and reader.  And the most important thing you need to know about me - I am a huge rugby fan.

Lesa - Well, that's a little different, a huge rugby fan.  But, let's talk about your book.  India Black is a fascinating historical mystery, set in Victorian London.  Why did you pick that period?

Carol - I've enjoyed reading about this era for a long time.  Victorian society is superficially similar to our own.  Britain was the most powerful nation on earth, and the U.S. has enjoyed that position since the end of World War II (there are exceptions to what that can achieve, of course).  There was a strong divide in the Victorian era between the haves and the have-nots, much like our own economic situation.  And there was a strong religious and moralistic tone to the Victorians that is often duplicated by people in our own society, especially with regard to spreading the "gospel" of our superior legal, political and cultural systems.  In one sense, it's almost like writing about our own society, so I feel quite at home in Victorian England.

Lesa - Would you tell us about the book?

Carol - It's an old-fashioned romp, featuring a bit of romance, espionage, comedy and feats of derring-do. India Black is a young madam dealing with all the difficulties of running a first-class brothel in London, including the government clerk who expires unexpectedly on the premises. Unfortunately, the case he carried (containing valuable government secrets) has disappeared, and India is soon blackmailed by a handsome British agent, Mr. French, into trying to recover the documents. Their adventures start at the Russian embassy and end on the coast of France, as they play cat-and-mouse with Russian agents along the way.

Lesa - You created wonderful characters in this book, India, French, and Vincent.  I hope they'll all return in the next book. Can you tell us a little about each character?  And, why did you pick a madam for the main character?

Carol - I'm drawn to heroines and heroes who don't quite fit the moral and heroic mold, and I wanted to create a character who was outside conventional society, had a healthy cynicism regarding that society, and could fight her own corner, if necessary.  Who could be more of an outsider than a madam?  Vincent sprang readily to mind:  every protagonist needs a sidekick, and I wanted one who could match or exceed India in street smarts.  They were a lot of Victorian children fending for themselves on the streets, and I figured they had to be pretty tough to survive in that environment.  As for French's character, he's a slightly superior person who follows the code of honor of the British public school, quite often to his detriment.  He's a mysterious chap; India is dying to know more about him, but he's not very forthcoming.

Lesa - What can you tell us about your next book?

Carol - India and French are tasked with protecting a Very Important Person at Balmoral castle during the Christmas holidays of 1876. Of course, Vincent manages to tag along. It's another caper through the Victorian world, with intrigue, swordplay, Scottish dancing and narrow escapes in abundance.

Lesa - It sounds terrific, Carol.  I can't wait to read it.  Now, on an other subject, who would you say influenced your writing?  Sometimes authors say they stop reading mysteries when they're writing them.  Who do yo like to read now?
Carol - As I mentioned, I'm very fond of unusual protagonists who are less than paragons of virtue.  I really enjoy the Harry Flashman series by George Macdonald Fraser (the direct inspiration for India) and the Baroness Troutbeck books by Ruth Dudley Edwards.  I absolutely do not stop reading mysteries when I'm writing.  In fact they are the only books I can read then as history and biography require too much focus.  I love Kate Atkinson, Laurie R. King, Susan Hill, Jim Kelly, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Christopher Fowler, and Phil Rickman.  Their writing styles are so different from mine that I don't worry about it bleeding over into my work.
Lesa - Is there anything that surprised you about being a published author, or the writing/publishing process?
Carol - Yes.  It's been an entirely pleasant experience!  I ended up with an incredible agent who is not only an excellent business woman, but is also witty and personable.  The editor who was assigned to my book is a delight to work with, and the publicist has kept me in the picture from the beginning of the marketing process. 
Lesa - Carol, thank you for taking the time for the interview, and, good luck with India Black.  I have one final question I always ask.  Since I'm a librarian, I like to know if you have a story to tell us about libraries or librarians.
Carol - Absolutely!  I grew up in a very small town (pop. 600) and the library was located on the ground floor of an old hotel, with a wood-burning stove between the fiction and non-fiction areas.  Two elderly sisters were the librarians.  The front door would creak ominously when you opened it, and little bell rang back in the living quarters.  One of the sisters would shuffle out to greet me, with her hair pulled back in a bun and wearing a dress that I swear she must have owned since the 30's.  But both had infinite patience with me, as I combed the shelves for something to read-a task that got harder the older I got.  Then I'd wait while the woman stamped each book and organized them into a tower of dreams and shoved them across the desk to me.  Writing it down, it sounds a bit creepy, but as a little girl, that old room with the fire crackling in the winter held all the possibilities in the world.  It was probably the atmosphere of the place that shoved me over the line into writing.
What a wonderful library story, Carol.  Thank you.  And, if readers would like to try a fun historical mystery, I'm recommending India Black.

Carol K. Carr's website is http://www.carolkcarr.com/

India Black by Carol K. Carr. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2011. ISBN 9780425238660 (paperback), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy, hoping I would review it.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great interview, Lesa and Carol!

I love flawed protagonists and this plot sounds intriguing. I'll be looking for this one...thanks!

Lesa said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I hope you get a chance to pick up India Black. I really enjoyed it.

Vicki Lane said...

I loved India Black! And the great thing about this character is that she is perfectly situated for no end of intriguing adventures in a most fascinating time and place. Congratulations, Carol!

Dean James said...

I too loved this book. It's witty, engaging, and laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to India's wonderful narrative voice. I'm very much looking forward to many more adventures for India, French, and Vincent.

Lesa said...

It's so nice to hear that you liked India Black, Vicki. You're right. Carol has created a character in a terrific position for more adventures.

Lesa said...

That's a strong recommendation, coming from you, Dean. I hope Carol realizes what a terrific recommendation that is. Thank you.

Carol Carr said...

I've been quite lucky to have Vicki's support from the beginning of this excursion - she wrote one of the blurbs for the book cover. I'm also a follower of her blog, which combines some wonderful snapshots of her life with some excellent tips for writers. Definitely worth reading.

Dean was an early reader of the book and you are correct, his endorsement is very valuable and I am grateful for it. I'm hoping to meet up with him in Houston on the 22nd, as I do my first ever signing at Murder by the Book (hear that, Dean?).

And I shouldn't let an opportunity go by without publicly thanking you, Lesa, for your support and enthusiasm for the book. To all of you, thanks!

Kay said...

I'm going to be on the lookout for this book at my library. I love the Victorian period and think I will truly enjoy INDIA BLACK. Thanks for interviewing Carol for us, Lesa!

Dizzy C said...

Looking forward to this one.
It is on my wishlist at the top!


Lesa said...


Definitely my pleasure to interview Carol. And, I ordered her book for the library, since we didn't have it on order. I think this is a series and author to watch.

Lesa said...


Nice to know it's on the TOP of your wishlist. I hope your wish is granted.

Lesa said...


It was a fun interview. Thanks for taking the time to do it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! I'll definitely read it soon!


Lesa said...

My pleasure, Brenda. And, it's a quick read.

Clea Simon said...

I just got this (thanks to Lesa) and am LOVING it!!

Lesa said...

Yes! I love it when I get to introduce a new book or author to someone, and they love it! Thanks, Clea!