Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Interviewing Anne Cleeland

I discovered Anne Cleeland's books at the end of last year, and her Acton and Doyle mysteries totally
hooked me. As I said when I gave away a set of them, they're not for everyone. They're sexy and obsessive, and I'll admit I'm obsessed with the books themselves. I was so happy to meet Anne at Left Coast Crime, and then have time for lunch with her at Bouchercon. I admire her for sticking with her characters, and not allowing a publisher to change them or the direction of the series. She'll tell us about that in today's interview. Thank you for taking time, Anne.

Anne, would you start by introducing yourself to my readers?
Thank you, Lesa!  I’m a lifelong Southern California resident, and I was an attorney by trade for many years. I’ve been reading mystery stories since my Nancy Drew days (I still have a copy of The Secret of the Old Clock!)  and I especially love Agatha Christie, and the other Golden Age British mystery writers.  My Doyle & Acton series features two Scotland Yard detectives, and if you are a fan of Masterpiece Mystery, you might enjoy these stories.  
I also write historical books set in 1814, because I love the Regency era. Being a romantic at heart, all my stories have a strong romantic element.
I have four grown children, and one nutty dog who somehow managed to get herself stuck under the house this morning, chasing a cat—cobwebs everywhere!  
I love your Acton & Doyle mysteries, but, before we talk about them, tell us about your other books. I know Caroline Todd, part of the mother-son team that writes under Charles Todd, raved about your book, The Bengal Bridegift.
Caroline is amazing; she made a special effort to tell me she reads my books, and I was thrilled to hear it.  She and Charles write two different post-WWI series, both of them excellent.  
The Bengal Bridegift is one of the historicals I mentioned, and it was actually the first book I ever wrote.  It never sold, so I dug it out from under the bed and serialized it on my website last year, one chapter each week, and I think a lot of readers enjoyed it.  After I’d finished posting the entire book, I put it up on Amazon.  It’s a fun story—a timid heroine, thrown into extraordinary circumstances.  I have some other unpublished historicals, so I think I’ll choose another one to serialize—it was so much fun, and a great way to connect with the readers.
Would you introduce us to Acton and Doyle?

The story is narrated by Doyle, a young Irishwoman who is a rookie detective with Scotland Yard.  She has been paired up with the renowned Chief Inspector Acton, who is brilliant and reclusive—so much so that the other detectives call him “Holmes,” behind his back.
Although Acton is a well-respected chief inspector, Doyle soon realizes that he’s actually a vigilante, manipulating evidence behind the scenes, and making sure the villains don’t get away with murder. Fortunately for London’s general population, he loves Doyle, who tries to steer him toward the straight-and-narrow, with only mixed results.  Although they’re an unconventional pairing, the relationship between the naive Irish rookie and the dangerous aristocrat is every bit as intriguing as the murders they investigate.

Would you tell us about Murder in Containment, without spoilers?
In Murder in Containment, Doyle realizes that several apparently unrelated murders are actually “containment” murders—murders to contain an ominous scandal that could reach into the highest levels at the CID.  In the process of tracking down the killers, however, she comes to the unsettling realization that Chief Inspector Acton has committed a containment murder or two of his own.
You don’t need to say more than you said on your Facebook page, but tell us why you decided to self-publish the continuing series. (And, thank you for continuing it!)

Well, it’s a cautionary tale, as Doyle would say.  After Kensington declined to publish any more books in the series, Severn House contracted for books four and five.  Strangely enough, it seemed clear that Severn House was not very familiar with the story. (For example, they thought Doyle and Acton shouldn’t have a servant, because it was too “demeaning.”)
Severn House insisted on making wholesale changes, and it was a continuing struggle.  The end result was that two months before the first book was to come out, they abruptly told me they were terminating my contract.   But then, when I took them at their word, they tried to backpedal, because apparently they were only hoping to scare me into submission.  All I can say is we’re lucky that authors today have another option, if things don’t work out with a traditional publisher.

Now, Anne, a few questions that are not book related. Other than author, what’s the most interesting job you ever had?
During my high school and college years, I worked as a nurse’s aide in Labor & Delivery.  I loved each and every day I went to work, and I loved being a part of such a happy time in people’s lives.  Who can resist a wrinkled-face newborn, or a dazed new dad?

After reading about Lord Acton, this question strikes me as funny. Neil Gaiman said, “Trust your obsession.” Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into a story? What was it?
I think my obsession is listening to people, and the way that they speak.  You can see that it’s an obsession, because in every story I always attempt to write an accent of some kind.  It may not make much sense for someone like me, who’s lived in California her whole life, to write a story narrated by an Irishwoman and set in England, but that didn’t stop me!  I hear from Irish readers who wonder where I heard certain idioms, and I have to confess that I looked it up on
I love language, and all its variations, and I hope that affection comes through in my stories.

What’s on your current TBR pile?
My poor neglected TBR pile grows higher and higher every month, but I tend to like light and clever stories—nothing too grim!  G.M. Malliet, M.C. Beaton, and Rhys Bowen are perennial favorites.

You can invite one author and their protagonist to dinner. Who would you invite, and why?
Well, some sharp-eyed readers have noticed that there are multiple references to Pride and Prejudice in the Doyle & Acton series, so you may think I’d choose Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet.  Or, since Acton is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, you may think I’d choose Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective.  You’d be wrong, though—I’d invite Diana Gabaldon, just so I could sit next to Jamie Fraser.  

And, the question I end my interview with since I’m a librarian.  Would you tell me a story about you and libraries or librarians?
Hank Phillippi Ryan tells a wonderful story about how she and her sister would saddle up their ponies to ride to the library in their rural hometown, and bring the books home in their saddlebags. As for me, I’d ride my bike, every week, and fill up the basket with books—whenever I smell that “library smell,” I am transported back to those wonderful hours.  When I was a youngster, the local librarian was the one who introduced me to Edward Eager’s books, and I think you can see their influence, even to this day.   
Nowadays it seems that libraries are also serving as community centers, which is a wonderful way to keep us all connected, in this age of the impersonal internet.  A special shout-out to four librarians-by-trade who were friends first:   Janet Schneider of  New York, Mary Carter of Sierra Madre, Sean Gates of Yo San University, and Merrily Taylor of Brown University.  
And a million thanks to you, Lesa!

Thank you, Anne! - Anne Cleeland writes a contemporary Scotland Yard series that features detectives Acton and Doyle, and she also writes a historical series of stand-alone books set in the Regency period.  A member of International Thriller Writers, The Historical Novel Society, and Mystery Writers of America, she lives in California and has four children.; @annecleeland.

Anne's offering a copy of Murder in Containment to one lucky winner. To enter, email me at Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Saturday, October 22 at 6 PM CT.

Here's the link if you'd like to buy a copy of Murder in Containment.   And, if you're with a library, there will be separate ISBN 978 153 9464334, so libraries can buy the book through Baker & Taylor.


Libby Dodd said...

My copy of Murder in Containment is shipping as I write.

Libby Dodd said...

I seem to have lost my original comment.

Anne Cleeland writes marvelous books with rich, complex characters. The historicals are fascinating and Acton and Doyle are quite unique!

Grace Koshida said...

Thank you Lesa for this excellent interview with Anne. I was just introduced to the first Acton and Doyle books by Kathy Boone Reel just before this year's Bouchercon. And I was fortunate to meet Anne in person at Bouchercon NOLA, both at the author's signing table and when the 3 of us were briefly together in the line during the Blood on the Bayou anthology signing. I look forward to reading more of Acton and Doyle's books, including Murder in Containment!

Lesa said...

I'm going to have to go back and read her historicals, Libby. I love Acton & Doyle.

Lesa said...

Good for Kathy Boone Reel! I'm glad she introduced you to these books. And, Anne is so kind. I hope to see the Acton & Doyle books go on for quite a while.

Anne Cleeland said...

Hi Grace! You made standing in line for signings so much fun!
And thanks again, Lesa, for your wonderful interview.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Anne! And, I received my copy of Murder in Containment yesterday. Can't wait!

Kathy Reel said...

Lesa, what a wonderful interview with one of my favorite people as well as one of my favorite authors! Anne is so brilliant and so kind. I love spending time with her. And, of course, I have hung on every word of the Acton and Doyle series since its beginning. I never have time to reread books, but I have reread these. I have them in every format in which they come. I am in a bit of a stew right now though, because my order from Amazon is taking much longer than my Prime membership guarantees. If it's not here today, the scream you hear will be me.

Anne's other books are great, too, with The Bengal Bridegift being so delicious. I do hope that Anne does serialize some other stories.

Grace, I am so happy that you found Acton and Doyle, and that I had a part in it delights me more than you know. Next time we meet, we can gush over the books together.

Mary Spencer said...

My copy of Murder in Containment finally arrived today. Can't wait to read it. I am obsessed with Acton and Doyle!

Kaye Barley said...

What a delightful interview!

My thanks to you both.

Anne, I'm reading "Murder in Containment" now and loving it. And I sing your praises for sticking to your guns and keeping Acton and Doyle exactly as they are. I love them. Keep 'em coming, please!

Theresa de Valence said...

Lesa, perhaps you could mention to Anne Cleeland, as well as other writers, that many people who read series want to read the books IN ORDER and, usually, there is no list of series books on the author's website. This needs to be present and easily found. Often one can't tell if the books on the author's site are in order or reverse order since few list publishing dates. After jumping around on many websites, I believe that the first book in the series is MURDER IN THRALL, but if that's not true, then Anne Cleeland will have lost a new reader. I use Stop You're Killing Me website for just this reason, but many books are not on that site. So, really, EVERY author needs a plain list of the series books in order.

Thanks for your help.

Teresa said...

Love these books! I have 3 copies of each and also on kindle. I guess that's my obsession. I love the charactes.I just can't say enough about the books. Get them all and bring prepared to be hooked!!!!

Theresa de Valence said...

Sorry, I was in a hurry. Thanks for the intriguing interview. 8-)

Meredith Taylor said...

That's such a great interview, thanks for doing it! Speaking of obsession, I won't enter the contest as I finished it on Kindle (it IS great) and my beautiful trade paperback has arrived! Everyone, go find these books!

Anne cleeland (from phone) said...

Teresa i think that is a good idea. Especially for this series since its best to read the books in order. Will do! (Murder in thrall, in retribution, in hindsight, in containment. Murder in all honour 3/17, murder in shadow 10/17)

Meredith Taylor said...

Anne has got this covered! but on her website, the first three are nice and clear under the "Mysteries" tab. I googled Anne Cleeland and the site pops right up. :)

Gram said...

I found Murder of the God-King at my library and put it on my list. I hope to find more Regencies with a wider search.

Lesa said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I hope you all enjoy Anne's books as much as I do. And, I'm going to get into Murder in Containment this weekend!

Kathleen Costa said...

You always provide super book reviews, author interviews that lead me to wonderful reading adventures. I love British detective dramas and this book seems to be the perfect choice. Thank you!

Kathy Jund said...

What a great interview! I can say I have the pleasure of being obsessed with all of Anne's writings and the honour of meeting her personally and calling her my friend!! I as all her fans have been holding our breath for Murder in Containment and cannot wait for Murder in All Honour!!! kj :D

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Lesa said...

Thanks, everyone for the comments, and most of all, for enjoying Anne's books!