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The Sirens of Suspense




Rhys Bowen is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the Royal Spyness Series, Molly Murphy Mysteries, and Constable Evans.  Won the Agatha Best Novel Award and nominated for the Edgar Best Novel Rhys’s titles have received rave reviews around the globe.

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item1 Rhys Bowen: To the Rescue! item1

There I was, lost in the middle of my plotless novel. I had so many exciting subplots and characters that now I had no idea which way to go. Was there any hope or should I just burn it and take up something more structured…like crocheting?

Fortunately for me, that evening Rhys Bowen gave a presentation to the Desert Sleuths’ chapter of Sisters in Crime. I figured that anyone who had written twenty-four mystery novels since 1997 could help. I cornered her after the meeting and it took her all of ten seconds to come up with a solution. Her recommendation? Imagine yourself as a prosecutor in court and present your case to the jury.

Duh! Suddenly it was all so simple. Tell the story.

Of course, anyone who has written that many mysteries plus countless children’s, YA and historical books must know a trick or two. I could certainly use two or three, or forty-three, of them. I pressed on with questions. She was so fast and so gracious that I didn’t think she would mind.

Rhys currently writes two series with female protagonists, Molly Murphy (1900s New York) and Lady Georgina (1930s England). So, I asked how she keeps the two series separate in her head. Does Molly ever cross into Georgina or vice versa? Rhys said, “No, I never get them mixed up. I work solidly on one book, with Molly’s voice in my head, have a month’s rest and then go visit Georgie.” It takes Rhys about three months for each book and she rests up by traveling around the country promoting them.

Rhys was born and raised in England and her first series, featuring Constable Evan Evans, was set there. Since her current series are written from a woman’s viewpoint, I asked if it was easier than writing from Constable Evans. “I think,” she said, “I understood Evan pretty well, but I think the first person books come alive much more. I definitely identify with both my female characters.”

What influences authors to write mysteries? My inspiration was that all-American, girl detective, Nancy Drew. Since Rhys had written other genres for twenty-some years, I asked why she changed to mysteries. “Tony Hillerman inspired me to write mysteries. He was the first writer who actually transported me somewhere while I was reading.” Interesting. I would have guessed Dorothy Sayers or Agatha Christie.

Rhys maintains a killer schedule. Writing two books a year, doing book tours and appearing at writers conferences (last month, Left Coast Crime Conference in LA), plus maintaining homes in California and Arizona, I wondered she managed her time. Just thinking about her life made me want to take a nap. Does she have a secret weapon? Perhaps her husband? Does he help? I’m thinking of ordering a new one if a favorable cost/benefit ratio can be established. “John is a good cook and does all the shopping. He has driven me to many speaking engagements and he is the final editor for all my books before they go to my ‘real editor’. So I think I’ll keep him.” (Note: Start interviewing for new husband ASAP.)

Reflecting back on my multi-plot muddle, I wondered if it might have something to do with my reading habits. So I asked Rhys what she reads when she’s writing. “Usually, I read non-fiction while I’m writing-travel books, biographies, etc.” She said she doesn’t want to be influenced by other fiction writers. So, no more reading mysteries while writing. Also, give up newspapers, movies, TV and listening to interesting stories from friends.

Finally, I asked her for the most important advice she could give unpublished writers. “New writers should concentrate on writing the perfect book, not on all the things that surround it, like blogs, Facebook, publicist, etc.” She added, “It’s not worth hiring a publicist unless the publisher is also spending big bucks on the writer. The book has to make it to all the stores first.”

Okay, lessons learned. Now I just have to present my case (story) to a jury, give up reading, movies, TV, friends, order a new husband, drop Facebook and limit blogging. Gotta go. Busy day ahead.


QUESTION FOR RHYS? COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW? Ask her here, or tell us your thoughts further down on this page, or commenting on this blog entry on our Facebook page.

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