Bookmark and Share
AddThis Feed Button

The Sirens of Suspense




L.C. Tyler is the author of the Elsie and Ethelred series featuring Ethelred Tressider, a crime writer, and Elsie Thirkettle, his literary agent. The most recent in the series, HERRING ON THE NILE, will be released in paperback on May 16, 2012. He was born in Essex and educated in Southend and at OxfordUniversity. He has worked in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sudan, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. He currently lives in Islington with his wife, children and border terrier.

item1 L.C. Tyler: A Herring of item1


“In the beginning writing was pure pleasure. It was Elsie who taught me that, with only a little effort, it could just as easily be mindless drudgery.

It was Elsie too who taught me that the royalties on a 300-page book are generally greater than those on a 200-page book, even if the story could be told better in 200 pages. (‘Add fifty per cent more suspects,’ she advised.)… It was Elsie who helpfully suggested that plots could be endlessly recycled because my readers had the attention span of a gnat with Alzheimer’s.” 


You have lived all over the world (Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Sudan, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, etc.) and, although you take forays to France and Egypt, your books have a very English feel to them. What prompted that choice rather than a more exotic locale?  

Maybe I’m more influenced by Christie than I knew. She too had travelled all over the world but confined her settings to England, with the occasional foray out into Egypt or the Balkans. I’ve loads of notes for a Danish novel, so maybe I’ll try that if I can think of a gloomy enough plot.


You seem to have led an exciting life, bomb disposal, cultural attaché, etc. yet your books are relatively action-free. Why did you gravitate toward this genre rather than, say, a thriller?

I think I’ve been pretty lucky to have done many of the things I have done. Of course, the life of a cultural attaché is not exactly packed with action - though we did have to attend a lot of art exhibitions and drink heroic quantities of gin and tonic. And the couple of months I spent as a student working on explosive ordnance disposal (I think that was the phrase we used) was distinctly low risk. In the end I guess we write the sort of stuff we like reading - and that’s the sort of stuff I like.


On your website you describe your books as "humorous mysteries" or alternatively "cosy mysteries" (we spell it with a "z" in the US), and spend a bit of time describing the sub-genre. Some (I'm not one of them) consider the term "cozy" to be rather derogatory. Though your statements aren't negative, I feel like you are another writer who feels there's a more accurate term out there. What are your thoughts, and do you have an idea of a term you would you propose to replace it?

I must admit, I hadn’t come across the phrase ‘cozy crime’ until I was published in the US - it’s much less used over here. I think it’s a useful concept to cover everything that isn’t hardboiled or a thriller or a police

procedural or historical - though I appreciate others might want to define cozy more narrowly. Like most labels it’s more useful to readers (to help answer the perennial question: am I going to enjoy this book?) than to writers, who generally hate to be pigeon-holed as anything. I’d probably prefer to be called a comic crime writer or just a plain old mystery writer - but if you buy my books, you can call me anything you wish.  


Your characters Elsie (a horrid agent) and Ethelred (a confused author) are a fabulous pairing. Are you writing what you know? Were you inspired by early experiences as a writer or did you just feel the relationship was rife with comic opportunities?

When I started writing I was almost completely ignorant of publishing and had only the vaguest idea what an agent did. Elsie was based on nobody I knew. My own agent is certainly not horrid - though I have to admit I am fairly confused.


It seems that originally you intended to tell the stories from solely Ethelred's point of view,the first in the series was mostly his point of view, but it seems like Elsie keeps elbowing her way in, and now it's pretty 50/50, how did that happen?

I’ve no idea. You’d better ask Elsie.


Speaking of Elsie's input, did you have any input on the choices of fonts for the chapters featuring different protagonists?

Macmillan left the fonts pretty much as I typed them. Times New Roman seemed very appropriate for Ethelred. The cleaner, more modern Arial was right for Elsie. We had a lot of fun choosing the right typeface for Geraldine’s suicide note.


You pay homage to Christie and a lot of other traditional mystery authors of the Golden Age, but in such a clever way and with such surprising outcomes. Do you begin with a particular classic plot point in mind (such as a locked room) and then plan the twists, or is it more organic?

Thank you. That’s very kind.  The only one of my books that really parallels a Christie plot is HERRING ON THE NILE, where I drop in all sort of references to DEATH ON THE NILE. TEN LITTLE HERRINGS is, consciously, a parody of the country house mystery. And HERRING IN THE LIBRARY certainly gives a nod in the direction of the locked room, though it subsequently goes its own sweet way. The starting point for THE HERRING SELLER’S APPRENTICE was however J P Sartre’s NAUSEA. Yes, really. No, I’m not making it up.


What's next for Elsie and Ethelred?

I’m currently working on something completely different, so HERRING ON THE NILE may prove to be their final case. Of course, Conan Doyle once said that about some other detective.


What's the best advice you can give a new writer or what do you wish you had known when you started? Do you have any tips or tricks for marketing books? How do you feel about using social media to promote your work?

If you’re writing crime, think in terms of a whole series - don’t tie yourself in too many knots (and definitely don’t kill off any key characters) in the first book. I use Twitter a bit, but I think social media are for networking rather than marketing - too much Blatant Self Promotion turns people off.



QUESTION FOR L.C. TYLER? COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW? Ask here, or tell us your thoughts further down on this page, or commenting on this blog entry on our Facebook page and be entered to win one a copy of THE HERRING SELLER’S APPRENTICE! 



Writing ambience: Complete chaos. Has anyone seen my Chapter Two anywhere?

Reading now: A LOAD OF OLD BONES - Suzette Hill.

Book or eReader? I love books, but Kindle is great for traveling.

Favorite protagonist (other than his own): Professor Hilary Tamar.

Favorite big or small screen detective: Aurelio Zen - why was it axed after one series?

Favorite sentence he’s written: “Women have many different ways of showing disapproval, only some of which are immediately apparent to men.”

Who he would like to see play Elsie and Ethelred onscreen: Colin Firth always seems to win prizes, so I’ll settle for him has Ethelred. Maybe Dawn French to play Elsie.

Cats or dogs? Dogs. Quite specifically, Border Terriers.

Where he’d like to travel that he hasn’t been: The podium at the Edgar Awards - I’m told the view is great from there.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Thanks, it’s good of you to offer, but I’ve already got all the superpowers I need.

comments powered by Disqus


Blogs - Reviews - Interviews - Giveaways