Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview with Elizabeth Bailey

I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Bailey to the blog today. Liz claims to have been an avid reader from an early age, grew up in colonial Africa under unconventional parentage and with theatre in her blood. Back in England, she trod the boards until discovering her true métier as a writer and fulfilled an addiction to Heyer by launching into historical romance with Harlequin Mills & Boon. Writing was fuelled by teaching and directing drama, and writing plays. 

Retired from both teaching and romance, Elizabeth switched to crime. Still writing in her favourite historical period, Elizabeth sets her female sleuth in the Georgian world of intrigue, elegance, aristocrats and rogues. 

You have certainly served an interesting apprenticeship for writing. Your latest book: THE DEATHLY PORTENT, is an historical crime in the Lady Fan series. Tell us how you came by the idea, and what is the special appeal of this genre. 

The basic premise was an idea for a discarded historical romance, but I liked the second sight/witch scenario and felt it would appeal to Ottilia. I love most the historical setting, which gives me a lot of freedom in terms of investigation, unhampered by modern policing and forensics. More tricky in some ways as I need to know what was possible in the era, but it enables me to be inventive.

How do you think your work as an actress helps with setting the scene in your writing, and creating the right mood?

It’s absolutely key, as it gives me an almost innate understanding of emotional highs and lows, motivation and character creation. In theatre we talk of a mood line through the play and as a director I’ve learned the importance of atmospheric background – visuals, sounds and the element of surprise. It’s also been incredibly useful with dialogue because of speech rhythms and subtext.

Having been involved in drama myself, albeit as an amateur, I can see exactly what you mean, and you obviously enjoy what you do. Do you think writers should follow the latest hot fashion or write what they love?

Far more important to write what you love, because if you don’t love what you write, it will show in the writing. But you can always gear what you love to a specific genre, as writers must be prepared to adapt their voice to the needed parameters. Forget fashions – by the time you’ve finished the book and got it into the hands of a publisher, the trend is probably on the wane.

Absolutely, I do agree. But this is a tough profession, has a rejection ever caused you to stop writing? Twice.

Very early on, an editor was disgracefully sarcastic about my use of exclamation points and I have a phobia about them to this day. I didn’t write for a while after getting that crit. The second one was when an agent, having taken on one book and failed to sell it, then totally trashed the next one I sent in. Needless to say, we parted company, but I didn’t write for eighteen months. Artistic talent is a delicate plant and one must never be brutal in crushing it.

So what next? Can you tell us a little about your work in progress?

I’m doing the third in the Lady Fan series. It concerns a beautiful girl who is mentally unbalanced. When her guardian drops dead, it’s a question whether a murder has actually been committed. But Ottilia becomes suspicious when she encounters the emotional cross-currents in the odd collection of individuals, lately arrived from a Barbados sugar plantation, who surround the lovely Tamasine.

And now to a lighter view of writing: If you could clone yourself, which job would you hand over? A spare Liz who raced around handling the house and non-writing jobs would be a godsend.

Which book would you take with you to a desert island?
Shakespeare, without a doubt. Plenty of reading, plenty of drama, and I can act it all out for the crabs.

What is most likely to lure you from your writing den when in the heat of writing? 
If I’m really going strong, the house better be on fire. Otherwise, beware the tongues of flame!

That was fascinating Liz, and such fun. Thank for sparing the time to talk to us today. 
We wish you continued success with your books.
Best of luck, Freda

The Deathly Portent
Prime Crime
7 June 2012
A thrilling historical mystery set in the heart of Georgian England. A violent murder has left a small village aghast, a young woman believed to be a witch is blamed. Soon the witch hunt escalates out of control. However Ottilia, former ladies maid and bride to Lord Francis suspects that the witch is simply a scapegoat. She uncovers a raft of suspects with grudges against the dead man, one who is determined to incriminate the 'witch'. As foul play runs rampant, Ottilia must wade through growing hysteria, protect the innocent and discover the true culprit.

To find out more about Elizabeth Bailey and her books, visit her here: 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: 


Toni Sands said...

Terrific interview, Liz and Freda. I particularly enjoyed learning how a background in drama colours your work. As for the cloning question, I couldn't agree more.
Sandra x

Lesley Cookman said...

Yes, that's the clone I'd want, too. And completely agree about the background in drama. Good interview. x

LizB said...

Don't know if my comment got in! Thanks Lesley and Toni, it is fascinating, especially from director point of view, how close drama and writing are.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great interview, Liz - I absolutely love the premise of your Georgian series. Just need to make time to read them now!

LizB said...

Thanks, Rosemary! Always a huge TBR pile, I know...

Cara Cooper said...

I love the Georgian era Liz, have just seen the Madness of King George on the stage and find it a totally fascinating period. Also, the name of your heroine is delightful and very memorable. Good luck with the series!

Henriette said...

Like Cara I have a great fondness for the Georgian era, and when you told me that you were publishing a who-dunnit set in Georgian times, I was truly counting the days until it came out! I loved "The Gilded Shroud" and look forward to reading your new book.

Susan Bergen said...

I so agree with you about Shakespeare. I bought my first complete works with my birthday money, when I was 12. Everyone thought I was mental, but I'm still reading that same copy 'hundreds' of years later. So, who's crazy now? If a modern writer can get some of his flair for language and drama into their novel, they won't go far wrong! I enjoyed your interview very much, Elizabeth.

Anna Jacobs said...

Great interview, Liz. As I love mysteries and Georgian settings, I shall hunt yours out.

Paula Martin said...

Your comparison of theatre with writing really interested me, Liz. I sometimes think writers are similar to actors in the way we have to get into the mindset of whatever character we're 'playing'.

LizB said...

Thank you all very much.

Cara, I'm so glad you like Ottilia's name. It was one of those that jumped out and refused to be changed - I'm sure you know those!

Henriette, delighted you enjoyed the first one and want to read on.

Susan, I've got two sets of complete works and wouldn't be parted from them.

Paula, I do so agree. Being in the character's head is very much what the actor has to do.

Absolutely thrilled with the response to this series because I love writing it!

Haddock said...

I like that matching quill :-)

LizB said...

Yes, fab isn't it? The lovely host in the shop gave it to me! I had a green one for the new book to match as well this time.