We occasionally like to introduce our readers to other mystery writers whom they might find interesting. (Because as we all know, there is no such thing as too many books to read.) Today, we bring you a crime writers interview with historical fiction writer, Barbara Monajem.
Rumor has it that Barbara is descended from English aristocrats. If one keeps to verifiable claims, however, her ancestors include London shopkeepers and hardy Canadian pioneers. As far as personal attributes go, she suffers from an annoying tendency to check and recheck anything and everything, usually for no good reason. Hopefully all this helps to explain her decision to write from the point of view of a compulsive English lady with a lot to learn about how the other ninety-nine percent lived in 1811 or so.
As for qualifications, Barbara is the author of over twenty historical romances and a few mysteries, for which she has won several awards. On the other hand, she has no artistic talent and therefore is really stretching it to write about an artist who draws wickedly good caricatures. But she’s doing it anyway, because he’s irresistible. To her, anyway. Not so much to the aristocratic lady. Or at least not yet.
Kass (on behalf of the misterio gang): Tell us two or three things you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?
Barbara Monajem: Hmm. I am always baffled by this sort of question. Why would anyone want to know about little old me? So I went on a walk and thought about it.
There’s one thing about me – I love walks, short, long, strolling or hurrying, preferably with hills involved. I don’t like to run. When I was young, I enjoyed sprinting, but long-distance running—no way!
Wife, mother, grandmother. She/her. I’m an introvert, but I don’t particularly like being alone. I’d rather have people around me—just not too many. I prefer small gatherings and find large parties to be either exhausting or boring. I have a bit of a stammer and a mild obsession with checking things.
And I love words. My favorite daily emails are about words. I also love languages. I can get by in French, and I know some Spanish, German, and Italian – more than enough to read menus and street signs.
Huh. I started this response with no idea of what to say, and look what came pouring out – way more answers than were asked for.
Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?
Barbara: Mostly, it’s because I like a plot where there’s a puzzle to solve. Often, I start writing with only a vague idea who the culprit will be, so I have to solve my own mystery as I write it. For me, that’s a delightful sort of challenge. I’ve written many romances, too, but often I can’t help but slip in a bit of a mystery, or at least some action/adventure (and I add a bit of romance to my mysteries, too).
Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?
Barbara: Regency Historicals, somewhere between cozy and traditional. I don’t particularly want to write about the present day—it’s just too fraught—and I’ve always enjoyed history. I read both cozies and traditional mysteries, the majority of them historicals of various eras – but really, what I read depends more on the author’s voice and style than the genre.
Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?
Barbara: One favorite book? Impossible. There were far too many. However, seeing as I’m here to promote a book that takes place in the Lake District in England, I’ll tell you why I chose that location: because of the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome.
As a child, I adored these stories. The children have so much freedom and so much fun on their own, with the most cooperative, easygoing adults ever, rarely interfering, seldom telling them what to do.
Although I’ve visited the Lake District a few times, I didn’t get to spend long enough there, and Arthur Ransome’s books gave me some of the ideas for the story – such as the hound trail (which led to watching videos of present-day hound trails), and Lady Rosamund’s brother’s love of sailing.
Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories. How many do you have published?
Barbara: I just went and counted…about 30 books, including both novels and novellas, ranging from contemporary vampire mystery/romance (with my own sort of vampires who are NOT undead) to historical romance, historical fantasy romance (with magic or fairy creatures such as hobgoblins dotted here and there), and historical mystery.
As you can see, I’m all over the place!!
Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?
Barbara: Most fun: The beginning of a new story. Writing the first few scenes is like an adventure. After that, it’s often a bit of a slog—until it’s time to revise, which is fun because the story as a whole is coming together—miraculously—and the end is within reach. (Which means it’s almost time to begin a new one—yay!)
Kass: I love the revising process also—the seeing it all come together.
And there you have it, folks! Our Crime Writers Interview with Barbara Monajem! I stumbled on her first book a few months ago and found it quite intriguing. Below, after the blurb and info on Book 2, you’ll find my review of Book 2.
Lady Rosamund and the Horned God, A Rosie and McBrae Regency Mystery #2
Widowed Lady Rosamund spends the first months of her mourning in the Lake District, where it’s safe and peaceful, and murders are exceedingly rare. Luckily, she is rescued from this tedium by a house party comprised of playwrights, poets, and actors—an immoral set of persons with whom no respectable lady should associate. Even so, she hardly expected to wake in the wee hours to find one of the guests lying dead.
As if that wasn’t troublesome enough, Gilroy McBrae is at the same party, masquerading as a footman to investigate a series of thefts. Was the sudden death an accident—or murder?
Almost everyone had reason to loathe their unpleasant fellow guest. Rosie must set aside her confused emotions about McBrae and work with him to find the culprit before an innocent person is accused of the crime.
Lady Rosamund and the Horned God is an excellent historical mystery—well researched and well written! As a psychotherapist, I was particular intrigued by Lady Rosamund’s OCD tendencies (accurately presented, by the way), and her realistic terror of being locked away in an asylum as mad, should others become aware of her behaviors. OCD and most other psychological disorders have existed for centuries. Portraying how one suffering from it might have coped in a society unforgiving of “oddness” gives the Lady Rosamund stories a unique twist. I give both this story and Book #1 Five Fingerprints!
Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole misterio press crew.
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