16 September 2012

Guest Blog: Lindsay Townsend

This week, we’re welcoming historical fiction author Lindsay Townsend, whose latest title, AN OLDER EVIL, marks her return to mystery writing. Lindsay is here to talk about the novel and offer an ebook copy to a lucky winner. Please leave your comment with an email address for your chance to win! 

Lindsay says: 

When I first started writing for publication, I wrote in one of my favourite genres, historical romance. Since then I have also written both romantic suspense and historical mystery, and the three genres have the following in common for me:

High stakes
A ticking clock
A heroine under pressure who responds
A protective hero
A setting that has an impact on the characters.

With my most recent novel, I have returned to the Middle Ages and to Historical Mystery. An Older Evil is the first of a series of stories featuring the heroine Alyson Weaver. Alyson is older than my romance heroines and experienced in life and love, a widow of Bath who loves life and who hates injustice. In the times when she lived there was no formal police force, so when a stranger is murdered close to her home, Alyson feels compelled to investigate, especially when her family and household come under threat.

Alyson is also happy to play Cupid whenever she can and there is a romantic subplot in this novel... an unusual romantic subplot.

**Q&A with Lindsay Townsend**

If you had a time machine, where would you go?
I’d love to travel back (incognito, always incognito) to the Stone Age to discover who painted the cave paintings and why. I’d like to go forward to see what happens in the next two hundred years. I would flit back to the Mongol Court of Genghis Khan and those of the Mogul Emperors of India. I’d take a trip to Whitby in the 6th Century and visit the Abbess Hild. But I would always want to return to my own time and my own people.

Your latest historical, ‘An Older Evil,’ is a historical mystery and the first part of a series, rather than a historical romance. Why the change in writing direction?
To me, it’s not that much of a change. As I mentioned on the Thursday blog, to me there are shared elements in historical romance and historical mystery – a historical setting, a ticking clock, high stakes and adventure. All my stories tend to have these elements. In ‘An Older Evil,’ I have an older heroine and more overt ‘shown’ violence than in my historical romances, but I already explore dark themes in my romances. ‘The Snow Bride’ deals with a serial kidnapper and murderer. In ‘Bronze Lightning’ the heroine is raped. And there are romances within ‘An Older Evil,’ as Alyson my heroine enjoys playing Cupid. As for the series aspect, I discovered that Alyson is such an interesting character I was happy to write about her again. Her story features several long arcs that need more than one book to develop.

What draws you to write about the Middle Ages?
It’s such a long period of history and such a vital one, when so any forces such as the law, the church, Islam, magic, natural sciences, writing, numbers, astronomy were being developed. Medieval Europe experienced the Black Death, launched the Crusades, and saw the development of towns and cities out of the forests and wild places. All these things give me a rich tapestry to set stories against.

What are the possible pitfalls in writing about the medieval period?
In my medieval stories, I need to avoid the pitfall of having modern characters in medieval fancy dress, so I strive to make the reactions of my heroes and heroines realistic to the time. Birth control was not reliable, for example, so unplanned pregnancy was a danger and that would determine how people behaved. During the Middle Ages people were afraid of hell and the afterlife and I like to show that in my stories. 

In my medieval mysteries, I have the additional pitfall of the law and how it has changed. There was no formal police force during the Middle Ages and the whole idea of forensics was unknown. For my Alyson to investigate she must do so in a way that is appropriate to her time and character. I overcome the issue by using her natural curiosity, life experience and desire to gossip.
In both mystery and romance, there is also the issue of language. To use ‘real’ medieval language would be impossible as language has moved on since then, yet to use too modern expressions can pull a reader out of the story. I try to use ‘timeless’ language and show medieval beliefs and customs in action.

What are you reading at the moment?
‘Snuff’ by Terry Pratchett. (Fantasy with strong historical elements)

‘Fire and Silk,’ by Erin O’Quinn. (Historical romance set in ancient Ireland)

‘The Sorcerer’s Revenge’ Book 2 of the Apothecary series by Linda Sole (Medieval historical romance with paranormal elements)

‘A Pig in the Roses,’ by Peter Alan Orchard. (Historical mystery set in ancient Athens.)

‘Reluctance,’ by Jen Black. (Regency historical romance with unusual premise).

Thank you, Lindsay, and best of luck with An Older Evil!



Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great answers, Lindsay - I love your approach to writing in this period.

Jen Black said...

I agree, there's so much interest and excitement to be had in historical periods that makes all the research worthwhile!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I am so happy to see that you are writing an historical mystery. Having read The Snow Bride (which I loved), I can see where you would scribe a wonderful mystery. I don't know if i would want to see 200 years into the future--it might scare me to death. LOL I wouldn't mind traveling into the past though.
I look forward to reading your new mystery series.
I wish you continued success...
starcriter at yahoo dor com

Heather Haven said...

A historical mystery is one of my favorite genres. It sounds marvelous, too. Hope I win!!

Erin OQuinn said...

Hello again, Lindsay. I finally made it to the orginal blog, and now I find a really interesting interview.

I just want to add my tuppence worth to the insight about the use of language in historicals. Too often, I read about the heroine standing "on tip-toes," shouting words like "you betcha," and described as wearing soft rouge and lipstick. NOT! It just jars me to read such anachronisms, and your sensitivity to language is one of the reasons I love your books so much.

I echo Sarah's praise of THE SNOW BRIDE, and I must add my appeciation of FLAVIA's SECRET and CHASING RACHEL. Yes, you are a proficient and engaging writer whom I much appreciate.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks so much for your support and comments, Rosemary, Jen, Sarah J, Heather and Erin!

I'll keep my fingers crossed for all of you in the draw!

Blythe Gifford said...

You are so right about the medieval mindset. As a fellow writer of that time period, I couldn't agree more! It is difficult to communicate the medieval world view to modern audiences and keep the characters sympathetic.

Barbara E. said...

I enjoyed the interview and I think An Older Evil sounds like a fantastic story. I like that the heroine is an older woman and has the courage to try to right injustice.

Barbed1951 at aol dot com

Lucia Olivia Lampe said...

I enjoyed the interview, especially as my degrees are in medieval history, which I am using to co-author a trilogy called The Vespers Series set in 13th c. Sicily.

We will be e-publishing the first book in the series soon.

I am always impressed by the desire that we historical novelists have to "get it right" - my sleuth is also a woman forced to investigate and her character needs to do it appropriately as well - and forensics are definitely out the window, although common sense is always a plus!

Lucia Olivia Lampe

Alexa said...

Your writing sounds so interesting!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Blythe - I agree, it is a balance between realism and keeping readers with the characters.

Barbara E - thanks so much!

Lucia - my degree was in medieval history, too. I was espec fascinated by the crusades. Your upcoming series sounds great - Sicily in the middle ages was such a melting pot. (And a female sleuth, too!) Good luck!

Thanks, Alexa!

Christina said...

Sounds intriguing, Lindsay! I love historical mysteries too :)

nutsandcrisps said...

This sounds like a story I'd love to read. I like the idea of 'unusual' and and older more experienced heroine.

Killarney said...

Like me I can see you love the research involved with the time period. LOL, its pretty funny for me considering I hated social studies in school, except for the stuff on the Boston Tea Party and the war of 1812.
Sounds like a great read Lindsay.

Phil Dickinson said...

Hi Lindsay,

Good luck with this new novel. It sounds fascinating! It's on my TO READ list.


Suzi said...

Your historical mystery sounds wonderful. Can't wait to read it.
Suzi Love

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks so much for commenting, Suzi, Phil, Christina, Kilarney and Nutsandcrisps!
Thanks for stopping by and good luck to you all!