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!