I am thrilled to have this writing team here today! You are going to love their post!
My, they have been tested and have come out shining on the other side.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Thanks so much for inviting Victoria Abbott here to Cozy Wednesday! It means a lot especially as this month The Christie Curse: a book collector mystery hit the stands and the e-readers. This series is a collaboration with me and my daughter, writing as Victoria Abbott. Getting to release day for The Christie Curse has been an emotional roller coaster for us, but in the end we are very happy about the book and excited to keep going with a series we love. And maybe we were just a little bit surprised.
I have always considered writing to be a solitary business. It’s just you and the crazy people who live in your head. Through many books that worked for me, although I could often be seen talking to people who clearly were not there.
But then, along came this idea for a collaboration with my daughter, Victoria, writing a new series for Berkley Prime Crime. The sleuth is a young graduate student who works as the eyes, ears and feet for a reclusive and difficult wealthy collector of fine first editions.
We decided to jump in. We had a history in mystery: we were involved for several years in Ottawa’s tiny perfect Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore and we both love crime fiction and especially cozies. We know a lot about the golden age of mystery and admire the legacy of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and the writers who developed and popularized the art of detection on the page.
Victoria is a terrific artist and photographer with mystery short stories published and I had thirteen books in three series and two dozen short stories in print. We are both creative and laugh a lot, maybe because Victoria is a very funny lady. We were euphoric when the contract was signed. In fact, we may look a bit deranged in this photo.
So, what was the worst that could happen?
Writers ask this question just before we plunge our protagonist into a vat of trouble. It keeps readers engaged and gives a story substance. However in our case, we lived it. My husband and Victoria’s father had a devastating brain hemorrhage after routine surgery, just after the first book was submitted. He was not expected to live. We were told to take out a Do Not Resuscitate Order. He spent a month in a coma and for seven months was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. There were operations, procedures, serious setbacks and two bouts of pneumonia. Our wonderful editor at Berkley was kind enough to hold back The Christie Curse, as there was no way we could get the second book, The Sayers Swindle, finished in time. Meanwhile Victoria was going through her own tumultuous time, a story for another day.
With Victoria’s help, we packed up her father’s business and I sold our house (with the thousands of books) and bought a one-story house that would be accessible for a wheelchair and I moved. Two days later my husband was released from hospital. They called him The Miracle Man. This miracle was all very distracting! It took us a long time to be able to get our concentration back and return to our second mystery. We have all rebuilt our lives this past year.
With the release of The Christie Curse, Victoria and I are once again riding high, as is our great supporter, The Miracle Man. The book is getting excellent reviews and we are having fun. We’re editing The Sayers Swindle and we’re into The Wolfe Widow.
But you may want to know how we do it. Well, if we really knew we’d tell you. We try this and we try that. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t The best way for us is to construct scenes and work on character development on the phone. We are less distracted and distracting that way.
We are always surprised at the characters the other creates and yet we always enjoy the results. Our favorite characters in The Christie Curse are Jordan’s lovable criminal uncles Mick and Lucky (and the rest of the minor uncles) all of whom are, as they say, known to the police. They will continue to provide endless fun for us. We also love the eccentric Italian cook, Senora Panetone You! Eat!, and Lance that hot librarian. Of course, we are crazy about the Pug, Walter. Our dachshunds are not too impressed with Walter.
But I digress. Frequently we discuss and act out scenes and dialogue while one of us types like the wind. We also each have characters that we ‘own’ and often write scenes alone and then slot them in. This only works if we know what the other is up to! Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
For instance, it took us ages to wrestle Uncle Kevin back to where he belonged in The Sayers Swindle, when we each went off in separate directions. But Uncle Kevin tends to bring chaos to any situation. And why was he at that murder scene anyway?
Then there are the Siamese cats … but that’s a dangerous topic.
Another challenge is harmonizing the voice. Jordan must narrate the story, not Victoria and not Mary Jane. We feel it’s worth the investment to make sure she sounds like herself.
Looking back over this writing adventure, I realize that the question “What’s the worst that can happen?” is one that mystery writers throw at their characters all the time. We did it to Jordan and then life threw that same question at our family. In a crime story, we all want our characters to come through their darkest hour, we want justice done and we like a happy ending. We’ve had all that. We have seen the worst and lived to tell the tale. But after this, we’ll take our dramatic moments in fiction, thank you very much. From now on, we hope that Jordan will take the heat.
About This Author
Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between the always very funny and creative artist, photographer and short story author, Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, award-winning author of three mystery series and two dozen short stories. Their four miniature dachshunds are understandably outraged that a pug and some Siamese cats have wiggled their way into the series.
Find Victoria on Facebook www.facebook.com/bookcollectormysteries
Or follow them on twitter @abbottmysteries
They’re dying to tweet you.
The Christie Curse
(A Book Collector Mystery)
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (March 5, 2013)
Published By The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Mary Ann Lasher
Cover Design by Olivia Andreas
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
E-book File Size: 603 KB
In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared—making headlines across the world—only to show up eleven days later at a spa under an assumed name. During those eleven days, did she have time to write a play?
Jordan Bingham needs a job and a new place to live. She has moved back to Harrison Falls and in with her wonderful not so law abiding uncles. Thank to her ex she is deep in debt and the grad school loans are hanging over her head.
She answers a blind ad and crosses her fingers. Thrilled to get an interview, the job sounds perfect and even includes room and board. Then she meets Vera Van Alst. Not the most friendly person and most of the town hates her, but she has this wonderful library. The job is tracking down a play rumored to have been written by Agatha Christie. Jordan knows she can do this job and convinces Miss Van Alst to give her a try. Then Jordan learns her predecessor was killed while looking for this play. She soon realizes that there is someone out there willing to kill to keep the play out of the hands of her new employer. The job is good but is it worth Jordan’s life?
What a wonderful debut!
Jordan is a very intriguing protagonist. She is strong, smart, almost fearless and funny too. But the author doesn’t stop there. The reader is treated to rich and real treasures in the supporting cast. There are the nefarious uncles who love Jordan so much and will do anything for her even if it means breaking the law. Vera Van Alst is getting a little less cranky but is definitely set in her ways. Officer Smiley and Detective Zinger are polar opposites in their investigative techniques but one is starting to grow on Jordan a lot more than the other. Librarian Lance would have me at the library 24/7 just mooning over him. My favorite human character definitely is Signora Panetone, Vera’s cook. She is priceless with her “EAT NOW!!” shouts at every delicious sounding meal. I think I gained weight just reading about these fabulous meals.
Then there are the felines and the canine. The Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde cat(s) had me in stitches. Walter, the pug, bails Jordan out of a tight situation and melted right into this reader’s hearts.
The Van Alst mansion is a character itself more than a setting. The climate controlled library, the back stairway, servants quarters that become Jordan’s garret, and the conservatory. The game clue kept coming to my mind as we traveled through the monstrous house. I can’t wait to explore more in the next book.
The mystery is very complex and with all the twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing. I was truly surprised by the ending.
An excellent debut. Agatha Christie herself would give it 5 stars!!
Thanks to the people at Penguin
I have 2 copies to giveaway!!
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Mary Jane Maffini – 1 half of Victoria Abbott
has added a Special Giveaway!
A copy of
The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder (A Charlotte Adams Mystery)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”