Amateur sleuth Flora Lively is back to investigate another mystery, and this time the body count is rising …
When Flora’s best friend returns to England with a Spanish film crew in tow, Flora is thrilled to land a job on set at a glamorous country house. But when a member of the crew is brutally murdered, and the priceless Infanta Tiara stolen, suspicion falls on everyone at Hanley Manor – including someone far too close to home.
Q. Joanne, thanks for stopping by to chat! Your amateur sleuth, Flora Lively, made her debut in the cozy Murder at the Maples, where she unexpectedly inherited the moving company that was to become her livelihood. Can you tell us a little bit about your newest, A Date with Death?
A: A Date With Death is the second in the Flora Lively series, and finds Flora solving a mystery in an English country house on the set of a Spanish film crew. When one of the crew is murdered, and someone very close to home arrested, Flora is thrown back into the role of amateur sleuth once again.
Q: What kind of research did you do for the country house movie set?
A: We’re members of the National Trust here in the UK, so I get to visit lots of old country houses, and I love them! Hanley Manor is a crumbling old pile, and is used as a film set to try and drum up some money. I liked the idea of marooning Flora and all the suspects together in one place; the country house seemed like the perfect option.
Q: Why do you think we, on both sides of the pond, are so drawn to those old English country houses?
A: I think history is fascinating, but never more so when we can compare how we live now in an everyday sense with how ‘they’ used to live then. We love our homes, whether an apartment or a mansion, they are our own personal castles. Seeing how other people lived, how they decorated and furnished, where they ate and relaxed and dressed and slept, is just so compelling. And maybe it gives us a sense of continuity, and makes us understand ourselves better.
Q: One of the challenges of writing an amateur sleuth is to set it up so that she’s drawn in to the mystery even though she’d not a detective or officer of the law. How do you manage this with Flora Lively?
A: Yes, that is hard, and it’s why there’s often more ‘set up’ in the first book in a series than is perhaps ideal. With Flora, the mysteries will always be connected to someone she knows, or a place where she is working, and because she has a job that brings her into contact with lots of different people and situations, instead of a static job, it’s a little easier. For example, in the
third book in the series, Flora stumbles across a dead body in the museum of antiquities where her removal company has been tasked with packing and storing all the exhibits. It certainly makes for a spooky setting.
Q: How do you write the dialog of Marshall, the ex-pat American? Is there an individual you know that you are using as a model for him?
A: Loosely, the relationship between him and Flora is based on that of Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting (which was a long time ago now). I have a number of American beta readers who keep me on track with Marshall’s dialog, which really helps.
Q: In your previous jobs, you had quite a lot of interaction with the public. Writing, on the other hand, can be very solitary. How have you handled that transition? Do you need to get out every so often?
A: I never really liked interacting with the public! It was something I tolerated, rather than sought out. Seriously, though, I am happy working on my own. I have a husband and a daughter, and family close by; I have some good friends locally and other wonderful friends I connect with by email or social media. I live on the Internet, and I’m comfortable there. Sometimes I drive out of the area where I live and imagine I might hit an invisible barrier, like that in the Truman Show, because my world is quite small in some ways. But my
imagination always keeps me company.
Q: Where can readers find out more?
About The Author
Joanne Phillips lives in rural Shropshire, England, with her husband and young daughter. She’s the author of romantic comedies Can’t Live Without, The Family Trap and Cupid’s Way, and the Flora Lively series of contemporary mysteries. Can’t Live Without was an Amazon top 100 bestseller in 2012 and her books regularly appear on category bestseller lists. Before becoming a writer, Joanne had jobs as diverse as hairdresser, air hostess and librarian, but now divides her time between writing and finding creative ways to avoid housework. She’s a fan of super-dark chocolate, iced coffee and Masterchef.