Author Interview: Clea Simon

Last Month, Library Journal said a number of nice things about The Musubi Murder. But the nicest was this:

VERDICT Certain to appeal to readers who love well-drawn settings or academic cozies such as Sarah Shaber’s “Simon Shaw” series or Clea Simon’s “Dulcie Schwartz” books.

The Dulcie Schwartz series began with Shades of Grey, in which Dulcie, a doctoral student at Harvard, receives a lifesaving warning from the ghost of Mr. Grey…her cat. Shades of Grey was followed by Grey Matters, Grey Zone, Grey Expectations, True Grey, Grey DawnGrey Howl, Stages of Grey, and her newest, Code Grey.

Booklist, the review publication of the American Library Association, had this to say about Code Grey:

Working on her dissertation, Dulcie Schwartz is one of the few people remaining at Harvard over spring break. Her scholarly pursuits are interrupted when she comes to the defense of a former Harvard student, Jeremy, now homeless, who is found at a construction site, holding a long-missing, valuable book. Police like Jeremy for the rash of recent campus break-ins, but Dulcie doesn’t buy it. With the help of her friend, rare-books librarian Mr. Griddlehaus, she begins to research the history of the missing book, which was part of a collection donated to the library decades ago, when Griddlehaus, Jeremy, and the head of facilities were all students. Cats play a role, of course, in sorting out the mystery, and Dulcie’s abilities to communicate with felines comes in very handy. This unusual and intelligent series continues to surprise, with additional backstory on some of the characters adding layers of interest. Readers will not want Dulcie to finish her dissertation anytime soon.– Booklist, July 1, 2015

Code Grey CLEA

I’m thrilled to have Clea here today, kicking off the blog tour for Code Grey.

Q. Can you tell us what the book is about?

A. This is the ninth Dulcie Schwartz mystery. Dulcie is a graduate student, writing her dissertation on an 18th Century Gothic novel, so as you can imagine her own life takes a Gothic turn, full of ghosts and odd happenings – but the one friendly constant is the ghost of her late, great grey cat, Mr. Grey. Mr. Grey looks out for her (and for her boyfriend and new cat, Esmé). In “Code Grey,” Dulcie is doing research over spring break,when she stumbles over a former student at the college and a rare book that has been missing, assumed stolen, for years…

Q. What kind of research did you do for Dulcie’s life and daily routine? Were there any surprises when you were doing your research?

A. By now, I know Dulcie’s routine fairly well! I never went as far as Dulcie did in my education, but I spent my years in the library as an undergraduate! For Code Grey, I did research both book conservation and stolen books. Did you know there’s an online registry of stolen books? The idea is that rare book dealers should check whenever anyone brings anything suspicious in to sell and they can check everything from watermarks to the provenance of various publications… Creepy, huh? The restoration part was incredibly fun – learning how conservators stabilize centuries-old paper and what ancient ink looks like after a few hundred years… I think of Code Grey as a love story to books, in part.

CODE GREY

Q. I love murder mysteries set on college campuses, from Gaudy Night onward. Is there something about the academic environment that gives rise to murderous passions?

A. I think readers love bookish things – and academia is the world of books. Don’t we all fantasize about a life where reading is our work as well as our play? Beyond that, for a mystery, it’s a perfect setting – a small, enclosed world full of rivalries and petty jealousies

Q. How do you keep a series fresh? Where do you allow your characters to change, and what do you keep constant?

A. It is hard! For me, part of what keeps changing is Dulcie’s work on her dissertation. She has to keep progressing, so that’s always new. And she’s getting close to finishing. One of her friends has already graduated and gotten a post-doctoral position. As time passes in the books, the relationships change in a natural way, I hope. For instance, Dulcie is now quite secure in her relationship with her boyfriend – but she does wonder about some of her friends these days…

Q. On your blog, you list twenty-one books, several short stories, and quite a few articles in high-profile publications. Do you have any productivity tricks that you could share?

A. It’s not really a trick – I make myself write every day, Monday through Friday. This is how I want to spend my life, so I figure I need to view it as a job. Being a journalist was great training for this – you can’t afford the luxury of writer’s block when you have a deadline. Not if you want to get paid and keep your job. So I write every day. What I write might not be good. It might get thrown out, but I write!

Q. Writing can be very solitary. How do you balance the need for solitude with the need to get out and be with people?

A. I spend too much time on Facebook! But also I do make a point of making social dates with friends – going out for lunch every now and then or seeing people on the weekends. Otherwise when my husband comes home from work, I’d talk his ear off!

About The Author 

Clea Simon worked as a journalist and non-fiction author before turning to crime (fiction). She is the author of 18 mysteries in the Theda Krakow, Dulcie Schwartz, and Pru Marlowe pet noir series. Clea grew up in New York, before moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard. She fell in love with the city and lives there still with her husband, writer Jon Garelick, and their cat, Musetta.

Author Links

Facebook / Blog / Twitter / Goodreads / Severn House  

Purchase Links: 

Amazon / B&N / Book Depository

 


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