Writers@Work: An Interview with Victoria Thompson
December 11, 2018
Note From Rochelle
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I’m delighted to welcome mystery author Victoria Thompson to the blog today. Enjoy!
Writers@Work: An Interview with Victoria Thompson
By Rochelle Melander
Victoria, welcome to the blog! You write two very popular series, the Gaslight Mystery series and the Counterfeit Lady Series. Can you tell us a bit about each of them?
The Counterfeit Lady Series was born when I was doing research for one of the Gaslight Mysteries. I learned a bit about con artists and later I was doing research to get ideas for a new series and learned some things about the women’s suffrage movement that I never knew before. I combined those two and came up with Elizabeth Miles, a con artist who ends up in jail with a group of suffragists by mistake and becomes a convert. Oddly enough, she discovers that the skills which made her a good con artist also serve her well in her new life as she tries to find justice for people who would never get it otherwise. In the second book in this series, City of Secrets, Elizabeth must battle her own fiancé in order to make things right.
The Gaslight Mystery Series is now 21 books long. Set in turn of the century New York City, it features midwife Sarah Brandt and police detective Frank Malloy. By Book #21, Murder In Union Square, Frank and Sarah are married and Frank has become a private investigator while Sarah has opened a maternity home on the Lower East Side.
You started out writing historical romance novels. Can you talk about the transition from writing romance to mystery?
The transition wasn’t voluntary. My publisher let me go when the sales of my historical romances dropped too low. My agent encouraged me to try my hand at a mystery series, and when she told me Berkley Publishing was looking for someone to write a series set in turn of the century NYC with a midwife heroine, I jumped at the chance. I’d already been putting mystery subplots into my romance novels, so that part was easy. I really liked the idea of never having to write another love scene, too, although I couldn’t keep romance out of the books completely. Readers seem to really enjoy Frank and Sarah’s long-simmering courtship, and in the Counterfeit Lady Series, con artist Elizabeth falls in love with the only honest man she’s ever met.
How did you keep hopeful in the time between the two series? What is the secret to your resilience?
I’ve been very lucky in that I truly enjoy writing both series. Frank and Sarah from the Gaslight Mysteries are like family to me now. In addition, the time period in which they live is a virtual goldmine of story ideas. The issues people were dealing with then are the same ones we’re dealing with today, so even though the setting is historical, modern readers can easily relate. Readers are still discovering the Counterfeit Lady books, so we don’t know yet if they will connect on the same level, but I’ve found a lot of common interest between that time period (1917-18) and our time as well.
You are a prolific author, writing two books a year! What are some of the practices you have that help you to write so much so quickly—and juggle the other things writers must do?
For the first 17 years of writing the Gaslight Mysteries, I worked full-time, taught part time and wrote one book a year. Looking back, I have no idea how I managed that! Now I’m retired from my day job, but I still teach and now I write two books a year. I do write quickly, although I spend time planning out the story before I start writing, so that makes the writing go more easily. They key, as I always tell my students, is that we always find time to do the things we want to do. If that means giving up something else, than that’s a sacrifice we have to make. For example, a man who loves to play golf will gladly give up cleaning out the garage in order to free up a day to golf. I love to write, so I gladly give up other things to do it.
What advice do you have for beginning novelists?
Learn your craft! This is so much easier than it was when I started writing in the early 1980s. There are many how-to books on every genre and every aspect of writing. The internet also provides online classes and tutorials. There are also many writers’ organizations who offer help and information to writers. For mystery writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime are two good ones. Other genres have their own groups as well. Some of these groups also have local chapters where you can attend meetings and conferences. I teach in Seton Hill University’s master’s program in Writing Popular Fiction, where you can learn everything you need to know about writing and publishing a novel while getting an MFA, too. It’s also low residency, so you only have to be on campus 5 days each semester. Seton Hill is located near Pittsburgh, and we have students from all over the world in this program. But bottom line, having a good idea is only the beginning. Learn what you don’t know before you start writing.
What are you reading now?
I just finished reading a book about famous murders from all over the world, but that’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea! Other books I’ve read recently because the author asked me to give them a cover quote, so you won’t be able to get those books for several months yet, but some that are out now that I can recommend are The Essence Of Malice by Ashley Weaver and Murder At Ocher Court by Alyssa Maxwell.
About the author. Victoria Thompson is the Edgar and Agatha Award nominated author of the Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt, and the new Counterfeit Lady series, featuring con artist Elizabeth Miles. The second book in the series, City of Secrets, releases in November 2018. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog. Visit her online at: victoriathompson.com