Today please welcome special guest Maggie Robinson to Maine Crime Writers. Maggie is a former teacher, library clerk and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night, absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adjectives and adverbs as possible doing so. Some twenty historical romances later, she’s decided to try her hand at historical mystery and the result, Nobody’s Sweetheart Now, was published this week by Poisoned Pen Press. A two-time Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice nominee, her books have been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Dutch and Italian. A transplanted New Yorker, she now lives with her not-quite perfect husband in Maine, where the cold winters are ideal for staying inside and writing.
The Reformation/Rehabilitation/Regeneration of a Romance Writer
by Maggie Robinson
I was working on the fourth book of my Cotswold Confidential historical romance series, and it was taking forever. One whole year, only 40,000 words. And those 40,000 words? Pure dreck. The hero was an undercover spy who was presumed dead, his estranged wife both frigid and dyslexic. He tries to woo her pretending to be someone else, and she’s so inane she doesn’t recognize her own husband. Just typing this makes me howl with laughter.
Something had to change. Get me loving writing again. And something that wouldn’t take most of two years to finish. I am a terrible pantser, cannot plot or outline to save my life, so I’d always avoided mysteries, my first reading love. How could I write a mystery, which requires some structure, when I never knew what was going to happen until my fingers hit the keyboard and my brain more or less woke up?
But on the advice of my agent, I decided to try, and I discovered that I did NOT have to know whodunit. I just fixed it so that virtually everybody could have, and decided along the way. Guilty until proven innocent, which has been getting a bad rap lately, but it works for me.
And so, in a mere two and a half months last fall at my desk in Belgrade, I wrote Nobody’s Sweetheart Now, a 1920s-era cozy featuring Lady Adelaide Compton, a widowed marquess’ daughter, Devenand Hunter, an Anglo-Indian detective from Scotland Yard, and…Great War flying ace Major Rupert Compton, Addie’s late and unlamented husband. Yes, a ghost, who must atone for his many sins by doing a few good deeds before he can earn his celestial wings. Something unlocked and the words flowed. The book released on November 13, and so far critics have been kind.
I don’t have the benefit of working in a pharmacy as Agatha Christie did, so if anyone looks at my computer history, they’ll be worried I’m going to poison them. Or join a girl gang like the Forty Elephants, who stuffed fur coats and diamond bracelets into their knickers, robbing homes and stores throughout England. Research has been the most fun, and the Roaring Twenties are rife with plot bunnies. Although off by a decade, watching all those black and white screwball comedies from the 30s came in handy, too.
Each book in the Lady Adelaide series is named for a song popular in the era. The second, Who’s Sorry Now?, comes out next May. I was shocked to realize the song didn’t originate with Connie Francis, but was published in 1923. This really was a golden age in music, delivering standards that hold up perfectly almost a hundred years later. It Had to Be You. Me and My Shadow. Always. Someone to Watch Over Me. Like Rupert!
So, I am embracing a life of crime, finding it much more satisfying to kill off my characters than make them kiss. I have seen the light…or perhaps the dark. In any event, thank you Maine Crime Writers for this opportunity to guest post!
You can read first chapters of all my books at MaggieRobinson.net
[An aside, from Kathy/Kaitlyn: I’ve already read Nobody’s Sweetheart Now and it’s terrific—fast-paced, fun, and funny.]