Dolores Gordon-Smith is my guest today. Dolores is great company and am always glad to run into her. We first met when she was on a panel that I chaired at Crimefest. That was also when I first encountered her series featuring Jack Haldean, set in the 1920s and drawing on the Golden Age tradition of the fair play mystery. They are rattling good reads.
I asked her, What comes first for you: a theme, plot, characters?
I tend to think of an intriguing incident first off, and puzzle out how it came to be. What led up to it, what happened afterwards – that sort of thing. That gives me an idea of who the characters are who have made the incident happen. For instance, as As If By Magic I knew I wanted a man to witness a murder in a deserted kitchen, where the body disappears minutes later after the police have been called in. I had to think why he was there – it wasn’t his kitchen so he’d broken in but he wasn’t a burglar. I also wanted him to be sympathetic but disbelieved, so I came up with George, who despite wearing full evening dress, is completely destitute and suffering from malaria. What happens to the body is, of course, the plot!
What’s your writing routine?
I write in the mornings – I think most people do – as that’s when I’m freshest. That’s the hard graft of actually making the book up! Editing, which is knocking the first draft into shape and the subsequent edits, I can do in the afternoon and evening, but life will keep getting in the way…
Your Jack Haldean novels are set in the 1920s. What drew you to that period?
I think the 1920’s are the perfect period for the sort of Whodunnit I like to read and write. The technology (telephones and cars) make it recognizably the modern world in a way that the Victorian era, say, isn’t, but forensic science hadn’t advanced far enough to get in the way of good story. The First World War had shaken up society in a way it had never been shaken before, so there’s that sense of society on an edge, in a time of change. In addition, I’m a massive fan of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers and the whole “Golden Age” of detective fiction. I was delighted to be asked to participate in a Golden Age day at the British Library on 20th June this year. If anyone would like to come – it’ll be a great day – you can find out more at http://thebodiesfromthelibrary.wordpress.com/
A favourite bookshop?
I live in Manchester which must be one of the most “unbooky” places in Britain. Seriously. There’s two big Waterstones in the centre of town, but that’s it.
What single thing would make your writing life easier?
Can you ask? A plot generating machine. I think science has been strangely lax in its lack of attention to this vital piece of technology!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished my tenth Jack book, The Chessman. That should be out in August. It concerns a body found in an otherwise idyllic parish church and is an idea I’ve been playing around with for ages.
To find out more about Dolores and her most novel, After the Exhibition, go to http://www.doloresgordon-smith.co.uk/. Her books are published by Severn House and are available in print, ebook and audio.