"Readers who savor excellent writing will find that Ms. Crombie delivers it again."
**New York Journal of Books
Hear that? It's the trumpet fanfare! It's fireworks!! See that? Its confetti! And watch this--its the Reds clinking champagne glasses to celebrate the publication of NO MARK UPON HER, the latest triumph from New York Times Best-selling Red Deborah Crombie.
Yes, yes, usually on Monday we chat among us all..and today is no different. Imagine us all--including you--sitting around someone's living room, each of us holding Debs' new book..and getting to ask anything we want! I'll start. And we're giving away a signed book to one lucky commenter!
(Oh and this just in: it's going to be a fun week on JRW. Nancy Martin. Joshilyn Jackson. And more! Who do you think of when we say: Cheese? Plus we wonder--does Father really know best?)
And now--Ta dah! Our fabulous Debs.
ught so I certainly did! I just have to ask: Debs, how did this all happen?
Seriously, I think I can blame a good bit of it on public television. PBS began broadcasting in our market when I was eight years old, and I was completely hooked. I never missed a Masterpiece Theater (and read all the books upon which the adaptations were based, including all nine volumes of John Galsworthy's The Forsythe Saga. How, I don't know . . .) British comedies, mysteries, All Creatures Great and Small (I was such a James Herriott fan that my first book is set where he practiced in Yorkshire,) Monty Python (that was enough to warpyou for life) and then, of course, Dr. Who...
And then I read everything else British I could get my hands on. No logical reason for this passion. No one in my family was British or descended from British stock, as far as I know.
My parents took me to England as my graduation gift when I finished college. And that really was it. The minute I saw the checkered fields of Surrey spread out beneath us as we descended into Gatwick, I felt I'd come home. I still feel that way.
HANK: Well, we all fell in love with the Beatles, you know? And tried speaking with a British accent. But it didn't fly in Zionsville, Indiana. I went to England when I was--16? and adored it. But still... :-) But it sounds like you discovered more than you expected...
DEBS: It's very strange, but I'm certainly grateful for it.
After that first trip, I concentrated everything in my life on getting back, and I've been doing that in one way or another ever since.
HANK: It does seem like a--part of you was there, and you found it, you know? Kind of..spooky. In a good way, of course, Anyway, your new book instantly transports readers to another place..and off the bat, I must say it sounds as if you've immersed yourself in yet another surprising world. How'd you think of this? I mean, when was the moment you thought? ah. The River. And SAR.
DEBS: Two big things came together in No Mark Upon Her. Do you sort of have a jumble of ideas stewing aroun
HANK: Jumble is precisely the word I'd choose! Or--chaos, or tangle. Hallie has what she calls a compost pile. (It's better than..no ideas, right?) So you do, too?
DEBS: Always. I actually call it "the soup." I'm continually throwing things in, then fishing out bits that might work together. I'd wanted to write about working dogs, and was fascinated by search and rescue. And somewhere, somehow, like Kieran, one of my characters, I fell in love with sculling and rowing. I can't remember the first time I saw a single sculler, or a rowing eight. (And if you don't know the difference between sculling and rowing, you will when you read the book, right, Hank?)
Anyway, was it Oxford? Ely? Or London, along Putney Reach? But I was enchanted. It looks so impossibly graceful, and it's so incredibly hard. I loved the contrast of it. And I think I'm always attracted to thinks that require obsession, and rowing definitely falls in that category.
HANK: Well, you'd set part of a much earlier book, Leave the Grave Green, in Henley, so you knew the town a bit, right?
DEBS: That's right. And then, once you start learning about competitive rowing, Henley IS the center of the universe, so Henley became the obvious choice for the setting. Then all those lovely universe-clicking-together things happened. I had a friend who knew the then-president of Leander Club, and through his introduction I got to stay at Leander for the first time. From there, I became absolutely immersed (only figuratively, thank goodness) in rowing.
HANK: Hands on? Or--oars on?
DEBS: I did actually get out on the river! Through a friend I'd made at Leander, I was introduced to Stevie Williams (that's Sir Steve Williams, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the coxless four). To my delight and utter terror, Steve offered to take me outfor a rowing lesson in a double scull.
That experience grew into the first scene in the book, and I think I can say it was the most exhilarating, frightening, fabulous research of my writing career.
HANK: So what's No Mark about?
DEBS: Duncan (that's Superintendent Duncan Kincaid) and Gemma (Inspector Gemma James) are coming back from a family celebration of their marriage when Duncan is called to investigate a suspicious drowning in Henley-on-Thames. The victim, Rebecca Meredith, was a competitive rower hoping to make a comeback at the upcoming Olympic Games. But she was also a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police.
Duncan soon learns that too many people had reasons to want Becca dead, and that some of them may have been in his own police force.
Gemma investigates the case from another angle, and it's only when the two halves come together that they discover very frightening truths that will threaten their friendships, their careers, and even their lives.
HANK:. Tell us about your life. How do you balance your two worlds?Or are there even more?
DEBS: Ha. I don't balance. At least not very well. For all my Anglophilia, I also love where I live, in Texas. There's my husband, daughter, family, friends. I love my old house, I love my town. I live about halfway in between the town where I grew up and the town where I went to college. You couldn't get more provincial.
HANK: That is so fascinating...I mean, you must have two brains: the Brit and the Texan. (Which sounds kind of like a romance novel...can't you just picture the cover?) What does your family say about it? (And this is the cover of the British version..MUST see them both!)
DEBS: I've learned that writers' families don't think what they do is the least bit glamorous, although my daughter loves going to London with me. Otherwise, they know the REAL story, which is long hours at the keyboard, other things not getting done, and lots of moaning and complaining on all sides:-)
And yes, I can see "The Brit and the Texan" with a nice bodice-ripper cover. Me, I'm just culturally confused. I say things in Texas that seem normal to me until people give me very strange looks...
HANK: Anyway-it all seems to work. Where did you write your first novel?
DEBS: I was back in Dallas (after having lived in England and Scotland for a while, but that is another story) but I missed the UK SO much.
I think the book was a way to assuage that constant ache of longing for Britain. And I
'm still doing that. Whenever I go to England my heart lifts in the most amazing way--I feel more "me" there than at any other time. And no time I spend there is ever, ever, enough. But then I miss home, too. So I make, ideally, two or three trips to England a year, staying two to three weeks at a time, where I research like mad and cram in as much as I can.
HANK: Do you write there?
DEBS: For a long time I wondered if I could actually write in England, or if I needed the distance of being an ocean removed back in Texas. But I've finished the last two books, Necessary as Blood and No Mark Upon Her, in the same flat in Notting Hill.
HANK: Sigh.It sounds lovely...tell us ONE thing about it...so we can dream at least.
It's in the next street over from Portobello Road, and it's what the English call a "garden" flat, which means it's a half-level down on the street side, but garden level in the back. The place is a bit eccentric/shabbily/chic, with a gorgeous sitting room on the garden and a gas fire, and I absolutely adore it. Staying there has made Notting Hill seem like home to me, as it is to Duncan and Gemma, and I've made friends because of the flat that have spilled into other parts of my life and been the genesis of so many ideas for the books .
. . Oh, you said ONE thing. Ooops. I get a bit carried away...
HANK: Do you take a rest between books? Or do you know what's next?
DEBS: No rest for the wicked, right? Or writers. I'm always thinking about the next book, and as soon as I finish one I write the proposal for the next and start researching.
I'm now immersed in another book (my 15th!), another setting. When I wrote my first novel, A Share in Death, my daydream was that if I could sell it and write a series, I'd have an excuse to make regular trips to the UK, see wonderful things, stay interesting places.
Looking back on it, that was, I think, an astonishingly good plan, and so far I haven't come up with a better one.
HANK: Smiling--very wise! Finally--what have you learned about yourself do you think, in this process? And do you have one piece of advice to writers?
DEBS: Oh, hard questions, Hank.
I think I've know since my early teens that I had some sort of instinctive gift for words. But I never, ever imagined myself as a storyteller. That, I think, is a learned process. But it's taught me to trust my own imagination. There is always another story.
Advice? Read. Read. Read. Then write the kind of book you absolutely love to read, and pay no attention whatsoever to any advice about "writing for the market." That's the man behind the curtain, not the real thing. And there is always a place in the world for the real thing.
HANK: Debs, we are all so happy for you! Reds, she'll be here all day...but just say hi in the comments (and tell us your favorite British thing!) we'll enter you for a free signed copy of her book!
"New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie is a native Texan who writes crime novels set in the United Kingdom. Her DuncanKincaid/Gemma James series has received numerous awards, including Edgar, Macavity, and Agatha nominations, and is published in more than a dozen countries to international acclaim.
Crombie lives in North Texas with her husband, German shepherds, and cats, and divides her time between Texas and Great Britain. Her latest novel, No Mark Upon Her, will be published by William Morrow in 2012. She is currently working on her fifteenth Kincaid/James novel."