Rhys: So which would you prefer--reading a book by a tried and true author you love or trying a book by an exciting-sounding new author? How about having your cake and eating it, as my father used to say.
Today at Jungle Red we're thrilled to welcome new author Victoria Abbott who just happens to be old friend Mary Jane Maffini, now writing a new series with her daughter Victoria under the pen name Victoria Abbott.
Their first book together in a series about about book collectors is called THE CHRISTIE CURSE and we're welcoming Mary Jane today to tell us just what the experience was like when mother and daughter try to work together:
Take it away, MJ.
You think politics is fraught with peril?
Trust me, the politics of the mother/daughter relationship sometimes resembles a slow tiptoe though a minefield and occasionally it’s the mad tumble over a waterfall straight onto the rocky outcroppings below. But then again, when it’s good, it’s very very good.
The day my daughter Victoria and I signed the contract to write the book collector mysteries—as Victoria Abbott—we were practically dancing. We loved the idea and the possibilities for the characters and their adventures in the world of obsessed book collectors. We’d both been part of Prime Crime mystery bookstore for several years and we knew and loved mysteries. We cherished the books and authors of the so-called golden age of mystery. We enjoyed each other’s company. So, what could go wrong? Oh wait, isn’t that the question that authors ask themselves just before the explosion/train wreck/collapsing floor/freezer door locking shut/man with a gun?
Sure we had our differences: We found that age has an impact on language and “some people” have a roundabout way of speaking that wouldn’t serve a contemporary sleuth in her mid-twenties. Homogenizing the dialogue and description was a big part of our rewrite. This book shouldn’t sound like either one of us.
Speaking of peril, what about commas? Never mind. Not talking about them at all.
We did need to find a way to produce scenes. We tried alternating scenes, sitting across the table from each other and working them out, each one twitching when the other took charge. But in the end, the best way was to have a conversation on the phone, acting (and living) each scene, with one person keyboarding like a demented monk and the other one … I don’t know, taking a bath?
As for ideas, there was no shortage, although we didn’t always like the other’s suggestion. We each have a veto for what’s brought to the plot, but it’s a last resort. We both have to be satisfied that a scene works and belongs in the book. When we didn’t see eye-to-eye, time took care of that and eventually we could tell whether or not that scene or idea would make the cut.
By the end of The Christie Curse: a book collector mystery, we discovered many things we hadn’t realized we had in common. Apparently, we believe strongly in the entertainment value of eccentric relatives, real and fictional. We are amused by the comic possibility of a low level criminal family who raised an honest young woman. Despite this leaning, we have a commitment to justice and the right outcome. We love dogs and admire, but are wary of, cats—and yet, there they are. We still feel those fictional scratches.
We are fascinated by vast historic houses with mile-long corridors, acres of manicured property and antiques, although Victoria knows a lot more about them.
Turns out, we are deft at bumping off people. We love to laugh and we revel in that frisson of fear that the darkest moment brings. Then there’s food. We managed to bring in many of the mouth-watering Italian dishes that we’d been lucky enough to be served over the years and that we can now prepare ourselves (dirtying every dish and utensil in the house).
And that’s another thing: we’ve become quite fond of Jordan Bingham, our young and resourceful researcher who is the actual sleuth. She’s neither of us. She’s who is needed to do this job. To balance out the challenges she faces, we gave her a great vintage wardrobe, a cozy garret, a classic Saab and the ability to eat anything she wants without feeling the pinch of a vintage waistband.
In the end, we were happy with the results. As for the process, the worst part for me was biting my tongue. I didn’t ask Victoria what the worst part was. I was afraid she might not hold back. As they say, discretion over valor. We’ve just started The Wolfe Widow, the third in the book collector series, so that’s a good thing.
Thanks so much for the chance to visit Jungle Red Writers! Victoria and I feel honored and grateful. It’s a very good jungle you have here.
Rhys: As the world's biggest fan of Agatha Christie I can't wait to get my hand on this book, but you can also get a signed copy right now by leaving the best comment of the day on this blog. And by the way, MJ, shouldn't it be called The Wolfe Whistle?
Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and her mother, mystery writer, Mary Jane Maffini. They have lived to tell the tale. www.victoria-abbott.com and can be found lurking at www.mysteryloverskitchen.com and www.killercharacters.com and even pinterest.com/jbinghamkelly.