DEBORAH CROMBIE: Check your compasses, folks! We are still across the Pond, but we've moved from freezing cold Yorkshire in the present day to London post 1912 and the fictional world of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins. What could be more delightful?
Here are Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta, writing as D.E. Ireland, to tell you about--
GOING OFF SCRIPT
Basing a mystery series on real people or famous fictional characters has its advantages. Whether an author decides to make their protagonist Arthur Conan Doyle or his famous Baker Street detective, a lot of the groundwork has been done. And there’s a ready made audience comprised of readers who either are intrigued by this historical figure or love the books these characters were first seen in. Jane Austen is now sleuthing, along with her delightful heroine Elizabeth Darcy. Mozart, Jane Eyre, Beatrix Potter, and Dorothy Parker are the stars of their own mystery franchises, and Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes’s housekeeper, has joined her clever employer in the crime solving game as well.
Since our series is based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, we’ve reaped the benefit of fans who remember the play with fondness or – more likely – adored the 1964 musical My Fair Ladystarring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Shaw made it easy for us. He not only created such memorable characters as Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, and the lively Alfred Doolittle, but he wrote a lengthy epilogue on what he envisioned for these characters after the curtain went down. However, his future plans for Eliza and Higgins didn’t include solving murders, so that required some tweaking on our part.
Sometimes more than tweaking is required and we have to go completely off script. For example, we introduced Eliza’s cousin, Jack Shaw, another East Ender who pulls himself out of the slums and is now a Scotland Yard detective. Having a relative in the Yard allows Eliza and Higgins access to police information they otherwise would never be privy to. We’ve also taken the liberty of adding suffragette Sybil Chase to the cast. As Jack’s fiancée, Sybil will become a “sister” to Eliza, initiating her into the fight for women’s rights. Principled and politically driven, Sybil reflects Shaw’s own version of a modern woman.
Although Colonel Pickering has an important supporting role in Pygmalion, we adore him as much as Eliza does and plan to expand his character in future books. Certainly he must have interesting stories to tell about the many years he spent in India. And if any My Fair Lady fans were curious about the woman Alfred Doolittle was preparing to wed when he sang ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’, wonder no more. The colorful Rose Cleary Doolittle will have a chance to shine – and argue with Eliza – throughout the series.
When it comes to Shaw’s original characters, Freddy Eynsford Hill and his younger sister Clara, we’ve gone completely off script. In the play, Freddy is a love-struck swain who does little morethan moon after Eliza. Shaw claims that he and Eliza eventually marry and run their own flower shop. When they run into financial difficulties, both of them are forced to take night classes in bookkeeping. Clara is a foolish and snobbish teenager in Pygmalion. Shaw stated that she later becomes a devotee of H.G Wells, and works in a furniture store with a fellow Wellsian. We couldn’t do much with either of those scenarios. So in our second book, Clara falls in love with a young baron, who luckily takes as great a fancy to her. Will wedding bells be ringing for these two in the next book? We certainly hope so. A pretentious 18-year-old with a new title and loads of money should make for a few interesting adventures.
As for her brother, we decided our Freddy has “a need for speed”. In Move Your Blooming Corpse, he’s a proud member of the London Rowing Team at the Henley Regatta, and may end up racing automobiles! But don’t be surprised if a romantic rival for Eliza’s attention turns up in Book Three. Where Freddy is concerned, we generally side with Higgins. We have no wish to see the independent and feisty Eliza Doolittle become Mrs. Eynsford Hill and go back to selling flowers.
We definitely went off script when Eliza became a fellow elocution teacher with Higgins in our series. Shaw made it clear in his epilogue that neither Higgins nor Pickering thought Eliza was ready to be an instructor, and that Eliza would not go against their wishes. Our Eliza is even more stubborn than Shaw imagined, and she’s been teaching her own students how to speak the King’s English from the opening chapter of our first book. This also allows us to keep her and Higgins in close proximity, especially since they live together at 27A Wimpole Street… chaperoned by Colonel Pickering and housekeeper Mrs. Pearce, of course.
While we are endlessly grateful that Shaw created such colorful and engaging personalities, we believe taking creative license with his characters refreshes and livens up the series. We hope readers agree.
And Sharon and Meg have a copy of their new book to give away to THREE lucky commenters!
Writing under the pen name D.E. Ireland , longtime friends and award winning authors Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta teamed up in 2013 to create a series based on George Bernard Shaw’s celebrated characters Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins. The first book in the series, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, was a 2014 Agatha Award finalist for Best Historical Mystery.
In Move Your Blooming Corpse, Eliza and Higgins are off to the Ascot races when Alfred Doolittle becomes part owner of the Donegal Dancer, a champion racehorse. But the victory is spoiled when a man is trampled on the course and someone is found murdered in the stables. With time running out before the next race, Eliza and Higgins investigate jealous spouses, suffragettes, and the colorful co-owners of the Donegal Dancer. But can they outrace the killer, or will there be another blooming corpse at the finish line?
DEBS: It's been years since I saw the movie, and I did NOT remember that Jeremy Brett played Freddie! How fabulous! I'm going to have to watch it again. And I can't wait to read Move Your Blooming Corpse.
REDS and readers, do you enjoy seeing fictional or historical characters in a new incarnation? Tell us and be eligible for one of three copies of Move Your Blooming Corpse.