Friday, May 6, 2016

Karin Salvalaggio--Pilgrimage to Greenway



DEBORAH CROMBIE: Karin Salvalaggio is one of the rising stars of the last couple of years in crime fiction. Karin is a bit of a cultural mish-mash--born in the US, she had a peripatetic childhood thanks to her military family. She's now lived more than twenty years in London, but she sets her books in Montana. (And you thought I was confused!)  She's  also my London tour guide, pub crawl buddy, and Thames Walk task master (I swear she broke my Fitbit when I was there in January...) Her books are riveting and evocative, bringing her detective, Macy Greely, and small-town Montana to brilliant life. I was not at all surprised to find that she was inspired by none other than Agatha Christie. And she's promised to take me to Devon to see Greenway! If you're not jealous yet, you will be when you've read about her own visit.


KARIN SALVALAGGIO: Pilgrimage to Greenway

‘I never had a definite place which was my room or I retired especially to write … All I needed was a steady table and a typewriter.’
– Agatha Christie, An Autobiography, 1977

Agatha Christie’s words seem to stand in stark contrast to Virginia Woolf’s assertion that a woman must have ‘a room of her own if she is to write fiction’ but I would argue that Christie actually takes Virginia Woolf’s premise to a whole new level. In Greenway, her historic holiday home overlooking the River Dart in England, Christie created not only a room of her own, but a world of her own. It is where she found inspiration, solitude and a comfortable space to spend time with her family and friends. Greenway is a truly idyllic hideaway that plays a part in at least 2 of her 66 detective novels – as Nasse House in Dead Man’s Folly and Alderbury in Five Little Pigs. With surroundings such of these and a typewriter at the ready there was no reason for the world’s most famous crime writer to confine herself to a room. 


The Georgian house was built in the 19th Century, but there have been homes on the same site since the 1500s. Now a National Trust property, the home is a time capsule filled to the brim with all that Agatha Christie and her extended family held dear. The visitor gets much more than a glimpse into Christie’s private life. It is a place bursting with artefacts belonging to five generations of a family of avid collectors. The gardens and surrounding woodlands have been carefully tended for hundreds of years. In all 2700 plant species can be found there.


Greenway is a short ferry ride away from the town of Dartmouth, a historic port on the south coast of England. Full of tradition, the Britannia Royal Naval College still sits smartly on the hillside overlooking the river and the seafaring town. The tall ships that protected English sovereignty and transported Pilgrims to America have given way to sailboats, ferries and pleasure cruisers of all shapes and sizes. During the summer the town is chalk full with visitors and locals jockeying for space on its maze of streets and in the many pubs, bars and restaurants. A steady schedule of sailing regattas, music festivals and food festivals keep the area buzzing well into the autumn.


I am fortunate enough to have friends in Dartmouth who own a home that overlooks the inlet so I visit often. Last summer I went to the town’s quay and climbed aboard a charming twin-decked passenger ferry called the Christie Belle and sailed inland for about twenty minutes to Agatha Christie’s former summer home. From the River Dart I had views of the property’s gardens, boathouse and eventually the house itself. Greenway is a very grand white fronted Georgian residence that radiates out from the verdant hillside like a beacon. The ferry drops you off on a modest patch of ground across the river from a lovely village called Dittisham where a couple of excellent pubs can be found. 


As a crime writer I viewed my journey to Greenway somewhat like a pilgrimage. Though the guidebooks stress that this is a space shaped by not just Agatha Christie but 400 years of history, you can’t help but be swept up by the thrill of knowing that she once inhabited this place. There is the chair where Agatha sat, the piano where she played, the living room where she read her unpublished manuscripts aloud to family members, the gardens where she wandered, the dining table where she celebrated her 80th birthday and the boathouse where she drank hot chocolate while plotting a murder scene that would play out in Dead Man’s Folly



Writing novels requires so much more than a room of one’s own. In this day and age we are often on the road. Our writing space may be an airplane seat one day, a café the next and a kitchen table on another day. We need to be flexible as we work around our family commitments and increasingly hectic schedules. There is something special about being able to carve out one’s own room whatever our circumstances. I’d like to think that Agatha Christie was a pioneer of sorts. This was a woman who wrote 66 novels and 14 short story collections. If she says all that is required is ‘steady table and a typewriter’, I’m inclined to listen.
 

Karin was born in West Virginia in the 1960s. Her father was career military and her mother was a homemaker. Karin has fond memories of her nomadic childhood - the hours spent on the road, the anticipation of a new life, the unpacking of the old one. She’s lived in places as climatically diverse as Alaska and Florida and as culturally distinct as California and Iran. Karin attended the University of California Santa Cruz, graduating in 1989, but aside from two years in Italy, she has lived in London, England since 1994. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. Her short story “Walleye Junction” was published in the Mechanics Institute Review in 2011. Her novels featuring Montana detective Macy Greely include Bone Dust White and Burnt River. Walleye Junction will be available May 10th, 2016.



DEBS: Here's more about Walleye Junction:


When outspoken radio talk show host Philip Long is kidnapped and murdered, Detective Macy Greeley leaves her young son in the care of her mother and heads up to remote Walleye Junction, Montana to take charge of the investigation. It is initially believed that Long’s murder is the result of a controversial radio show he’s done on the rise of far right militias in the state. Within days the two kidnappers are found dead following a massive heroin overdose, and the authorities are hopeful the investigation is finished. But there are too many discrepancies for Macy to settle for obvious answers. The kidnapper’s bodies have been moved, their son is on the run and a series of anonymous emails point investigators toward the murky world of prescription painkiller abuse. Macy soon finds herself immersed in small town intrigues as she races to find who’s really responsible for Philip Long’s murder.

Meanwhile, Philip Long’s daughter Emma is dealing with her own problems. It’s been twelve years since she left Walleye Junction after her best friend died from a drug overdose. Emma finds that little in Walleye Junction has changed in her absence. She is also becoming increasingly uneasy as the familiar surroundings stir up memories that are best forgotten.


DEBS: And I particularly love this last photo of Karin at Greenway, doing what any writer would do...
REDS and readers, would you make this pilgrimage? Just seeing the photos gave me goosebumps.

And how do you feel about "a room of one's own"? 



45 comments:

  1. Oh, yes, in a heartbeat . . . I would most definitely make a pilgrimage to Greenway. Thanks for sharing the great pictures.

    As for “a room of one’s own,” I’m inclined to agree with Karin that, while a room might be nice, finding one’s own place wherever you happen to be would be most satisfactory.

    Macy’s new adventure sounds quite intriguing; I’m definitely looking forward to reading “Walleye Junction” . . . .

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  2. Wonderful evocative piece that gives me goosebumps too. What a great tour guide you are, Karin!

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    1. Diana, perhaps I'll turn my my hand to travel writing if my crime novels don't sell! :)

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  3. You should definitely plan a trip! Next I'd like to go see Daphne du Maurier's home in Cornwall.

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  4. I used to think I could write anywhere. I need uninvaded space. Very clearly stay away from me space. Leave me alone space. I have to be able to sit alone in a room and write.

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  5. And the travel part. I have to do that, too. Right now, though, I have all kinds of travel that needs to put its stories down on paper.

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  6. Please take me along with you Debs and Karin! this place sounds amazing. I love seeing writers' haunts. I go to Hemingway's house in Key West often when I'm there. and 2 summers ago we visited Edith Wharton's estate in Lenox MA--just lovely. Now the typewriter? no way. I have terrible tendinitis with a computer!

    Karin, tell us how you happen to live in England but write about Montana--that's a mystery!

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    1. Ex husband was transferred to London for work and I ended up staying far longer than expected to the point that my children sound more British than the Queen! I write about Montana because it's my favourite part of the states when it comes untouched wilderness. Living in the heart of a big city makes me miss open terrain.

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  7. Welcome, Karin -- what a great trip and lovely post. I only wish I had a room of my own. NYC apartment life is not conducive to space. It took me years to even have a desk of my own after sharing one with my husband for years...

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    1. Susan I used share an office with a husband. Now it's ALL mine :)

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    1. Oh, that's a novel way to find a little peace and quiet to write but moms do what they have to do! I'm fortunate now as my children are much older.

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  9. This is fabulous! Wonderful! And I agree, it does give me goosebumps…
    And somehow, I am so touched by the "steady" table. It's a tiny little details like that that makes it sound so genuine, you know?
    Her brain is endlessly fascinating. Thank you so much for this special tour! I am so eager to go in real life… And even more so now.
    And yes, I can write in coffee shops, and I love your right on airplanes! But I have to say my favorite is my…steady… desk.
    So great to see you today! Are you doing a US book tour? Are you coming to Bouchercon?

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    1. I'm not doing a US tour but will be at Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills, California on the 22nd of May. I will be at Bouchercon though! Can't wait to see everyone.

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  10. I did not know about Greenway, Karin - I'd definitely go. Hemingway's home. Edith Wharton's. I'd love to go to Jane Austen's, and here near Boston we have Louisa May Alcott's (do people still read Alcott?)

    I do think that a writer needs a space dedicated to writing, unless she lives alone and the world isn't likely to intrude. A door also helps keep me IN the room and not doing laundry or weeding the lawn.

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    1. Hallie, Louisa May Alcott's house must be divine! I agree about having a space where you can close off the world. I think Greenway was that place but just on a grander scale. For the most part I work in my office but sometimes I have to make do with more hostile environments. I've even learned to write in noisy pubs!

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  11. An avid Agatha Christie fan, I would love to see Greenway.

    And while it might be nice to have a "room of my own," that is going to have to wait until The Boy has vacated the house and I get my space back. Meanwhile, it's whatever space offers that "steady table" - and sometimes not even that!

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    1. What did we do before laptops? I haul mine around everywhere. Turns out there are lots of 'steady' desks out there in the world!

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  12. Karin, I your writing about Montana! I only lived four years total in the upstate New York area I write about - I'm also a military brat - but despite a 29 (!!) year residence in Maine, my fiction always comes back to Argyle and Hudson Falls.

    Room of my own: yes, the parlour of my 200 year old farmhouse, but I can also write anywhere I have solitude and quiet - the local uni library, my agents house in Nantucket (heaven!), the kitchen table in front of the woodstove when it gets really cold.

    I would add to a steady table, one of the right height, so you don't get shoulder knots!

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    1. Being a military brat does have its benefits! I feel like the years I moved around introduced me to all sorts of experiences I would have missed!

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    2. PS Very jealous of that house in Nantucket!

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  13. Thanks for the tour, Karen.

    I suppose everyone's Room of One's Own depends on what works for them, and it sounds like for Mrs. C, the "steady table and typewriter" was her ROOO.

    I now have a House of One's Own, but find different places in the house are best for different tasks. The upstairs office (filled with my mystery books) is my writing space.

    Though I think the best ROOO might have been the week I was on jury duty, and was never called, so I was held a room full of strangers, with no chance going anywhere, and no Wifi. Just me and my laptop. Very productive.

    Would I go to Greenway? In a heartbeat.

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    1. A few people have told me that jury duty is a great place to get writing done. I often wonder why I've never been called. I imagine a crime writer on a jury isn't necessarily a good thing!

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  14. Karin, Marcia Talley visited Greenway a couple of years ago and I've wanted to go ever since. I love her greenhouse/conservatory, but most of all I covet that sitting room! That gave me chills.

    I do have a room of my own (ROOO :-)) and I love my office. But in nice weather I also like writing downstairs in my sunporch, or even out on the deck. Not nearly as comfortable, however, and I'm contemplating putting a small real desk in the sunporch and ditching the rolling computer table. And I can write anywhere--sometimes more productively in busy cafes or pubs, where I'm not tempted to do household chores and nobody bothers me.

    Readers, Karin is out and about in London today with the lovely Diana chambers and I am SO jealous! I think we should all be there!

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    1. Diana and I are really missing you! I've taken her to her first pub, The Dove in Hammersmith. She's drinking a pint as I type! 🍺🍺🍺

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  15. So happy to see Karin here on JRW. Really folks, if you haven't read the books in the series, you are missing out. Her star will only continue to rise with each new book. I finished Walleye Junction earlier this week and WOW, Macy just continues to get more complex and interesting. (Review coming soon)

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    1. Hi Kristopher! Thank you! Your confidence in the Macy series means a great deal. Looking forward to seeing the review.

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  16. Would I LOVE to make this pilgrimage!!
    I have loved reading this piece - thank you, Karin.
    ‘steady table and a typewriter’ - love this too.

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    1. I think I'm going to have to organise a group trip to Greenway!

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  17. Hello, Karin!! Happy almost book birthday! Love seeing you here.

    I've always needed a room of my own, since I was a kid--a sanctuary. I was lucky not to have to share a bedroom with my sisters. Karin, what you wrote --

    "Writing novels requires so much more than a room of one’s own. In this day and age we are often on the road." --

    got me thinking that in these digital days "a room of one's own" is not so much physical, as mental -- a deeper, slower space away from (heh) social media and other random stimulation.

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  18. Hi Lisa! I love what you said: "a deeper, slower space away from social media and other random stimulation." (Of course we love that you checked in on JRW, too:-)) But I suspect that's why I can write well in coffee shops. I don't connect to the internet.

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    1. I think I'm fairly good at tuning out the noise but it takes a long while to get to the tipping point on a WIP when the world one the page is far more interesting than anything else. When this happens I can write just about anywhere!

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  19. I am envious of families that have been settled in one spot forever and pass the property down the line. All of my ancestors were rolling stones and my parents kept up that tradition! For that matter so did my husband and I. I guess I just want that house. . . You're right Karin. Moving around exposes you to all kinds of new things and traditions and nice people. And there is nothing wrong with that.

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  20. Hi Debs! I gotta get my JRW fix (though seems more sporadic lately, but that's OK) :-).

    Interesting thing I've noticed about myself, if we're talking about deeper, slower rooms of our own: I've lived in my first very own house for almost a year now (yee gads, time!), and I've surprised myself by loving laboring in my garden. It has become a new room, in a way. Very grounding, and I think it helps my writing overall. I'm more centered when I sit down to write, and because I'm more centered, less likely to be swayed over to the social media dark side as often or for as long.

    Hmm ... I might need to write my own blog post about this topic. :-) Thanks for the inspiration, Karin!

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  21. Karin SalvalaggioMay 6, 2016 at 1:15 PM

    Lisa, I think it's wonderful that you've settled into your new home so quickly. I've been enjoying your garden pictures. Creating a stress free environment is key but I don't seem to need a stress free life when I'm writing. In fact the more stressful it is the more likely you'll find me with a nose in my laptop.

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  22. I wish I were like that when it comes to stress. You're more likely to find me with head buried in novels than in my own stories. Sadly.

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  23. I've been out car buying today, and so I am coming to the Reds late today. But, oh how thrilled I was to find Karin here today. I am a huge fan of the Macy Greeley series, and I loved this latest, Walleye Junction. I'm featuring Karin in an interview on my blog on Monday or Tuesday. (Karin, do you want it to run the day before publication day or the day of?) I hope you all will visit the blog at http://www.readingroom-readmore.com/ because Karin is absolutely brilliant in her answers. And, as well as the great stories in this series, I love the covers on each book, too. Can't wait to see you at Bouchercon, Karin, and please count me in on a Greenway group trip. With you and Debs and anyone else here, it would be sure to be one fun day after another. Oh, and Diana would definitely need to be in that group, too.



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  24. I sounded like a wet blanket. Didn't I? I was having trouble with my speech to text and cut my sentences too short, the easing going comfortable stuff was the hardest to enunciate for the mike... so there you are. I'll remember to refrain from that speech technique, and try to get the right feel.

    I actually love travel to places in England, especially, and wrote a lot there in the dean's garden at Christ Church Oxford where Dodgson got to know Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass. She was the daughter of the Dean at Christ Church when Dodgson was there.

    When I was there, I walked past his room each day to get to Tom Gate and my seminars. It was an inspiring walk.

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  25. Oh, I would so love to go to Greenway and Daphne du Maurier's house too. I'm thinking I need to add both to my bucket list.

    Hallie, I hope people still read Alcott. I can't imagine a world without the next generation of Jo Marches.

    I do have a room of my own - well half a room. I have two desks and two computers in my room. One for the day job, one for the writing work. That said, I can write anywhere. Once wrote two chapters waiting for the mechanic to fix my car. Given my druthers though, if it's not my desk, I'll cart the laptop outside and enjoy the fresh air.

    Susan, amazing that they let you have a laptop at jury duty. Last time I was called they wouldn't even let me have my cell phone, and I had to argue to keep the Kindle (Paperwhite, not Fire). They took the no electronics dictum very seriously. Next time I'm just bringing a book.

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  26. Karin SalvalaggioMay 7, 2016 at 2:22 AM

    Kaye, I'll keep Jungle Reds posted. Maybe I should form a tour group for crime writers and crime fiction fans. It would be quite a trip! Highly recommend Greenway if you ever make it to the UK.

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  27. Karin SalvalaggioMay 7, 2016 at 2:25 AM

    Pat D, interestingly the house I'm in presently is the place I've lived the longest in my life. 20+ years and counting! I've now had a taste for both ways of life. I really can't say that one is better than the other.

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  28. Karin SalvalaggioMay 7, 2016 at 2:29 AM

    Kathy, it's now morning in London. Sorry I didn't respond sooner but I needed to get to bed! Thank you for the Walleye Junction endorsement. I'm always very nervous around this time - the countdown clock to publication is ticking! I would rather have the blog posted on The Reading Room on the 10th as I have so much work on at the moment I'd rather have that full day to focus on the new book! Yes, we must organise a road trip. Maybe Bouchercon should be held in the UK one year!?

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  29. Karin SalvalaggioMay 7, 2016 at 2:34 AM

    Reine, lovely memories! Oxford is stunning. I imagine the Dean's garden at Christ Church is an especially magical place. So much history!

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  30. Arrgh! Karin! Not Karen. Sorry sorry sorry.

    No electronics in the Jury Room, Kim? Amazing. (Maybe that's an American thing?)

    Karin, a good idea if one doesn't wish to be selected (but it's fascinating to do so). The lawyers will take one look at your profession and cry out "Challenge!" simultaneously.

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