Sunday, November 30, 2008

Her Royal Newness

"There is a reason Rhys Bowen gets nominated for so many awards. She's just damn good."
—Crimespree Magazine

You've noticed the new photo at the top, of course. (Here's a nice big one.)
Please join us in welcoming a brilliant (we're brushing up our Brit-speak) addition to Jungle Red Writers: Rhys Bowen.

She's the author of the Molly Murphy mysteries featuring an Irish immigrant woman in 1900s New York City, also the Constable Evans mysteries set in North Wales.

Her mysteries have been nominated for every major mystery award, including the Edgar for best novel, and she has won eight of them.

Not one who sits on her laurels, in 2007 she stunned readers and reviewers with HER ROYAL SPYNESS, the first of a new series about the British royal family in the 1930s. Called Bridget Jones meets Maisie Dobbs with a touch of royal flair, it's great fun. It became an Independent Mystery Bookseller's #1 bestseller and was nominated for the Dilys, Agatha, Romantic Times and Macavity awards. Then in 2008 she followed that up with a sequel, A ROYAL PAIN.

She lives in San Francisco...arrived there by way of Wales and Australia and lots of wonderful places. She's worked for the BBC and Australian Broadcasting. We're eager to hear all about her life and adventures and writing and not-writing. But there's plenty of time for that here at the blog.
Welcome to Jungle Red!

RHYS: I was thrilled to be invited. Jungle Red sounds sexy and dangerous and I've had enough of being labeled cozy and safe! So thank you all for your warm welcome.

HANK: Well, dangerous or not, you may be the only one of us who knows how to give an actual tea party. Where did you learn that? And what are the secrets?

RHYS: The teatime ritual is part of British tradition, even though everyone has less time for tea these days. I have always thought it is the perfect meal--delectable little nibbles, warm scones, clotted cream and jam, tiny sandwiches and soothing tea. Also it was always a time to step back from the chaos of the day and relax. I still love to give tea parties and talk about tea parties. And I have to confess that my heroine's tea with Queen Mary is based on my own tea party experience with the current queen!

HANK: Oh, wait. I'm interrupting. Can you tell us more?

RHYS: I should probably explain that I'm not in the habit of dining with royalty. I'm not 34th in line to the throne, nor even 35th! The Queen Mother was patron of my college and was supposed to be coming to open a new science wing. She wasn't feeling well so the queen came instead. Six of us (i was the vice president of student council) were invited to tea. A lovely tea table, the queen and six girls. She was so nice, warm, funny and made us at ease. The food looked fabulous--BUT--we were instructed that protocol demanded we only eat what Her Maj eats... and she ate one piece of brown bread. We had to stare at all those tiny eclairs, strawberry tarts etc with longing in our eyes.

ROBERTA: Oh drat, leave it to Hank to steal the tea party question before the rest of us could get to it! I'd like to know how you have the energy to write two books a year, plus short stories, plus tour like crazy. How do you manage all that?

RHYS: Put it down to insanity and a masochistic temperament.
I ask myself the same question quite frequently. I'm just the original girl who can't say no. When someone asks me to come and speak, to write a short story, I hear myself saying yes, because I'm scared if I say no they'll never ask me again.
And as for the two books a year. I keep coming up with new ideas and want to tackle them right away. I also enjoy the short stories because they let me tackle stories with more diversity and darkness than my books.

JAN: I recently read your short story, DO HAVE A CUP OF TEA, in Strand Magazine, a delightful tale about reviewer revenge. Was that inspired by any real event, a culmination of the years, or was that just to entertain all the writers in the audience? (Because I, for one, got a HUGE kick out it.)
(Here's a photo of Rhys with Andrew Gulli, the editor of Strand Magazine.)

RHYS: I've only ever had one bad review and that was from a small North Wales newspaper. The reviewer said that I didn't know what I was talking about and the book was so bad that he couldn't put it down. Of course I used that quote whenever I could: "Couldn't put it down!" North Wales Daily Post. But he annoyed me so much that I wrote this story and dedicated it to him. It felt great!

HALLIE: I do think your invention of Lady Georgina, Her Royal Spyness, is a stroke of genius. Did you "feel" like that book was going to be the big success that it was? Where did Georgie come from??

RHYS: Lady Georgie was either an act of defiance or desperation. My publisher kept telling me they could only break me out if I wrote a big dark stand-alone. I kept thinking of serial killers, child molesters and decided that I didn't want to spend six months with these people.
So I thought of the most unlikely sleuth and came up with Georgie--she's royal with all the expectations of royalty but she's flat broke. And of course

I love the Thirties, such a great era of contrasts and Noel Coward and really interesting people.

I didn't know how anyone would take it but when my agent called to say she loved it, and one of the publishers it went to wrote "I loved this. Loved it. loved it loved it" I thought I might be onto something.

It has been so gratifying to see it doing well and appealing to a wide variety of people.

HANK: So does part of you live in the present, and part of you in the Thirties? Are you in constant time travel mode? Or when you're writing, do you just--stay there?

RHYS: When I'm actually writing I'm very much in the moment and inside Molly's or Georgie's head. But as to being in the Thirties--one really doesn't have to go back in time to experience Georgie's life. I have relatives who still live in manor houses and hold sherry parties and talk as if the world hasn't changed since 1930. But I adore the Thirties clothes and style. I found a fabulous art deco bracelet at a stall on the Portobello Road in London this summer. I literally wrestled it away from another woman.

HANK: So, you're going to Hawaii as Guest of Honor at Left Coast Crime. Lovely. Tell all. (And will you bring us presents?)

RHYS: I was so excited when the Gottfrieds asked me to be guest of honor at Left Coast Crime next year. That in itself was amazing, but when I found out that the convention is going to be in Hawaii, in March, AND that my co-guest of honor is the cute and adorable and macho Barry Eisler. I mean, what more could one want. By the way, fares are coming down rapidly so it may be affordable, even from the East Coast.

JRW: Hallie's going. The rest of us are still lusting, at this point. But you never know. When's the next book? And what is it? And what should we know about it? And we should give away a couple when the time comes, right?

Tomorrow: Rhys' debut column! Come chat...and make her feel welcome. (Her JRW sisters know what she's going to say...and we bet you'll be surprised!) And hey--we have two lovely copies of Her Royal Spyness to give away! Leave a comment...and we'll draw a winner at random. Right after a spot of tea....


  1. Welcome Rhys! I've seen the new header,but don't know why it's not up there...gremlins again..we'll work it out, probably by the time I post this.

    The first time I met Rhys I was lucky enough to be seated next to her at the Edgars banquet. Everyone kept coming over to this positively (can I say it?) regal woman as if they were paying tribute. By the end of the night I realized they were! I still thank Margery for giving me the best seat in the house and a great introduction to mystery royalty.
    And I love the flower behind the we're really dangerous and sexy!

  2. Hi all!

    And here's the new day at Jungle Red. We're so happy..guess you can tell that.

    Our new photos are up on my computer--gang? Do you see Rhys at the top of the page?

    Dob't forget to commnet and be entered to win a free book!

  3. Welcome, Rhys! And great interview, the rest of you Jungle queens.

    I'm ashamed to admit I finally read the first Molly book; it was my first Rhys book, in fact. I am a convert and your timing in joining the group is great, Rhys. I was hoping you'd be blogging somewhere.

  4. Hey Susan! So great to see you here. And thank you, all, for reading around my typos. Sheesh.

  5. Clearly I have been missing something good. Just got back from the libary with 4 Rhys Bowen books in my arms!

    I can see the new header, by the way, and it looks great. Welcome, Rhys!


  6. Welcome, Rhys. We bumped elbows a few times at Bouchercon, but never got to meet. Still, it was an honor and I'm a fan, as well.

    Congratulations on landing in such good company. I'm sure the honors go both ways...

    Felicia Donovan

  7. Rhys, Congratulations on all your wonderful books! They help keep us all sane.


  8. Dear Rhys,

    Thank you for all your wonderful books, they help keep us sane.


  9. Nice to see you here Rhys! I'll have a celebratory cup of tea for you. Cheers! Clare

  10. Welcome, Rhys!! Great to see you amongst these lovely ladies... :-D

    I loved Her Royal Spyness! I've read some of your Evans books in the past, but being brought up on British tv and film in Australia, I had echoes of the Carry On crew when I was reading Evans characters. :-D It's me, not your writing. You write brilliantly.

    Tea with the Queen. Sigh...


  11. YAY! Rhys is here!!! (from Laura, who is waving madly!)

  12. Welcome, Rhys! I could almost hear your charming accent as you answered questions! I began reading your books before writing my own and love them all. it's great to see you here among these other classy, funny, and talented ladies.

    I'm done buttering up now - enjoy the great readers on this blog as well. Cheers!

  13. Okay, Rhys, now I'm going to go and get an armload of your books. You've joined a great group.