Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Deborah Crombie: Dreaming Up The Sound of Broken Glass

BREAKING NEWS: We're giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter... tune in tomorrow to see who wins it...

HALLIE EPHRON: Today, yes TODAY! Deborah Crombie's fantastic new mystery featuring the much married Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James "The Sound of Broken Glass." 

Full disclosure: I loved this book! I was thrilled to read an early copy, and two of the things that stick with me are the characters and and incredible sense of place. I particularly got attached to Nadine and Andy -- she's a young teacher, he's just thirteen and a brilliant musician, and they're both damaged goods. It seems such an unlikely place to start the novel, and yet it works. How did they come to you?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Andy walked onto the page three books ago, as a very minor character in Where Memories Lie. He was only meant to be a witness to a murder, but he started talking in my head, the way characters sometimes do, and I found I knew just enough about him that I wanted to know more. In the next book I discovered that he had a personal connection with Duncan and Gemma, through Charlotte, and that let me set the stage for telling his story.

Nadine, now, I'm a little reluctant to confess about that, for fear of being thought whacko. I dreamed her. This was certainly my strangest experience as a writer.

When I say dreamed, I'm simplifying. I woke about four in the morning--this was just after I'd finished the previous book, "No Mark Upon Her" --with no recollection of having dreamed, but with a great chunk of what became "The Sound of Broken  Glass" in my head.

I'd known some of Andy's back story, and that I wanted to set the book in Crystal Palace, but suddenly I had Nadine. I got up, got a notebook, and wrote like made for about five hours, knowing that even as I did, some of it was slipping away.

Things changed in the writing of the novel, of course, but the core of the story remained, and more than anything, the atmosphere.

HALLIE: Your series stars DI Gemma James and DS Duncan Kincaid, now married with kids including an adorable three-year-old foster child who's lost her birth parents. Gemma's got a promotion and Duncan stays home with the kids. Gemma's colleague is Melody, a smart female detective. They're investigating the murder of a man found naked, trussed, and strangled in a seedy hotel. Talk about role reversals! Was that deliberate?

DEBS: The previous book, "No Mark Upon Her," was much more Duncan's book, so I certainly meant to give Gemma more focus in Broken Glass. She has a new job, she's working with Melody, and I liked the fact that it was all-female team.  And I had fun with Duncan experiencing the joys and frustrations of the stay-at-home dad.  As for the trussed up barrister, maybe that was my subconscious at work again!

HALLIE: Another character I fell in love with is Poppy -- she's young, dresses like a Betsey Johnson nightmare (fur-lined boots, flower-patterned tights, ruffled skirt, puffy jacket, spiked hair.) She's confident, cheeky, and uber talented with a smoky alto voice. Tell us where she came from?

DEBS: Oh, I love Poppy. She's a vicar's daughter, a musical prodigy. She's smart and funny and confident of her own talent. As well as singing, she plays a fretless bass guitar--no mean feat.

Where did she come from? Hmmm. I wanted Andy to play with a younger female vocalist, a girl with huge potential.

I watched a lot of videos of young British female singers. That helped me work out what kind of voice I wanted her to have, but in the end, Poppy wasn't really like anyone else. The clothes might be her bit of rebellion--or she might just have great marketing instincts...

A funny thing -- I already knew her name was Poppy when I bought a handbag by a designer named Poppie Jones. I still have the tag on my fridge. So Poppy became Poppy Jones.

HALLIE: There is a rich sense of a place, past and a present, that permeates this book. Tell us about Crystal Palace. Is it somewhere those of us who go to London as tourists might have been to?

DEBS: I have a friend who moved a few years ago from the Notting Hill area of London to Crystal Palace, and he kept telling me I had to set a book there. When I went to visit for the first time, I was hooked.

As the highest point in South London, it's somewhat geographically isolated, especially in bad weather (as we see in the book!) That alone gives the area a unique character, but I was also
fascinated by the history of the Crystal Palace and by Crystal Palace Park. There is something so atmospheric about the ruin of something that was so remarkable.

I was also introduced to Antenna Studios, the recording studio where Andy plays with Poppy, and it was just too great not to use.

While Crystal Palace is certainly off the usual tourist path, I'd highly recommend it on a NICE day. (When it's cold, it's colder in Crystal Palace. The winds swirling around the hill can be ferocious.) Have lunch or a drink at the White Hart, which is the White Stag in the book. (I only changed the name because I'd named some of the staff.) Have dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Joanna's. And wander down the steep little alleyways. You might just stumble across Antenna Studios and The Secret Guitar Shop.

HALLIE: Music is everywhere in this book, and I have to ask if you have performed or played? And maybe give us a play list that would go with the book?

DEBS: I am, unfortunately, both completely untalented and musically illiterate. Maybe that's part of why music fascinates me so much. My husband does play the guitar very well, however, and I've given Andy his acoustic guitar, the Gibson Hummingbird.

I read every guitar-player autobiography I could find, and talked to guitarists, song-writers, singers, and producers. Such fun research. I hope readers enjoy it as much as I did.  And I listened to a lot of
music. Here's a fun--if slightly bizarre-- playlist on Spotify.

: Congratulations on a fabulous book. Where can readers catch up with you on tour?

DEBS: Thanks, Hallie!  I'll be in Houston, Phoenix, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, and Dallas.  Here's a link to the specific events.

And if readers want to know more about Crystal Palace, there are wonderful images on my Facebook page:

Note: In the photo, I'm camping it up in the rehearsal space in Antenna Studios.  You can see a bit of the view down the hill in the background. Photo credit: Steve Ullathorne

HALLIE: Well, all I can say is I want what Debs is eating before she goes to bed so I can have her dreams. I confess, I wake up with a great idea, scribble down the idea, and in the morning have no idea what the heck I was talking about.

Anyone else have the great luck with dreams that Debs does?


  1. My dreams are for the most part boring. But - reading this book wil not be! Dee

  2. Can't wait to read this book. I've been reading through the entire series and have just three more to go before I'm caught up!

    I've also been writing every day which is unusual for me. And while I don't usually dream an entire story, I find I wake up every morning with ideas of what I need to do next in the WIP. It's very cool.

  3. Just read where this is the fifteenth book in the series. Wow, Debs, that is fantastic, especially in this day and age when writers are getting cut off after one or two. Awesome. Hope the first ones are still in print. I have to start at the top...

  4. Such great insight into the creation of a characters.

    I am looking forward to reading the novel Deborah.

    And yes, Jack, the early books are still in print and well worth seeking out.

    As for dreams, they are amazing things. I will even get full sentences for my book reviews while I am in a twilight rest. Odd how that happens. The trick is to make sure you get it on paper before it's gone.

  5. Twilight rest - I once read a study that confirms it's a really creative period. The mind is free to wander. I get my best ideas while taking a bath, too. Same deal.

  6. Like everyone else, I am really looking forward to reading this book, Deborah.

    As for dreams, I seldom remember much of anything about my dreams . . . I’m much more likely to find myself in some situation or place that feels far too familiar and, in trying to figure out why, realize that I had previously dreamed it . . . . There’s so much we just don’t know about dreams --- I think it’s fascinating that the story came to you that way . . . .

  7. I can't wait to buy the book (at an actual physical bookstore) and devour it in one go.

    You have to tell us what you ate or drank that night before going to sleep.

    Magical tea? Some kind of herbal tincture?

  8. Hooray Debs! Can't wait to read!!

    Me too, sick with envy over the dream and the five-hour writing experience:). Sometimes I get ideas as I'm falling asleep and jot them down. Usually in the am, I can't understand or remember a thing about those scribbles...

  9. I never manage to remember dreams, but I come up with plenty of ideas as I drift off or resettle after a trip to the bathroom at 2 a.m. Mostly I manage to write those down.

    Deb! You'll be in LA this week! I should manage to be there....


  10. Congrats Debs!!

    We have seven, count 'em seven guitars (plus one banjo) in our house, so your book will be a big hit here!

    I love the part where you woke up with it in your head!! It goes along with all this new stuff I'm reading about neuroscience - so no, I don't think you are whacko!!

    Just mentally efficient!

  11. I'm so excited for you, Deb. I can't wait to read the book, and to see Gemma in the dominant role.

    And I'm so envious of your dreaming the core of the story. My dreams are always so bizarre that I'd be writing Tim Burton style.

  12. HUrray hurray hurray!!! SO delighted abouit this..

    As for the dreams, sigh. I had a terrible waking-up nightmare last
    night--and now I dont even remember it.

    JAn, tell us more! But I call it the alpha state..right before I go to sleep, I can really get great ideas.

    ANd did I say--YAY Debs!

  13. I hope I never ever outgrow the excitement I feel when one of my favorite writers has a new book published. I cannot WAIT to sit down with the newest Debs Crombie novel.

    I've been a fan since I read the very first one, A SHARE IN DEATH, back in the early 90s. I hope to still be reading about Duncan and Gemma for many more years to come.

    Congratulations, my friend. Well done.

    (now dammit, where IS that mailman???!)

  14. Love the details about what goes into your new story, Debs.

    I rarely ever remember dreams, but recently woke up with the idea for an entire book. It has not held up well with time, but might be the kernel of an idea for a different story.

    I am a big fan of Duncan and Gemma, so am really looking forward to reading this new entry into the series. Thank you!

  15. I'd love to win because I love Laura Maestro's maps so very much.

    And I love Gemma and Duncan and I hope to spend time with them for all the rest of my days.

    --Marjorie of Connecticut

  16. Congratulations, Debs! I've been loving the photos you're posting on FB with the teasers connecting them to the story.

    And yes, I have serious dream envy. And that is a lovely guitar.

  17. I am a big fan of the series and cannot wait to read this one!

  18. Hi everyone! Thanks to Hallie for the super questions, and to everyone for the comments. I can't believe pub day is actually here! Even after fifteen books it's incredibly exciting--maybe even more so.

    As for the dream thing, I've always been a big believer in creative use of the "twilight state." When I'm stuck on something I take a nap, and that often solves it. And, like Hallie, I get floods (excuse the pun) of ideas in the bath, especially when I've been writing all day.

    But this was the first time I'd ever had an experience like that. Don't know if it will ever happen again, but I hope so!

  19. Congrats on the launch, Debs! I've got several friends who are panting to read THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS. (I'm mean and would not pass along my ARC...)

    I don't recall dreaming parts of my books, but there have been many, many times when I've woken up "just knowing" the solution to some plot point or the direction of the next scene. Nice to know we're working even when we're asleep!

  20. Congratulations Debs! I've ordered my copy and am anxiously waiting for UPS. Wanted to make your event at Book Passage this week but I'm out of town but will be cheering you on in spirit!! Cara

  21. Hooray! I've been counting down the days, and now I'm wondering if it would just be wrong to skip work and read? :)

  22. Congratulations, Deb! I'm looking forward to curling up with your book.

    I've never dreamed any part of a book but I once came up with the solution to a plot problem during a sermon at church. I wasn't dozing. It was something the minister said, I swear.

  23. Hi Tammy--hope to see you in LA! (that's at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, Thursday the 21st, 7 pm.)

    Hi Cara--so sorry you can't make Book Passage. But I'm sure our paths will cross soon.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone on tour!

    Houston tonight, and it's party, party, party at Murder by the Book! Very excited to be doing my launch event at MBTB!

  24. I've managed to find and read all the books in this series in order over the last two years. So enjoyable! Can't wait to read this one and to know that the series is continuing. Love the characters.

  25. So excited! Having just "found" your books last year, I must confess I read all fourteen within one year. I've missed Gemma and Duncan and am so looking forward to this new installement.


  26. Deb, I'm ashamed to say I just started reading your books, mostly based on reading the JRR blog. I'm LOVING them, and I'm trying to reading them in order (just bought #3), but this one sounds so alluring that I might just have to skip over the others to get to it toute de suite!

  27. Deb, I've been reading your Duncan and Gemma books for over ten years now and consider them old and dear friends. I was so happy to be at/read their wedding. I love reading more about their personal saga in each book every bit (maybe more?!) than learning whodunnit. Can't wait to see how Duncan adapts to being a stay-at-home-Dad (with great confidence, then near disaster and finding his balance knowing him I would guess). ;-) your unabashed huge fan and a lifelong Anglophile in Pennsylvania ~ Bobbi

  28. I only found out about this wonderful series this year. I have read all the books and loved them. I plan to be at the launch party tonight.

  29. Debs--I look foward to seeing you in Scottsdale tomorrow.
    Safe travels and hope your launch party is fantastic

  30. Thanks, Rhys! Can't wait to see you in Scottsdale! xox

  31. I think about writing before I fall a sleep and for the most part it stays with me until morning. If I get up to write down my thoughts, I end up staying awake for too long.

    Congrats. Your book sounds riveting and I love the name Poppy.

  32. Congratulations, congratulations, Debs! I cannot wait to get my copy. Just have to get over to the bookstore where I preordered to pick it up. I will, of course, have to fight off Ben to read it first, but here's hoping there will be no great bloodshed.

    I've dreamed poems and short stories and the idea for an urban fantasy novel that I may someday write, but nothing else, alas. I'm going to make a dream pillow with mugwort, lemon balm, and lavender from my herb garden and see how that helps.

    I so wish I could be there for your book launch. I hope it will be great! I know the book will be. xoxoxoxo

  33. Debs, the book is amazing (like that's a big surprise)! Dreaming of the Bones was the first book of yours that I read, and I've been your biggest fan ever since. Your writing has allowed me to "travel" to the place I've always dreamed of going. And for that, I thank you.

  34. I am so envious. It took me three rewrites of my first chapter to come up with my new character Maura Laurenzano. But when I did discover her voice, she took off, almost dream-like, but not quite.If you have dream secrets I'd love to have them!

  35. Hi Debs, Congratulations again. I'm the "unknown person" above, who is learning out to choose an identity. Best good wishes on your launch.

  36. Debs,
    I read your first seven or eight books within a year a few years back. Ever since then I've waited impatiently for the each new one and have read them all. I don't know what I like best about your books: there is SO much to like! You definitely are brilliant at describing places: the appearance, the "feel" of a place, the smells, etc. I am convinced that I could be dropped into any of the streets or neighborhoods you describe and have no trouble getting around, based on your descriptions. Your characters are more real to me than some people I've met, the plots stay with me forever...

    What I do NOT like? The long wait for the next book! That's the saddest part about reading The End in any of them!

  37. Congrats, Deb! This is wonderful news and I'm sure it's not going to disappoint! I very seldom remember my dreams, which can really be a bummer for a writer. :-)

  38. Debs, I cannot tell you how much I wish I could be in Scottsdale to see you at the Poisoned Pen... omg I would be there if I could.

    I love Duncan, but I absolutely adore Gemma and look forward to reading the new developments in her life and career. I wouldn't mind, though, if you were to let Duncan out of house duty now and then, preferably after Gemma is fully in charge.

  39. I saw your interview on Omnimystery and went straight to buy it. I was brought up on English mysteries and am always looking for more to discover!