Thursday, March 7, 2013

Victoria Abbott on Mothers and Daughters.

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.

Victoria Abbott:

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. and can be found lurking at and and even



  1. Okay, “The Christie Curse” is definitely getting added to my to-be-read stack [tower? mountain?] . . . Jordan sounds like quite the perfect sleuth. As for the mother/daughter team effort, it seems to me that getting to do anything together with your mom is a perfectly wonderful thing, so I hope it continues to be a marvelous experience for both of you.

  2. Wow. I am looking forward to reading this series. Count me in for a copy. Dee

  3. MJ, what is the name of the second book in the series?

  4. OH, this is wonderful. It's an incredible experience, it must be, and I applaud you for risking it, and loving it, and being so successful.

    And I love the title!Good good good for you both! xoo

  5. Such a lovely essay--thanks for bringing it to our jungle MJ! Who did the actual writing after you'd roughed out the scenes?

  6. You are tickling my little gray cells with "The Christie Curse". Can't wait to get a copy!

  7. How fun, to collaborate with your mother/daughter. You must have learned so much about each other during the process, yes?

    I have three daughters, and understand what a potential minefield this sort of teaming up could be. You took the risk and I'm sure the results are wonderful. Really look forward to seeing for myself!

  8. MJ and Victoria - Hey Guys!! This is a collaboration I've been looking forward to for quite a while and I cannot WAIT to read The Christie Curse and the next and the next and the next . . .

  9. This is a combination I can't resist -- I have FOUR daughters, and cannot imagine collaborating with any of them! Very daring, and the result sounds wonderful.

    Add to the mix Dame Agatha, and WOW.

    As Joan says, the tower of books is daunting! I may have to go on a reading retreat.

  10. Hi MJ and Victoria! This books sound such fun!

    Being friends with Caroline and Charles Todd, I'm always curious about how collaborations work. Very interesting. Hmmm. I wonder if my daughter would want to co-write a book one day....



  11. Well, Mary Jane, I'm super impressed at your taking on a partnership with any family member. Good for both of you. And this series sounds like my cup of tea.

  12. I really enjoyed this blog. I work in the wonderful world of special events and inter-generational communication is a hot topic at the professional meetings and conferences. I love that you just went ahead and did it and I look forward to reading the books.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. This sounds wonderful! I love books about books, especially with a good mystery thrown in. I am amazed you two could pull this off, I have a hard enough time writing with colleagues who are work acquaintances! Sorry to post twice, I had a typo the first go-round.

  15. Not that I'm a writer, but my mother
    and I could rarely collaborate on
    anything! Kudos to both of you for
    working it out. A mystery and a book
    about books combined, what's not to like?

  16. Mary Jane/Victoria, you are two brave women. Your book really sounds wonderful. And what a terrific title–The Christie Curse!

    Rhys, I love my tried and true authors I can rely on, but there is nothing quite as exciting as discovering a new writer who can take me on a good story trip. Thank you.

  17. Thank you all so much for the warm welcome! We are thrilled to be at Jungle Red Writers today and to see so many friends here. Our email program has decided not to let Victoria Abbott post anything today (naughty girl), so I hope I can stand in for her/them/us.

    I love hearing about all the mother and daughter combinations. It was an incredible experience and unnerving at times. We learned a lot about each other, including to trust more! Also a little bit about giving up control (ahem. We need this as we polish the edit of the second book, The Sayers Swindle, (glad you reminded us, Dru!) and move on with The Wolfe Whistle (love that!), I mean The Wolfe Widow.

    Lucy/Roberta: we both wrote scenes and I did some 'harmonizing' after the fact to blend our two styles.

    Again, thanks for the invitation and the terrific comments! Can't wait to make that draw.


  18. Gotta love a series with a bookish theme! This book sounds fun...and I'm having fun imagining what the Christie curse might be.

    But, oh, write with my mother? Congratulations on a successful partnership?

  19. Can't wait to start on this series! And to spread the news about it.;-)

  20. Hi to you both,

    I heard about this book and I'm dying to get my hands on it. I'm a sucker for books about books. Heck, I'm addicted to books. Period:-)

  21. Soooo jealous - I'd love it if my daughter wanted to write with me. This series sounds like lots of fun.

  22. OH my...I mean to write "Congratulation on a successful partnership! -- exclamation point!!!

  23. This sounds like a fun series! It cannot be easy to write together. I would bounce between murderous thoughts and hilarity if I tried to do something like that. As it is I was tempted to do in my husband when I tried to proofread his writing. We definitely disagree over punctuation and spelling!

  24. I am looking forward to getting this book, and the next ones in the series.

  25. More great comments! To tell the truth (keepig in mind that I lie in print for fun and occasional profit) Vitoria and I are surprised at how well it went. If you'd asked us in the middle of the project, it might have been a different response.

    It's great to meet all you new and enthusiastic readers here. What a fine community we have in this mystery-loving world.

  26. This looks like a series I'm going to like.

    My mother and I would never have been able to collaborate on anything. She's very British and very exacting.

  27. I'd love to win the book because I love Agatha Christie and cozy mysteries. I have two of Mary Jane Maffini's organizer mysteries. I just looked at the excerpt of this book on Amazon. Although there's a dog on the cover, the excerpt mentions a cat and I love them.

  28. Michelle, someday over drinks in a dark bar, I'll tell you the story of the dog on the cover and the cat in the book. You will find a cat - luckily before the cat finds you.

    And Darlene, exactly British mothers make good characters in books. Hmmm, let me think ...

  29. Thank you, ladies, for being here. I've now added your books to my TBR list. It keeps growing and growing thanks to Jungle Red.

    I envy you your time for this collaboration. My mother is in the early stages of dementia and I miss the Mom I remember. Even though working together must have its "moments" it must be so wonderful to actually produce something together.

    I can't wait to read THE CHRISTIE CURSE. Thanks for writing it.

  30. Well, it's time to pick a comment winner (your names went into the fedora) and the winner is Reine. Please send your snail mail address to me at and a copy of The Christie Curse will go out to you.

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments and many chuckles and thanks to the Jungle Red Writers for their warm welcome and kind words.

    Happy reading all round!

    MJ and Victoria

  31. Thank you, Mary Jane. I'm thrilled to win a copy of The Christie Curse - such good luck - really looking forward to reading it!