Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Art of the Lie by Daniella Bernett

 LUCY BURDETTE: Hmmm, I've never thought of my novels as lying to readers. But Daniella Bernett has, and we welcome her to the blog today to tell us about it!

DANIELLA BERNETT: I would like to thank Lucy Burdette for inviting me for a second visit to Jungle Reds. I’m basking in the glow of such distinguished company.

I’m delighted to let everyone know that DEADLY LEGACY, the second book in my mystery series featuring journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief Gregory Longdon, was released on September 24 by Black Opal Books. It’s about stolen diamonds, a man who never existed and revenge laced with blackmail. Silly me, how could I forget? There’s also a murder—or two—to add a dash of spice. Meanwhile, the romantic tension between Emmeline and Gregory only serves to complicate matters. The book takes place in London, one of my most favorite cities.

What I’d like to discuss today is the art of the lie. If you think about it, writers are consummate liars. A story is not the truth. Oh, no. It is a massaging of the truth, a manipulation of perception if you will. A lie conjured by the writer’s mind for the sole purpose of taking the reader’s imagination on a journey to a different world. However to leave the reader breathless and craving more, the tale must have the ring of truth to be believed. A mirror image of reality, but reality turned upside down and twisted round to come up with a tantalizingly wicked alternative. A world where the two most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal are the words “what if.” There’s no end to the possibilities.

To take this idea a step further, mysteries and thrillers are a lie within a lie. For they deal with crime—a deception in itself. And, of course, they usually revolve around a murder, which is a betrayal of the natural order of a safe world. The sleuth must sift through a tissue of lies to bring a criminal to justice. But what kind of justice is it, when it was born of a lie?

Ah, that’s beauty of it. The more tangled the web of lies, the deeper the reader is drawn in until the mystery becomes a seductive puzzle for the mind.

Crime is most definitely wrong. Though I must admit, it is tremendous fun to lead readers on a cat-and-mouse chase for the truth. It’s naughty of me I know, but there’s a certain piquancy in casting a whisper of suspicion.

Honestly (pun intended), the art of lying makes for a criminally good story.  

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America New York Chapter. Lead Me Into Danger is the first novel in the Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her other professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on Emmeline and Gregory’s next adventure. Follow her on Facebook or on Goodreads.


  1. What an interesting premise, Daniella . . . I’ve never thought of myself as being lied to by the authors of the novels I read. While I suppose such a “lie” is, as you say, deliberate on the part of the writer, I’m more inclined to think of writers as the creators of characters that I care about existing in a special place that I have the privilege of visiting whenever I pick up one of their books.

    Congratulations on “Deadly Legacy” . . . I’m looking forward to reading it.

  2. Joan, you're so right--I've never thought of my writing exactly this way. Though we certainly plot for readers to find things out slowly and do things to misdirect attention. I suppose that is a kind of lying!

  3. Joan,

    First, I'd like to say thank you on your good wishes for my new book. It's a dream come true. I've wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old.

    Now, Joan and Lucy, I know my essay presents a different perspective. Indeed, I had never thought of storytelling that way either. It came to me one day when I was plotting out one of my books. Plotting is something, which I love to do. Adding a twist here, dropping a clue there and getting my characters into all sorts of trouble. I rub my hands together in glee. It's tremendous fun. However then I thought, this is not truth but it could happen if all the different places fell into place.

  4. I think of a mystery novel as a web of secrets and lies to cover them up. So I'm with you, Joan. And I'm great at plotting the beginning and the ending; it's that half of the book that's in the middle that bogs me down. More secrets and lies!

  5. Fascinating. I never thought of it quite that way, but yes. Perfect sense. And it gives a whole new aspect to the playfulness of writing a mystery (because to me, they are play--it's the fun time of my day.)

  6. Hallie,

    Oh, most definitely secrets and lies abound. It's deliciously exciting. For me, I like to plot out the entire story out in my head before I sit down to write my books. I may change things along the way (and do), but I like to have that basic skeleton of the plot to follow.

  7. Kait,

    I'm so delighted to hear that reading a mystery is the fun part of your day. That's author's goal, to take the reader out of the everyday and into another world just for a little bit. To entertain and tease the mind with a puzzling "lie."

  8. SOunds so great..!

    I've also heard about authors who talk about "lying for a living." I think that's a fascinating premise. I sort of think of it as telling a new truth.

    It's the CHARACTERS who lie, right? :-)

  9. Hank,

    The characters lie, yes. But who's the one creating their lies?

  10. First, I adore that cover.

    I am not awake enough to remember who said it, but there was an author who said something to the effect of "fiction is a lie that speaks the truth." I like that. We're making things up, but there's a truth there to be told, regardless of genre.

    But of course, plotting the lies and misdirections in mysteries is great fun!

  11. Mary,

    Thank you. I love my cover too. The Art Dept. at my publisher, Black Opal Books, is wonderful. I told the designer the idea I had in mind and Presto! that's the beautiful cover he came up with.

    Now to respond to your comment, I agree there is truth in the story every author writes. The truth is in the author's mind because he or she believes wholeheartedly that the tale conceived must be shared. In terms of mysteries, the truth must ultimately be revealed in the solution to the crime.

  12. Daniella, that's an interesting premise. I never thought about "making up stories" as lying, but I suppose in a way, it is.

    I'm curious about your setting. Why did you choose London, and what kind of research did you do for your book? It sounds great fun!

  13. Deborah,

    I chose London because I've been an Anglophile since I was a little kid. I devoured any book that was set in London, and I'm a devoted Masterpiece Theater and Mystery fan. I've visited London several times. Therefore, when I started writing my own books my characters had to be British.

    I'm glad my book intrigues you. The spark that set my story in motion in mind was the 2003 heist at Antwerp Diamond Centre. A group of Italian thieves stole $100 million in diamonds, gold and other jewelry. Only one man was caught. The diamonds were never found. This captivated my imagination. Then I thought, what if someone had found the diamonds seven years later and thus my tale was given life. I added a "mystery man" named Ambrose Trent who has a murky past and I also tossed in another diamond theft that took place in World War II. This latter crime was of my own devising. The past haunting the present with deadly consequences. Then there is ongoing romantic tension between my main characters Emmeline and Gregory to add a little spice to the story.

    I hope I've whet interest and you'll dip into DEADLY LEGACY. If you enjoy it, you won't want to miss LEAD ME INTO DANGER, the book that started it all, where Emmeline and Gregory try to unmask a Russian spy in the British Foreign Office. That book is set in Venice and London.

  14. Now that I think about it, Daniella, since the characters and their words and actions are created by the author, it is the author who is lying. Of course, it's those lies that make such fascinating stories. One of the most popular lies these days seems to be the unreliable narrator, the narrator who goes beyond the normal lying. Two of my favorite books this year have that main character whose lies control the story. One of those books is a lie until deep into the novel, almost the end, and the other one starts out with an amnesia victim, so you know right off that the lie is front and center.

    Daniella, one of my favorite settings is London, and your Emmeline Kirby/Gregory Longdon series sounds like a great read. I'll be checking it and that fabulous cover out soon.

  15. Kathy,

    Yes, indeed. You have to be very careful with the narrator. You have to remember that you're only getting one perspective, especially if it is first person. My two favorite first-person mysteries are Agatha Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" and "A Perfect Murder," a short story in Jeffrey Archer's book "A Twist in the Tale."
    At the end, the reader feels like the breath has been knocked out of him or her.

    I'm delighted that my Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series has piqued your interest. I hope you enjoy my books.

  16. Daniella, you have a twisty brain! I like it. I will look out for your books.

  17. Pat D,

    You just gave me a good laugh. No one has ever told me that I'm "twisted" before. However, twists and turns are what draw a reader in and compel him or her to continue turning pages to find out what happens next. For me, mysteries have always been about the intrigue.

    Cheers! I hope you enjoy my books.

  18. Wow, what a thought provoking way to think about the premise of mystery stories. But, Daniella after reading your essay you've made your case. I read your first novel Lead Me Into Danger last year and I loved it. I am looking forward to delving into Deadly Legacy and seeing if I can pick out all the "lies" that you've included in the story. Congrats on a great series.

  19. Viv,

    Thank you for your kind words about LEAD ME INTO DANGER. I'm so happy you enjoyed it. I hope DEADLY LEGACY will intrigue just as much.

  20. Thought provoking for sure. Great reads Daniella. Caused me to remember Sir Walter Scott's phrase: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!" Keep deceiving ladies it's always fun to discover the truth in your wonderful mystery stories. Keeps customers coming back for more mystery bookshop.

  21. Aline,

    That's what every author likes to hear. We want to leave readers craving more. Cloak and Dagger is certainly a haven for any mystery fan.