Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Rhys Bowen: When I read the first book in D.E Ireland's series featuring Eliza Doolittle as a sleuth I thought what a brilliant idea it was (and also why didn't I think of it first!) These books are such fun and I'm looking forward to reading GET ME TO THE GRAVE ON TIME that debuts this month. And I'm happy to have the two ladies who write under the joint pseudonym come to visit on Jungle Red today. Take it away ladies:

With the third book in our Eliza Doolittle/Henry Higgins series debuting this November, we thought it both fitting and gracious that Jungle Reds has invited us to visit for a third time. The series’ latest installment, Get Me To The Grave On Time is an Edwardian version of Four Weddings And A Funeral. Naturally, brides – and murder – take center stage. While our heroine Eliza is not saying “I do” anytime soon, she does find herself a bridesmaid or a guest at all the nuptials. However, given the events that transpire in the first three books, Eliza is not quite the young woman she was at the beginning. Nor should she be. We’d like to examine how everyone’s favorite Cockney flower girl can transcend not only her circumstances, but her creator’s original intentions.

Hold up a kaleidoscope, look through the eyepiece, and marvel at the delightful array of colors. Now imagine that colorful mosaic as a character in a book – and twist the kaleidoscope again. The colors fall into a different pattern, one just as lovely and intricate. A literary character can also change with only a few twists of the writing kaleidoscope. When that character is one of the main protagonists in a series, the author has to be careful not to rearrange the pieces too much, or else the original character might become unrecognizable. As co-authors of the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mystery series, we decided early on that the kaleidoscope known as Eliza Doolittle would include more colors and surprises than her creator George Bernard Shaw ever dreamed of.

When we first had the idea of using Shaw’s characters, we were aware that much of the initial hard work was done for us. Shaw had already created Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins, the stars of his play Pygmalion and the popular musical it inspired, My Fair Lady. And he also gave us the remarkable transformation of his main character Eliza Doolittle. Due to Professor Higgins’s desire to win a wager he made with his friend Colonel Pickering, and Eliza’s equally fierce determination to better herself, this “guttersnipe” flower girl is turned into an elegant lady by the end of the play.

According to Shaw’s essay on the subject, he never intended Eliza and Higgins to become a romantic couple. Instead, Shaw envisioned Eliza marrying the hapless Freddy Eynsford Hill; the young couple go on to open a flower shop, but their lack of business sense land them in financial trouble, requiring the kind assistance of Colonel Pickering. We thought this seemed a banal future for the resourceful and unstoppable Eliza Doolittle. So we twisted the kaleidoscope.

At the end of Pygmalion, Eliza – the ‘ideal woman’ in Shaw’s view – announces that she wants her independence. Well, we gave it to her. In Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, the first book in our series, Eliza has gone off to teach phonetics with Emil Nepommuck, one of Higgins’s biggest scholarly rivals. When the Hungarian is murdered, Higgins finds himself the prime suspect, leaving Eliza to track down his killer and save the Professor from prison. At the end of the book, Eliza is truly on an equal footing with the irascible, stubborn, and demanding Henry Higgins.

We twisted the kaleidoscope once more in Move Your Blooming Corpse, when we brought Eliza back to 27-A Wimpole Street. This time, she takes up residence as a fellow phonetics instructor, not a student. Given the political climate of 1913, we also created a female character devoted to the suffrage movement. Through her, Eliza becomes involved with the suffragettes and deepens her understanding of the larger world. While her teaching fees have given Eliza more financial security than she’s ever known, we wanted to widen her prospects even more. Time for another change in the kaleidoscope pattern.

The obvious choice would have been to introduce her to an aristocratic young man; wedding bells would follow, allowing Eliza to become a lady indeed, titled and privileged. But that seemed too Edwardian, and 1913 is on the cusp of the modern era. So we used Book Two to involve Eliza in the horse racing world, beginning the fun at Royal Ascot. When Eliza winds up as part owner of a winning racehorse, she is at last financially independent. A far cry from Shaw’s vision of her as a penurious shop owner with a boyish husband who lacks ambition and ability.

We have no plans to stop changing the patterns of her character. In our most recent book, Get Me To The Grave On Time, Eliza will find herself not only caught up in murder, but in the fun and furor of four weddings. Inspired by all the bridal couples, her suitor Freddy becomes increasingly ardent. But Eliza realizes that she is far too young to settle down, despite the cultural norm at the time. For now, our Eliza wants nothing more than to enjoy her new life, which includes politics, teaching, romance, and spending her money on lots of fashionable clothes. She is, after all, only twenty years old.

In many ways, Eliza represents the new century: brash, energetic, bold and pioneering. Like the 20th century, such a character deserves an ever changing pattern of colors and complexity. And we have no intention of putting down the kaleidoscope.

Author Bio

D.E. Ireland is the pseudonym of long time friends and award-winning authors, Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. In 2013 they decided to collaborate on a unique series based on George Bernard Shaw’s witty play Pygmalion, which inspired the musical My Fair Lady. At work on Book Four of their Agatha nominated series, they also pursue separate writing careers. Currently both of them write cozy mysteries for Kensington under their respective new pen names: Sharon Farrow and Meg Macy. Sharon’s Berry Basket series debuted in October 2016, and Meg’s Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear series will be released in May 2017. The two Michigan authors have patient husbands, brilliant daughters, and share a love of tea, books, and history. Follow D.E. Ireland on Facebook, Twitter, and www.deireland.com

RHYS- Did you know that Shaw's original play had Eliza marrying Freddie? What was he thinking!
Now I'm wondering if Eliza and Henry will ever be a romantic couple. Do you think that would even be possible, given his impossible nature?


  1. Eliza marrying Freddie? Wow, that seems quite far-fetched.
    Eliza and Henry being a romantic couple? All things considered, that does seem rather unlikely [and is quite hard to picture in my mind] but I suppose in the world of fiction most anything is possible . . . .

  2. I love your analogy with a kaleidoscope. It's really perfect for a series, isn't it? Best of luck with the new edition!

  3. Take an idea run with it. These books show what can happen if you do just that. I love these ideas!

  4. What a great idea! MY FAIR LADY was one of the first plays I ever saw (In Los Angeles with the first road show I think w/Rex Harrison...) and I adored it of course. Since then I've read Shaw's Pygmalion and of course the original Greek myth that inspired it. Falling in love with your own creation. Sigh.

    Welcome to Jungle Red! Can you share your process -- how does your collaboration work?

  5. Agree with Edith, I love the kaleidoscope image (though that word is hard to spell!) Yes, would love to hear about your process--Hallie's had some good experience with this, but I've never found (or looked for) the right partner....

  6. Professor Higgins was right to scoff at wet-behind-the-ears Freddie, and Eliza was surely smart enough to see that, handsome and devoted as he was, Freddie was no kind of mental challenge for her. I'm disappointed at Shaw's conventionality in this regard.

    My unsentimental grandmother took me to see My Fair Lady when I was about six or seven, the only time she ever spent that sort of time with me. It was a magical movie to both of us, and one of my favorite memories. And probably the source of my lifelong fascination with clothing and costume, frankly.

    This series sounds like great fun. Looking forward to your comments, Meg and Sharon.

  7. By the way, I love the metaphor of kaleidoscope. Interesting way to look at character. Human beings are that complex in real life, and they change in just that same way. Brilliant.

  8. Because I adored both Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, I so wanted Henry and Eliza to end up together--but Eliza fetching his slippers--even in a sort of ironic twist? Nah. Twist that kaleidoscope again and see if some dashing, mysterious--intelligent--suitor might appear to give Freddie a run for his money! Still two of my favorite characters--kudos for having the nerve to tackle such iconic characters!!

  9. I also love the kaleidoscope metaphor. So perfect for a character.

    I studied the Shaw play in college and my professor was an ardent Shaw fan. He scoffed at that "cute little musical." But I thought the movie was great - who can't love Audrey Hepburn and all those amazing clothes? But Eliza ending up with either Freddy or Professor Higgins? She can do so much better than both!

  10. I think that the only thing harder than writing a book, particularly a mystery, is closing yourself up with another person and writing one! However do you do it? How does this affect your friendship? It must be a little like being married and agreeing on how to raise the children.

    What an amazing idea, basing your books on Pygmalion, which I've never read by the way. Does it count that I've seen "My Fair Lady" dozens of times and can sing the entire score? I use the word "sing" lightly here.

    And the kaleidoscope analogy, mind blowing. This was a favorite toy as a child, and I remember that no matter how hard I looked and how much I tried, I could never replicate a pattern. Sort of like life, huh? You know, the impossibility of stepping in the same river twice.

    Welcome Meg and Sharon, and I hope we'll see more of you here.

  11. Hello all, Meg here. Sharon will chime in later. We are college friends, and have critiqued each other's writing for years -- and always wanted to collaborate on something. Our writing styles are very similar, so once I had the "light bulb" idea of using Shaw's characters (and realizing I had little to no experience in British History, unlike Sharon), I brought it up to her and VOILA! We agreed to run with it. Boy, has it worked well -- but with hard work, patience, and negotiation in terms of certain details.

    Sharon's the brilliant outliner, I'm the soundboard and idea prompter, and we each take turns on chapters and edit each other's chapters as well. We also READ ALOUD the entire finished draft to each other to make sure it sounds right. We've had so much fun imagining how Eliza can get into scrapes, and how to get her out of them, that we're already working on Book Four, With A Little Bit of Blood. I'll let Sharon talk about Eliza & Freddy, and Eliza & Higgins (he's twice her age, uugh! No bells between those two, in my opinion. He's too set in his ways!)

    Thanks for all your kind words, and enjoy Get Me to the Grave!

  12. What a brilliant idea for a series. I must add these books to my list. (I've had to stop adding to my TBR pile recently as it was threatening to take over my bedroom and cause injury to my little cocker spaniel.) I've just gotten way too many good suggestions here at Jungle Reds!

    I, too, love the kaleidoscope image. For people and characters and even settings, we can just turn it and get another fascinating view. A great idea to have in mind to keep characters fresh and multi-faceted. Thank you!

    I also love the title of your new book. Although I'm not that happy that I now have that song in my head. I think I'm going to be humming it all day.

  13. welcome to JRW!

    We met at Malice in Bethseda last Spring. I asked my library to order your books. I agree that Professor Higgins is too old for Eliza. I think the idea of Eliza teaching phonetics is a great idea! I wonder if she worked with a hard of hearing person who wants to improve speech?

    If my library cannot order your books, then I hope the dealers at the next Malice will have all of your books so I can buy the first book in the series.

    Look forward to reading the series.


    p.s. Rhys, thank you for inviting D.E. Ireland to post today.

  14. Hi everyone, Sharon, the other half of D.E. Ireland chiming in here. Thank you all for the lovely comments. Meg has already described our working routine, which we have carefully hammered out these past four years. At this time, we are in the outlining/plotting process for Book Four. And in that book, something will occur which has an impact on Eliza and Freddy's relationship. As mentioned in the blog post, we disagreed with Shaw quickly marrying off our favorite Cockney flower girl, especially to a young man as devoid of ambition as Freddy. So we plan to change the romantic game in Book Four. And no, Higgins and Eliza will not become romantically involved. On that, we agree with George Bernard Shaw. The differences in their age and temperament are a bit too great for a successful romance. Besides, both characters are quite happy being friends, teaching associates, and fellow amateur detectives. We do hope everyone enjoys our latest Eliza/Higgins mystery. And thanks again for all the comments.

  15. What a fantastic idea for a series! I particularly love the way you "turn the kaleidoscope" of Eliza's expected life and completely change it up. That's brilliant! As if my TBR pile wasn't high enough, I can see I will be adding your series to it!

  16. Love you both so much! And yeah, I continue to be bummed that I didn't think of this...:-)

    MAryC, yes, now I am singing ,too..

    Hmm. I always thought Eliza and Higgins would get together..but I understand the problems. But #NeverFreddy So it does give you a lovely opening for a fabulous new possibility--hmm. What are you thinking?

  17. Meg and Sharon, how nice to have you here again. And what a fun post. I love the kaleidoscope image, and I love your vision of Eliza. I agree with #NeverFreddy (Hank, you crack me up) but #NeverHiggins, too. I like Eliza and Henry as friends and colleagues. And you are so right about Eliza entering the modern world--why should she shackle herself to a man? I see lots of possibilities for adventure!

  18. Oh what fun! This sounds like a delightful series, can't wait to read it.

  19. LOL!! #NeverFreddy vs. #NeverHiggins... how fun! we can't spoil the fun, but there are a few possibilities in Eliza's romantic future. Why limit it to one? :-D

  20. Meg and Sharon, It sounds like you two have built a terrific partnership, and I imagine that would help when you hit a roadblock in the story.

    I'm curious, are their other characters that already exist that you rejected as a series possibility? No need to reveal any that fit the bill and may be next on your list, but what about those that didn't make the cut? Darth Vader and Princess Leia? Katniss and Peta? Alice and the Mad Hatter?

  21. No, we never came up with any other characters - we did notice other authors taking up Jane Eyre, Beatrix Potter, etc., however. I was heading to visit Sharon (we live on opposite sides of Michigan) and singing to the My Fair Lady soundtrack, and suddenly WHAM, there was the idea. And it's so funny that other authors have said "I wish I'd thought of that first!" :-D

    Spread the word to all MY FAIR LADY fans!! and leave a review for our books on Amazon! thanks!!

  22. I have to admit to having a strong dislike (trying to be polite here) for My Fair Lady. The idea of her returning and bringing him his slippers!!! It makes me want to spit!

    So, it is good to hear from this author (sic). Now I am reassured that I will not find it necessary to throw the books across the room.

  23. Yes, we both disliked the ending of the film -- Eliza has too much pride to be a slipper fetcher! She negotiates with Higgins throughout our series, and the banter between them is hilarious (according to reviews, that is!) We had a lot of fun writing these exchanges, too!

  24. Sharon here again. Ingrid asked if there were any other literary characters we considered making a mystery series about. The important thing about using characters created by another author is that they must be in the public domain. Shaw's play 'Pygmalion', where Eliza and Higgins first appear, satisfies that requirement. We would never be able to receive permission to use characters from Star Wars or Hunger Games. Now Alice and the Mad Hatter is probably available, but I'd hate to romantically pair young Alice with a creature as loony as the Hatter. ;-) She deserves someone much finer. Mr. Darcy, perhaps?

  25. Oh! What a memory has been stirred up. My Fair Lady was the first Broadway production that I ever went to. I'm guessing that I was 10 or so. I cannot remember much...but this I do remember: the magnificent singing and dancing and white blouse green skirt costume as Eliza sang "I could have danced all night." Took my breath away, wiped out all other memories of the show.
    Although I thought I would like to marry Professor Higgins.
    Vaguely remember reading Shaw's play in college...but I never wanted to see the movie ... Audrey Hepburn seemed too fragile to be Eliza. And I was so afraid that "I could have danced all night" would fall so short of the original.
    Intrigued by this series...no fears of a memory damaged by these books.
    Thanks for another fascinating conversation, all.

  26. How lucky you were, Elisabeth, to see My Fair Lady on Broadway. I've never seen a theatrical version of the musical, but I did see a Broadway production of PYGMALION in the 1980s with Peter O'Toole as Henry Higgins and John Mills as Alfred Doolittle. Marvelous, even if I was less than thrilled with Amanda Plummer, who played Eliza.