Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Memories of Reading by Karen Odden

Announcing book winners! Lynn in Texas has won FOGGED OFF by Wendall Thomas and Diana aka Bibliophile has won THE DEADLIEST SIN by Jeri Westerson. Ladies, contact julia spencer fleming (all one word) at the Google mail, and I'll hook you up.

 

 

Jenn McKinlay: Very happy to have a fellow Arizonan on the blog today! Our historical mystery readers will be thrilled to have the super talented Karen Odden in the house as we celebrate the release of her latest Inspector Corravan mystery! 


Karen: Thanks so much to the Jungle Reds and Jenn McKinlay

for inviting me today! I think this is my third appearance here, and

over the years, I have loved all the conversations about life,

travel, fears, writing, dogs, and books that happens on this site.

I don’t always comment, but I learn a ton from listening in!

 

        When people ask me why I write mysteries, I can name

plenty of reasons. For one, there were unspoken words and

secrets in my house of origin that confused me deeply as a

child and resulted in a messy knot of perplexity. I think that

certainly contributes to my desire to craft the happier, smoother

version of that arc, from confusion to clarity, in mysteries. But

other reasons are that when I was twelve, I didn’t play bridge,

and it rains and snows a lot in upstate New York.




         I grew up in Rochester, and most Sundays, my family would

go to my grandparents’ house, about twenty minutes away. They

lived in a sprawling one-story stone ranch in Bergen, a very rural

town with one blinking traffic light and acres of pine trees. On

sunny days in the summer, the whole family—my grandparents,

their five children, and the dozen or so grandchildren, of which I

was the oldest—went to the pavilion for picnics and volleyball

games (I was terrible, always picked last). But on days when it

rained or snowed, which comprised most of the year, the

grownups would gather in the living room at two folding card

tables and play bridge. I could hear their bids (“one no trump”

“two spades”) and mildly snarky chatter from the next room over,

which was the library, a square room with a stone fireplace and

one of those sideways-S-shaped chairs covered in

mustard-colored thick pile, almost like fur. It rocked clunkily

into one of two positions, forward and back, and there was a

light with an adjustable brass arm overhead. Now, usually my

grandfather occupied that chair to watch football, but once he

was in the living room playing bridge, it was mine.


         On the floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves were all kinds of

books—some heavy-duty dull looking medieval history books,

with their navy or black cloth binding fraying at the edge and the

writing on the spine faded; my grandfather’s medical treatises,

with the transparent pages overlaying the skeletons with nerves

and organs; and my grandmother’s bodice rippers, with the

grammar corrected in pen in the margins. I’m not kidding; she

was particular about English usage and deplored phrases such

as “between you and I” and “he was taller than me”.


        


None of those books particularly interested me. But one day my grandmother pointed me toward a shelf of books by Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Daphne DuMaurier in hardback, with the paper jackets. I devoured them, one per visit, entranced by their settings in exotic Greece and France and Austria and by their portrayals of everyday people in uncertainty and fear. Then I re-devoured them.

Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, The Shivering Sands, The Curse of the Kings,
Nine Coaches Waiting, The Ivy Tree, Airs Above the Ground,
This Rough Magic, The Moon-spinners. (To my delight, I found 
a Disney movie of the last, starring Hayley Mills.) I think these 
books probably laid down tracks in my brain that I’ve never 
quite jumped off.

        

They were the natural continuation of books I’d read even

younger—Nancy Drew, of course, with her friends Bess and

George and Ned Nickerson. Remember her powder blue

convertible, and her indulgent father, Carson? And then

Trixie Belden, with Honey Wheeler and Jim, the red-headed

orphan the Wheelers adopted, and all the other Bob-whites.

Cherry Ames and Sue Barton, which depicted the nursing

profession as full of adventure and mysteries. Phyllis Whitney’s

young adult mysteries and Elizabeth George Speare’s 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond which isn’t 

really a mystery but is full of suspense, tinged with

romance.

        


Before she died, my grandmother gave her collection of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt to me, and once in a while, when I’m in a particular mood, I reread them. Those books are like one of those portkeys in Harry Potter, for I can almost feel myself back in that 1970s lounger with the mustard-colored fake fur and the fire on the hearth warding off the chill.

         What was your favorite place to read growing up?




KAREN ODDEN received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to many academic books and journals; she wrote introductions to novels by Dickens and Trollope for the Barnes and Noble Classics Series; and she served as an Assistant Editor for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone.

 

All of her mysteries are set in 1870s London. Her first novel, A LADY IN THE SMOKE, was a USA Today bestseller and won a New Mexico-Arizona 2017 Book Award. Her second novel, A DANGEROUS DUET, introduces readers to Nell Hallam, an ambitious young pianist in 1870s London, who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall. In A TRACE OF DECEIT, Annabel Rowe, a young painter at the Slade School of Art, must delve below the glitter of the art and auction world to uncover the truth about her brother's murder.

In her fourth mystery, DOWN A DARK RIVER (November 2021), Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, a former thief and bare-knuckles boxer, is faced with a series of young women's corpses placed in small boats and sent floating down the Thames.

68 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Karen . . . I’m looking forward to finding out how Michael solves this mystery.

    Favorite place to read? When I was growing up, my favorite place to read was curled up in the big easy chair in the living room. Cozy and comfortable, with a good book in hand . . . it’s still a really great way to spend an afternoon . . . .

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    1. I'm with you!! I have one of those one-and-a-half chairs that we brought with us when we moved from NYC ages ago. It's all frayed from my beagle clawing at it to jump up and sit with me. But I can sit sideways and dangle my legs over one arm. :) Thanks for commenting!

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  2. KAREN: Welcome back to JRW and congratulations on the release of DOWN A DARK RIVER.

    My mom was sick with kidney failure and had to go to the hospital for dialysis 3 times a week until I was 8 years old. I am also an only child, so I spent a lot of time on my own. Reading was my salvation. I wish I had a big comfy chair, but I was often reading while propped up on my bed during the afternoons and evenings.

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    1. Oh, Grace. I'm so sorry. That must have been so hard and frightening for you, especially as an 8-year-old. I'm glad books helped. Not that it's the same, but I was painfully awkward as a kid and was bullied a lot, even through high school. Like you, I found books my salvation. Thanks for sharing with me.

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    2. Thanks, Karen. Fortunately, my parents made dealing withy mom's illness as part of the weekly routine. It's just she was not at home for 10-11 hours/day when going to the hospital for dialysis, and it was up to me to keep occupied. I also did watch some TV but frankly there was not a lot of kid-friendly shows on mid-afternoon/early weekday evenings, so I turned to books. Fortunately, my mom got a kidney transplant after that, and she only had to go to the hospital for routine checkups monthly instead of 3 times/week.

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    3. I'm glad to hear her health situation improved. I'm sure it was still challenging. Thanks for sharing that.

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  3. Congratulations on your book release, Karen.
    Favorite place to read growing up was in the living room on the sofa or sitting on the floor. Next favorite was at the library.

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    1. Thanks for the congrats, Dru!! I'm seeing several of us who love a comfy sofa ... and I still remember the Chili Library, where I'd go to fetch my books. The library had a particular smell ... and a door that was heavy and hard to open when it was winter and really windy in Rochester. :) Thanks for writing in.

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  4. So many congratulations, Karen! I love your books and look forward to the new one.

    As a child, I spent a lot of time reading under a shady tree in our southern California back yard.

    But there were also special times when I couldn't sleep and I would creep back into the living room very quietly with my book. My mother would be sitting reading, and I would read next to her, imagining she hadn't noticed me because I'd been so quiet. After I was adult she laughed and said of course she knew I was there, but didn't see the harm in letting me read a little longer.

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    1. Oh, I love that story about your mom. :) I sometimes think about how our earliest, even pre-verbal experiences of being read to--books and intimacy and love all wrapped together--laid down tracks in our brain that set us on the path to being avid readers and writers. I know my mom read to me as a child. My daughter is a big reader ... although I read to my son, too, and it didn't "take" the same with him. He likes Calvin and Hobbes and that's about it. Kids being different and all ... :) Thanks for your kind words and your support, always.

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  5. Welcome Karen! You caught my attention with THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, one of my faves! I read in bed mostly, and probably to escape the family chaos. Nothing much has changed:)

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    1. Yes, WITCH was a favorite! I reread it a couple of years ago, and I can see why--the pacing and characters are so well done. And yes, I too still read in bed, with the feeling of wanting to escape sometimes. Pillows, silent and soft, can be excellent company. :)

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  6. Congratulations on your latest release!

    When I was ten, we moved to an old house with an attic bedroom, which I was assigned. Garage sale furniture, a dead sink on the wall, freezing cold in winter, stinking hot in summer. I loved my third floor vista and escaping my siblings. Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart. Yes!

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    1. Oh, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who loved Holt and Whitney and Stewart!! An attic bedroom ... mmm ... I feel like that in itself is something out of a book, part of the house and yet not. Like Narnia? Thank you for sharing your memory!

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  7. Karen, I came across Down a Dark River just last night and added it to my TBR list. Given your stand-alones, any chance of Michael becoming a series? Your grandmother's shelf reads like a list of my own growing up faves--and they're still on my shelf for those times when I really need a comfort read. In a house full of siblings (eight of us), dogs, cats, cousins, and neighbor kids, I learned to shut out the world and read anywhere at all.

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    1. Hi Flora, Thanks for adding my book to your list -- and YES, this book is intended to be the start to a series. I have a 2-book deal with Crooked Lane, so I am busy scribbling the sequel right now (due to my editor on March 1!). I haven't really revealed it yet ... but the title will be UNDER THE VEILED MOON, and it's about the Princess Alice disaster in 1878, when hundreds of people drowned on the Thames. Glad to hear I wasn't the only one out there reading those "comfort books." They're still on my shelf too... my grandmother's copies in their old dust jackets. Thanks for giving me a peek into your childhood house :)

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  8. Congratulations on the release of Down a Dark River! I've loved all of your books and am looking forward to reading this one.

    Favorite place to read? Stretched out in bed under a down cover, but having a Kindle means it's easier than ever to carry a book wherever I go.

    Hoping to connect in person again some day at the Poisoned Pen.

    Rosemary Simpson

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    1. Hi Rosemary, Thank you for your kind words and your support over the years!! My husband actually JUST bought me a kindle ... not so much so that I, like you, can have a book wherever I go but perhaps so I stop buying print books and stacking them ... um ... everywhere ... :) Hope to see you at the Pen soon. xo

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  9. Wonderful memories, Karen. And congratulations on the new book.

    I read anywhere, but if I could get there first, in an easy chair with my legs slung over one arm (which drove my mom crazy). Reading was my escape from family chaos, too, and I could completely check out of it raging around me by immersion into a fictional world. My happy place, before we knew what such a thing was.

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    1. Omg. As I said in the post above (before I read yours) I STILL have a 1-1/2 chair big enough that I lean against one arm and sling my legs over the other side! We've had it for years, and my beagle Rosy likes to climb up on it too, so it's frayed. As for escape, I think a lot of us read to escape from family chaos or, in my case, family emptiness. There were six of us, but we just weren't connected. My brother said once that we weren't really a family; we were all just six people who happened to live at the same address. (My therapist's term was "non-relational.") My experience was that none of us really knew where anyone else was, or what they were doing or feeling. So, instead of chaos, I just had vacancy. For me, books filled it. Thank you for sharing a snippet of your childhood here. :)

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    2. That kind of family dynamic resonates with me, too, Karen. I never thought of it that way before, but it was more like we were fellow passengers in the lifeboat for all but my youngest brother. Non relational is a good descriptor.

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    3. Yeah, I found the term "non-relational" helpful. It reassured me that my family wasn't the only one like that. I mean, if there was a name for it, it must be real. Passengers in the lifeboat is a good metaphor.

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  10. Congratulations on your new book. I was in love with all those same books when I was young. I can’t imagine not being able to read whatever I want. This morning I opened the site for the Kansas City NPR station to see a story about the Wichita, KS school system banning 29 books. This terrifies me. Children need access to many different points of view. And they need to be encouraged to use their imagination. Adults need to provide children with the tools to develop their minds. Rant over.

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    1. Arg. I'm completely with you. It's as if some people are desperately fearful that just because a child reads a particular point of view, they will *become* it or fall into it blindly or change radically. What ever happened to teaching children to read reflectively and with some self-awareness, to consider, hm, that's an interesting point of view, though it doesn't quite match up with mine. Every couple of years I give a talk to parents at one of the schools here in Phoenix, and it's called "Your Developing Reader," and your points -- that children need access to different points of view, that books are tools to develop their minds, to teach how to hold several POVs in their mind at once and examine them -- is a cornerstone of it.

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    2. I can only hope that banning some books will encourage young readers to actually seek them out--what is more enticing than the forbidden?

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    3. People in power who believe their own belief and/or viewpoint is the only “right” one will always use that ego to attempt censorship. Sadly, it seems to be on the rise in the last five years.

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    4. Here's hoping young adult readers will always continue to read around and behind their parents! :)

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  11. Congratulations! What an interesting career you have had!
    My sister and I used to read in the hayloft of the bar behind our house. Just kind of curled up in the corner, with the light coming from the doors below. There was also one especially comfortable chair in the family room, but you had to dibs that or someone else would sit there.
    I loved it Nancy Drew, but I always thought she was a little dismissive of her pals. Didn’t she call Bess “plump” all the time? I never thought that was quite right.
    And oh, Cherry Ames! I loved those books, and it really taught me how much I was not cut out to be a nurse. What a very special person you have to be!
    But life-changing for me were the Sherlock Holmes stories. I was absolutely riveted.


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    1. I love that you could read with your sister ... that sounds like such a nice "both together and individuals" sort of experience. To be fair to Nancy Drew, I think it was the omniscient narrator who called Bess "plump" and George "tomboyish." :) And yes, I loved Sherlock too ... by the way, I'm reading HER PERFECT LIFE right now and suspecting Greer of some misdeeds...

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  12. What a wonderfully evocative post. My family also hails from upstate New York and your post brought me right back there, front and center. I'm looking forward to catching up with your books!

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    1. Thanks, Kait!! What part of upstate NY? I have relatives scattered through Syracuse and went to school in Ithaca.

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    2. Millers Mills/Rochester/Buffalo My folks got around :)

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  13. I had a favorite place in my Grandmother’s house - my Mother’s old room. She had a separate dressing area with the prettiest vanity in it, and I would spend my time playing make believe there. I guess one day I became bored with the vanity and looked at the bookshelf next to it, and it was filled with Nancy Drew books. I was already a reader, but the Nancy Drew books were unlike anything I had read before, and I was hooked. I moved on to Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt and still re-read those books today.

    My parents had a 1-1/2 chair that they had gotten from my Grandfather, and that was my favorite spot for curling up and reading. Now, it’s my den sofa where I can look out at the green belt behind our house and watch for deer that wander by.

    Thanks for stopping by JRW, and I look forward to reading Down a Dark River ~

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  14. Okay. Down a Dark River is on order to arrive tomorrow, by which time I might have finished An Eggnog to Die For. Jungle Red is so good/bad for my TBR pile!

    As for reading, I would do it anywhere and everywhere: in bed, on the sofa, in the big armchair that could hold me and my Irish setter together. One of my favorite places was in class, at those times when I had finished the assignment but everybody else was still working. Agatha Christie, John Creasy, Mary Stewart, and J.R.R. Tolkien all had a turn or two on my desk, particularly in science classes. I remember one boy who was absolutely certain I was doing something wrong, and determined to narc me out to the teacher. One day he called our teacher's attention to the fact that I was not working on the assignment.

    Mr. Michaelson came over to my desk and saw that I was reading. "Have you finished your assignment?"
    I handed him my paper.
    "Are you reading this for another class?"
    "No." I handed him the book, a tiny, blue-bound Yale Shakespeare edition of The Tempest.
    He turned to Mike, my tormentor and said, "It's okay. Leave her alone."
    Such vindication!

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    1. Haha! I'm laughing out loud at your Mr. Michaelson story! I too would read in class. I'd hide it behind my math textbook, in Mr. McKay's class, and this boy Lewis narc'ed on me! He raised his hand: "Karen's reading behind her textbook." Mr McKay kind of winked at me and told him to mind his own beeswax. :) I'd forgotten that until I saw your reply. Thanks for chiming in :)

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  15. Congratulations on DOWN A DARK RIVER, Karen, and also on that GORGEOUS cover. Launching a new series is always scary - from the look of things, you're in good hands.

    I also am indebted to grandparents for wonderful reading experiences. My New York grandmother, in the North Country, had an antique business in her barn, and one whole wall was just shelf on shelf of books - slightly musty hardcovers of historical romances like THE SHEIK and CAPTAIN BLOOD, and fuzzy-edged science fiction paperbacks.

    My Alabama grandparents subscribed to Readers Digest Condensed Books, and when I visited, I would tear through them, reading the latest thrillers, mysteries, literary fiction and family dramas (with all the sex and bad words thoughtfully excised by Readers Digest.) They had a comfy sofa at one end of their long living room, beneath a picture window which had enough containers of plants on it to pass for a jungle. I spent many happy hours in that green and shady spot.

    I wonder if those reading spaces of our early years have such power because when we get older, although we remain readers, we can never recapture that sense of being able to spend hours and hours with nothing else to do and no one waiting to call us out of the fictional dream...

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    1. I think that's true, about not being able to recapture that sense of nothing else to do. As an adult, I find it hard to go all in, even when I have a great book in my hands. There's a corner of my mind always spinning with the To Do list, or my worries about my kids, or the house whose plumbing has gone bonkers this month with two burst pipes and an exploding hot water heater. I like that thought, about why those old reading spaces still have such power. Thank you! :)

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  16. Hi, Karen! Thanks so much for joining us today. Sorry the formatting is weird. Blogger hates me! But I love your post!
    I adored Victoria Holt - she was my gateway to the adult books at the library.

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    1. Thank you, Jenn! It's a pleasure to be here. I love your readers, they're so engaged and engaging.

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  17. "placed in small boats and sent floating down the Thames" - that got my attention. My mother was always reading in th3e evening and when the little ones were taking a nap. (Isn't that what naptime is for... adults being able to read?) We had one bookcase of books in the house but went the library at least twice a month, especially in the summer. I remember discovering The Boxcar Children wandering the shelves of the children's library. My cousin introduced me to Nancy Drew one weekend at a family friend's cabin up on Calistoga Rd. I was always carrying a reading book with my school books and in my purse. Before the time of Kindle, I always put an extra book in by suitcase when I traveled. Now I can travel with so many more books with Kindle but I still love holding the actual book and turning the actual page.

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    1. Oh my gosh! The Boxcar Children! I had forgotten about them. Wow. (I read your reply and felt an almost physical zing as that neuron connected in my memory.) Thank you for reminding me. My husband actually just bought me a kindle ... a true act of kindness, so I can never run out of books, though I too love holding the actual book and turning the actual page. :) Thanks for sharing!

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  18. What great memories, Karen. I read anywhere I could find a spot to sit, whether that be a chair, the couch, or the limbs of a tree.

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    1. Thanks, Liz! The limbs of a tree ... I never sat in a tree, I don't think. But I did sit at the bottom of one, with the dead leaves around, smelling musty. Thanks for chiming in :)

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  19. Karen,

    Happy book birthday and welcome to Jungle Reds! I am adding your book to be read After I finish some of my building blocks for my mystery writing class.

    Favorite place to read as a child: the sofa / the settee in the living room. It was so comfortable.

    Seems to me that I read everything as a child. I loved the Golden Books.

    Diana

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    1. Thanks, Diana! Oh, I remember the Golden Books. My mom saved some that I ended up reading to my own kids :)

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  20. Congratulations on your new book, Karen. I've seen it popping up in lots of places and heard great buzz about it. And, I can understand why. Down a Dark River is now on my TBR list.

    Favorite place to read was couch in living room growing up. When I was fifteen and we moved, it changed to a comfy chair in the living room.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! I hope you enjoy DADR. Yes, I've been so pleased by the buzz and reviews so far ... I was nervous about this one. My first three are all about young women who turn amateur sleuth after someone they love is injured or murdered. Personal stakes but not necessarily public ones. This book is darker, with stakes for London and Scotland Yard ... because in 1877, four Yard inspectors were put on trial for taking bribes from con men, and trust was at an all-time low and Parliament was considering shutting down the plain clothes division for good. That's true history. But as I began to write DADR, I was thinking a lot about how revenge is sometimes a last-ditch, non-verbal, often dysfunctional plea for empathy, a plea for someone to "get it." That's what's at the core of the story. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for being here and part of the conversation about our childhood reading spaces. :)

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  21. Thanks, Celia, for sharing a bit of your childhood! When I would stay at my grandparent's house, down one of the long hallways, my aunt Jeanne's room had a white metal vanity table with a monogrammed silver brush and mirror on it. It looked out onto a stand of pine trees and Black Creek, behind the house. I'm thinking we must be kindred spirits ... not only a vanity table and a love for Nancy Drew and Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt but a preference for 1-1/2 chairs :)

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  22. My mother loved to read Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt when I was a child and after she finished reading a book, I would pick it and read it. I still reread those books. Now I realize she was escaping from her life as a 30-year-old housewife with 4 kids under the age of 10. My favorite place to read now is in bed. When I was a child we lived in a rural area so I would take my book and walk out into a field with long grass, flatten an area where I could lie down and hide for hours.

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    1. Oh, I can imagine you out in the field, amidst the tall grasses. That's a great memory. Yes, I think Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt were probably good escape for many women. My mom had 4 kids under the age of 10 at one point too. I know it was a challenge. Thank you for sharing!

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  23. Shout out from another Trixie Belden fan here. Still reread those books upon occasion. It's always great to visit with old friends, isn't it?

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    1. Yes, it is!! :) I always wanted a clubhouse like they had ... I had Jim's red hair, but I wanted Diana Lynch's exotic purplish eyes ...

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  24. I loved Down a Dark River! I'm waiting for the next one! When I was a kid I usually retreated to my bedroom and shut the door to read. When you have 4 brothers and sisters it is necessary. Nowadays I'm either plopped on the couch or, if my husband is out of town, I have the luxury of reading in bed at night. I discovered Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and all those greats when I was in 6th grade and never looked back. I did read Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Vicky Barr, Dana Girls, Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, whatever my library had. For whatever reason I wasn't a fan of Trixi Beldon or the Bobbsey Twins. Too sweet maybe?

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    1. Wow, Pat, you are a total kindred spirit so far as books go!!! I'd forgotten about Vicky Bar and Dana Girls ... yes, I read those from the library :) Thank you for reading and loving Down a Dark River (I saw your wonderful review). I'm scribbling madly on the next ... due to my editor March 1. The title will be (drumroll) UNDER A VEILED MOON, and it's about the Princess Alice disaster of September 1878. Think Titanic, but on the Thames. Thanks for chiming in!

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  26. Hi, Karen, and welcome! DADR is going immediately on my to-read asap list!!! As it happens, I've been listening to Charles Finch's Charles Lennox books, so my head is very much in Victorian England at the moment. Such a fascinating period!

    I adored all the Mary Stewart/Victoria Holt/Elizabeth Peters (not the Peabodies, but her earlier books which were more in the Stewart/Holt vein) books, and still reread Mary Stewart. I reread My Brother Michael recently (on my Kindle!) and it was just as gorgeous as I remembered. I think those early reading experiences do set certain pathways in our brains. I read everywhere, but my favorite spot was sitting at the top of our stairs. Our staircase had a big picture window that looked out over our cul-de-sac, and I loved that mix of reading, observing, and listening to sounds of the household downstairs.

    I am curious about what drew you to the Victorian period?

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    1. Hi Deborah, thanks for the welcome! Yes, Charles and I have a bit of a twinnish thing going ... we've appeared together at the Pen, our books overlap a good bit, and yesterday both of us had books come out. I love his books ... he's funnier than I am! That takes a special skill, to mix murder with humor. OK ... so with respect to your childhood reading -- I never read Elizabeth Peters. (How is that?) Yes, Mary Stewart's books do stand up to a reread, particularly My Brother Michael, This Rough Magic, and Nine Coaches Waiting, I think. I never got hooked on her Merlin books. I love the idea of your reading nook at the top of the stairs ... it's suggestively liminal, isn't it, because you were both in the house and out of it, with your view, sort of the way we ride the line when we're in the world of a book. As for the Victorian period, back in 2001, I wrote my PhD diss on Victorian railway disasters in medical and legal treatises, novels, cartoons and ephemera. The Victorians were really anxious about them -- with good reason. Safety devices were pretty much non-existent. So I recycled that material for novel #1, putting my heroine Elizabeth and her mother in a train in 1874 and running it off the rails north of London. Then I just sort of stayed in the period ... mostly because it's a time of immense social, economic and political change, particularly with respect to class mobility and women's roles in/out of the home. So there I am! My kids say I truly *belong* in 1870s London, especially when I try to do anything complicated on my iPhone. :) Thanks for chiming in!

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  27. Congratulations on Down A Dark River! It sounds terrific and I’ve ordered it. It’s exciting to know it’s the beginning of a series.

    Growing up, I shared a bedroom with my older brother, and there was only a small lamp on the bedside nightstand, not enough to read by. My mother was the reader, and she had a comfy chair and floor lamp in the living room, but it was HERS. So I only read during the day, and then on the bed, as the living room sofa wasn’t good for reading, being hard with very low arms.

    I read Sherlock Holmes, and Hardy Boys, Tom Swift Jr., Rick Brandt. I also read all of Albert Peyson Terhune’s dog books, beginning with Lassie, and any other dog hero books I could find at the library. I also read everything I could find by Robert Louis Stevenson. I must have read Kidnapped and Treasure Island a dozen times. I also found a collection of Kipling which I loved. My mother had a lot of historical novels such as Lord Vanity by Samuel Shellabarger. There were a bunch of others, and I read them all, along with her Mary Stewart books, and Daphne du Maurier novels. I hated Mrs. Danvers.

    Later, my reading turned to Christe, Allingham, Sayers, P. D. James and the hard-boiled writers Hammett and Chandler. Right now I’m reading a Maigret novel in my wide, comfy chair, by a window with a nice view and a good lamp for later.

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    1. Oh my gosh!! I think you may be the only person I know who read Terhune's books! Lad the Dog was my favorite; I think I read it at least five times. I think I liked how the dogs tended to be smarter than some of the people! I find it interesting that your reading as a child really was shaped by your environment -- the small lamp, the hard sofa with low arms. I'm glad to hear you have found a good reading chair now, with a nice view and plenty of light for later. Thank you for sharing your early reads and a bit of your childhood. :)

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  28. Hi, Karen: OH, I get it , about upstate weather turning people into readers. I grew up in the true North Country, Watertown. Snow and more snow...and a very , very good (and beautiful) public library. (And my husband, and later unrelated, parents and sister,lived in Rochester) The childhood books are a long list,part of my brain cells, but from my teen years? Mary Stewart, whose best books really stand up well.A couple are lifetime favorites for me. And then I found Dorothy L. Sayers.

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    1. Yes! Snow and more snow. We read in self-defense!! So I haven't fallen for Dorothy Sayers yet ... but if you loved Mary Stewart and love Dorothy Sayers, I need to give her another try. Perhaps I will get one for my kindle, for the plane ride tomorrow. :) Thanks for the nudge. :)

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  29. Happy book birthday Karen!

    I look forward to reading it in my favorite reading place — bed — in Rochester!

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    1. Thank you, Ann!! Is it raining there? I seem to remember it was always raining in Rochester around my birthday (tomorrow). Thank you for reading DADR -- I hope you enjoy getting to know Michael Corravan!

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    2. It's still beautiful autumn here, but winter is arriving over the weekend. Happy Birthday!

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  30. I have read every night in bed since I was a young girl! I look forward to that time, my mind escapes and my sleep is peaceful, even reading mysteries and thrillers! I had 4 younger brothers and I would climb the cherry tree and sit reading to get away!

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    1. Yet another tree climber in our midst!! :) Thanks for sharing, Linda!

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