Library Journal has named DM Quincy’s mystery, Murder in Mayfair, one of the best mysteries of 2017!
What an honour for me to have the Emmy Award-winning journalist and celebrated author on the show. You’ll hear us chat about her love of traveling, the intriguing ‘auctions’ that went on in the Regency period that DM writes about, and her plans to travel to London in May 2018 to visit some of the places she’s been writing about.
DM Quincy’s next book in this series, Murder in Bloomsbury, was released last week, so it is hot off the presses.
This episode of It’s a Mystery Podcast is sponsored by the brand new Town Called Horse short mystery, Water Horse.
The Town Called Horse is reeling when its connection to the outside world is cut off. Arthur ‘Sully’ Sullivan’s passenger and freight ship has burned in the night. There are no witnesses, no clues, and any evidence that might have existed has been swallowed by the lake.
Links and resources mentioned in this episode
- Click on any of the book covers to go to DM’s books on Amazon
- As we mention early on in the show, DM’s book Murder in Mayfair was named one of the 5 best mysteries in 2017, along with titles by Craig Johnson and Louise Penny!
- More about Diana’s Regency Romance novels
You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
Transcription of Interview with DM Quincy
Alexandra: Hi, mystery readers. I’m Alexandra Amor. This is “It’s a Mystery Podcast,” and I’m here today with D.M. Quincy. Hi, Diana.
Diana: How are you?
Alexandra: Very well. How are you?
Diana: I’m good. Thank you.
Alexandra: Good. Well, let me give our listeners a little bit of an introduction to you.
D.M. Quincy is an award-winning former television journalist who, after covering dozens of unsolved crimes, decided to conceive her own stories in which a brilliant amateur detective always gets the bad guy or girl.
D.M. was bitten by the travel bug practically at birth since she’s a U.S. Foreign Service brat, and, like Atlas, her main character, tries to visit far-flung places as often as she can.
When she isn’t hunched over her laptop researching ways for her villains to kill people, D.M. reads, spends time with her family, devours foreign language mystery series on Netflix, and plots her next travel adventure.
And so the two books that we’re going to talk about today are the Atlas Catesby books, and you just mentioned to me that the first one, Murder in Mayfair, was made a Library Journal best book of 2017, so congratulations on that.
Diana: Thank you. I’m very excited, especially since it was my debut mystery, so that was very exciting.
Alexandra: Exactly. There are two books in this series, and we’re going to talk about them both. And the second one, Murder in Bloomsbury, will just be out for a couple of weeks when this podcast episode goes live, so we’ll touch on that in a little bit.
The books are set in the early 1800s, 1814 is when the first one starts. Tell us a little bit about Atlas and his background.
And when he is about 11 or 12, a tragedy befalls the family that affects him greatly, and it’s part of the reason after he finishes at the Cambridge he becomes a world traveler. So he’s a very well-traveled gentleman, he speaks a few different languages, and he never really stays in one place for long.
He touches base back in London from time to time. Murder in Mayfair takes place when he is back in London after he hurts his ankle in a carriage accident, so he’s grounded in England longer than he would like.
Alexandra: And we mentioned in the introduction that you traveled a lot as a child as a Foreign Service brat, you said.
Diana: Yes. That’s what they call it.
Alexandra: That was, I gather, some of the inspiration for Atlas.
You love to travel, he does as well, and I’m imagining that he’s been to some of the places that you’ve been to.
Diana: He has. In Murder in Bloomsbury, he’s just coming back from Jamaica. My parents were stationed in Jamaica, of course, after I was gone to college, but I visited quite a bit. And my husband and I actually honeymooned there, so we honeymooned with my parents in Jamaica.
Alexandra: What else is it about Atlas that appealed to you, that made you want to have him as your main character?
Diana: I wanted him to be thoroughly decent, and he’s a thoroughly decent person. He’s very gallant. He’s a thinker. He’s very smart.
Part of why I made him a world traveler is that he’s very open-minded. He’s a little out of step with the social mores of Regency, England in the early 1800s, so… What was your question? I already forgot it.
Alexandra: No. That’s okay. Just what else it was that appealed to you about him and why you chose him as your main character.
Diana: Yeah. I wanted him to be smart. I wanted him to be gallant. I wanted him to be a gentleman. I wanted him to very much be a product of his time and his society, but also a little bit different and a product of his experiences, which includes the tragedy that befalls the family as a youth and this subsequent traveling.
Alexandra: Was there something about this era particularly that attracted you?
Diana: I really like the contrasts. It was a time where manners mattered. There were very rigid rules in particular among high society, the ton of the peerage, that’s your dukes, your earls, your viscounts, your marquess, and so I liked that.
And it was also a time where most of the people, many of the people were living in extreme poverty, and I sort of liked the contrast between the two worlds.
Atlas moves between the two worlds. So the reader sees both sides, and they also see the middle class quite a bit and particularly more in the second book, Murder in Bloomsbury.
Alexandra: Let’s talk about the event that happens at the beginning of Murder in Mayfair, because I was really intrigued about this. There’s a woman who’s being auctioned off by her husband, Liliana, so tell us about that.
Diana: Believe it or not, I think my journalism background and my books are often inspired by real-life events, and this event, men did sell their wives. It wasn’t legal.
They were still married, but these kind of sales in marketplaces actually happened. And the story that intrigued me is a duke was traveling through a small town, and he saw a man, a lower class gentleman, auctioning off his wife. So the duke went down to watch the sale, and he was very impressed with the woman, so he bought her for himself.
Now, the story gets a little murky as to whether he was already married or whether he was already widowed, so either he took her somewhere and left her with people who could educate her to be a lady and to have manners, or she became his mistress right away. We don’t know.
But what we do know is after his wife died and after her husband died, he married her and made her a duchess. So I was really inspired by that story, I thought it’d be a great way to start Murder in Mayfair.
Alexandra: The premise just intrigued me so much.
I had no idea that that sort of thing actually went on in that time period. You say it wasn’t legal but it did occur.
And sometimes, in some cases, the wife and the husband knew they wanted to separate, so it was sort of her, him or, you know, the man she was seeing, the man she wanted to go with, would be the guy to bid for her, and then she would go off with him. So it wasn’t always a case of the wife being sold against her will.
Alexandra: In this case, the woman’s name is Liliana, and she appears as well in the second book that’s coming out in February 2018.
Tell us a bit about her and her inspiration.
Diana: I don’t think there was a particular inspiration for her. I think she’s a compilation maybe of different people or characters that inspired me.
We don’t know a whole lot about Liliana in the beginning, and we learn more about her character. She’s smart, she’s opinionated, she’s a little reserved, very self-contained, and a match, and she’s witty. She’s a match for both Atlas and for the husband who sells her.
We don’t know where she came from, and during the course of the book, that’s one of the mysteries. Who is Liliana, and what is her background?
Alexandra: I imagine that she’ll appear in more of the stories going forward.
Diana: She will. Yes.
There is a romantic thread, a slow, a very slow burning romantic thread running through the book, so we’ll see her. Yes. Definitely.
Alexandra: Fantastic. And we mentioned research in the introduction, so it must be something that you enjoy, and we’ve touched on the Regency period when this takes place.
Are there particular things that you’ve discovered in your research that have surprised you?
Diana: You know, the wife selling surprised me. I mean, I’ve been writing in this period for so long. I think what surprises me is that a lot of my writing is inspired by…I’ll be researching one book, and I’ll find a nugget that’s so interesting, and I’ll save it away as a story idea for another book.
And something that is true, that when I was covering stories out in the field, that adage, the old adage of, “Truth is stranger than fiction,” is so true. I covered some wild couple of stories that you would have heard of, national stories that were on a crazy side, and the same is true during the research.
I also write historical romance before I was writing mysteries. One of the premises of the book is completely inspired by the story of I think it’s a duke and an earl who settled a gaming debt by getting their children, their underage children, engaged to each other.
So the children, I think the girl was around 12, the boy is around 17, so they were married as children, and then he goes off on his grand tour, and the girl goes back to her life. And when he returns from his grand tour as a young gentleman, as a young man, he sees a beautiful woman at the opera and asks who she is, and it turns out to be his wife. And this is a true story, and they go on to live happily ever after, and they had I think like a dozen kids.
Diana: And it was a very happy marriage though he died young, and she followed him. She died about a year later. Stories like that always, you know, always intrigue me, and they always surprise me.
Alexandra: Yes. And you mentioned that you have written historical romance in the past.
Why the switch to mystery novels?
Diana: I was intrigued by… I think, you know, a part of it is, having covered a lot of crime, you see it firsthand, and it’s pretty gruesome, and there are some murders that they really stayed with me, and so many of them were unsolved. No one ever pays the price.
I think a part of me was intrigued by the challenge of writing a mystery. I love to read them, especially historical mysteries, so I was really inspired to write my own mystery. I guess a psychologist could maybe have a field day with me, but it’s very satisfying to make sure the bad guy or the bad girl is always caught and justice is served. Maybe some of that comes from covering these crimes where nobody ever pays the price.
Alexandra: Yes. Exactly. And, honestly, I think that’s why as mystery readers and writers, one of the reasons we like mysteries is that there is that sense of completion and justice that doesn’t always happen in real life.
Diana: Exactly. Very true.
Alexandra: Do you find there are different challenges with the mystery? I mean, obviously, there’s wrapping it all up with the bad guy.
Has there been anything in particular that’s challenged you?
Diana: It’s just a different thing. I mean, when you’re writing historical romance, as a writer, are you a pantser or are you a plotter? And which means do you sort of just start writing and let the story take you wherever it goes, or do you have to plot out the exact outline?
With romance and other fiction, I presume, you can be a pantser. You can just do it by the seat of your pants and let the characters take you where they want.
With a mystery, you better know where you’re going, or you’re going to write yourself into a corner. So the mysteries have to be plotted out, so that’s the challenge for me, is to plot it out, make sure there are enough red herrings as you go along, make sure you drop enough clues to make it interesting and not too many clues so that it’s not so easy to figure out that people are bored, that readers are bored.
Alexandra: Having to change your writing style like that, that was a bit of a challenge for you then?
Diana: I don’t know if it was a challenge. It was, I guess, a little bit of a challenge, but it was one that I embraced, and I really enjoyed writing it.
I do find that I write the mystery much more slowly. I tend to research it as I go. I do some preliminary research, but I also research and put all the details as I go, because I don’t want any surprises. I don’t want to refer to something or present something that when I go back to check it is not historically accurate, would not have happened, that street wasn’t there at that time, or, you know… You have to be more careful.
You have to be more careful and pay more attention to detail with the mysteries.
With the romances, it’s more the heart of the story, the romance of the story that matters and less the particular details. Although, romance writers, especially historical romance readers, if you get the facts wrong, they will let you know, and they will tell you how you’re wrong about things. So you do have to be careful there, too, just not as much as I find for me as with the mystery writing.
Alexandra: Why did you choose to set them in London? What was it about London that appealed to you?
Diana: I fell in love with Regency romance, so I really researched the period, and I was intrigued by it. The same things that I mentioned earlier. In a way, for us here in the States, anyway, it’s a little bit of a fairy tale, a little bit removed, a little bit of a fantasy for us, especially when it’s back in another period in time and… So I guess that richness, there’s an added layer of richness when it’s sort of removed from the familiarity of being here in the States.
Alexandra: Your historical romances, are they set in England as well?
Diana: They are. They are also Regent. They’re Regency-set. Yes.
Alexandra: I’m assuming you’ve spent a fair amount of time in London.
Diana: I haven’t spent a fair amount of time. I mean, I’ve spent time going in and out when we used to travel, when I was younger, then I had kids and got work, and you get grounded by the day job.
But my kids are a little older now, and so I have a big London research trip, a two-week trip planned in May. And I’m going with my friend, a longtime friend, who reads everything I write, who started reading Regency romance just so she could help me with plotting and brainstorming.
So we’re going together, and we’re gonna visit the places that I write about. We’re gonna visit stately homes. I’m really looking forward to it. There’s so much I wanna see.
Alexandra: Well, that’s so amazing, and I’m completely jealous. I’ve only been to London once, and I loved it.
I was looking at a map today actually to see where Bloomsbury was, and it’s fairly central, kind of west of The City, the neighborhood called The City.
Where is Mayfair? I didn’t think to look where that is.
Diana: You can walk to Mayfair from Bloomsbury. Mayfair is where the cream of the crop lives. It’s your upscale. It’s Fifth Avenue. It’s where the dukes are living. It’s where anyone who’s anyone is living.
Bloomsbury is more…you know, that used to be the neighborhood. They all kind of moved west to Mayfair. Bloomsbury is more middle class. You have more doctors, lawyers, solicitors. Some famous writers live there. Some government officials live there, so that’s the difference.
Mayfair is a little more upscale. Bloomsbury is a little more upper middle class, middle class.
Alexandra: I noticed when I was researching Bloomsbury that Harriet Vane, Dorothy L. Sayers’ character, lived in Bloomsbury, which I had forgotten.
Diana: Me, too.
Alexandra: And definitely not at the same time.
Diana: Originally, the book was not “Murder in Bloomsbury.” I can’t remember what my working title was. I can’t remember. It was Murder in somewhere or in somewhere. A boarding house plays the big role in “Murder in Bloomsbury,” and I couldn’t find a historical record of boarding houses having been and… Gosh, I can’t remember what my original working title was.
So that’s why I moved it to Bloomsbury, because, you know, I’ve found research that suggested that some of these magnificent older houses that were…one wealthy family used to live, once they moved west to Mayfair, some of these beautiful old mansions became boarding houses. So that’s how “Murder in Bloomsbury” got its title.
Alexandra: Oh, that’s interesting.
Are you working on the next one right now?
Diana: I am not working on it yet, but I am plotting it and conceiving it. We don’t have a deal yet. I don’t have a deal yet with my publisher to continue this series, but I hope to, and I expect to.
Alexandra: I think it’s such an interesting concept to move around the different areas of London. One of my favorite mystery series is contemporary, and it’s set in Shepherd’s Bush, which is a little west, again, from Mayfair and Bloomsbury and more, I think, working class.
I’m gonna look forward to researching both on paper and in person when I go in May. I expect to get inspiration. We’re going to visit many of the neighborhoods. We’re going to do a lot of walking tours, a lot of walking, and I expect to get a lot of inspiration.
I hope to be inspired. I’d like this series to go, you know, for several books. I mean, that’s my goal, and so far they’ve been pretty well-received, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to continue.
Alexandra: Winning that Library Journal award can’t have hurt, for sure.
Diana: I am excited. Hopefully, it will help. I’m excited. I’m very excited about it.
Alexandra: Oh, good. Good. Well, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for chatting with me today.
Why don’t you let our listeners know where they can find out more about you and your books?
Diana: Thank you for having me. People can find me at dmquincy.com, so that’s easy, and that’s my website. If you go to my website, I’m also on Twitter, and I’m also on Facebook, and I love to interact with readers. So come find me there, and let’s chat.
Alexandra: Great. Okay. And we should say “Murder in Bloomsbury” has just been published as this is going live, and readers can find that and “Murder in Mayfair” on Amazon, and Kobo, and all the regular retailers.
Diana: Yeah, and it’s at Barnes & Noble. You can order it from… It’s at all the regular retailers.
Alexandra: Great. Awesome. Well, thank you.
Diana: It’s available on hardback and also in digital. And “Murder in Mayfair” is now out in paperback if people are paperback, if people prefer print. So “Murder in Mayfair” is available in paperback, trade paperback, and also digitally, of course.
Alexandra: Yes, of course. Cool. All right. Well, thank you again so much.
Diana: Thanks for the opportunity. I really enjoyed chatting with you.
Alexandra: Oh, you’re very welcome. Bye-bye.
Diana: Take care.