When you can’t visit a place you love, the next best thing is writing about it.
Prolific author (with several pen names) Diana Xarissa joins me for a chat about her cozy mysteries set on the Isle of Man. Diana lived on the island at one time and uses her Aunt Bessie series as an excuse to go back and visit in her imagination.
You’ll hear Diana and I touch on her many series of mysteries, and other books. This is a writer who gets her work done!
In the introduction I mention that I am thrilled to be back into podcasting. This episode is the fifth since I relaunched the show. I am loving the new format of having an author read to us for the first half of the show. And I hope you’re enjoying it too. Let me know! Reviews and ratings on your favorite podcast app are always appreciated and they help the show to find new listeners who are avid mystery readers, just like you.
This week’s mystery author
Diana Xarissa published her first cozy mystery in 2014. Aunt Bessie Assumes, set on the Isle of Man, was just the first of what has become her most successful series. The twenty-third book in the series, Aunt Bessie Wonders, was released in January. There will be three more books in the series in 2020, culminating in the final book, Aunt Bessie Zeroes In, which will be released in October.
In addition to the Aunt Bessie series, Diana writes the Markham Sisters Cozy Mystery novellas, which are set in the fictional village of Doveby Dale in Derbyshire. While they are mysteries, there hasn’t been a murder in the village yet. Diana also writes the Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy series, which features an American protagonist who happens to share her apartment with her dead aunt’s ghost. She also writes two romance series, one set on the Isle of Man and the other set in a fictional town in the state of New York.
To learn more about Diana Xarissa please visit DianaXarissaDunn.com
Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher, Android, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and Spotify.
You can also click here to listen to the interview on YouTube.
Excerpt from Aunt Bessie Assumes
Elizabeth Cubbon, known as Bessie to her friends, rubbed her eyes and checked the clock by her bed. It was 6:06, which meant her internal alarm was a few minutes off today. She frowned as she sat up in bed and pushed back the warm duvet. Slippers in place, she padded over to the window and looked out. The glow from the nearest street lamp gave her just enough light to see the sheets of rain that were falling. She would definitely have the beach to herself this morning.
Half an hour later she was showered and dressed and waiting impatiently for the sky to lighten up a bit. Sunrise, this early in March, was still half an hour away. As rainy and overcast as it was, the sun wasn’t going to make much difference, but she waited for it anyway. A hot cup of tea and toast with honey and homemade strawberry jam helped to pass the time as she watched out the window for the sun to come up.
At quarter past seven, when the sun had risen enough to lift just a bit of the gloom, she pulled on her thickest waterproof coat and a pair of Wellington boots. An umbrella would have been useless in the strong wind. Bessie loved walking on the beach and she wasn’t about to let a little rain or wind stop her. It was, however, colder outside than she had realised and once she stepped out, she decided that today’s morning walk was going to be a short one.
As usual, she headed straight towards the water. Some distance from the water’s edge, she turned right and began her usual stroll towards the line of newer cottages in the distance. Most days she walked as far as the closest cottage before turning back towards home. In the summer she might walk to the cottages and well beyond. Today she planned to shorten her stroll considerably as the strong wind began to pick up and the rain streamed across her face.
In the dim light and pouring rain, she supposed it wasn’t surprising that she didn’t see the man until she had nearly tripped over him. One look had her turning around and heading for home. Even if she had brought her mobile phone with her on the walk, she couldn’t have used it in the heavy rain. She walked as quickly as she could back to her cottage, hurrying faster than she had in many years.
She dialled a number she knew well.
“Laxey Neighbourhood Policing, this is Doona, how can I help you?”
The familiar voice was welcome. Doona only worked the early shift once or twice a week and Bessie felt fortunate that she was the one who answered the phone today. “Doona, it’s Elizabeth Cubbon,” she said, suddenly formal.
“Bessie? My goodness, aren’t we formal on a Monday?”
“Sorry, Doona.” Bessie felt flustered. “It’s just that I’ve found a body, you see.”
“A body?” Doona repeated. “What sort of body is that, then?”
“Well, a human one,” Bessie answered. “A man, probably middle-aged I would think, although it’s hard to tell since he’s face down in the sand.”
“And you found him where, exactly?”
“He’s just lying on the beach.” Bessie felt she was explaining herself badly. She took a deep breath and started over. “I went out for my morning walk, and I nearly tripped over this man who’s lying on the beach. I’m sure he must be dead. It’s too cold and wet for anyone to lie there otherwise.”
“Aye, dead drunk, more like it,” Doona replied. “How many complaints have we had about the folks in the new cottages getting drunk and behaving badly?”
“I don’t think anyone’s staying at the cottages yet, this season. Anyway, I really think he’s dead,” Bessie told her friend. “He’s lying face down in the sand and he didn’t move when I shouted at him. I think you’d better send Hugh and he’d better be quick. The tide’s on its way in and the gulls are circling.”
“I don’t suppose you have any guests that could go and stand by the body until Hugh gets there?” Doona asked. “Someone should keep an eye on it, I suppose.”
“No one stayed over last night,” Bessie answered. “They usually don’t on school nights.”
Bessie had never married or had children of her own, so she acted as an honorary aunt to every child in the small village of Laxey, where she made her home. Her guest room was often occupied on weekends by some angry or unhappy teenager who felt misunderstood by his or her parents.
“That’s a shame. I’m ringing Hugh on his mobile phone now, but it will take him a while to get dressed and get down there. He doesn’t usually roll in here until half-eight or nine.”
“I’ll go and wait with the body,” Bessie told her.
“Now don’t you be silly,” Doona replied. “You stay in where it’s warm and dry. I’ll tell Hugh to hurry.”
“The poor man shouldn’t be out there all alone,” Bessie argued. “I’ll go and stand with him and chase away the gulls and the tide.”
“You’ll struggle to chase away the tide, I think,” Doona laughed. “I’ll make sure Hugh knows you’re waiting out in the cold for him. I’m sure he’ll hurry faster if he knows that you’re getting soaked and blown around.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure of anything with young Hugh,” Bessie replied. “He’s a nice boy, but I’ve never seen him hurry at anything.”
“Just as well he’s living here,” Doona chuckled. “Traa-dy-liooar, and all that.”
In spite of her offer, Bessie was in no hurry to get back outside in the nasty weather to spend more time with the dead man. After she’d hung up the phone, she put the kettle back on and prepared herself another hot drink. She carefully poured it into an insulated mug and then, reluctantly, pulled her still wet coat back on. The man on the beach hadn’t moved, which didn’t surprise Bessie. There was no doubt in her mind that he was dead, whatever Doona thought.
The rain was easing off slightly and the sun was trying its best to warm the air as it rose before Bessie finally spotted Hugh’s police car pulling into a parking space in front of her cottage. Bessie headed up the beach towards him, waving to him as he emerged from his car. He was frowning and struggling to pull on a light raincoat. He popped open an umbrella and Bessie held back a laugh as the wind immediately blew it inside out.
“This is beastly weather,” he told Bessie as she approached him.
“We mustn’t complain,” Bessie told him. “Plenty of places are worse than here.”
The man looked at her for a moment and then shook his head. “Can’t think where,” he muttered under his breath. Then he spoke loudly. “So what have we got then?”
“I nearly tripped over him,” Bessie told the young policeman. “I was out for my morning walk and I didn’t expect to find anyone lying on the beach, especially not in this weather.”
Hugh nodded. “I expect he’s from the new cottages,” he told Bessie in an impatient voice. “Had too much to drink and now he’s gone and passed out on the sand.”
“I’m pretty sure the cottages aren’t being used yet this year. Besides, I think he’s dead,” Bessie repeated what she’d already told Doona.
Hugh managed to get his umbrella the right way around again and he battled to keep it that way as the pair slowly approached the body. They watched silently as a seagull landed on the man’s back and began pulling at the thinning hair that surrounded a bald circle on the back of the man’s head.
“That has to hurt,” Hugh remarked as he stopped walking. “Maybe I’d better get some reinforcements down here. Dead people aren’t really part of my job description.”
Bessie sighed and turned towards him. “You should at least check that he’s really dead,” she encouraged the man. “Think how embarrassing it would be to get Inspector Kelly down here only for him to find that the man really is just drunk.”
Bessie watched as different emotions flashed across the young man’s face. She had known young Hugh Watterson since the day he was born and she could almost read his thoughts as he looked from Bessie to the body and back. His eyes and his hair were almost an identical shade of brown. He was in his mid-twenties now, and had grown to around six foot tall, but he still looked no more than fifteen. He was still sporting the same patchy attempt to grow a moustache that he had started when he’d actually been that age.
Hugh had joined the Isle of Man Constabulary as soon as he’d left school, but he was still as transparent to her as he had been at six when he used to stop in to see her after school, pretending he just wanted to say hi, really hoping for a biscuit or a slice of cake.
While he was reasonably smart, even his best friend would never call him enterprising. His worst enemy would simply say that he was lazy. Bessie could almost see him trying to work out what move would cause him the most work. She sighed and took a decisive step towards the body. The tide was still rising and it wouldn’t be long before it would reach the man’s feet.
Hugh crossed to her side and then held out a hand. “Aunt Bessie, you need to take a step back, please.” Bessie stopped and then moved back a few feet under Hugh’s suddenly serious gaze.
Hugh reached the man’s side and pushed gently on his shoulder. Nothing happened. He pushed a second time, with more force.
“Sir?” Hugh shook the man’s shoulder, shouting loudly over the lightly falling rain and the sound of the wind and waves. “Sir, you need to wake up. Sir?”
With a sigh, Hugh walked over to hand his umbrella to Bessie and then returned to the body. He began struggling to roll the man over onto his back. Suddenly he stopped what he was doing and looked over at Bessie. Bessie looked expectantly at him, but his expression told her nothing.
“I need to ring for backup,” he said to Bessie. “I know that this is no job for a woman, especially an elderly woman, but could you stay with the body for a few more minutes while I do that?”
Bessie drew herself up to her full height of five feet, three inches and glared back at the man. “I’ll thank you to keep your sexist and ageist remarks to yourself, young man,” she told the policeman. “I am perfectly capable of standing here for a few minutes while you do what you need to do. The poor dead man deserves to have sympathetic company while he waits for whatever is going to happen next.”
Hugh looked as if he wanted to argue, but only for a moment. “Keep the umbrella for now,” he told Bessie as he headed back to his car. “And stay away from the body.”
Bessie grinned as the wind howled and blew the umbrella inside out yet again. She wasn’t going to stay any drier with it than without it, but she knew its presence made the young policeman feel a bit better about leaving her out in the storm. Once Hugh was back at his car, Bessie turned curiously towards the dead man. What she could see of him looked vaguely familiar, but she wasn’t sure why.
Bessie had lived on the Isle of Man for almost her entire life. Most of her childhood had been spent in America, but that had been a very long time ago. She had purchased her little cottage on the Laxey beach when she was just eighteen and had lived there ever since. While Douglas, the island’s capital, had been growing rapidly recently, thanks to changes in the tax laws, Laxey was still pretty much the same small village it had always been. Bessie fancied that she knew just about everyone in the area, and she felt sure that she could place the man if she could just see his face.
She took a cautious step towards him, wondering if she could somehow get a better look. She spun back around as she heard Hugh splashing back down the beach towards her. The rain had left puddles everywhere in the sand, and Hugh seemed incapable of missing any of them as he stomped along.
“Inspector Kelly is on his way and so is John Rockwell from Ramsey CID.”
Bessie nodded. She knew Inspector Patrick Kelly; indeed, his mother had grown up in Laxey, although the family had moved to Douglas when the future Mrs. Kelly was in her late teens. She had eventually married a Kelly from somewhere in the south of the island and they had remained in Douglas.
Bessie remembered Mrs. Kelly bragging about her clever son who had joined the police department in London when she had seen her once in Douglas many years earlier. She’d heard through various sources that the woman had been even more pleased when Patrick took up a position with the force back on the island after some years in London. He was currently in charge of the tiny station at Laxey, with policing responsibility for both Laxey and Lonan, and Bessie occasionally ran into him when stopping to see Doona at the station.
“I know Patrick Kelly well enough,” she told Hugh. “But I’ve never met John Rockwell.”
“Inspector Rockwell is a good guy,” Hugh shrugged. “He’s from across.”
Bessie nodded. “Where?”
“His last posting was in Manchester before he came here. I’m not sure where he’s from originally.” Hugh shrugged again and looked longingly at the umbrella Bessie was still holding.
Bessie shuffled closer to the man and tried holding the badly mangled umbrella at an angle that might offer some protection for both of them.
“Why did he leave his posting in Manchester?” Bessie asked, eager to learn all that she could about the man before his arrival.
“Apparently the wife wanted a nice safe place for the kids to grow up,” Hugh repeated what he had heard. “They’ve a boy and girl and I hear they didn’t live in a great area in Manchester and couldn’t really afford to move.”
Bessie nodded. The island was certainly a very safe place for a young family. “Where have they settled then?”
“They bought a four-bed semi in that new development in Ramsey,” Hugh answered. “They moved about six months ago and it’s lucky they did, because the prices for those houses have shot up.”
Bessie shook her head. “I don’t know what’s happening with house prices,” she sighed. “All these bankers and the like moving in and driving up prices. Won’t be long before no one will be able to afford anything. I know I should be grateful I got my little house so many years ago.”
“Aye, you could be selling it for a lot of money now, you know,” Hugh told her. “I heard that when Mrs. Clague sold the land that the new cottages are on she only got about a hundred thousand and now that land would be worth more than twice that.”
“My advocate says that beachfront properties are at a premium right now,” Bessie told him. “Mrs. Clague should have waited another year or two before she sold. Mr. Quayle reckons that prices are just going to keep going up.”
“Aye, but Mrs. Clague was in a hurry, I gather.”
“Oh aye, she wanted a spot in the new senior home in Douglas. I told her she should stay put, but she wanted the bright lights and the big city. Now she can walk to the shops and there’s even a pub right next door. Last I heard she was having a wonderful time.”
“You ever think about selling up and moving into a home?” Hugh asked, seemingly without thinking.
Bessie turned and took a step away from the man, taking the sheltering umbrella with her. She looked him up and down and then shook her head. “I am in a home, my home, and I intend to stay there until I die,” she told him in an imperious tone. “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to move into a home for the elderly and spend all their time surrounded by old people and nurses.”
Hugh turned a burst of laughter into a cough and then quickly changed the subject. “I can’t imagine what’s keeping the bosses,” he remarked.
“Your Inspector Rockwell probably got lost,” Bessie suggested wryly.
“Ah, here they come now,” Hugh waved an arm towards Bessie’s cottage where the lights from several cars were now visible. Bessie shuddered as she realised that the new arrivals had driven in with their emergency lights blazing. By lunchtime, half the island would be thinking that she was dead.
Patrick Kelly was in his mid-forties, with brown hair that was thinning rapidly and hazel eyes that looked washed out and tired. He really needed to lose about twenty pounds. Stomping across the sand, he pulled his slightly too small raincoat as tightly as he could around his body as the still strong wind swirled around him.
A man Bessie assumed was John Rockwell followed him more slowly, taking time to study the scene as they approached. Of a similar age to the native Manxman, Rockwell looked as if he worked hard to keep in the best possible physical condition. His own raincoat looked not only warm, but was also a perfect fit. His hair was a lighter shade of brown than Inspector Kelly’s and he didn’t appear to have any trouble with it thinning.
Bessie could see a group of uniformed constables climbing from their cars and standing hesitantly in clusters by her cottage, waiting for their orders.
“What’ve we got?” Patrick barked at Hugh as he reached the younger policeman.
“It’s a body, sir, a dead one,” Hugh said brightly.
“I see that.” Patrick shook his head. “I also see rain flooding the area and washing away all of the evidence, and an elderly civilian standing around getting soaked and getting in the way of the investigation.”
Hugh flushed. “I brought an umbrella to shield the body,” he offered, “but I thought that Bessie should have it. She’s too old to stand in the rain without any protection.”
Bessie opened her mouth to reply and then snapped it shut again. First Patrick called her elderly and then Hugh almost accused her of stealing an umbrella from a dead man. She was so mad she couldn’t speak.
“Kelly, get a tent up.” John Rockwell had reached the small group now and he quickly took charge. “There are plenty of men here to help.”
Patrick nodded once and then, after shooting an angry look at Hugh, turned and walked back up the beach. Bessie could hear him shouting orders at the waiting men as he approached them.
“Now then, Hugh, isn’t it? Tell me exactly what happened.” Rockwell smiled encouragingly at the young policeman, who looked relieved.
“Doona, back at the station, she was rung at oh-seven-twenty-two this morning by a known member of the public, stating that she had discovered a body on Laxey Beach. Doona questioned the witness briefly, to establish exactly what she had seen, and then rang me and suggested that I check the beach. I arrived at oh-seven-fifty-five and found the body exactly as described by the witness. I, um, attempted to ascertain if the man in question was merely sleeping or was indeed dead by trying to roll him over. Upon doing so, I, er, well, at that point I returned to my car and rang for backup.”
Hugh blew out a huge breath, as if exhausted by the recitation.
“I take it this is the witness in question?” The senior officer nodded towards Bessie.
“Oh yes, this is Aunt Bessie,” Hugh confirmed. “Sorry, um, Miss Elizabeth Cubbon. She lives in the cottage just there.”
Hugh pointed to Bessie’s cottage and John turned his head and slowly looked it over before looking back at Bessie.
“I’m very sorry that you’ve had to stand out in the rain all morning, Mrs. Cubbon,” he said to Bessie with a rueful grin. She was surprised to find that his eyes were an almost electric green that instantly fascinated her. Perhaps they were artificially enhanced, like Doona’s, she surmised.
“I’m Inspector Rockwell from the Ramsey CID, by the way,” the man continued. “Why don’t we go inside and you can tell me exactly what happened.”
“It’s Miss Cubbon, actually,” Bessie set the record straight. “And we’ve no need to go inside. It’s a short story.” She paused, expecting the man to argue but he simply nodded and waited for her to continue.
“I came out for my morning walk and nearly tripped over the body.” Bessie shrugged. “Then I rang the police. That’s the whole story.”
“Indeed?” Rockwell raised an eyebrow. “Do you always walk when it’s pouring with rain and blowing a gale?”
Bessie snorted. “This isn’t a gale. It’s just a bit fresh. And I walk every day, whatever the weather. If I waited for sunshine, I wouldn’t get very many walks in, would I?”
Again, the man raised his eyebrow and didn’t speak. Behind them, the uniformed constables were struggling to erect a canvas tent over the body. Bessie turned to watch the action as the men fought the wind, the rain, and their own general incompetence. She had to bite back a laugh as a huge wind gust blew the half-erected tent over onto the beach.
“We aren’t impressing you with our professionalism, are we?” Rockwell asked Bessie as they watched the men begin again.
“It really isn’t that difficult,” Bessie told him, shaking her head. “They just need to….”
The scream that echoed across the beach startled Bessie to silence.
Interview with Diana Xarissa
Alexandra: Bessie is a delight and I have so many questions about her.
I just love that chapter. But my favorite line, I wrote it down. I live in a windy, rainy place, too, was when she said, “This isn’t a gale. It’s just a bit fresh.” So awesome.
Tell us more about Bessie. Where did she come from? She’s lived on the Isle of Man for ages. You describe her as being an age somewhere between a free bus pass, which is 60, and a telegram from the queen, which is 100.
Diana: Yes. And that is all you’ll get from Bessie as well. I think she stopped counting at 60 and will not count again till she gets that telegram from the queen. I know exactly how old she is, but I’ll never tell.
Yes, she grew up, and it just kind of a sad story. She grew out of a romance novel that I wrote. It was called Island Inheritance, and she was the source of the inheritance. She had just passed away.
I wrote her whole back story. So the young woman from America came over to sort out the inheritance and felt fell in love with a lawyer on the island. And so she learned all about Besseie through talking to this lawyer and his family and all the people that knew Bessie.
So I wrote this whole backstory for and then I wanted to start a cozy series. And I was like, she would have been perfect if she wasn’t dead. So I set the cozy series 15 years before the romance.
The cozy series starts actually in 1998, the same sort of time that I moved to the island, because then I only have to tax my own memory of what we could or couldn’t do.
They have mobile phones but they don’t have smart phones and things like that. So that’s where Bessey came from originally was that romance novel.
She’s a little bit of a mix of my mother-in-law, my grandmother-in-law. My husband is is English. So they’re English. So my mother-in-law, my grandmother-in-law and some of the other women that I met when I was first living on the island and and starting to understand the differences between the two cultures on the surface seemed similar, but aren’t so meaning the Isle of Man in England.
I’m American. I met my husband when I was living in D.C. And then moved to originally the Darbyshire area, which is why my novella series is set in Darbyshire. And then we moved to the Isle of Man. We were on the Isle of Man for about 10 years.
Alexandra: And you must love it because you have a couple of different series written there.
Diana: I do love it. It’s a very unique place. It’s its own country. It has its own government. It has its own set of laws. It has the world’s longest continuous running parliament that is still held in the open air once a year.
Anyone who has a grievance or an issue is can present it to the government in front of everybody. All of the laws are read out in both English and Manx, which is the Celtic tongue that they used to speak. It’s just it’s fascinating.
I did a master’s degree in the island’s history while I lived there. And then when I moved back to the US because we’re back in the US now, I missed it. And because I couldn’t just drop everything and go and visit, I started writing stories set there so I could at least visit it in my imagination.
And that has just snowballed now into twenty six books in the Besseie series and and a lot of other books in other series.
Alexandra: Speaking of which, as we’re recording this, it’s March 2020 and there are 23 Aunt Bessie book out and then we mentioned the twenty sixth will be out later this year.
Why bring the series to a close?
Diana: I write them alphabetically. So I will get to Z.
It’s not the end for Bessey though. In 2021 I will be starting a new series. It’s going to have a slightly different focus. I’m not going to say too much because I still haven’t actually officially announced it yet. But it’s going to be a shift in focus, but it’s still going to be about Besseie and her friends for them of most part.
When I started it and I started with A and I thought, well, I can write the whole alphabet. That’s twenty six books. I never actually thought that I would write the whole alphabet, but it seems like a pipe dream at that point.
I had several other books then. I had half a dozen other books and all in different series. Nothing was particularly popular. And then the Bessie books caught on and I found that I didn’t want to stop writing about her. She’s become family to me.
I’ve been writing about Bessie since 2013. I know her better than than most of my friends here in Buffalo. So I’m hoping I’ll do another twenty six books. I started with the beginning of the alphabet again with the new series and we’ll see where we go from there.
Alexandra: Fascinating. Bessie never married. And she bought her cottage when she was 18.
What did she do for a living?
Diana: That’s all part of Bessie story. Her family moved to America when she was two. And when she was 17, her parents decided to move back to the Isle of Man.
At that point, she was in love with a gentleman called Matthew Saunders and her parents refused to let her marry him. They didn’t know him and they didn’t trust him. And she was only 17. Her older sister stayed in the US. That’s why her whole family’s in America. So her older sister stayed in the U.S. and got married.
They dragged Bessie kicking and screaming back to the Isle of Man. A couple of months later, she got a letter from Matthew saying, I’m coming for you. She was just about to turn 18. He was going to come. They were going to get married and go back to the US. And unfortunately, Matthew didn’t survive the crossing.
What he did before he left, though, was write a will leaving everything to Bessie. It wasn’t a lot. But at that point in time, small rundown cottages on the beach were not very expensive. Bessie hired a very good lawyer. Advocate is what they called on the Isle of Man. And he was able to help her buy the house and then invest what was left. So she never had to work.
She lived very frugally, all by herself in her little cottage on the beach. And thanks to some clever investments over the years, she was able to expand or extend the cottage a little bit. But it’s still it’s showing its age that all of this comes out in the romance novel, when they talk about whether they should just tear it down or whether they should try and fix it up, because it was Bessie’s for a very long time.
Alexandra: Over 26 books, have you seen much change in Bessie or is she about the same as she was when you started?
Diana: She’s changed a lot. She was a lot sharper. I don’t want to say harder, but she she didn’t suffer fools gladly. And she was impatient with people more.
But having to go through twenty six murder investigations, learning more about the horrible things that people do to one another. And the weird, sad reasons why people kill it. She has softened. She has become more accepting. She’s changed less than the other characters.
There have been marriages and divorces and babies and I mean everything along the way. I will never get another character pregnant. My books tend to go about a month at a time. So we’ll go January to February to March. And I knew she was pregnant before anybody else knew, of course. So basically she was pregnant for ten books. So ten months. Nine months.
Which it at four books a year is two and a half years of me writing about this character being pregnant. So now when I make when a character gets pregnant, they don’t appear in the next 10 books until the baby’s born.
All of my characters change and develop and I’m very conscious that they should. That when you go through one of the books was particularly difficult. One of the sets of experiences was particularly difficult for Bessie. And it took her some time to recover from that. Her best friend, her closest friend has been through a lot. John Rockwell’s been through well, actually, they’ve all they’ve all been through a lot over the course of the 26 books.
Alexandra: What span of time has that has that taken place? So you start in the late 90s.
Diana: It’s about two and a half years. So we have time for people to get married and divorced and babies and and then the new series starts about six months after that. So there’s a little bit of a gap between them because the best books are tied to the Markham Sisters books.
And some things happened in the Markham sisters books that I had to get through. So there’s a little bit of a gap between them, which is nice because it gives Bessie a break from worrying about dead bodies for a little while.
Alexandra: I’m realizing, too, that so the characters intermingle from the different series. They appear in the in the other books.
Diana: Yes. Because the Markham sisters in the Besseie books are set in the late 90s, early 2000s and the ghostly cozies started in 2018 I think.
Sometimes the characters will appear in the Besseie books as younger versions of themselves or in the ghostly books as older versions of themselves. So you get little hints as to as to who’s doing what now sort of, you know, 10, 15, 20 years later.
And also you get one of my favorite characters. Well, the the dead, the ghost that lives with Fenella is alive in the Besseie books. She makes an appearance in the Bessie books. That was really fun to write.
Alexandra: Just before we wind up, I want to touch on how prolific you are. We touched a little bit on this at the beginning. We talked about a couple of your mystery series. You also have a YA trilogy as DX Dunn. And then you have some mystery thrillers called the F6 Mystery Thrillers and your pen name there is Diana X Dunn.
Alexandra: What do you think the secret is to how prolific you are?
Diana: First of all, I treat it like a full time job. I write every day. I try and write five thousand words every day. And a lot of it is down to butt in chair time. You sit down and you write until you finish your words.
I have my my gummy bear theory of productivity, which is you take a packet of gummy bears and you line the little guys up and every 250 words, you eat a gummy bear and it kind of keeps you going. Cause you’re like, oh, I’m only 50 words away from the next gummy bear.
It’s a silly thing, but it just keeps the words flowing as you go along. I’m also a great believer in work everywhere. My daughter does a math class two and a half hours on a Monday and a Wednesday. Instead of driving her and dropping her off and then going and doing stuff, I drive her there and I park. She’s at the local university.
There’s a million places to go and sit. So I go and I sit and I write flat out for two and a half hours uninterrupted. I can get a lot done in 2 1/2 hours. I don’t have access to the Internet there. So there’s no Facebook. So that helps keep my productivity up. It helps that I love what I do.
I love telling the stories and I don’t have any trouble coming up with the stories. So one of these days I’m going to run out of ideas and then I might have a problem. But for right now I love what I do.
Alexandra: Diana, thank you so much for chatting with me. I’m just so fascinated by all the different types of writing that you do and all the different series that you have.
Why don’t you let everybody know where they can find out more about you and your books?
Diana: The easiest place to find me is on my Web site, which is Diana-Xarissa.com. And I know you’ll have a link to it, so I won’t bother spelling it.
I’m also on Facebook actually under all three pen names. But the Diana Xarissa one is the one that I spend most of my time on. And I’m on there every day chatting with readers. And we talk about everything. We talk about appliances and we talk about my kids that I want my kids all the time. They know more about my kids than my mother.
I’m not really on Twitter. I have a Twitter, but they don’t really use it. So those are the best two places to find me.
Alexandra: Great. I’ll put links to all of that into the show notes. Thank you so much for chatting with me. It has been great.
Diana: Thank you. I enjoyed it very much.