Saturday, June 14, 2008

Guest Blogger: Victoria Thompson

Victoria Thompson is a prolific romance and mystery writer who has published 20 romances, and 10 historical mysteries in her Gaslight series, set in New York City on the late 1800s. Fans of the series, who have long speculated on how and why Sarah Brandt’s husband died, will finally have the answer in the newest book, Murder on Bank Street, which has just been released.

PPD

Between 1985 and 1997, you published 20 romances, many of them related to Texas. Why Texas?

Victoria
I always loved the Old West, having grown up watching cowboys on television. The cowboy is America's mythical hero, and part of our national romantic fantasy. I lived in Texas for seven years, so it seemed natural to write about a place I knew and loved.

PPD
You also have a strong romantic thread running through your Gaslight mystery series. You’re doing a great job of prolonging that thread through 10 books now. What are your thoughts about the place of romance in mysteries and what a writer can do to bring a relationship along through many books?

Victoria
When I first started writing mysteries, I was warned repeatedly that mystery readers don't like romance in their books and I shouldn't even try to put it in. I couldn't keep Frank and Sarah from caring about each other, and every fan letter I get wants to know when Frank and Sarah will get together. So much for mystery readers not liking romance! The relationship makes the readers care about my protagonists and see them as real people, which keeps them coming back for the next book. The writer must be careful not to let the relationship overshadow the mysteries, but at the same time, she must keep it going book after book. I have created may obstacles to Frank and Sarah's romance, and they will not be overcome anytime soon, considering the world in which they live.

PPD
As a writer of historical mysteries, what was the most important research you did to be able to set your books in the late 1800s?

Victoria
The 1890's is a fascinating era, and I have learned that many of the issues people were concerned with then are the same issues we're struggling with now: prejudice against immigrants, finding Mr. Right in a dangerous world, women making it in the workforce, a deep interest in alternative religions and spiritualism, alternative medicine, political corruption—I could go on and on. So even though my books have an historical setting, the topics are very contemporary and appeal to modern readers. I love doing the research for my books. Whenever I come across a fact that makes go, Wow!  I didn't know that!  That's what I put in the book.

PPD
I love the way you use New York City as a character, and set each of your Gaslight mysteries in a different part of the city. What makes New York, and especially Greenwich Village come alive for you?

Victoria
Oddly enough, when I was approached about writing this series, my daughter was a freshman at NYU. We had visited her there and walked around Greenwich Village and even bought books on the history of the Village just because I was interested. It was like kismet when they asked me to do this series, because I was already preparing for it. New York is a place like no other on earth, and the city really does have a life of its own. You only need to walk the streets to realize it, to feel the beating heart of the city. I wouldn't want to live there, but it's a wonderful place to write about.

PPD
You have a link on your web site to the Ellis Island Foundation. http://www.ellisisland.org/ Tell us a little about that foundation.

Victoria
The Foundation helps people find their immigrant ancestors.  We found my grandparents who came over to the US from Italy in the early 1900's through the Foundation's records, and for the first time, I knew where they had been born. We immediately planned a trip and went over the visit the small town in Calabria. It was wonderful to be in a place where people knew my family name, which is rare even in Italy. As a result, I have also met many other Americans whose ancestors came from this town and become involved in a charity that raises money for the town.
 
PDD
You’ve assisted in founding two writers’ groups: Novelists, Inc. http://www.ninc.com/ a national organization, and PENNWRITERS http://www.pennwriters.org/, a state organization in Pennsylvania. Since many writers now have access to one another through web sites, blogs, and on-line social networks, why is it important for writers to still come together in formal organizations on the state and national levels?

Victoria
Actually, I also helped found New Jersey Romance Writers, too! http://www.njromancewriters.org/ It's true the internet has enabled writers to be in contact with other writers more easily and has greatly aided in the communication of information about the industry.  Sometimes bad information gets spread, but most of the time, it's a valuable tool.  Even still, it's impossible for individual writers to have any influence over the publishing industry, no matter how much they talk and blog online.  Griping to each other can't change anything. Writers' organizations are the only ones who can really work for change and stand up for writers' rights in an industry where writers are often treated as the least important part of the process.
 
To learn more about Victoria and her books, visit her web site, www.victoriathompson.com 

69 comments:

Darlene Ryan said...

Welcome, Victoria. I'd like to know how much research is required for each book. I'm guessing less as the series progresses. And were you always interested in the late 1800's? What made you set the series then? Or was it the publisher's decision?

Julia Buckley said...

A very interesting interview! Thanks, Victoria!

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