Saturday, September 12, 2009

Changing Gears

by Carola Dunn, guest blogger

Last week I finished writing my 52nd book, A Colorful Death, the second Cornish mystery, which also happens to be my 20th mystery. I'm about to start on the 19th book in my Daisy Dalrymple series (just as the 18th, Sheer Folly, comes out, and the 17th, Black Ship, goes into paperback). Not only do I have to come up with plot, setting, and a whole bunch of new characters as well as a host of returning characters, but I have to switch my head from the 1960s (Cornish mysteries) to the 1920s (Daisy).

For some reason this is more difficult than I ever found it to move from the Regency to the 1920s. For many years I dwelled in the early 1800s. I used to find myself using Regency terms in real life late 20th century America. Then I took up with Daisy and for a while I was writing both 1920s mysteries and Regencies. I rarely found myself confusing the language of the two, perhaps because both language and mores changed so much in the intervening hundred odd years. Great though the changes were between the 1920s and the 1960s, the two
periods were much more similar in many ways.

Perhaps another part of the confusion is that the main character in the Cornish mysteries, Eleanor Trewynn, is in her early 60s and so was actually around in the '20s. She's not so old-fashioned (having spent her life travelling the world) as to use '20s slang still, but she's not going to use '60s slang either, or at least not without a certain self-consciousness. Yet other characters around her have to speak the contemporary lingo.

So how do I travel in time? I've found the best way to get inside the language and mind-set of a period is to read the fiction of the period. I have a lot of early Sayers, Christie, Wentworth, and others, but I've reread them too often, so yesterday I spent 2 1/2 hours in the city library hunting down 1920s mysteries and non-mystery novels. Came out with Gladys Mitchell, John Buchan, P.G. Wodehouse, E.C. Bentley, E.F. Benson (if you don't know Lucia, go and make her acquaintance now!), Freeman Wills Crofts and R. Austin Freeman. A few evenings cuddled up with a cuppa and a book and my head will be right back where it needs to be.

Simply ripping, darling!

Come and visit me on Facebook, my website: and my blog: My Regencies are all available as e-books in various formats at


Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks for guest blogging with us, Carola. I gotta say, your covers are totally the best in the publishing business! My all-time faves.

Abbey said...

Wonderful post, Carola! You *know* how I love them old mysteries!! Delighted that you've made the acquaintance of The Real Mrs. Bradley (Gladys Mitchell) - she's a hoot!!! I'm reviewing some 20s books for Reviewing the Evidence and a couple will be posted there soon, with more to follow. I've "got a little list..." of wonderful 20s and 30s mysteries to work thorough... well, okay, NOT little... Mitchell will eventually be among them, starting with her first book SPEEDY DEATH, 1929. But I'm beginning with Christie, 1920 so it might be a while... If you'd like more suggestions as to 20s authors, well, I'm always very glad to "share" but I suspect your reading has been at least as wide-ranging as my own.

Carola said...

I should have mentioned the three FREE short stories available at Two are Daisy stories, originally published in anthologies. The third belongs to yet another period, 1830--post Regency, pre Victorian. Miss Primrose and the March of Progress was originally published in an online magazine:

Paul Lamb said...

You might try to find the 5-6 book compilation beginning with The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, from Castle Books and also Pantheon books. Lots of short stories gleaned from the magazines of the era that might give you the period flavor you're looking for without needing to resort to the over-researched sources you pointed out.

Sandra Parshall said...

Carola, thanks so much for being our guest this weekend. I am in awe of your achievements!

Julia Buckley said...

Great post--those are absolutely gorgeous covers.

And what fun it sounds like, reading all those books in order to get in the mindset of another era.

Eileen said...

What a lovely post; thank you. (I agree about Lucia...and if you have not seen the mini series the BBC came up with, go find it. It's delightful!)