Hello Mitties and welcome to the first author interview of 2014! Crooked Cat Publishers sent me a review copy of Diamonds & Dust (thanks Steph!) and I have to say it’s a gem of a book. I love smallish, compact paperbacks and on the offset this does not disappoint. I’ve actually written a review of this book for The Lady so I don’t want to spoil it for those who are yet to read it. I highly recommend the book, and if you like the Victorian era and/or whodunnits then this is the book for you! Keep reading for my interview with Carol…
First of all congratulations on being nominated for The Walter Scott Prize!
CH: Thank you Lyndsy, and thank you for asking me to share some of my writing experiences with you and the Mitford Society
Can you tell The Mitford Society why you chose to write historical fiction and what attracted you to the Victorian era in which Diamonds & Dust is set?
CH: I’ve always loved reading about the past – it was a toss-up whether I would apply for a degree in History or English (English won). The Victorian era fascinates me because it was when so much that we take for granted: trains, sanitation, anaesthetics, tinned food, bicycles, women’s employment had their origins. Also, it was when the novel, as we know it today really took off as a genre.
Given that the book is a mystery (I won’t spoil the ending for other readers) can you tell The Mitford Society how you dreamed up the plot and how you crafted the story to give that element of surprise?
CH: As you know, if you’ve read it, there are multiple plots! I found that it took a lot of thinking out in my head and structuring on the screen to work them all through and make sure they came together in the end. I started with the ‘Diamond’ plot ( a homage to ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins, of course) ; the rest of the sub-plots just spun out of that. I use an episodic structure, rather than set chapters, which gives the book its pacy, exciting feel.
In terms of historical context the book is spot on. How much research did you do beforehand?
CH: Lots. Lots and lots. I re-read practically the entire Dickens canon. Plus Wilkie Collins, Charlotte Bronte, Mrs Gaskell, Conan Doyle … you name a Victorian writer, they were on my TBR pile. I also visited London and took pictures of the locations I wanted to use. It’s amazing how much of the original city remains. And I had the entire Victorian history section of 3 local libraries on semi-permanent loan for the two years it took to complete the first draft.
This question might apply to some of us writers who are trying to make the transition to another genre…I am wondering how you found going from writing teen fiction to historical fiction for adults. i.e. Were you talked out of it because you already had an established market? Or has it encouraged you to write more historical fiction?
CH: I have written several historical novels for children and teenagers (Jigsaw Pieces, Ring of Silver, Red Velvet) , so moving to adult fiction was not as big a leap as that. The main thing was recognising that adults inhabit a different world and react differently to situations. I don’t think I shall now return to writing children’s fiction, having enjoyed crafting Diamonds & Dust so much.
What can we expect from you in the future?
CH: I am writing the follow-up to Diamonds & Dust . Same detectives, a few characters that readers will recognize, and a whole lot of new ones! After that … who knows?
About the Author
Carol Hedges is the successful British author of 11 books for teenagers and young adults and one for adults. Her writing has received much critical acclaim and her novel Jigsaw (now Jigsaw Pieces, an ebook) was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal.
Carol was born in Hertfordshire and after university, where she gained a degree in English and Archaeology, she trained as a librarian, working for Camden for many years. Carol still lives and writes in Hertfordshire. She is a well-known local activist and green campaigner and the owner of a 1988 customized pink 2CV.
Diamonds & Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery is currently up for the CWA Historical Daggers Award and is also entered for the Walter Scott Prize