Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Amy Writes Historical Mysteries

Why did you choose to write mysteries, particularly historical mysteries?

When I’m asked why I write mysteries, sometimes I think the easiest answer is: I was born to write them. It’s programmed in my DNA. Part of me actually believes that, too. I’m fascinated by the nature versus nurture debate. In my experience, a lot more seems to be nature than is comfortable to admit.

For example, I got my first field guide for birds when I was six. That year, I also wrote my first story about a germ’s adventures as it passed through a little girl’s belly, presaging my interest in both writing and biology. After I got married and built my first chicken coop, I discovered one of my ancestors in the 17th century was an “egg man” and raised chickens. Was an interest in birds and biology in my blood? Certainly, as your standard suburban child, raising chickens and bird watching were not your standard pursuits or things my parents taught us to do (nurture).

Many of us discover our preferences at an amazingly early age. I was also in the first grade when I read my first mysteries: “The Ghost Rock Mystery” and “The Ghost of Dibble Hollow”. Then, I went on to Tom Swift books and other mysteries. Lucky for me, I grew up during the height of the gothic mystery. I still can’t resist a book that has a spooky castle and a woman in a diaphanous white dress on the cover. My favorites included the likes of Victoria Holt, Virginia Coffman, Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels.

When I picked up the pen again ten years ago, I couldn’t conceive of a story that did not include a mystery of some kind. Sometimes it’s not a murder, but a secret or something lost, hidden. A missing jewel, an old secret, something half-forgotten. It is the mystery and process of discovering that answer that creates a story for me.

Why did the crime happen? How will the hero or heroine follow the clues to reveal the truth? What is the truth? One of the things that fascinates me is the idea of “The Truth.” Is there really a single truth or is it a composite of many truths—what an individual knows and experiences of reality? In “The Vital Principle” the hero, Knighton Gaunt believes there is one, discoverable truth. Prudence Barnard, however, believes it may be more nuanced with shades of gray. She is more sympathetic to the weaknesses and foibles of those around her, but despite their different approaches, they do discover the truth and reveal a murderer in their midst.

While resolving the core puzzle is interesting, I also write mysteries to explore how different characters respond to stress and make decisions. How do they react when confronted with a mystery? Do they attempt to collect facts and analyze them, or do they rely on a more intuitive process? Or do they simply ignore the entire thing and hope it will go away?

In “A Rose Before Dying” the hero is driven to collect the facts—in this case, roses—to try to save his uncle from the hangman’s noose. And while Ariadne just wants to be left alone to grow roses, she can’t bury her head in the sand. She helps him even though her actions place her in the murderer’s path.

In the end, there is nothing like a good mystery to reveal what a person—or character--is made of, and it’s the character this makes the story.

Amy's Bio

Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years. She writes historical and cozy mysteries. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Amy’s books include the three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; Regency mysteries, THE VITAL PRINCIPLE, and A ROSE BEFORE DYING; and her first cozy mystery, WHACKED!, will come in in 2012 from Five Star.

Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.


Book Links
The Vital Principe:
A Rose Before Dying:
The Bricklayer’s Helper:
I Bid One American:
The Necklace:


Diane Craver said...

Hi Amy,

I'm delighted to learn that you write Regency romantic mysteries. I love reading Regencies!

Great interview, ladies!Btw, I loved reading Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart too.

Amy said...

Thanks so much Diane and Anne--I'm a long-time fan of Regencies, too.