• Veronica Cline Barton

Can an American Living in California Write Effectively for a Cozy British Mystery Book World?

So after spending a couple of weeks at the beach I’m back home once again, outlining chapters for the next book in My American Almost Royal Cousin Series. The second installment of the series, Cast, Crew, & Carnage; the Filming of Castlewood Manor, was just published and is now available on Amazon (I will have a separate post on this latest book shortly, stay tuned!). By now some of you know (thank you for reading my posts!) that I am a confirmed American Anglophile who loves anything royal and British cozy mystery oriented. Does this love however, mean that I can write, and write well, about people, events, and locations in a country I don’t live in?

I was weaned on Agatha Christie (I consider Hercule Poirot my adopted French, oops I mean Belgian, uncle, and Miss Marple a dearly beloved great aunt). In recent years I have consumed every installment of M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series and Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness mysteries (Georgie is so adorable). I’m now making my way through the Midsomer Murders series by Caroline Graham, becoming hooked after watching nearly every Midsomer Murder episode on television. The Granchester Mysteries by James Runcie are also great reads, especially now that I have James Norton’s image in my head as Canon Sidney 🙂 I’ve learned from these treasures what intrigues and captures me, making me stay up to all hours reading one more chapter. These authors have set the writing bar very high.

I’ve got to tell you it is more than a bit intimidating to even think that I can accurately describe the details of the Cotswold’s landscapes, the quaintness of village life such as in St. Mary Mead, the boutique hotels Monsieur Poirot frequents, and the beautiful yet sometimes dangerous buildings in the boroughs of London, where many cozy murders have occurred on the pages of my favorite books. I’ve been blessed in that I have travelled internationally a bit, walking some of these roads, either in actuality or what I think is a good facsimile there of, and taking pictures and notes of buildings, hotels, restaurants and homes I think might have been frequented by my favorite fictional sleuths.

We’re lucky today to have just about every Agatha Christie movie, television mini-series (Death Comes to Pemberley was a twist!), Masterpiece production (love Victoria–I need some faux royal background!) and mystery series (have I mentioned I adore Rosemary and Thyme?) available to us via subscription services and the internet. I’ve been able to watch (OK in some instances, binge watch) my favorites in detail, taking in the sites, the locations, the mannerisms, the clothing—trying to absorb in my writer’s mind how my characters and the dastardly events I subject them to would take place and be told in these fictional lands. These media have been a treasure trove for me. The only thing I haven’t quite been able to replicate in my writer’s head are the gorgeous British accents, but I try 🙂

For me when I write, I need to be able to see and taste and smell the surroundings I’m placing my characters in. I try and bring in as many of my life and travel experiences in the mix so that there’s a hint of reality in my fictional scenes. I want my readers to see and feel the weathered brown leather sofa my characters sit in, get a sense of the magnitude and grandeur of the conservatory filled with plants and waterfall duly lit with sparkling fairy lights, warm their hands by the roaring fires that always seem to be lit in these grand homes to keep the chilled air at bay. I know what it is to walk through a grassy field in a cold mist wearing my wellies, saddling a horse to ride along a sea path, and driving a British green convertible with the top down through a winding two lane road (although I am still trying to grasp driving on the left side of a road, right? Or is it….well, I’m still working on the British driving scenes).

I can imagine from my own family history what impact was had when our ancestors left England, Scotland, and Ireland to come to America, leaving family and friends behind, their emotions and conversations still relevant in my writer’s mind. So I will keep absorbing the nuances of the world that I think comprise the British cozy mystery land, and try to live up to the high standards of my British author colleagues. I may stumble here and there, but I have some pretty strong, capable women standing by my side, willing to guide me. My characters Aunt Pippa, and Gemma Lancaster Phillips, are Americans from California living in the British cozy mystery world, I trust them. Their ‘little gray cells’ are pretty impressive.

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. The picture featured today has my favorite ER ornament bought from the Buckingham Palace shop after I saw the Queen drive through the palace gates. She waved right to me, I’m sure 🙂

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