I recently had the opportunity to talk with author, Heather Redmond about her new mystery, A TALE OF TWO MURDERS in which a young Charles Dickens is the sleuth. Here’s a little bit about the book:
In the winter of 1835, young Charles Dickens is a journalist on the rise at the Evening Chronicle. Invited to dinner at the estate of the newspaper’s co-editor, Charles is smitten with his boss’s daughter, vivacious nineteen-year-old Kate Hogarth. They are having the best of times when a scream shatters the pleasant evening. Charles, Kate, and her father rush to the neighbors’ home, where Miss Christiana Lugoson lies unconscious on the floor. By morning, the poor young woman will be dead.
When Charles hears from a colleague of a very similar mysterious death a year ago to the date, also a young woman, he begins to suspect poisoning and feels compelled to investigate. The lovely Kate offers to help–using her social position to gain access to the members of the upper crust, now suspects in a murder. If Charles can find justice for the victims, it will be a far, far better thing than he has ever done. But with a twist or two in this most peculiar case, he and Kate may be in for the worst of times . . .
DF: Welcome, Heather. I read an advance copy of the book and loved it! What inspired you to write A TALE OF TWO MURDERS?
HR: A former editor of mine moved to a mystery publisher so I started pitching him stories. The Charles Dickens-as-amateur-sleuth idea was one of a group of four different historical ideas, since that was what I was known for. He chose that one and we went for a gritty vibe in what I wrote up for him. I ultimately sold the project to Kensington after a sample of the story was rewritten in much lighter fashion. We haven’t seen Dickens handled lightly in literature before so I’m breaking new ground.
DF: What’s one of your favorite elements in the novel?
HR: I loved trying to bring very subtle elements of Dickens’s actual novel A Tale of Two Cities into my book. I also tried to be as factual as I could be as to the biographical information. If I knew Dickens was somewhere on a given day or writing something specific on a given day I put it in there! I wanted a Dickens lover as well as a mystery lover to appreciate the novel.
DF: What makes your main characters, Charles Dickens and Kate Hogarth unique and worth caring about?
HR: I pitched Charles Dickens in 1835 as Leonardo DiCaprio circa 1996. People were talking about him because he was so good at his job of parliamentary reporting, and he was a great, charismatic networker, but he hadn’t broken out into superstardom yet. It’s amazing to think that Dickens was a superstar at twenty-four, not the usual sort of thing for a middle class, indifferently-educated man. His wife, Kate Hogarth, has been obscured by what happened to her marriage in later life. There has been an attempt to resurrect her life story, with what documents are left, and I really wanted to do her justice. I have to walk the thin line between the mores of the time and today’s modern reader, who might find certain aspects of relationships of the day unacceptable.
DF: You do a beautiful job of evoking the era. What type of research did you have to do to achieve that effect?
HR: I have been writing stories set in the nineteenth century on and off since 2005, so I have a lot of information in my head. In some ways I know that time period better than I know today! One thing I did this time much more than in previous books was read the newspapers in London during the timeline of my book. I also was writing about a writer, so I read both Dickens’s novels and his journalism. Of course, given that I was writing about a famous person, I could consult biographies of him and his wife and others in his world.
DF: Can you share your writing process with us?
HR: I come up with an idea, and sometimes write a couple-paragraph blurb about it to see if it pops. If it’s a Dickens book I reread my inspiration book (one of his novels) and figure out what kinds of characters and themes and plots he was using. Like any writer, I’m inspired by my own obsessions and life experiences as I start to build the story. Then I start brainstorming scenes and braid them into about 55-60 scenes that make up a cohesive plot. After that I write up a character list and a 2500-3000 word synopsis and send it to my editor for approval. Assuming it’s approved, I dream of writing one-three thousand words a day consistently and finishing a draft in three months, but usually I have to stop and start as other commitments hit. Eventually I do a couple of more drafts with beta reader input before sending it into my editor to start the official publishing process.
DF: What are you working on now?
HR: I am in book release mania right now, with two July 31st releases, A Tale of Two Murders as Heather Redmond and Krinar Solace as Heather Hiestand. I’m past the halfway point on drafting the third Dickens mystery, but it gets picked up and dropped as I have time.
A Tale of Two Murders releases today! Purchase
If you’d like to connect with Heather on social media her links are below:
Heather Redmond is an author of commercial fiction. First published in mystery, she took a long detour through romance before returning. Though her last known British ancestor departed London in the 1920s, she is a committed anglophile, Dickens devotee, and lover of all things nineteenth century. She was ridiculously excited to make contact with second cousins in England this year for the first time.
As Heather Hiestand, she has completed two linked romance series with her publisher, Kensington, the late-Victorian set Redcakes, a seven-book series with action set all over the United Kingdom, and the 1920s-set and London-based Grand Russe Hotel, three books. She wrote five novels under this name for another publisher, has three self-published novels, and many, many novellas. Her 1837-set historical novel, The Princess Dilemma, features Dickens’s novels in the plot. Yet another pen name, Anh Leod, is largely defunct but some of the titles are still available.
In a 2017 review, Author Patricia V. Davis said of Heather’s novel If I Had You, “This novel brought me back to my teen years when I would get A’s on my history tests, not because I’d retained the material from boring school textbooks, but because I’d read about the time period and events from a well-researched, thoughtfully written historical romance novel, with an unforgettable and intriguing heroine and hero. This author delivers all of that, and more.” Heather’s response was to take her detailed research out of the romance field and move on to historical mystery!
She has lived in Illinois, California, and Texas, and now resides in a small town in Washington State with her husband and son. All her schooling was in the Seattle area and she graduated from Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington, where she edited the English Department’s literary magazine for two years. Her titles have achieved best-seller status at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Her 2018 Heather Redmond debut, A Tale of Two Murders, has received a coveted starred review from Kirkus Reviews.