I'm so happy to welcome Susanna Calkins back to Cozy Up With Kathy. I first interviewed Susanna back in 2013 (here's a link) for her first novel A Murder at Rosamund's Gate (you can see my review here). Now I'd like to welcome her and her third book in the Lucy Campion series.
Kathy: In The Masque of a Murderer Lucy gets involved with Quakers. The history of the Quakers is quite interesting. Were you familiar with the religion, either its current state or its beginnings, before working on this novel?
SC: Although I grew up in Philadelphia, a city which was founded by one of the first Quakers, William Penn, I did not know much about Quakers until I started to research them for my PhD dissertation in history. I was fascinated by this non-conformist sect—as a group, they likened themselves to the Old Testament prophets, running naked as a sign, wearing sackcloth and ashes, and speaking publicly against the king and other authorities. Female Quakers were incredibly vocal for their era, writing hundreds of tracts and communicating their ideas publicly at a time when women were expected to be “chaste, silent and obedient.”
Kathy: I find it so interesting that tracts were printed of people's dying words, and not just famous people. During your research were you able to read any? Do many still exist today?
SC: There are many published tracts and pamphlets from the 17th century still in existence today collectively called “Last Dying Speeches,” or “Last Dying Words.” There were different types, but many described sinners’ journeys, telling how they moved from a life of sin to a life of piety, or were the words of condemned criminals, in which they first asserted their crimes and wrongdoings, and then testified to their final rehabilitation and acceptance of their punishment, usually execution. Their intention was to inspire others to a life of godliness and sanctity, or to demonstrate how order was restored by the justice system.
Kathy: Lucy is a sort of printer's apprentice in The Masque of a Murderer. Were women actually able to have such jobs in 17th century England?
SC:Yes, there are many examples of female apprentices in the 17th century, and even more examples of women working alongside their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. There were many female booksellers. While a true apprentice would have had to pay the apprenticeship fee and be put to the guild for acceptance, there was great political and social flux directly after the plague and the Great Fire. With so much social disruption and breakdown of community bonds, there were many unusual opportunities for employment. Several Quaker printers were women, but they were outside the guild as well. So I thought it was completely possible that Lucy could be an apprentice of sorts.
Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?
SC: That’s a fun question. I definitely fall more in the pantsing category, but I have learned to envision the big picture. With my first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, I wrote most of the story without knowing who the murderer was. That’s a little problematic when writing a mystery, and not recommended! So I plot a little bit, but mostly dream up the story as I go, within some broad perimeters.
Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?
SC: It sounds morbid when I describe it, but when I would read these ‘last dying testimonies,’ I always wondered what it was like to be the person trying to write down these words and capture them for posterity. So an image came to me: A man has been accidentally—or so it is believed—run over by a cart and horse. And as he lays dying of these terrible injuries, he manages to tell one person—Lucy, who has been called to his side—that he was actually pushed and his murderer is likely someone known to them all.
Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Lucy Campion?
SC: After the terrible winter of 1667 has passed, Lucy will find a woman wandering about the ruins of the Great Fire, clad only in a nightgown, but covered with blood that is not her own. She has temporarily lost her memory. There is reason to believe that she might be the missing daughter of a nobleman, and Lucy is asked to look after the woman. When the woman is attacked while in her care, Lucy finds herself pulled into a strange plot with far-reaching social consequences. This story is called A Death Along the River Fleet, and will be released next April 2016.
The Masque of a Murderer by Susanna Calkins
The Third Lucy Campion Mystery
Once again we are transported back in time to 17th century London. I was thoroughly intrigued when I first met Lucy Campion in A Murder at Rosamund's Gate. A uniquley educated ladies' maid whose intelligence was encouraged by her master, Lucy is now an unofficial apprentice to a printer in this, the third book in this historical mystery series.
While London recovers from the Great Fire, Lucy is working as a sort of
apprentice to a printer. With Adam as a sort of suitor, she is also
friendly with a local constable, a fact that sits none too well with the
Magistrate's son. Meanwhile Adam's sister, once a flighty girl, has
become a Quaker. Quakers were generally hated and often jailed for
seditious behavior at this time, so Sarah's homecoming after traveling
to the New World is not a happy one. When word arrives that an old
friend, now also a Quaker, is on his deathbed after an accident, Lucy
accompanies Sarah to pen his final words (a common practice). Briefly
left alone with the man, he tells Lucy that it was no accident-he was
murdered, his wife is in danger, and it just may be a fellow Quaker who
did the deed!
Susanna Calkins makes the dark and gritty London just recovering from the plague and the Great Fire come to life. Her words make me not only see Lucy's world, but I can almost feel the bitter cold as I read, thankful I'm unable to smell the scents from the time. In The Masque of a Murderer we find not only a compelling mystery, but a historically accurate tale of life in 17th century London. I'm so glad that Lucy's back and I look forward to reading even more about her life and times.
Thanks to Susanna Calkins and Minotaur Books I have a hardcover copy of The Masque of a Murderer to giveaway. Leave a comment on this blog post telling us what interests you about historical mysteries no later than 11:59 pm EST Tuesday, April 14, 2015 for a chance to win. Be sure to leave your e-mail address as well so that I may contact you should yours be the lucky comment.