SH Welcome, Donna. Before we get to the life of your alter ego Dr. Elizabeth Allerton, tell us something about yourself.
DFC There are quite a few parallels, actually. I was an English Literature major and taught (briefly) in a small liberal arts college and I’m a huge Dorothy L Sayers fan with a taste for drama. As a matter of fact, the mystery week Elizabeth and go to is modeled on one my husband and I attended along the Hudson River Valley about 20 years ago.
I’m afraid the parallels end there, though. At least so far. If Elizabeth is a passionate gardener she hasn’t mentioned it to me and, since she’s so much younger, I don’t know whether or not she and Richard will go on to have a family. My real life hero and I have three sons and a daughter and 10 (soon to be 11) grandchildren. One other thing we do have in common, though, is our love of drinking tea.
SH What about personality differences or similarities?
DFC Probably more differences than similarities. Elizabeth is very career-oriented. She has given herself so totally to her teaching position that she has been promoted to head of the English Department of Rocky Mountain College at the startling young age of thirty-four.
She is also absolutely sure she is right, which I seldom am. (I’m usually right, you understand, I’m just not that sure about it.) Elizabeth is so sure of herself that she feels perfectly free essentially to order her newest faculty member Dr. Richard Spenser, to attend the mystery week because she feels he is too academically stuffy.
She also knows her own mind well enough that she confidently, but gently, refuses his repeated proposals of marriage.
SH So this confident, self-sufficient woman runs straight at her goals and gets there. That must make a pretty short novel.
DFC (laughing) Oh, if only life, or fiction, were so simple! I think that gets us to about chapter two.
SH Ah, the plot thickens.
DFC Yes, and so does the soup. Actually, the soup cools when a stunningly perfect English gentleman steps straight from Elizabeth’s imagination to stand in front of her and kiss her hand. Nor is Sir Gavin Kendall, one of the actors in the mystery week plot that is to be enacted for the teams of guests who will compete to determine whodunit, immune to Elizabeth’s many charms.
SH You said Elizabeth, as well as her creator, was a great Dorothy L Sayers fan. That must have helped her with her sleuthing.
DFC Yes, indeed, especially since the mystery is being enacted in the Golden Age style of a Dorothy L Sayers novel and Sir Gavin is basing his character on Lord Peter Wimsey.
SH It sounds like great fun.
DFC Elizabeth thinks so, too. Until she finds a dead body in her bath tub. Or was it only an actor? The lines begin to blur dangerously and Elizabeth must use all her powers of deduction to sort out the dividing line between fantasy and reality.
SH I see what you mean. The goal wasn’t the slam dunk Elizabeth thought it was going to be, was it?
DFC That’s right. The first thing Elizabeth learns is that she has a lot to learn: about the mystery, about Richard, about life. But most important of all is what she has to learn about herself.
SH Would you like to share a review for THE SHADOW OF REALITY?
DFC Thank you for asking. Several reviewers have mentioned some of the points this one highlights: “This book will keep your brain active as you follow the complex plot and interesting characters. Trapped in a Colorado mansion by bad weather, a group of mystery lovers are left to figure out the fictitious killer as well as the real killer. A mystery inside a mystery is always a winner.”
SH THE SHADOW OF REALITY is listed as Book 1, The Elizabeth & Richard mysteries. Is there a book 2?
DFC Yes, indeed. In A MIDSUMMER EVE’S NIGHTMARE Elizabeth and Richard are at a Shakespeare festival. What better place for two English professors to honeymoon? Until the leading lady turns up dead, that is.
SH So we have a literary theme going here along with the mystery and romance. That should keep even someone as energetic as Elizabeth busy. So what about book 3?
DFC You’re quite right. Elizabeth is never still a moment. As a former English teacher myself, I haven’t figured out yet how she gets her papers graded. I can tell you, though, that she is now on the trail of a very hot literary property in England. If I use the words “letters” and “Jane Austen” in the same sentence all the Janeites among our readers will be on the scent.