Today Victoria Dowd shares with us her love of the Golden Age, gardening and a Guide to Murder
When did you start writing, and why?
I’ve been writing since I was a young girl. I used to love making up stories and poems. I read a lot and dreamed of being a writer. It was just so fantastic to me that all these wonderful worlds existed, and I could create anywhere or anyone I wanted. I worked as a criminal defence barrister for many years but continued to write short fiction, which I started to get published in various magazines and journals. This then led into me taking the leap into writing full length novels. When I won the Gothic Fiction prize, I started to believe I really could be a full-time writer.
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
I love writing series as you have room to really develop the characters over a number of books and there’s room to explore different aspects of them that a single novel wouldn’t allow for. It’s so exciting to start a new book and come back to the characters that are already there and I know so well. My crime series follows the Smart women who I absolutely love writing and with each new novel I get the chance to revisit them and expand who they are. I’ve just finished writing book three and it’s always a little bitter-sweet when I have to put them away for a while. I can’t imagine not being able to write about them again!
What do you like to do to relax when not writing?
Like most writers, I read a lot. I’m a huge fan of Golden Age Detective fiction and recently that’s had a huge resurgence so there’s plenty of books out there which is wonderful. I also love watching all the Agatha Christie adaptations which has recently gone from being a bit of a hobby to being asked to speak at various Agatha Christie festivals about adaptations. I write a series of articles called Adapting Agatha which are on my blog. I’m also a very keen gardener. It gives me a lot of opportunity just to think or completely empty my mind! I like sea swimming as well, for similar reasons.
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
This is a hard question. I love all my main characters as they are the backbone of the series. Ursula is sharp but quite fragile in many ways; Pandora, her mother, is a very complex, difficult woman but she has as lot of layers which I like unfolding; and Aunt Charlotte is wonderfully surreal. Their characters feed off one another. We only really get to know them through their interactions with one another. But if I was absolutely forced to choose one of them, it would have to be Ursula. She’s the narrator of all the books in the series so it really is all through her lens, in her words. What I love about writing her though, is that she is a very unreliable narrator. This isn’t helped by the fact that she drinks a little too much brandy which she carries around in a hipflask secreted in a cut out section of her father’s Bible. She misses things, she perceives them in a pretty warped way sometimes so she’s a fantastic tool for misdirection. The reader trusts her, when really they shouldn’t. She often leads them down the wrong path. She’s very bright and can be quite capable at times but then she sometimes struggles with even the most basic aspects of life. A lot of this stems from her inability to deal with grief at the loss of her father many years ago. Her response to death is one of my favourite parts of her, and in fact, the books as a whole. Murder mysteries don’t often deal with the actual impact of death. Whereas with Ursula, I can put this issue of grief and loss right at the heart of the books.
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
This is slightly easier. Joy Cowdale in book 1 – The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder. She’s known by Ursula as Less, which is a shortening of Joyless. She’s the kind of annoying, self-indulgent person who talks a lot about themselves and their needs. She was actually great fun to write as I could put in all those irritating traits that I find so annoying. Unfortunately, at times I would actually find myself becoming increasing annoyed at her though.
Tell us about your last book…
My last book was The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder. It came out in May 2020 and is the first book in the Smart woman’s series. It’s also my debut crime novel. It’s a classic whodunnit updated with lots of dark humour. When a book club are snowed in at an isolated country house, the murders begin. The relationships between mother, daughter and sister are fraught from the beginning but to survive they have to try and put their differences aside. It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience having this first book published and I’ve been lucky enough to have it on a few Best Books of 2020 lists. It’s also been announced as a finalist in the People’s Book Prize which is really lovely as it’s a people’s choice award where anyone can vote.
What’s coming next…
Book 2 in the series – Body on the Island – is coming out on 23rd February. I’m really excited about this one as it follows the characters who survive the first book. They decide they actually weren’t very good at surviving so embark on a Bear Grylls’ style survival course and end up on an uninhabited island when the murders begin. It’s a little bit darker than the first one but with lots of opportunity for comedy as well. They’re not really the best characters to find themselves on a survival course! I had a lot of fun writing this one. There was also scope with this book to open up the more supernatural elements of the book that were hinted at in the first one. It’s quite a scary environment they find themselves in with lots of old folk tales and legends. These were fantastic to research.
Anything else you want to share?
Here’s the link to my book https://geni.us/smartwomanvictoria
I’ll be speaking at various festivals this year about Agatha Christie. If you’d like to read my Adapting Agatha series, here’s the link Adapting Agatha – Victoria Dowd
If you want to vote in the People’s Book Prize this is the link. THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MURDER | Peoples Book Prize
Victoria is the author of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder and the follow up book, Body on the Island. They are a dark comic take on the classic whodunnit.
She is also an award winning short story writer, winning the Gothic Fiction prize. She was runner up in The New Writer’s writer of the year award and her work has been short listed by Writers’ Forum magazine. She was also long-listed for The Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition. Her work has been published in various magazines.
After studying at Cambridge, she was a barrister for many years.
Thanks Victoria, I’m looking forward to reading the Guide, and best of luck with Body on the Island.
Tomorrow, we’re with Chris Curran