A former journalist and college professor, Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of two mystery series—the brand new Shakespeare in the Catskills and the well-established, multi-award winning Penny Brannigan set in North Wales. Elizabeth is the 2013 winner of the Bloody Words Light Mystery Award (aka the Bony Blithe), a Canadian national juried award given annually for a light mystery. I first met Elizabeth at the Toronto International Book Fair in November 2014. It was great fun to sit down with her a year later.
Judy: Tell us a bit about your latest novel, Untimely Death.
Elizabeth: Set in the Catskills, Untimely Death introduces costume designer Charlotte Fairfax, who works with a small Shakespeare theatre company. When the ingénue playing Juliet is murdered, Charlotte finds herself playing a key role in the investigation—with a little help from her corgi called Rupert and a little opposition from her boyfriend, the town’s chief of police.
Judy: Tell us a bit about your protagonist, Charlotte Fairfax.
Elizabeth: Charlotte began her career in costume design with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England. She came to New York with an RSC production, and after a painful breakup with a cast member, stayed behind when the company returned to the U.K. She’s the costume designer for the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company and lives in a bungalow on the grounds of Jacobs Grand Hotel, where the company is based. Her personal life is upended when her old flame from the RSC is hired for the summer as the star actor. She enjoys her life in quiet upstate New York but when the big city calls, Manhattan is just a Trailways bus ride away.
Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?
Elizabeth: The wonderful Canadian author Gail Bowen says you must write for at least 15 minutes a day. Of course, once you get going, you may write for longer, and that’s all to the good. Writing daily keeps the juices flowing and keeps you connected to your work. And everyone can find 15 minutes a day.
Judy: What advice and/or resources would you recommend for aspiring writers?
Elizabeth: Get in with the people who are doing what you aspire to do. Join groups like Sisters in Crime and writing groups. Take classes. Go to conferences. Attend author lectures at the public library.
Judy: If you were able to sit down, one-to-one with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
Elizabeth: William Shakespeare! Since my new series features a Shakespeare theatre company, I’d have a million questions for him. I wonder what his accent would be like and if I’d be able to understand his words. Would he speak as he writes? And I’d ask him about that gold signet ring with the initials WS found in a field he owned in Stratford-upon-Avon. Was it his? I’d love to solve that little mystery that’s been puzzling historians and Shakespeare scholars for a couple of centuries.
Judy: What’s next for Elizabeth J. Duncan?
Elizabeth: I’m spending the winter in Wales where I’ll finish the second Shakespeare mystery, Ill Met by Murder, by mid December, then in January start the eighth Penny Brannigan mystery. The seventh in the series, Murder on the Hour, will be released in April, 2016, so I’ll be back in Canada in time for promotional activities and to attend the Malice Domestic conference in Washington, DC. It’s all go!
Thank you Elizabeth. I hope to see you at Malice in 2016!
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