An Interview With Rhys Bowen

Posted: September 26, 2006 in Author Interview

Rhys Bowen is the author of both the Molly Murphy and Evan Evans mystery series. Ms. Bowen is going to be making several appearances in the area starting within the next few days (schedule below), and she has graciously consented to answer a few interview questions:

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1. How is the experience of writing series fiction different from writing stand-alone books? Would you have any advice for novice writers on writing series fiction?

One of the advantages of writing a series is that you come to know the characters very well. It’s like an ongoing friendship in which they gradually strip away the layers and reveal more and more of themselves. So the books become deeper and meatier for that reason alone. Also I begin every book knowing a lot about the setting, the subsidiary characters as well as my sleuth.

A disadvantage is that you are bound by that location and those people. Some crimes would never happen there–as in my small corner of Wales. And the next book is due at a set time each year, which gives the author no freedom to tackle brilliant new ideas and try other directions.

Advice for a novice: don’t hold back, just because you think you’ll be writing a series. Make the first book the very best it can be, as if it was a stand-alone. No sense in keeping some good stuff for later books. If the first books are good, the good stuff will keep coming. It’s essential you’ve chosen a main character you like and believe in. You’re going to be hanging out with him or her for a long time. So don’t give him or her any querky attributes you might come to regret (make her a llama breeder and you’ll find yourself deeply in the world of llamas forever more)

2. What is it about turn of the century New York that intrigues you, and makes a good backdrop for your Molly Murphy series?

My driving force in this series was to write about Ellis Island. I was so moved by my first visit there that I knew I had to write about it. When Molly stepped ashore in New York I realized what a mammoth task I had set myself. So much reseach required! But New York is a great place to set a series. Various ethnic groups, the contrast of rich and poor and the great vibrancy of life there make for endless exciting stories. I try to feature one aspect of turn of the century life in each of the books–the sweat shops of the garment industry, the anarchists, spiritualists,the theater–I won’t run out of ideas in a hurry!

3. How is it different writing about small town Wales in your Evan Evans series?

Obviously my two series are very different from each other. The Constable Evans books have a male protagonist, which means I have to get inside the head of a man to make them ring true. And the setting plays a big part in the stories–several of the crimes have involved the rugged mountain terrain, and the small town interactions give the stories the warmth and humor and reality they need. I have to make sure I go back to Wales every year to check on things.

4. What projects are you working on currently?

I have just finished the sixth Molly book, in which Molly is sent back to Ireland–taking a big risk in doing so. It’s called in Dublin’s Fair city. And I have a new series making its debut next summer. It’s very different–funny, witty, sexy–about a minor royal in the 1930s. Lots of fun stuff about British upper class life at that time. The first book will be called Her Royal Spyness.

5. What are you reading lately? Is there anything you’ve been reading that has impressed you?

I’m currently a judge for the Edgars so I’ve been reading like crazy everything that is sent to me in my category–not all books I would have chosen to read! I’m looking forward to some down time when I can do some pleasure reading again!

6. Do you practice any writing rituals?

Rituals–like sharpening three pencils before I start? Sorry, but if you’re a professional writer, you pretty much have a 9-5 job like any other. I go down to my computer early each morning, read my emails and then write until I can’t write any more that day. I make myself do at least 5 pages. then the next day I edit those before going on. I go all the way through a first draft before I give the ms to other people to read and then do a second draft.

7. Aside from writing and reading, what do you feel passionately about?

The environment. I’m a hiker and an outdoor person. I’ve seen the glaciers retreating in Alaska. I also feel passionately about government waste and mismanagement, but don’t get me started on that one!

8. Do you have a favorite quotation, or perhaps just a few words, that sum up your philosophy on life?

Life is beautiful, enjoy it. The journey is the destination.

9. If you were marooned on an island, stuck in an elevator or otherwise cut off from society, what one book would you want to have with you?

I’ve been asked this before and it’s very hard. Obviously the Bible might be the best for a desert island as it has words of hope and comfort in it and would take so long to read from cover to cover (think of all those
begats….) Walt Whitman’s poetry really speaks to my soul, so I might take that.

10. What childhood memories do you have regarding public libraries? Did they play a role at all in your love of books and reading?

I can remember when I was given my own library card and, about the age of 12, was considered old enough to walk to the library on my own. I’d go down there in the evenings, and I remember especially winter evenings when it was dark and cold and the library was bright and warm and I didn’t have to use the children’s section any more and I could just wander and browse. It really was like being in a candy store!

Rhys Bowen’s Schedule:
September 27-30
Bouchercon
Madison, WI
Panel: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2:30 PM: A Merry Band of Murderers, featuring Rhys, Mary Anna Evans, Jim Fusilli, Val McDermid, Bill Moody and Nathan Walpow. Moderated by Mary Stanton (a.k.a. Claudia Bishop) and Don Bruns.

Tuesday, October 3
Ela Area Public Library
Meeting Room A
275 Mohawk Trail
Lake Zurich, IL
7 PM

Wednesday, October 4
Schaumburg Township District Library
Schaumburg, IL
7 PM

Thursday, October 5
Palatine Public Library
700 N. Court
Palatine, IL
Appearing with Libby Fischer Hellmann

Saturday, October 7
Warren-Newport Public Library
224 N O’Plaine Rd.
Gurnee, IL
Cozy Forum featuring Rhys, Sharon Fiffer, Charlene Baumbich, Denise Swanson, Gail Lukasik and Suzanne Strempek Shea
1-3 PM

Her website: http://jqh.home.netcom.com/index.html

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