by Jeff Reynolds
Jeff Reynolds: Welcome to the blog. What got you interested in writing in general and in mysteries specifically?
DeAnna Dodson: I have always been a reader, though I never thought I’d ever be a writer. But when I was in school, I started writing dramatic scenes just to amuse myself. The more boring the class, the more I wrote. Those scenes eventually became my first book, In Honor Bound.
As far as mystery is concerned, I’ve been a fan of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers for a long time. I think Masterpiece Mystery actually got me started, and then I wanted to read the real books behind the shows. I had so much fun not only with the actual mysteries, but with the sets and the costumes and the period dialogue, I just had to try my hand at writing that type of story.
JR: Tell us about your latest novel. Is this the beginning of a series?
DD: Yes, Rules of Murder is the first of what I hope will be a long series of mystery novels. Death by the Book is due out in March, and Murder at the Mikado should be out next summer. I also write under my real name, DeAnna Julie Dodson, and have published seven books so far. Three medieval romances (In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered) and four contemporary mysteries for Annie’s Attic (Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic).
But let’s go back to Rules of Murder. It is basically a throwback to Christie and other mystery writers of the 1920s and ’30 with a little of The Thin Man’s Nick and Nora Charles thrown in. Drew Farthering is a rich young Englishman with little more to do than amuse himself with his society friends. He meets American debutante Madeline Parker at his mother’s weekend party and they come across a body. Soon there is a second death, and they decide to try to figure out whodunit based on what they’ve learned from their favorite murder mysteries. It’s a lot of fun.
JR: You have chosen to write the current series under a pen-name. What led you to do that? What are the pros and cons of using a fictitious name?
DD: Having a pen name was the suggestion of my publisher, and I think it was a good one. The Drew Farthering Mysteries are different from my Annie’s Attic Mysteries and my medieval romances. They want readers to know this is something new to head up their line of historical mysteries.
JR: Your story is set in England of the 1930's. I'm sure that setting has a lot of similarities to Dallas in the 2010's, but if I'm wrong, how did you do your research?
DD: No, I’m afraid contemporary suburban North Texas and 1930s England don’t have much in common, but I much prefer writing and reading about something different from my usual life. Most of my research came from reading the classic mysteries of the 1930s (which were contemporary at the time) and watching movies that were made in the 1930s. I’m glad I’m writing during an era where there was film. I realize that then as now, movies are a somewhat distorted view of real life, but they’re a wonderful glimpse into fashions and customs and technology and just life in general at that time.
JR: I read a book that suggests mystery writers tend to be outliners and suspense writers opt for the blank page approach. However, my favorite suspense authors go more for an outline, and I was half way through writing my mystery before I realized who did it. What is your approach in developing your mystery?
DD: I start with the end. I know who did it and why and then build the rest of the story to support that. Agatha Christie often simply made the murderer be the least likely person at the end, but that’s not me. I need to know.
JR: One of your hobbies is watching NHL, which I suspect is normal for female Dallas residents (better than the Cowboys, right?) How does this and your other hobbies (like quilting) fit with your writing? Is it inspiration, or more of a way to take a break?
DD: No, hockey is still a niche sport here in Texas, though it is becoming more popular with the increased availability of ice rinks and public school hockey programs, so being a hockey fan, especially a female one, is rather unusual. But I grew up with the Cowboys, so I love them too and have high hopes for the, year in and year out. Hockey and football are definitely just a pastime for me though. Everyone needs a break from work, no matter what the job is. But sewing, whether it’s quilting or cross stitch or something else, feeds my creative brain. It’s a different kind of creativity though. Writing is purely mental. Sewing is mental and physical and tactile. There’s something about the feel and look of fabrics and threads and buttons and everything else that feeds me creatively.
JR: I like the faith angle in Rules of Murder. How did that develop? And are you involved in ministry other than writing as well?
DD: I write from a Christian worldview because I don’t have any other. I have to write truth, and that is my truth. I’m not currently in ministry, though I sang with my church’s music group for many years. I miss it.
JR: Besides the sequel for Rules of Murder, what's on your writing agenda?
DD: I’m currently working on the edits for Murder at the Mikado, and that should keep me busy for a while. After that, I will probably work on a fantasy story I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and I may even do more historical romance because I miss that, too. But if readers like Drew and Madeline, then I’ll probably start working on Book Four. They may have to go to America and listen to some of the Big Bands.
JR: Thank you for your time. Could you share your website and other ways to get in touch with you?
DD: Thank you so much for letting me visit. I’ve enjoyed our chat.. Readers can find me at www.juliannadeering.com or https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJuliannaDeering or www.deannajuliedodson.com or @deannajuldodson on Twitter. You can also find out more about me and the book on Bethany House’s site here: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/rules-of-murder/343331. They have an author interview, an excerpt from the book and discussion questions.