Today I am so pleased to welcome Jess Faraday and Dal Maclean to Joyfully Jay. Jess and Dal have come to talk to us about their new releases, Shadow of Justice and Blue on Blue. They have brought some questions and answers for one another, plus a great giveaway. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
So, what draws you both to mystery?
Jess Faraday: Have you ever wondered why people do the things that they do?
The most important part of a mystery, in my mind, is not who committed the central crime, but why they did it. A good mystery novel is a safe way to explore the thoughts and motivations behind the kinds of crimes that most of us (hopefully) only read about.
I’ve always loved puzzles and words, so reading complicated puzzles involving logistics and motives was a natural. Putting words together to make my own puzzles, later, was a natural extension of that.
I also love a good cop story.
Dal Maclean: That’s a fiendish question! I guess mysteries of any kind — cop stories, historical, paranormal mysteries – have always been my favourite genre to read. But I very much agree with you, Jess, that understandable and believable motivations are the crucial ingredient. It’s not about just finding the bad guy; the bad guy has to have reasons that are justifiable to him/herself. And to me. I’m also with you in appreciating a puzzle. I love having that mental workout as a reader as well as a writer — the challenge of finding or laying down the clues and red herrings that make a mystery work. There have to be all kinds of potentially good reasons why a crime or mystery might have happened.
I think the biggest draw of mystery a genre though for me, is how heavily it relies on complex characterization. The author must create multi-layered people to make it work; characters that are capable of misdirecting and misleading the on-page sleuth and the reader. Which adds a lot of extra interest for me, as a reader and as a writer. I think I basically said the same as Jess just using more words (this is my curse).
One of the odd similarities between you two is that you’ve both moved to Scotland in the last few years—one as an expat American venturing out and one returning home from a stint abroad. Tell me a little bit about what it’s like to move to a totally different country and what that might bring to a writer’s consciousness.
JF: Part of a writer’s job is to imagine a setting thoroughly enough to be able to transmit it to a reader. It’s easy enough to do acceptably with research, but nothing really prepares you like being immersed in it.
Stories set in Scotland are super-popular in f/m romance, and I think a lot of Americans have a romantic view of Scotland, whether it be the rolling green hills of the south, the stark, rugged beauty of the Highlands, or even just muscley chaps in kilts (yum!). And there are plenty of kilts to go around even today.
But living here has brought to life all sorts of little details I would never have thought of: the way the wind literally howls like a train whistle in the winter (and tosses filled trash cans around, and sometimes threatens to blow busses over); the strange angle of the sun this much farther north; the staggering number and diversity of accents and dialects that are all recognizably Scottish; the subtle but powerful cultural differences that one feels acutely but is hard pressed to put into words.
There’s *so much* history here. As a writer of historicals, I feel like a kid in a candy shop with a wallet full of money.
It’s a very inspiring place to live and write, and I hope that my clumsy attempts to incorporate these things into my Scotland stories do this great country justice. And it is a separate country, very much so, culturally if not politically. Yet.
Moving to a different country is tough – and I had it pretty easy. I’m married to a local, so the visa business went smoothly. I work remotely, so I didn’t have to navigate a foreign employment system. The language is more or less the same, and the culture is similar enough that fitting in was pretty easy – although I’m still getting used to Edinburgh’s party-party-party mentality. I’m an early-to-bed early-to-rise type, and the idea of a dinner out ending around 10pm, and then the *real* celebration gets rolling is absolutely foreign to me.
Getting a driver’s license was unexpectedly hard. They’re very serious about having safe drivers on the road, and the driving culture is very different. For one thing, pedestrians aren’t always in the right! Also, you’re allowed to pass busses. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to zipping through narrow little streets with parked cars on both sides and bidirectional traffic.
It took me a year and a half of professional lessons and three attempts to get my license. Interesting fact: the average pass rate for Britain’s practical driving test is less than 50%, and substantially less for women and some minorities. Also, you have to memorize the rules for pedestrians and bicycles, be able to answer questions on car maintenance and operation, and be able to explain how to do CPR and render basic first aid. I studied for the written exam for 6 months – as opposed to my U.S. license, which I obtained after reading the little booklet while standing in line to take the test.
But at least now I’m a darn good driver.
Starting over in a new place is a great way to reinvent yourself as a writer. Changing environments shakes up established patterns and allows new ideas to percolate upward. Overall, moving halfway around the world has been an excellent experience and I’d 100% recommend it, with the caveat that it can be isolating. I don’t know how I’d have got through my first year without all of my friends in my computer! It’s too easy to let old connections fade away and to not reach out to make new, local ones, if reaching out isn’t in your nature. But moving has been amazing for my writing, and has been extremely character building, no question.
Would I recommend it?
DM – I’ve been meaning to ask Jess what she makes of Scotland so — I loved that answer. Moving to a different country . . . well as Jess intimated, it goes without saying that you get a very different view than you get just visiting; even visiting and working briefly as I’d done in other parts of the world. You get to dig down into the bits that visitors can’t see or experience, even if its just something like… trying to get utilities installed, or what to do when a massive electric gate closes on your car (let’s not go there) or, like Jess, driving every day in another country (I now have defensive driving skills and reflexes like you wouldn’t believe). There were expats from all over the world there, but I didn’t live the traditional ‘expat life’ — by which I mean socializing principally with. and living with, other expats — and though there were language and other barriers, for me that made the experience richer. There was no question though that I was ever really going to see the area like a person who’d been born there; I was always going to experience things differently because I was an expat; sometimes better, sometimes worse. I think my time in Asia was eye-opening: the complexities of what makes different cultures tick and interact; how cultural influences can change human attitudes and behaviour on the surface. But I think it convinced me absolutely that we’re basically all the same essential raw material.
I saw some amazing places and things I’d probably never have seen otherwise. I made friends with people I’d probably never have met otherwise. It gave me a less idealized and western-centred and Disneyfied view of the rest of the world than I’d had, but I hope a more realistic and human one. But oddly when I started to write my first book, though I was in Asia, I found I wanted and needed to write about home – the UK. My first try – a ghost story – was set in a quintessentially English school. My second, which became Bitter Legacy was set in London and so it’s gone on. In a way I think my absence also gave me an acute appreciation of the complexities and strengths of where I came from, and also how lucky I was. Maybe it taught me to be more grateful. It also made me realize that understanding other cultures well enough to write them in depth and do them justice is very hard unless you are truly immersed in them. And it taught me that the best chocolate in the world comes from Japan.
JF: I had a lot of fun flirting with the idea of the paranormal with the Simon Pearce stories, and my upcoming book is going to have some more serious paranormal elements in it. It’s going to be a departure in a few other ways, as well. Above all, of course, it will involve a lot of self-discovery for the main characters, and will explore different types of relationships, both romantic and platonic. And monsters. More than one. The working title is The Fiend in the Fog, and it will be coming out next year.
But I’m not quite done with Simon and his friends. I’ve been fiddling with a handful of stories featuring some of the other characters, including the librarian Theo Penrose, Dr. Elizabeth Bell, the journalist Abraham Whittaker, and Jimmy Drummond, Simon’s best friend in Edinburgh. These will be shorts, in the same vein as the original Simon Pearce stories.
DM: Argh. I really want to read all of those books now, Jess (the emphasis being on the ‘now’). What’s next for me? I’m swithering. I’ve considered a follow up to my Scottish novella A Country for Old Men but I won’t do that unless I can be confident I’m not taking away from the original story. I do have that MM ghost story I mentioned earlier – my first ever try at an original book- which is huge and I still really like it, but it’s not a romance structure which – who knew that was so important? I’m looking at it and thinking – what can I do to it without ruining it? It runs on two different timelines and one of the two narrators is not a love interest so – not romance structure. It fits in a mainstream structure but its very definitely and inherently MM so… harrumph. I’m also eyeing the idea of trying a mystery series that’s more traditional than the BL trilogy (in that it stays with the same lead character POV, as opposed to using 3 different ones over the 3 books). Or I may open a whelk stall. That idea is currently in the lead.
JF: I vote for the ghost story! A good romance is a wonderful thing, but I’m a sucker for stories that color outside the lines. But A Country for Old Men was one of the most well-drawn and poignant things I’ve ever read, so I wouldn’t mind a double helping of that, as well. Ugh. So many books — to read and write — and so little time!
DM: Aw, that’s so kind of you Jess! Thank you and I feel much the same about Simon P – I just want more and more! For example Theo – I really felt incredibly sorry for Theo… I’ll let you know which idea I go for first and who knows, if you’re really lucky, you may even get a bag of whelks.
About “Blue on Blue”
From Lambda Literary Award Finalist Dal Maclean
After three years working as a private investigator, newly reinstated Detective Inspector Will Foster still holds himself responsible for the death of an officer under his command. But he’s returned to the Met bent on redeeming himself and that means bringing down gangland boss Joey Clarkson.
Will’s prepared to put in long hours and make sacrifices for his work, even if it comes at a cost to his nascent romance with international model, Tom Gray. After all, Tom has a history of wandering but crime is a constant in London. And Will has committed himself to the Met.
But when a murder in a Soho walkup leads Will into the world of corruption, he finds himself forced to investigate his own friends and colleagues. Now the place he turned for redemption seems to be built upon lies and betrayal. And someone is more than willing to resort to murder to keep it that way.
About “Shadow of Justice.”
From Rainbow Award-Winner Jess Faraday
Constable Simon Pearce doesn’t believe in love. It’s a dangerous proposition for many people in 19th century London, but for an ambitious copper climbing Scotland Yard’s greasy career ladder, it’s out of the question.
He doesn’t believe in monsters, either, though there seem to be a lot of them about. Whether it’s a ghost haunting a London churchyard where men seek men’s companionship, a phantom hound in Edinburgh that’s hell-bent on revenge, or a murdered businessman on a cross-country train who just won’t stay dead ? the mysterious has a way of finding Pearce, whether he wants it to or not.
But are these happenings truly supernatural? Or is something worse ? something thoroughly human ? to blame?
Pearce has his theories ? about crime, about monsters, and about love. But life has a way of testing even the most carefully considered ideas. And as he chases mysteries from one end of Britain to the other, he may just have to reconsider his ideas about all three.
Dal Maclean comes from Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters, unreliable narrators and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time. Her first book, ‘Bitter Legacy‘ was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award finalist (Mystery), and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over the Rainbow Recommended Books List.
Jess Faraday is an award-winning writer and editor of mystery and suspense. Her first novel, The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award, and her third, Fool’s Gold, won the Rainbow Award for Best Gay Historical and was a runner up for Best Gay Novel overall. Her novella, The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor, was both a GCLS finalist and a Rainbow Award Winner for Lesbian Historical. When not writing, she moonlights as the mystery editor for Elm Books, chases cryptids, and runs the hills and trails of the Scottish countryside.
Dal and Jess have brought a copy of both Shadow of Justice and Blue on Blue (or Bitter Legacy if they’ve never read Dal before) for two lucky winners (each winner gets both books). Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Thursday, April 9th at 11:59 pm ET.
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