Monday, December 24, 2012

Scene of the Crime with Author Christopher Lord!

Perhaps it's because I have a degree in English Literature and have read more Victorian novels than I can remember. Perhaps it's because I once wrote a version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in the style of Charles Dickens. Whatever the reason, when I learned of The Christmas Carol Murders by Christopher Lord, the first book in his Dickens Junction mystery series, I knew I had to read it. I'm glad I did. One of the many things I enjoyed about Lord's book was the "battle of principles" between Charles Dickens and Ayn Rand, and I can't wait to see what's in store when the second book in the series is published.

Christopher Lord
You know me-- when I have an author who says yes to an interview, I have to do a bit of Googling to see what sort of links I can turn up.

Here's what I discovered, just in case you'd also like to learn more about this talented writer:

I must be a true bookaholic because I'd love to know the titles of the books Christopher is holding in his photograph! But instead of wasting time wondering, let's get to the interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

Original cover of the 1930 edition
I'm sure I read many books that I don't remember, but I absolutely remember The Secret of the Old Clock, the first Nancy Drew mystery. I bought it for five or ten cents at the permanent rummage sale in Astoria. It was one of the original editions in the blue covers. Nancy was so plucky and bright. And she eventually ended up with a handsome hunky boyfriend. As a result I ended up reading the entire series up through The Mystery of the 99 Steps, which I read when it was published. By that time, however, a boy reading Nancy Drew was getting too much attention, so I stopped. But that was okay, because I discovered Dickens two years later when I read Our Mutual Friend. That book made me truly fall in love with reading, made me a life-time 19th century novel-lover, and one of the world's biggest Dickens fans.

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

Now that I'm retired, I am getting to indulge my travel bug. Since I retired from a career as an insurance executive in 2008 I've been to Scotland, Scandinavia, Israel/Jordan/Palestine, and Tanzania. I'm going to New York for Christmas, and plan on spending a month in London in spring 2013 (where I hope to find some adventures for Simon Alastair, my detective).  I'm also attempting to learn to play the ukulele, an instrument that Zach will be taking up in a future Dickens Junction book.

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

Astoria-Megler Bridge
 Since the town featured in the Dickens Junction mysteries IS my hometown of Astoria, Oregon, I can assure you I would take you to places off the beaten path. But the one that comes to mind is the former home of noted local citizen XXXXX XXXXX, who in the 1950s was involved in a scandalous event (think Lana Turner-style). Her name had the power of the bogey man among my friends and me, and one day we walked all the way to her home and back (more than a mile, a feat for six- or seven-year olds). We got in a LOT of trouble. I would certainly take you to where she used to live.

I would drive you over the Columbia River across the Astoria-Megler Bridge on a clear day and then drive back into Astoria so you could see the beautiful little town perched on its undulating hills. It's a gorgeous sight. Then I'd take you to Fort Clatsop and then to Bell Buoy Crab Company in Seaside for a crab cocktail.  We could end the day at Astoria's singular Desdemona Club bar, where we could enjoy a PBR while looking out of the porthole hatch windows. No "Goonies" sites for me--I'm a child of the sixties, not the eighties. But I did go to grade school at John Jacob Astor school, where "Kindergarten Cop" was filmed.

You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

John Stamos
What an interesting question--I can honestly say I have never thought about this before. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Paul Lynde (go figure), but that's not quite the same thing, is it?  And he was such a bitter man in real life. I'm pretty easy-going.

I'm going to have to say I'd cast John Stamos, even though he would definitely be my casting choice for Zach Benjamin, and I'm not at all like Zach (except that I own a leather bomber jacket). John has the ability to deliver the witty lines of dialogue that I imagine are always dropping from my lips, like pearls.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

My out-of-the-box answer was going to be Miss Marple, but I think I prefer the Miss Marple from BBC adaptations more than the very reserved, almost passive character that Christie created. So my other answer would have to be Barbara Havers from Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley mysteries. Such a big heart, and so many flaws.  I would love to meet Chelsea Cain's Gretchen Lowell, except I would be afraid that she would extract my intestines with a crochet hook. My favorite mystery writer is, hands down, Ruth Rendell, particularly when she writes as Barbara Vine. She transcends the genre. The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine is my all-time favorite mystery. It's not a "whodunit?" It's a "what happened?"

If you could have in your possession one signed first edition of any book in the world, which book would that be? Why that particular book?

A Christmas Carol, First Edition
This one is easy. I would want a first-edition, signed copy of A Christmas Carol. Several years ago at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London I held the autographed presentation copy that Dickens gave to his biographer, John Forster. The book is simply gorgeous, red cloth stamped in gold, with hand-colored interior illustrations. And it's not very big. Dickens expected to make a fortune on it, but because of his exacting production standards, the book made far less money than he had hoped for (he ALWAYS needed money).

How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published? What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?

Since I brought The Christmas Carol Murders out independently, I didn't have that same moment of surprise that I had when an editor called to tell me that he had bought my first short story. So the celebratory moments came in batches--when I saw the first illustration that Tina Granzo did--when I saw the cover--when I held the proof, which at that time was the sole copy of my book in the entire world. Those were quiet moments, but deeply rewarding. The first time I saw it on the shelf in a bookstore I immediately wondered--why didn't they turn it out so the cover would show? And why didn't they have more copies?

Name one thing on your Bucket List.

Sailing around Antarctica's glaciers
I would like to visit all seven continents. I've been to North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. South America is easily doable (I want to do the Machu Picchu thing). I don't know how I would survive the boat trip to Antarctica, though. I get pretty seasick, and the journey is not, I hear, for the faint-hearted or weak-stomached.

You've just received a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. Which bookstore are you making a bee-line for?

I think I'll pass on this one--I love all of the indie bookstores in my area. Each one has a personality separate from its owners (who often have great personalities themselves). I buy from all of them. But if I had any gift card fall in my lap I'd probably wish for one from a cooking store. You can never have too many kitchen implements.

Thanks for the opportunity to get my name out to your readers. I don't have any fancy book trailers or glam shots. I do have an excellent website, where readers can see full-color illustrations from my book, a bigger map of Dickens Square, and my blog, where I trace my journey from unpublished to published writer. I've finished the second Dickens Junction mystery, The Edwin Drood Murders, and book three, The Our Mutual Friend Murders, needs one more draft before it goes to editing. Expect "Edwin Drood" on the shelves late summer 2013, and "Our Mutual Friend" in 2014. The Oliver Twist Murders, book four, is just beginning to form in my head.

Thank you so much for the information on your upcoming books. It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you a little better.

May your book sales do nothing but increase!

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