Sunday, February 17, 2013

Scene of the Crime with Author Imogen Robertson!

When I read, I love to be immersed in the setting and the time period in which the book takes place. This doesn't mean that I like to be hit over the head with tons of facts because I don't. That's much too violent a method and tends to put me off the book. No, I said "immersed"-- just like slowly lowering one's self into a warm bath. You know how good that feels, don't you? When I read the first Crowther and Westerman mystery back in December, I was thrilled at the late eighteenth-century bath in which I found myself. When I closed the cover on Instruments of Darkness, I knew I had to read the next mystery... and I had to get to know more about its author, Imogen Robertson.

Imogen Robertson
It's my pleasure to share with you my interview with this talented writer. If you've been reading these interviews for any length of time, you know that I do a bit of research on each featured author so that you'll have a chance to learn more about them and to connect with them via social media.

Now let's get to the meat of this post: the interview!

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

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield. It was in my Christmas stocking just before I turned six. I had been told my older brother was reading ‘proper’ books when he was six, so I wanted one too.

I have a very clear memory of trying to read the first sentence, still in bed on Christmas morning, and though I understood the words I still couldn’t quite make sense of it somehow. I took it through to my parent’s room, got into bed with them and made Mum start reading it to me while I watched the words on the page. It was one of those rare moments in life when you feel a sense of doors being slammed wide open. It suddenly all made sense, and though I’m sure this isn’t exactly true, I felt I could read anything I liked after that.

As soon as Mum had finished reading the book to me I read it again for myself, so the story of the three Fossil sisters who never had enough money became imprinted on my mind. My favourite sister was always Petrova who didn’t want to go on stage and was happiest in her overalls. Anyone who sees how I dress now will recognise the affinity.

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

Reading, but that’s so much part of being a writer it goes without saying really.

I play the cello, never in public I hasten to add, but I do play and have regular lessons. It’s impossible to think about anything else but the music as you play, so it is a great way to clear out one’s mind as well as being a pleasure in itself.

I also love going adventuring with my husband. We like walking through London and peering at churches and houses, then coming back home and looking it all up in The London Encyclopedia.

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.)

The Mayflower Pub
Come and explore Rotherhithe Village. You can have a drink at the Mayflower Pub which is the oldest pub on the Thames and visit St. Mary’s Church and the grave of Prince Lee Boo. Christopher Jones, the master of the Mayflower is buried there too. Some of the old docks are still full of yachts while others have been turned into parks. It’s one of the many places in London where the past and present are mixed up together and packed close. 

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

Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett. Honestly, we are like twins. It’s eerie.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

For years I wanted, very much, to be Harriet Vane from the D. L. Sayer’s novels. Gaudy Night is a brilliant book, and like all the best crime fiction, it is about the characters and their world rather than a straight forward puzzle.

Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder is another character I feel I know personally. Like Sayers, Block showed how a recurring character doesn’t need to be some sort of static entity in a crime series. They can, and should, grow and change.

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?

Amy Clampitt’s Collected Poems please, with an encouraging personal dedication. I read a lot of poetry but there is something in her ability to reach and wonder even within a framework of tightly controlled language and line which never ceases to be inspirational. I re-read her work a lot.

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?

"Deal Day"
Ha! After ringing my Mum and Dad I called my friend Sam and walked along the Thames to meet her at London Bridge, texting everyone I knew as I went. The sun was just setting and she took this photo. We then drank champagne and she gave me the seed pearl necklace I’m wearing in my official author photograph. She’d got it months before, ready to give to me when I got a deal. She had a lot more faith in me than I did! Everyone should have a friend like Sam. I met my husband about three weeks after that. Busy month.

I find seeing my books in a shop traumatic. Almost as traumatic as not seeing them. The first time was in Foyles in Charing Cross Road. My now husband got me to go and announce myself to the man behind the desk. I did and he was very nice and got me to sign the copies they had, but frankly I felt like an idiot. I loved getting my first proof copy though. I carried it around with me for days and could be found stroking it lovingly when I thought no one was looking.

Name one thing on your Bucket List.

The Spanish Steps in Rome

I’d like to spend a winter in Rome, living in a beautiful apartment on the Spanish Steps with nothing to do but read and explore.

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

Easy. Goldsboro Books, Cecil Court W2. The owners, David and Daniel, are much loved by London authors. They throw great parties for us! They also have a fantastic stock of signed first editions and give great recommendations. I spend a fortune whenever I go in there.


Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Imogen. It was a pleasure to get to know you a little better.

May your book sales do nothing but increase!

Stop by tomorrow when I'll be reviewing the second book in the Crowther and Westerman series, Anatomy of Murder!


  1. What a lovely interview with an interesting and talented author.

    I haven't yet read her books, as historical mysteries aren't my first choice, but I have purchased her first two books as gifts for a friend who liked them a lot. The first is sitting on my TBR pile and since I read this interview, I am motivated to open its pages.

  2. As you know, I love being immersed in period settings too. I'm very interested in this author now. I agree with her about characters needing to grow and change as a series continues. I was happy to share how thrilled she was when she got a book deal and how she celebrated. Finally, I admire her ability to play the cello. I tried and tried, despite my poor dog's howls of torture, but just couldn't get any joy out of it. It was the best day of my dog's life when Mom said I could give it up.

    1. Our dogs could've commiserated with each other. Mine hated my electronic keyboard, and the very strange neighbor we had next-door could come out some evenings and play his harmonica in a duet.

      The one thing that resonated with me about Imogen's playing the cello is how everything else is driven out of your mind while you concentrate on the music. Very true!


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