Please welcome the author of the Gilded Newport Mystery series, Alyssa Maxwell, who will give us look into her historical series:
If you take a look at my website, you’ll see that writing my Gilded Newport Mystery series has been a very special and personal experience for me. With my husband and his family having deep roots in Newport, you could say that I’ve taken the advice so often quoted to aspiring writers: Write what you know.
In many ways, that’s true. I’ve gotten to know the city much better than if I’d merely vacationed there, and having that “insider’s” view has certainly allowed me to breathe more life into these stories.
So yes, I wrote what I know, but there was also so much I didn’t know when I started writing. The Newport of 1895 was much different than the one we know today. To make my stories believable and true to the times, I had to research the burgeoning technologies of the late 19th century – for example my heroine has a telephone and uses a typewriter, and electric trolleys run through town – as well as notions of class consciousness and the relationships between employers and servants.
No books about Gilded Age Newport would be complete without a look at yacht racing, luxury steam ships, and the kinds of carriages people drove. Fashions, occupations, pastimes – these were all on my “to be researched” list. And, of course, since my heroine is also a newspaper reporter, I needed insight on real women reporters of the times – and yes, there were a few, and some of them even managed to push beyond the limitations of society page news.
Besides my main characters, who are fictional, people like the Vanderbilts play important roles in the books. I’d heard of them, of course, and knew they were incredibly wealthy, lived in huge, ornate houses, and were connected to the railroad industry. But I had no knowledge of them as individuals, or how they interacted with each other. I had to get to know them on a much more personal level so I could remain true to their personalities and their family dynamics.
All of these elements, and more, I had to learn. But what kept it exciting for me was my desire to dig around in the past, find the puzzle pieces, and put them together. Let’s face it – after a while what you already know becomes one big bore. Staying inspired means taking risks and forging into new territory. It’s an adventure that keeps your writing fresh and makes you eager to sit down at the keyboard every day. So for me, it’s not “write what you know,” but “write what you want to know, and what you’re excited to learn about.” In other words, find your passion (or passions) and take off running!
Do you have a passion for something? Share below and be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Murder at The Breakers! Or just leave any old comment – you’ll still be entered!
About Murder at The Breakers:
As the nineteenth century comes to a close, the illustrious Vanderbilt family dominates Newport, Rhode Island, high society. But when murder darkens a glittering affair at the Vanderbilt summer home, reporter Emma Cross learns that sometimes the actions of the cream of society can curdle one’s blood…
Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.
But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom, passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…
Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries, a historical mystery series featuring the glamor of a bygone era and a sleuth who’s a less “well-heeled” cousin of the illustrious Vanderbilts. The series debuted in March with MURDER AT THE BREAKERS, to be followed by Murder at Marble House in September, and Murder at Beechwood in 2015. Alyssa will also be debuting an English-set historical series, The Foxwood Hall Mysteries, in October 2015. Alyssa and her family live in South Florida, where she is a member of the Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, Sisters in Crime, and The Florida Romance Writers.
For review quotes, an excerpt, pictures, and all kinds of other fun stuff about The Gilded Newport Mysteries, please visit my website: http://alyssamaxwell.com. I love to hear from readers, so while you’re there feel free to drop me a line!