Today I’d like to welcome Wendy H. Jones to Ascroft, eh? Wendy is here to tell us about her new crime novel, Antiques and Alibis.
Welcome Wendy. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel.
WHJ: Antiques and Alibis is the first book in a brand-new humorous crime series set in Scotland. It is not a series, or indeed a book which takes itself seriously. The book description will give you a flavour of the general tone of the book and the series.
Cass Claymore, a red headed, motorbike riding, ex-ballerina inherits a Detective Agency, and accidentally employs an ex-con dwarf and an octogenarian. Hired by a client who should know better, Cass has no leads, no clue and a complete inability to solve a case. Still a girl needs to eat and her highbred client’s offering good money. Join her as, with bungling incompetence, she follows a trail littered with missing antique teddies, hapless crooks, a misplaced Lord of the Realm and dead bodies. Will Cass, and Scotland, survive?
One reviewer described it as ‘a fast-paced and zany read, packed with hilarious observations about people and life’.
What prompted you to write about this theme or topic?
WHJ: I’ve always enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and had a hankering to write books in a similar vein, set in Scotland. With less exploding cars, of course. We’d soon run out of cars if we got through them at that rate. I set out trying to think of the zaniest plot and characters I could come up with. I wanted the book to be completely different from my usual Tartan Noir Type Books. I also wanted the character of Cass Claymore to be completely different from Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie, the star of my DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries. This allowed me to let my imagination run wild.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
WHJ: Following on from the previous answer I let my imagination run wild when it came to the characters. I jotted down all the mad traits I could put into one character and then went from there. I ended up with an ex-ballerina who rode a motorbike, knew nothing about being a detective and for some reason I just pictured her as red headed. Here red hair and Scottish background gives plenty of scope for her to be feisty and not suffer fools gladly. Thus, Cass Claymore was born. Due to the fact she doesn’t have an earthly clue what she’s doing, she needed an assistant. This needed to be someone who would be useful but not take over. This led to the idea of an ex-con. Before I’d fully worked it all out, in strolled Crammond McQuillan, Quill to his friends. A dapper, ex-con dwarf, he insisted he was joining me and staying.
I love all my characters, but have a particular soft spot for Cass, Quill, and Shona from my other series. They’ve all wormed their way into my affections and seem like real people to me. They’re family. I need to give a special shout out to Eagal, the hound from hell. Cass inherits him along with the agency. He’s more trouble than her clients.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
WHJ: I have absolutely no clue. It is so zany it just rattles along and writes itself. All I can say is my mind is one weird place to be I started off with the idea of a missing antique teddy. Bear with me here (pun intended) it gets a lot wilder than that. At the beginning of the series Cass is bored, running out of money, and desperate for a case. The case of the missing teddy turns up, and she’s so desperate she takes it. This is the springboard for an adventure that takes her into situations she could never imagine.
How do you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
WHJ: I know Dundee, and indeed Scotland, well so I’m able to describe the settings well. I do visit most of the locations I talk about, so I can get a feeling of the sight, sounds and smells of the area. With regards to characters, I ask them one hundred questions about themselves and use that to get to know them well. When I know someone that well they come to life as I write. Also, they add in their own little quirks, and will do things I hadn’t even thought of. The characters tend to take over and develop their own personalities as the book, or books, progress.
What research do you do to provide background information for the novel?
WHJ: For Antiques and Alibis, I visited Aberdeen and a number of Scottish Castles. I also had to research information about being a private detective, ballet and motorbikes. It’s a grand life when visiting castles, watching ballet on the stage and screen and riding on the back of a motorbike can be classed as work.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
WHJ: This is a book which does not take itself seriously. It’s a mystery with liberal dollops of humour and a whirlwind plot. Reviewers say they barely drew breath as they settled in and joined the wild ride. If you like crime and humour, then this is the book for you. Readers also get a real flavour of Scotland, and a peek into the lives of the aristocracy.
Thanks for answering my questions, Wendy, and good luck with Antiques and Alibis, the first book in the Cass Claymore Investigates series.
Antiques and Alibis is available online on Amazon. Visit Wendy’s Amazon page for more information.
About Wendy H. Jones: Wendy is an award-winning Scottish Crime Writer who lives and sets her books in Dundee, Scotland. She is also an International Public Speaker talking about writing and marketing. Killer’s Crew, the first book in her DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries was the Winner of the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. The Dagger’s Curse, the first book in her Young Adult mystery series, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award 2017. She has signed a publishing contract with Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace Publishing for the first book in a children’s picture book series, based on a true story about a little Buffalo in Scotland. The first, Bertie’s Great Escape will be released late October 2018. When she’s not writing, Wendy spends her time travelling the world. She is also President of the Scottish Association of Writers and co-founder of Crime at the Castle, a Scottish literary festival held at Glamis Castle Scotland.