Today Cynthia Kuhn is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Subject of Malice, her latest novel in the Lila MacLean Academic mysteries series.
Welcome, Cynthia. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
CK: The Subject of Malice is book four in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series. They are traditional/cozy/humorous mysteries featuring an English-professor-turned-amateur-sleuth.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
CK: Academic conferences are fascinating on various levels, and I’ve always wanted to send Lila to one. It’s been in the back of my mind since the beginning of the series. A few years back, I wrote a little bit about it at Jungle Red Writers. Now that I look at the post again, I see that I was comparing an academic conference to Comic Con; my brain apparently kept working on that idea, because The Subject of Malice offers a sort of blending of the two, conceptually.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
CK: In The Subject of Malice, malice is both the theme of the conference and the reason for the crime. Malice is of course a staple in mysteries, and the series as a whole explores how the competitive nature of academia can lead to hostility, animosity, grudges, etc.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
CK: Character development takes time and effort—a great deal happens during revision to sharpen and deepen the individuals. But when I first start to write about new characters, it can be as much of a surprise to me as anyone, seeing how they express themselves or think about certain things. (During the first draft phase, when I’m writing fast, anything can happen. Then I revise a million times.) I’m probably most fond of the series regulars—it seems like I should say that, out of loyalty—but they’re all interesting to write, honestly.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
CK: Description plays a role, though I do try to keep it short and integrated with the action because I am one of those readers who will skip down the page whenever I encounter incredibly long sections about setting in a book.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
CK: Research is an ongoing thing. When I’m working on a book, I always seek out relevant information as the need arises, whether big or small. Typically, it’s driven by the storyline—for example, with the first book, I did research on secret societies; with the second book, it was on priceless manuscripts and transportation; with the third, it was haunted buildings, ghost hunters, and opera houses. Along the way, other issues always arise too, like effects of certain substances on the body, order of police procedures, terms for a specific object, etc. In addition, through speakers hosted by professional mystery writing groups and conferences, over the years I have learned about crimes, investigations, weapons, forensics and more (and I’m still learning).
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
CK: Just that if you give it a read, I hope you enjoy. 🙂
Thanks so much for letting me visit today!
You’re welcome, Cynthia, and thanks for answering my questions. Good luck with The Subject of Malice, the latest book in the Lila MacLean Academic Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Cynthia Kuhn: Cynthia writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries: The Semester of Our Discontent, The Art of Vanishing, The Spirit in Question, and The Subject of Malice. Honors include an Agatha Award for best first novel and Lefty Award nominations for best humorous mystery. She blogs with Chicks on the Case and is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers.