Today Anne Louise Bannon is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Death of the City Marshall, her latest novel in the Old Los Angeles mystery series.
Welcome, Anne. 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.
ALB: Death of the City Marshal is the second in my Old Los Angeles series, featuring doctor and winemaker Maddie Wilcox in 1870. Maddie is a widow who was brought to Los Angeles by her husband, who bought a vineyard, then died. She spent a lot of time hiding that she holds a medical degree, but that got revealed in the first book, Death of the Zanjero, which is about the politics of water in a very arid climate.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
ALB: Death of the City Marshal is based on an actual event in Los Angeles City. Marshal William Warren, an exceptional hot head in a town full of them, was shot by his deputy Joseph Dye in a dispute over the bounty on a prostitute. I found out about the event while doing the research for Zanjero and knew I had to play with it. While in real life, Warren died of his wound, I did massage the event a little so that Warren died by other means.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
ALB: The weird thing about themes is that, for me, they happen. When I try to focus in on one during the writing, it almost always fails. So, in City Marshal, I wasn’t planning on anything, but the theme of finding your home kept coming up. There’s a critical scene with the bad guy who doesn’t want to kill Maddie, but can’t let her get him kicked out of the only home he’s really known.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
ALB: My characters start by talking to me in my head (it’s very noisy in there). In fact, I had a problem with one in another series that I couldn’t figure out why he was just so flat and blah, and it turned out I’d decided to make him a certain way. I ended up turning everything around in that story because I had an invented person instead of one who talked to me.
Do I have favorites? Well, yeah. Maddie Wilcox and her friend Regina Medina. I love the women of Maddie’s household, Magdalena, Olivia, Juantia, and Maria. Then there are the crew from my 1920s series featuring Freddie Little and Kathy Briscow (that starts with Fascinating Rhythm). In addition to Freddie and Kathy, I’ve totally fallen in love with Freddie’s mother, Gloria, and his younger sister, Honoria. And Kathy’s family is a hoot, too.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
ALB: I don’t tend to be a very visual person, so I really focus on getting the sound and the feel of the narration right. Maddie, for example, might sound a lot like Louisa May Alcott, because I knew Alcott and Maddie were from the same place and had similar experiences. I’m also getting better at writing the visuals. One thing that helps in the Old Los Angeles series is that Maddie is a clothes horse. She loves dresses of all kinds and describes everyone’s, but especially her own.
Another thing that helps me is maps and floorplans. If I can see where things are, then I can describe them a little better.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
ALB: Being married to an archivist really helps. But even beside that, I read a lot of periodicals from the time period, novels from the time. The tourist literature is a tremendous help, since that records the sort of things most people didn’t bother writing down. I mean, if you know how to make wine, you’re not going to write about it in your diary. On the other hand, if you’re a tourist, you’re going to write about what you saw those people do in that strange place.
Research is pretty much a constant. You never know when a question is going to pop up, and I really hate writing around things.
Thanks for answering my questions, Anne, and good luck with Death of the City Marshall, the latest book in the Old Los Angeles Mystery series.
The novel is available online on Amazon.