Today Cynthia Kuhn is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Study of Secrets, her latest novel in the Lila Maclean Academic mystery 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.
The Study of Secrets is the fifth book in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, all of which are focused on an English professor who teaches and solves mysteries. In the latest, Lila goes on sabbatical at the whimsical Callahan House, a proper Victorian mansion…which turns out to have a body in the study.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
A mystery author has invited Lila to stay in her guest house while doing research, and the idea came about when I was thinking about this author’s backstory, especially as it relates to the mansion where they spend the semester. I imagined what her life had been like when she was younger, who had been a part of it, and how her writing back then could be related to the current situation.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
The series as a whole explores issues relating to storytelling (mysteries and otherwise) as well as relationships of various kinds, particularly the type you might find in academia. This book continues that trend.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
It’s a process; the recurring characters have developed over the series, but there are always new ones that I learn about through the writing. It’s especially fun to write the more dramatic or quirky characters, like Lila’s mother Violet O, a famous artist. They have such a strong energy!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I try to provide details that offer a strong sense of place. Description is something I tend to go back and layer in carefully as part of my revision process. The first time through, I’m typically more focused on the action and dialogue.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
It’s different for every book, depending what the plot requires. Only a small portion of the overall research may end up in any given book, but it’s important to do the work. Sometimes I’ll go down rabbit holes trying to get a detail just right! For this book, I spent quite a lot of time looking at Victorian architecture.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Just that I hope they enjoy the reading if they give it a try! Thank you very much for hosting me today.
My pleasure, Cynthia. Thanks for answering my questions and good luck with The Study of Secrets, the latest book in Lila Maclean Academic mysteries 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, The Subject of Malice, and The Study of Secrets. Honors for the series include an Agatha Award for best first novel and Lefty Award nominations for best humorous mystery.