Today Jessica Berg is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Murder Most Pemberley, her first novel in the Eliza Darcy Mystery series.
Welcome, Jessica. 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. Murder Most Pemberley is the first book in the Eliza Darcy Mystery series. My protagonist, Eliza Darcy, is the great to the sixth-degree granddaughter of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy. When we first meet her, she is readying for a trip across the pond to England for a family reunion at Pemberley to investigate the estrangement between her father and her uncle, Lord Fitzwilliam Darcy. Well, things escalate quickly, and she soon finds her embroiled in murder and mayhem! Add in the mix a sexy English love interest and a batty great aunt, and Eliza has her hands full.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from? My two favorite authors are Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, and I thought, what the heck, why not combine the two in one universe! So, I did and ended up with an Austen sleuth in a Christie world. The mystery itself revolves around the great estate of Pemberley. I can’t say too much, or I might give away the secret!
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it? My writing, whether cozies or contemporary romances, centers around family. So, while my settings, characters, and plots may change, family remains the staple of all my novels. By combining Austen’s family-centered novels with Christie’s cozies, where dysfunctional families often bring about murder and mayhem, my writing deals with the impact families have on characters, whether for good or bad.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them? My characters are a mix of many people, often ones I know personally. I often use my family as inspiration and steal one aspect from this person, combine with a few other traits from someone else, and ta-da, I have a brand-new person! It’s quite fun and the most enjoyable part of writing. My favorite character, so far, is Great Aunt Iris from Murder Most Pemberley. She’s spicy, spunky, wears velvet track suits and white tennis shoes that squeak, carries a purse bigger than she is, and makes inappropriate innuendos that only an octogenarian can get away with. She is my goal for my eighty-plus-year-old self!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about? I browse pictures on Google or Unsplash or Pixabay to get a solid idea of what the location looks like in reality, and then I play with those ideas when I incorporate those descriptions into my narrative. To do that, I imagine myself there and pay attention to all my senses: What would I see? Would the ground beneath my feet feel firm or spongy? Am I standing in the shade on a hot summer’s day or am I in summer gear and the day is only 60 degrees and cloudy? Am I in a flower garden surrounded by marigolds (which don’t smell good) or roses (which are delicious)? These are the details I think about and then incorporate through the eyes of the characters.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel? For Murder Most Pemberley, I did a lot of research. Like, a ton! I read several books on British slang, speech patterns, and the like. My husband and I also love British television shows and are currently watching Midsomer Murders. While we watch I have my little notebook, and I jot down certain phrases or interjections or speech patterns. As for the English communities and settings in my book, Lambton and Pemberley are Austen’s fictionalizations, so I simply played on her descriptions from Pride and Prejudice. I also went a step further and had three separate English beta readers read my book for feedback. I want this book to be as authentic as possible, but I also want to play off the differences between American English and British English; these lost in translation moments had hilarious moments in my fictional world.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book? If you love Jane Austen and/or Agatha Christie and love a good mystery with authentic characters, I know you will love tagging along with American sleuth Eliza Darcy as she traverses the upper crust of English society and attempts to solve a murder!
Thank you for answering my questions, Jessica, and good luck with Murder Most Pemberley, your first novel in the Eliza Darcy Mystery series.
The novel is available online at the following retailers:
About Jessica Berg: She is a child of the Dakotas and the prairie, grew up amongst hard-working men and women and learned at an early early age to “put some effort into it.” Following that wise adage, she has put effort into teaching high school English for over a decade, being a mother to four children (she finds herself surprised at this number, too), basking in the love of her husband of more than fifteen years and losing herself in the imaginary worlds she creates.