Sandra Mangan Talked to author Lindsey Davis – but she wasn’t giving much away!
Multi award-winning historical crime writer Lindsey Davis was born and brought up in Birmingham. She read English at Oxford, then joined the civil service, which she left in the mid-1980s.
Her first published fiction was romantic serials in Woman’s Realm magazine. She started writing about the Romans with The Course of Honour, which tells the remarkable true love story of the Emperor Vespasian and his mistress Antonia Caenis, and her research into First Century Rome inspired The Silver Pigs, the first outing for Falco and Helena, which was published in 1989.
Starting as a spoof using a Roman ‘informer’ as a classic, metropolitan private eye, the series developed into a set of adventures in various styles which take place throughout the Roman world. Its devoted readers follow the friends and family of Falco (and his dog, Nux) as avidly as they devour the mysteries he investigates.
In 2009, Lindsey travelled forward in time for Rebels and Traitors, set in the English Civil War and Commonwealth. This year she has published another Civil War story, A Cruel Fate in the QuickReads series for challenged readers.
Master and God, a standalone novel set in the reign of Domitian, was published in 2012 and led to a new series about Falco’s daughter, Flavia Albia.
When you set out to create a character, do you plan to develop them over a number of books? It varies. Many characters only appear once. But both my readers and I like to reacquaint ourselves with past characters so some will reappear. This is usually not ‘planned’ but arises out of future stories or as the mood takes me.
How is this achieved? One book at a time! Occasionally I have a long-term idea but most often I only involve myself with the current work. If a character reappears, I then try to discuss some new aspect of them, an event or a trait we have not seen before. It’s only an expanded version of what happens within a single book.
How does writing an historical crime novel differ from a book set in modern times? Not much. As a novelist I work primarily with plot, character, dialogue, narrative, description. The only difference is that the details are historical.
How do you go about researching your books? Thoroughly! It varies depending on the book. I think this is something to address at my event.
Are you influenced by other writers of historical crime? Who are your favourites and why? No, definitely not. I always thought it was important to be original. When I started I didn’t know there were any others.
Are you a reader of modern crime fiction? Who are the writers you admire? I don’t like to say much about this, because people want then to believe the writers I like are ones I ‘model’ myself upon. As I say, it is most important to me to be original.
How do you set about writing a novel. Are you a nine-to-five person, or do you prefer to go with the creative flow? I have written a book a year for 27 years so clearly some discipline applies. But I don’t write every day, or all day, or at any set time.
Do you have any advice for would-be crime writers? Don’t just say you are trying to write a book – get on and finish it
What’s next for you? Albia book 3 – which is about auctions, elections, and a mysterious body discovered in a chest.