R. J. Koreto is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England. I had to have him stop by the second I found out this story takes place in a theatre. Enjoy!
Great to see you here! I brewed coffee and tea. Choose your favorite. Cream and sugar?
RJ: Tea, please, which I take strong with nothing in it.
I have lots of questions for you – Hey, is that a gift you brought for me? You are so sweet!
RJ: My wife has won a blue ribbon at the Martha’s Vineyard County Fair four years running for her knitting. She made you a scarf.
It’s so pretty. My knitting always looks like several dogs got tangled up in it. Your wife is really talented. I love the scarf! I see you’ve been eyeing the pumpkin bread on the table. Please, help yourself! There’s also a selection of cookies. Which do you prefer?
RJ: I used to make pumpkin bread. I’m a terrible cook but a good baker. So pumpkin bread, definitely.
I love that this book is set in the world of theatre. Do you have a theatrical background, and did you have to research the playwright characters (G.B. Shaw) mentioned in your story?
RJ: I acted a bit in high school, but most of my theatrical experience has been as an audience member—I grew up in Manhattan, so Broadway was a part of my life. (My sister is a stage manager, and she helped with some background.) I’ve always liked Shaw, and looked into his background for this mystery. Lady Frances Ffolkes is fictional, but Shaw really did base Major Barbara on someone he knew. I also found that in the original cast was a young Edmund Gwenn, who became famous later as Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Who is your favorite playwright and why?
RJ: So many to choose from! But probably no one has given me more hours of pleasure than Neil Simon. His ability to create characters that stay with you long after the play is over is peerless. You laugh while you watch him, but when the curtain comes down, you realize that he’s touched on some universal and important human truths.
What aspect of Simon’s skills do you try to incorporate into your own craft?
RJ: Character creation. Neil Simon’s characters are indelible, and even though I’m a novelist and he’s a playwright, the point is the same—characters that really come alive through their dialog.
As a playwright, yes I most certainly agree. So which of Aristotle’s six elements (plot, character, thought, language, melody, spectacle) do you feel is your strongest and why?
RJ: I like this one! I’ve never been asked an Aristotle question before. For me, it’s character. In books I’ve loved, I often find myself forgetting the plot a few days later, but the characters haunt me for months and even years. One reader told me she wished Lady Frances was real so “she could be my friend.” That was the greatest compliment I’ve ever received as a writer.
What is your favorite aspect of Lady Frances – her strongest trait, etc.
RJ: Her independence—this gives her the ability to step out of her time and milieu to do what is right, to see possibilities for a better world rather than accepting that the way things are, are the way they have to be.
What is one thing that most fascinates you about the Edwardian era?
RJ: The class system. It’s not that I admire it—but I’m forever fascinated that it was so accepted and became the basis of the society. You had your place in the world, and with few exceptions, your children would inherit the same place, and you would never move. What modern people have trouble understanding is that class and money didn’t always go together—you can’t buy another rung on the ladder. I show how Frances’ suitor, the solicitor Hal Wheaton, may have as much money as some aristocrats, but he was middle class, and no amount of money would move him up.
What did you find most difficult about creating the flavor and tone of Edwardian England?
RJ: It’s easy to research clothes and technology and laws. Harder is finding out what were attitudes. I had to look into other books, including contemporary accounts. For example, in “Death Among Rubies,” I presented a same-sex couple. Would people “know” without “knowing”? Could they have an intimate relationship and still keep their privacy? In the new “Death at the Emerald,” how would characters bridge class divides when it came to love and ambition? There was no map for things like this—I read what I could and trusted it would come across as believable.
If Lady Frances and Mallow were dropped off at the cinema, what movie would they choose?
RJ: Mallow especially loves motion pictures, and likes romantic spectacle. I think she’d cry her way through “Titanic” again and again. As for Lady Frances, she’d be utterly fascinated by Woody Allen. Is there anything they could see together? I bet Walt Disney at his best could keep them both entertained. Or Wizard of Oz, no question.
What is one piece of writing advice you’d give to other authors as they settle in for the next draft of their story?
RJ: Keep the plot going! If you have a great scene, but it doesn’t move the plot forward, cut it. Yes, it may read well, but in the long run, it’ll hold back the book.
Loved having you visit! Please take the rest of the cookies and share with your family!
Readers, leave a comment for the author, and find out more about R. J. below:
One-named stunning actress Helen mysteriously vanished thirty years ago. An elderly family friend is unable to bear not knowing any longer and commissions Lady Frances Ffolkes to track her down. Taking on the role of Lady Sherlock, with her loyal maid Mallow drafted as her Watson, Frances finds herself immersed in the glamorous world of Edwardian theater and London’s latest craze—motion pictures. As Frances and Mallow make their way through the theaters, they meet colorful figures such as George Bernard Shaw and King Edward II. Tracking the theaters seems like a dead end. That is until one of Helen’s old suitors is suddenly murdered. With the stakes raised, Frances and Mallow work quickly to uncover a box of subtle clues to Helen’s whereabouts. But someone unexpected wants that box just as badly and is willing to kill to keep it shut. The stage is set for murder and Frances and Mallow are determined to unravel the decades-old conspiracy in Death at the Emerald, R. J. Koreto’s third installment in the captivating Lady Frances Ffolkes mysteries.
About The Author
R.J. Koreto is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England, and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College. With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
- Website: www.ladyfrancesffolkes.com (contains sign-up form for my weekly newsletter)
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ladyfrancesffolkes/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34729807-death-at-the-emerald
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/RJKoreto
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