Please welcome Rebecca Tope to the ePen interview room. I was out of scones but had plenty of pumpkin cookies and freshly brewed coffee to offer my guest. Enjoy our visit!
What was the inspiration for your latest book?
After the success of my Cotswolds crime stories, the publisher suggested a second series, set in a different part of England, but with a strong female central protagonist. We agreed on the Lake District, and Persimmon Brown quickly came into focus. The scenery is obviously a big attraction, with wild fells, lakes and valleys. But I opted to give more attention to the small towns scattered around the region. Starting with Windermere, at the softer southern end of the area, I have moved around to include Ambleside, Coniston, Troutbeck, Hawkshead and Bowness. These are, to varying degrees, ancient and characterful settlements. They are very distinctive, one from another. Even Bowness and Windermere, which adjoin each other, have totally different tones.
Persimmon (Simmy) is a florist. She discovers that flowers are integral to the big life events which are imbued with drama and high emotion. A very innocent and unhappy woman at the outset, she soon becomes more mature and understanding of human complexities. She is surrounded by very young friends – Melanie, Ben and Bonnie are young enough to be her children, but they become genuine friends and advisors. Simmy’s parents are children of the 1960s, retaining elements of those hippy days, and providing another layer of insight and attitude. There is violence and danger in the streets of these pretty little towns, bringing genuine jeopardy to a harmless florist. The only buffers between her and the crimes she encounters are young Ben Harkness and Detective Inspector Moxon. The latter is a good-natured chap, concerned for Simmy’s vulnerability and increasingly impressed by Ben’s intelligence. The spate of murders is almost as surprising to him as it is to Simmy.
Simmy seldom finds herself instrumental in actually solving the crimes, but she creates the circumstances which make it possible, and asks pertinent questions.
‘The Coniston Case’ is the third in the series. Coniston is a remote settlement, on the edge of one of the Lakes (or ‘meres’ to be exact), famous for Donald Campbell and his Bluebird, as well as the lowering mountain that rises directly behind the town. The Old Man of Coniston has a character all off his own, and can never be ignored. Much of the action takes place on his slopes. Simmy has a busy week delivering flowers for Valentine’s Day, and discovering just how malicious the motives for sending flowers can be.
How much of yourself is reflected in this book and how?
I find this very difficult to answer. My writing method is old-fashioned to the extent that it is far from self-analysis. I believe myself to be doing little more than telling a story, drawing inevitably from thoughts I have had, things I have seen, people I have engaged with. But I don’t feel that knowing about any of this is relevant. In fact I think it is mildly damaging to the process of writing – and more importantly, reading – the books. It absolutely doesn’t matter.
Why should we read this book (or series) and what sets you apart from the rest? / What makes your book/series unique?
It would seem, from feedback I get, that people like my direct approach to the details of life and contemporary issues. I have ‘politically incorrect’ characters who go against the mainstream of current opinion. Readers also enjoy my descriptions of real English villages. This is probably my unique selling point, along with the accidental, unprofessional nature of my central female characters.
Genre – Cozy Mystery/British Detective/Traditional
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and business at Persimmon ‘Simmy’ Brown’s flower shop is booming. But when Simmy fulfills a string of anonymous delivery orders, she is startled to realize that each contains a secretly menacing message for the recipients. When one of the people who receives a bouquet disappears, it seems that her worst fears have been confirmed.
As if that isn’t enough, Simmy’s friend Kathy turns up, on the trail of her wayward daughter Joanna, who she fears has grown too close to one of her university tutors. When Kathy attempts to reason with her daughter she finds that Joanna’s older lover may be even more dangerous than she had imagined. With both Kathy and Joanna in peril, Simmy and her friends find themselves caught up in a web of deception, blackmail and murder…
Rebecca Tope is the author of four murder mystery series, featuring Den Cooper, Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, Undertaker; Thea Osborne, house sitter in the Cotswolds and now Persimmon Brown, Lake District florist. She is also a “ghost writer” of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme.