posted on August 2, 2013 by Rhys Bowen

A CHILDHOOD REVISITED

heirs and gracesI’ve lived in America for most of my adult life but there are things I still miss about England. I suppose some of this is a longing for a time more than a place. I have happy memories of my childhood, of the innocence of life in the English countryside, off on my bike for the day to splash around in a stream, to pick fruit, to have adventures in the woods. Summer seemed endless and so free.

I also miss the foods that evoke my childhood: tea on the lawn in summer with cucumber sandwiches, freshly made scones with strawberry jam and sometimes with cream too; fish and chips eaten out of newspaper on a cold evening; Cornish pasties… I could go on and on but I’ll make myself hungry.

So writing about England of long ago in the Royal Spyness novels is a permanent trip into nostalgia for me. Not that I was around in the nineteen thirties, but the British countryside was still pretty much the same when I was growing up. There were people in my village whose family had lived there for generations, who had never been to London. This all changed in the nineteen sixties. Cheap travel opened up the Continent to those who had never gone abroad before. London commuters bought second homes in the country. The village shop suddenly started stocking pate and French cheeses.

enysfordBut in my books most people in a village worked either on the land or at the big house. There was always a big house somewhere close by and being a servant there was a coveted job. In my new book, HEIRS AND GRACES, I’ve created a fictional stately home called Kingsdowne Place, near Eynsford in Kent. I chose the setting and the name because I spent happy hours of my childhood riding my bike to Eynsford and I learned to swim at Kingdown pool (not heated and freezing in the cold English summers). My cousin and I played in the woods where I have set my stately home, on a slope of the beautiful north Downs of Kent. There was a Roman Villa nearby and a silkworm farm and it was always fun to watch the cars going through the ford and getting people wet. So this has been a great excuse to revisit my childhood and to increase the pleasure I’ve also used names from my past life too.

The Butler is Huxstep. He’s prim and haughty and he’s named after my own headmistress at school. She was more terrifying but I think they look similar. The cook at Kingsdowne is Mrs. Broad… and the real Mrs. Broad was the cleaning lady who looked after our house. We lived in a big, rambling old place called Britomart, after a naval captain’s ship and the acre of ground was full of exotic plants he had brought back from his travels. I spent my summers happily playing and exploring there, making tree houses, adopting wild kittens and being completely free and unchaperoned.

It’ s no wonder that I’ve enjoyed recreating that era for myself, is it?

HEIRS AND GRACES comes out in hardcover, e-book and Audible audio on August 6th. It is the seventh in the Royal Spyness series featuring Lady Georgiana who is 35th in line to the throne but absolutely penniless in the 1930s.

rhysbowen.com

Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen’s mysteries have been nominated for every major mystery award, including the Edgar for best novel, and she has won nine of them. She currently writes the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring a feisty Irish immigrant woman. In 1997 she began a new, lighter series, this one about a minor royal in 1930s England. The first book was called Her Royal Spyness. It has been described as Bridget Jones meets Charade as told by Nancy Mitford and described in a Booklist starred review as "A smashing romp." The first book has appeared on many bestseller lists and award nomination slates, including the Dilys award for the book that independent booksellers most enjoyed selling. A Royal Pain and Royal Flush are now in stores and Royal Blood comes out this fall.

Rhys was born in Bath, England, of a Welsh/English family, and educated at London University. She worked for the BBC in London, as an announcer then drama studio manager. She sang in folk clubs with luminaries like Simon and Garfunkel and Al Stewart, and also started writing her own radio and TV plays. Needing to escape from the dreary London weather, she accepted an invitation to work for Australian Broadcasting in Sydney. While Down Under she met her future husband John, who was on his way to California. She married and settled in the San Francisco area, where she has lived ever since, raising four children. (Although she now spends her winters in her condo in Arizona.)

Finding nothing like the BBC in California, Rhys started writing children’s books. Her first picture book was named a NY Times best book of the year. More picture books followed, then Rhys moved to young adult novels, writing many best selling titles. She also wrote some adult historical sagas and some TV tie-ins. When she felt she had exhausted her enthusiasm for writing for teenagers, Rhys decided to write what she likes to read: mysteries with a great feel for time and place. Her childhood memories of her Welsh relatives were the inspiration for her first mystery series: the Constable Evans novels. The stories were immediately well received. The second book, Evan Help Us, was called "a jewel of a story" by Publishers Weekly and nominated for a Barry Award. Evan’s Gate received an Edgar Best Novel nomination.

Wanting to try her hand at something different and edgier, Rhys conceived Molly Murphy—brash, fearless Irish immigrant in New York City. The first book in this series, Murphy’s Law, won three awards including the Agatha. Every subsequent book has received starred reviews and award nominations. For the Love of Mike won the Anthony Award at the world mystery convention. Oh Danny Boy won a Macavity. The ninth book, The Last Illusion, will be published in March 2011.

Rhys also enjoys writing short stories and has achieved much critical acclaim for them. Doppelganger won the Anthony award and was included in the world’s finest mystery and crime stories anthology. More recently her story Voodoo was chosen to be part of the anthology of the best of 50 years of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Rhys is a past national board member of Mystery Writers of America. When not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, play her Celtic harp, and entertain her grandchildren. She blogs at Jungle Red Writers and Rhys’s Pieces.

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