C.S. Challinor, author of Phi Beta Murder: A Rex Graves Mystery (Midnight Ink, 978-0-7387-1890-3).
When did you start reading, and what did you like to read as a kid?
I started at seven years old reading Greek mythology, and then whatever I could get my hands on, from Enid Blyton (I grew up in the UK) to Agatha Christie to Jane Austen to Muriel Spark to Solzhenitsyn (I later studied Russian) to Henri Troyat (in French). I took late to reading, but when I did, I read pretty much everything, stumbling through my first French novels with a dictionary. I was a studious little bookworm until age 14 when I was taken out of my all-girls school in Edinburgh, Scotland, and transferred to a school in Sussex, England, where I discovered…boys!
When you were growing up did you have books in your home?
The shelves in the living room and my father’s study were lined with novels and reference works. Reading was highly encouraged, if not mandatory. My sister and I have remained avid readers to this day, and my parents and I still swap and recommend books.
When did you think about becoming a writer?
I wrote and published short stories and worked as a freelance writer (mostly real estate related) before I started on novels. My first novels were romantic suspense, like my short stories, but then I moved on to cozy mysteries, the first five of which–in the Rex Graves series–I sold to Midnight Ink Books.
I started writing–poems and stories about a fictional village called Babblingbrook (!!)–when I was ten. At age 11, my teacher raved about something I wrote in a creative essay, along the lines of “the warmth of a kitten in your arms.” She may have been the inspiration for my writing, but I can’t say I dreamed about being a writer one day.
How do you write? Do you have a daily routine?
I try to adhere to a routine. I have a small studio on the beach where I go when I am in the writing phase and need to concentrate. With a young adult still living at home, it can be hard to get uninterrupted time. When the writing is flowing, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Do you have any particular story to tell concerning the writing of this book?
Phi Beta Murder is loosely based on my own experience of having a son in college, with all the peer pressure and temptations that kids face when living away from home for the first time. I projected my impressions through my Scots barrister sleuth, who flies from Edinburgh to visit his son Campbell at his private college in Jacksonville, Florida. He’s a wee bit shocked at what he finds, but his determination to be a caring and understanding dad is what ultimately enables him to solve the (student’s) murder.
What’s some advice that you could offer young writers?
The old sayings “never give up” and that “writing is in the rewriting” are worth noting. I guess I never realized just how much not giving up and rewriting might be involved!
How did you find the publisher for this book? What has your experience as a published writer been like?
I got lucky with Christmas is Murder, the first in the Rex Graves Mystery series. I submitted to two publishers of mysteries and got a positive response from both. The first sale to Midnight Ink happened relatively quickly. When I say quickly, you have to bear in mind that the publishing process can be as slow as evolution.
Being published is not like writing as a hobby. It becomes work, with deadlines, promotions, reviews, and last-minute crises over covers and back cover blurb, usually when you’re just about to go on vacation. Then, when you’re on vacation worrying about how the final cover or blurb is going to come out, you think you should be taking notes and photos in case they might be useful material for a future book. Or else the primary objective of the vacation is research, as was the case with my trip last month to Derbyshire, England, and the Scottish Highlands around Loch Ness.
A fiction writer is constantly involved in the process of writing, thinking about what to write, or else wondering if the innocuous-looking person standing at the bus stop could have just murdered his granny. There was a question earlier about becoming a writer. I think it might be harder to un-become a writer.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am approaching the end of my fifth Rex Graves novel, which centers around a wedding in South Derbyshire. The novel prior to that, with the Scottish Highlands setting, Murder On the Moor, will be out in March of next year.
What are you reading?
Visit C.S. Challinor at www.rexgraves.com.