Author Q&A Blooming Murder - Simon Whaley
MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.
Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.
This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.
It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.
So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.
Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?
I love cosy crime novels so I'm really excited to add this one to my 'TBR' pile as it sounds fantastic. I was lucky enough to have Simon answer some questions both about the book and more generally, about his writing life.
How long have you been writing?
Gosh, it feels like most of my life. When I was 14, I was interested in writing plays and television scripts and I wrote to many famous writers (Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Bleasdale, and John Sullivan - the man behind Only Fools and Horses). Amazingly, they all wrote back to me with advice for a budding 14-year-old writer. Alan Bleasdale told me to become a brain surgeon, because he said it was much easier! Looking back, he was right!
My first published piece was a word search puzzle in a magazine when I was 18, for which I received a £3.50 postal order. After that, I began writing magazine articles.
My first book was published in 2003, and amazingly, One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train its Human spent three weeks on the UK non-fiction paperback lists in December, reaching number 2 in the week before Christmas.
I then began writing short stories for the women’s magazines, and had several published in titles like Take a Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The People’s Friend and Yours. I’d also been playing about with a few novel ideas, but writing the short stories helped me learn the story-telling process.
What made you want to write cosy crime?
A lot of my work has a humorous angle to it, especially books like One Hundred Ways For A Dog To train Its Human, and I’ve written a couple of books for the Bluffer’s Guide series. And while I enjoy reading crime books, I’m a bit squeamish. I don’t like the blood, guts and gore.
I much enjoy humour in the genre. MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and Hamish MacBeth series have some funny moments, and while Caroline Graham’s Midsommer Murder books aren’t humorous, the television series injects plenty of funny moments into the storylines.
Writing some light-hearted, cosy crime just felt natural to me.
Where do you get your character ideas from?
Like all writers, they’re an amalgamation of a broad range of people I’ve met over the years. We take little idiosyncrasies from one person and merge them with characteristics from another, and then watch them grow. Often, it is the way the characters grow that gives me more ideas for the plot. For example, in Blooming Murder I have a wonderful character called Letitia, who is in her eighties, but acts as though she’s still in her thirties. I loved her sassiness and bravado, and knew she needed to play a bigger part in the denouement right at the end of the novel.
So, which are you? A plotter, or a panster?
Well, if I had to choose one of those terms, I’d have to pick panster. However, I prefer the term discovery writer, because that’s more what the first draft is about for me. I know what the crime is, and I know who the murderer is, and why they’ve done it. But I don’t know how my main character, Aldermaston, is going to solve it. I enjoy going on that journey of discovery, just as any reader might.
Blooming Murder is about a rivalry between two rural communities in a flower competition. Why did you pick that idea for your first book in the series?
I knew it offered lots of opportunities for humour, and then one day I came across a news story about how one community had bugged the village hall of their major competitors so they could eavesdrop on what their plans were. As soon as I heard that, I knew some people were prepared to go to many lengths to win a flower competition. Then I came across another news story, which I won’t share (because that will give my plot away!), but when I brought the two together it created a great story idea.
What’s next for your main character, Lord Mortiforde?
Ah, yes. My main character Aldermaston, the Marquess of Mortiforde, is new to his title. He’s the Eighth Marquess of Mortiforde, a role he expected his older brother, Basildon, to inherit. But when their parents died in a road traffic accident, their mother’s secret affair was finally uncovered, and so Basildon is Aldermaston’s older stepbrother, making Aldermaston the direct descendent of the Seventh Marquess of Mortiforde and the rightful heir to the title.
So, having grown up expecting his brother to take on all the Lord of the Manor duties, Aldermaston and his wife, Felicity, have suddenly found themselves thrust into the community limelight and having to learn their new roles on the job.
In the next instalment, Foraging For Murder, Aldermaston finds himself in charge of the annual Food Festival, first established by his father over twenty years ago. Some traders are kidnapped, along with their pet pigs. A rare 16th century recipe book on loan from the Royal Palaces Collection disappears, and then the president of the Mortiforde Vegetarian Society is found dead. It’s just another typical day for the new Lord Mortiforde to get through!
Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.
Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)
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