Thank you for joining me for a pre-publication party for the first book in the Cornish Castle Mystery series - Death Plays a Part by Vivian Conroy. Today Vivian has written a Guest Post which details her location inspiration.
First of all let's take a look at the description for Death Plays a Part...
About the book
With high tide comes murder…
When her beloved London theatre closes for renovations, costume maker Guinevere is excited to start a job at Cornisea castle, a centuries-old keep on a small tidal island off the coast of Cornwall. Imagine a whole summer full of stories of hidden treasures, fab food and long walks with her perky dachshund Dolly.
But when a reenactment of a medieval trial in the castle dungeons ends in real-life murder, and accusations threaten the castle's future, Guinevere and Dolly dig deep into the island community's best-kept secrets to unmask the killer and save their Cornish summer.
Location Inspiration - Guest post by Cornish Castle series author Vivian Conroy
The Tour de France of 2016 started it all. As a cycling fan I was all set to watch the first stretch of a race that is fascinating to follow if only because it's slightly insane that people are actually able to cycle hundreds of miles during what is usually the hottest time of the year in France. But it all began well: by the seaside! The first stretch went from Mont Saint-Michel, a tidal island off the coast, onto the mainland by way of a bridge built to replace the authentic causeway that was for centuries used to reach the island at low tide. On top of the island sits an abbey overlooking the surrounding area. As I watched the cyclists dash down the bridge, my eyes wandered across the silhouette of the abbey on the island and the thought struck me: what a wonderful location for a mystery series. The isolation during high tide, the idea of a miniature world, a community living separate from those on the mainland, with secrets. Legends, local lore, treasure maybe even.
But an abbey... I didn't really see how I could weave that into a contemporary series. Medieval, yes, but although I'm a huge Cadfael fan, I wasn't really looking to develop a medieval mystery series at that time. Still, after the cycling was over for the day, I took a closer look online at Mont Saint-Michel, its history and tidal islands in general. By looking beyond I realized there was an easy solution to the missing element in my series plan: Mont Saint-Michel's British counterpart St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall doesn't have an abbey on top but a castle. A centuries old keep with lots of history and a ruling family who has been there for countless generations. The ideal inspiration for my tidal island with castle and ruling family. I had already set my third Lady Alkmene mystery, Deadly Treasures, in Cornwall (at an excavation site!) so I was eager to return to the Cornish coast and explore more of its fascinating history, archaeology and folklore.
I pitched the series idea to my editor in a brief email outlining the general idea and the plots for the first two books: medieval reenactment in the castle dungeons leads to real-life murder and a rare bejewelled wedding goblet allegedly hidden in the castle gardens draws claimants to the castle who are all at each other's throats. My editor took it to the team who were all enthusiastic about the potential and I was contracted for the series, for the first time without having any actual material written. But in my head it all existed already: the island, the castle on top, the island community with small businesses, the Cowled Sleuth bookshop and Dolly the dachshund, the faithful canine companion of my heroine Guinevere. Having put a pug and a bichon frise in my Country Gift Shop series, I wanted a dachshund for the Cornish Castle, because of their perky and adventurous nature, their ability to dig (literally!) for clues. Dolly also became Guinevere's sounding board, someone she could talk to and share the new world that Cornisea Island is.
The made-up name Cornisea was meant to convey Cornish and sea, but while checking whether it didn't really exist or inadvertedly had a weird meaning, I came across an online mention that Cornisea is an anagram for scenario. In a series with a main character from the theatre world and with a first instalment where Guinevere's theatre skills help her solve the murder, how perfect is that?
In building the island from my initial plans for it I didn't look too closely at St Michel's Mount as an example, because I wanted Cornisea to have an individuality and air of its own. Of course it has typical elements one expects on a Cornish island: a harbour with bobbing boats, fishermen who clean their catches, tourists who sip ale or try homemade ice cream and I hope that the reader who has visited Cornwall feels like living that holiday all over again. At the same time I hope that the colourful characters inhabiting the island and the small businesses there - from the bakery and the eatery to the quaint little bookshop with a puppy hiding behind the counter - take the reader into a new world where people know each other and help each other, but where there are also unwritten rules (like island justice) that determine daily life, especially when this peaceful routine is upset by a sudden murder. As the plot involved the reenactment of a medieval trial, I enjoyed giving little snippets of life at a castle in the middle ages and developing the legend of Branok's hidden stash, an alleged treasure of illegal gainings hidden in a safe place on the island. Will Guinevere and Dolly be able to work out if it's just a legend or there is more to the old story than meets the eye? Find out in Death Plays a Part, which will release on the 7th of July and is up for preorder now, for a special introductory price.
Tomorrow, via Bibliomaniac UK, I will share more about developing the characters for this series: not just Guinevere and Dolly, but also the mysterious motorcyclist who almost runs Guinevere off the causeway upon her arrival and some of the minor characters. And on Thursday I will be at Books of All Kinds to talk plot inspiration and the reasons why I made Death Plays a Part a locked room mystery.
Follow along and celebrate this prepub party with me! And if you have a dog and start reading my book, please tweet me a picture of your dog with your ereader with hashtag #teamdolly. I look forward to seeing all of your canine best friends!
Book Links for #CornishCastle series:
Death Plays a Part (Cornish Castle Mystery, Book 1)
Goodreads - Death Plays a Part (Cornish Castle Mystery, Book 1)
About the author
Vivian Conroy writes the Cornish Castle Mysteries for HarperCollins, with Death Plays a Part releasing in July and Rubies in the Roses following in late August. Her Lady Alkmene Mysteries, of which the first instalment A Proposal To Die For became an Amazon USA and Canada best seller in five categories, will continue with a new instalment in October, Fatal Masquerade, set at a Venetian style masked ball where every guest has a secret and some of these secrets prove lethal. For all the latest bookish news, with plenty of dogs and desserts, follow Vivian on Twitter via @VivWrites. You can also find her books on Goodreads, Library Thing, Book Bub and Fantastic Fiction.