So many times, I’ve hosted people on Friend Friday but have never met them. I did get to meet today’s guest at a terrific SCBWI conference in Sacramento at the beginning of May. In fact, I was given the opportunity to critique a new manuscript of hers! And since Elizabeth Varadan and I share a passion for historical fiction, that was pleasant duty indeed. I am delighted to turn this blog over to her today so she can talk to you about her newest book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls.
Ever since I was a child, I was drawn to books by English authors: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the quirky and funny Five Children and It trilogy by Edith Nesbitt, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Cuckoo Clock, by Mrs. Molesworth. As I grew older, I discovered the Brontes, Jane Austin, James Barrie, G. B. Shaw, Mary Stewart, Nora Lofts, among others. I was bonkers about books set in England.
Apart from my early love of British literature, I also was hooked on mysteries, especially the Nancy Drew series. When I was ten, I started up a detective club with my group of friends in Reno, and we went snooping around the neighborhood, hoping for a mystery to solve. We so wanted to be successful sleuths! One fall day, we spotted smoke rising from behind a house. In those days people could still burn trash or leaves in their backyard, and we knew full well that the occupants were probably doing just that. But we called the fire department, anyway, and reported something suspicious was going on behind that house. (The incident ended well, though. After a very minor chastising, we were invited in for hot cocoa.) Meanwhile, in my fantasies, my alter ego, “Imogene”, led a successful detective ring that solved all kinds of cases.
Even later, I discovered Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and my love of all things British and all things mysterious intertwined. I suppose after that, it was inevitable that someday I would write a mystery set in England, especially in Sherlock’s London. While I was on a visit to my brother and his wife in England a few years ago, they took me to the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. That trip was the spark for the story that developed later – Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls – in which a ten-year-old girl helps Holmes find her mother’s stolen pearls. (Looking back, it’s no accident that the story’s protagonist is called Imogene, or that she is ten. Thankfully, she’s smart enough not to try and report burning trash.)
My husband and I have several friends from England, some of whom vetted early versions of the book for me, advising me about accents and idioms and the like. Their input helped tremendously. Added to that, I love to do research. For me, it’s a form of travel, through space and through time. (My husband teases me that I only write stories that require research.) Researching Imogene’s world was great fun. At times I felt I knew more about Victorian London than about contemporary Sacramento where I now live! Luckily, all that information is in folders and files for the next book in the series.
Elizabeth Varadan is a former elementary school teacher. She taught most elementary grades, but her favorites were the middle grades, and she now writes middle grade fiction. She and her husband live in Midtown Sacramento, California, a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood with bookshops and art stores nearby. Her children’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Ladybug, Friends, and Skipping Stones Magazine. Her adult flash fiction has appeared in several online and print magazines, and her poetry has been anthologized in Vine Leaves Journal and The Stray Branch. You can read her blog, Fourth Wish, here, her Victorian Scribbles blog here, find her on Facebook here, check out her Amazon author page here or follow her on Twitter: @4thWishVaradan