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Saturday 8 April 2023

THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEKE - an interview with Kate Darroch

My guest today is the award-winning novelist Kate Darroch, who is here to talk about her new book The Case of the Missing Peke.

Welcome, Kate!  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

When I was young I lived in Scotland, in the days when "the tawse" (a heavy leather strap) was used to beat misbehaving pupils. I was very quiet, but during a Latin lesson one day I was doodling on the cover of my jotter. Doodling helps me to think. For some reason that annoyed my teacher, and he gave me "six of the best" on my right hand. My hand was so swollen I couldn't hold anything in it. I was 13 years old.

After school I sat down and with my left hand I wrote a comic story about a boy who had a magic travelling ring. His headmaster would see the boy disappear from school corridors on his magic travels - and this made the headmaster fear for his own sanity. But one day the head is swept up in the magic field and arrives in Switzerland with the boy. The head is so relieved that he wasn't "seeing things" that he becomes a friend to the boy and they travel around magically together.

I was prompted to write the story because I respected my teacher's scholarship and wanted to do well in his class. I wished that he had understood that I was doodling to help me to understand his lesson, and I wished that he had been kind to me, as the headmaster in my story is kind to the boy.

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

I'm writing a series of humorous mystery novellas - Huntingdon Hart Investigates: The Casefiles of an Occasional Detective. The first is The Case of the Missing Peke.  Hunt is a mid-30s retired MI5 hitman living quietly in an English village.  When he agrees to search for a missing puppy, Hunt meets the only woman he will ever love.

 What was the inspiration for this book?

I love Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and I adore send-ups. This is my comedy hommage to Sherlock Holmes.

Did you do any research for the book?

I had done a lot of research for a humorous spy series I intend to write next, and I adore going racing and once owned a part-share in a steeplechaser. Most of Hunt's cases are linked to Newmarket racecourse.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Usually they come to me from the Muse, but often I adapt what the Muse gives me.
For example, my heroine Màiri Maguire, whose book Death in Paris has won me 15 book awards, was originally called Maggie Maguire. But a publisher told me that there is already a female sleuth called Maggie Maguire, so I re-named her Màiribecause she is Scots Irish.  Màiri is both a Scottish name (pronounced Marrhi) and an Irish name (pronounced Moiyra).
Màiri's life is so upside-down that I thought it appropriate to give her a name that wasn't straightforward.

Hunt came to me from the Muse as Huntingdon MacSpeirin, but I had a reader contest to name him and so he became Huntingdon Hart, courtesy of the lovely Ami.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

Both. The story comes to me from the Muse.  Out of respect for her gift, I write a very detailed outline.  Then I write the book. Very often, as I write, the story changes.

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

I am having great fun writing more Hunt stories.  I chose to write them as Quick Reads to give readers of my earlier books a little fun while I write the next Màiri novel, Death in Rome.

Is there a message for the reader?

Yes. My message to the reader is: Have fun whenever you can.  When things are dark, Laughter is the Best Medicine.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Yes. Write from the heart. Write in your own voice.  Do not listen to people who tell you that you should write "what the readers want".  Write what feels right to you, and it will find an audience.  Everyone has an audience. And thanks to this wonderful thing called the internet, today all artists can find their audience.

Your audience will be so glad that they found you, especially if yours is not a "popular" voice.
So be true to your Muse, and she will be kind to you.

What can we expect from you in the future?

If God spares me, many more Hunt stories, at least 4 more Màiri books, and some stories from Major Peverel (a popular character in the Màiri books).

Thank you, Kate, for a most interesting chat!

Thanks again, Sue.  It is an honour to be a Guest on your blog.

More about Kate:

Living in gorgeous Coastal Devon, Kate synergises her lifelong love of reading Cozy Sleuths with years of writing experience and her extensive knowledge of foreign climes to write Travel Cozies.

Her first Cozies were the 1970s-set Màiri Maguire Cozy Mysteries - fun, frothy, fast-paced mysteries, with just enough clues and twists to keep you guessing until the end.

Now Kate’s Quick Reads Cozy series is released:  Huntingdon Hart Investigates, Casefiles of an Occasional Detective

Kate hopes that her readers will get as much pleasure from reading Màiri’s adventures as she gets from Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Ellery Queen, Raffles, and Jana DeLeon's Miss Fortune series.

Huge thanks to Bittersweet Book Tours for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.