It's not unheard of for authors to write in more than one genre, but it can be difficult to make the switch. We recently talked with author Rosemary Stevens, who wrote several Regency romance novels, then switched to mysteries -- with a Regency twist. Death on a Silver Tray is now available from Berkley,and her protagonist is none other than the famous arbiter of Regency fashion, George "Beau" Brummell.
Rosemary, welcome to TMR! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live just outside Richmond, Virginia, with my husband, children and three cats. But I wish we lived in Richmond's "twin" city
Richmond, England because I love all things English. For many years my full time job has been an old-fashioned one:
that of wife and mother. My daughter has juvenile diabetes, so there have been many challenges in raising her. It's only been
since my children have gotten a little older that I have been able to really concentrate on writing. Over the past four years
I've been able to write and have published four traditional Regencies.
What led you to switch to mysteries?
I want to write about England, specifically about the elegant Regency Era which is roughly l795-l820. I love the idea
of stately homes in the English countryside, town houses in glittering London, and the social whirl around lords and ladies.
I've had an interest in Beau Brummell since I first began researching the Regency era in 1994. And I like a good puzzle.
The combination of these interests led to the logical conclusion: The Beau Brummell Mystery Series.
How did you decide on Beau Brummell as a protagonist?
He chose me actually! I became fascinated with him by reading Regency romances. By the time I wrote my own, I'd already researched him. He appears in a cameo role in each of my romances. Then one day while I was thinking about my writing future and thinking of writing a mystery, I asked myself who I would use as the sleuth. Brummell practically shouted his name in my head. Naturally, as a gentleman, he didn't quite shout. But he was most insistent he should be the sleuth. He said he was bored and had nothing else to do.
Was it difficult to find a publisher for this new idea?
I'm one of those extremely fortunate writers who did not have a hard time selling her work. I wrote and sold my first book
without an agent. I had an agent for subsequent books, but she did not support my desire to change to mysteries. Later, when I
pitched the idea of the Beau Brummell Mystery Series to a different agent at a writer's conference in Florida, she immediately encouraged me to pursue it. Due to other commitments and moving back to Richmond after five years in Florida, it took
me about a year to send her the actual proposal for the series. Two publishers showed interest, and it was only a matter of a few
weeks before I signed with Berkley.
What kind of research was involved for your first Beau Brummel mystery?
I take my research very seriously. First sources, such as diaries, letters, and publications of the period are best. There
is so much misinformation out there handed down from unreliable sources, a writer must be exceptionally careful. And when it
comes to a "celebrity" of the period such as Beau Brummell, well, it can get pretty ridiculous. Many so-called historians have
passed along rumors and myths that sprang up long after Brummell had left London. And Brummell himself shares responsibility in
that he often mocked himself, making comments about himself that others took as truth. In addition to my own research, I work
with a wonderful historian who also contributes to the Oxford English Dictionary. Between us, we have collected a vast store
of knowledge that we'll probably never use! After all, I'm writing fiction, not a history paper. My goal is always to take
the reader to a different time and a different place and entertain him or her. And a confused reader is not an entertained reader.
What are some of the myths surrounding Brummell that you dispelled in your research?
Ah, good question as there are so many myths about Brummell!! The answer is you must read the books. I've chosen two or three myths per book to address in one form or another. I'll give you an example. Brummell has been wrongly credited with introducing black coats for gentlemen for the evening. This is plain wrong. He introduced the wearing of *dark* colored coats, not black. Black was reserved for the middle class or gentlemen in mourning. In DEATH ON A SILVER TRAY there is a bit about black coats and an actual quote from Brummell about how he believes a black coat makes a man look like a magpie.
What were some of the challenges you faced switching to mysteries?
For me, mysteries are harder to write than romance. I find I must have a complete, chapter by chapter, very detailed outline before I begin writing. When I wrote my romances, I had a general idea, lots of notes, etc., but not the kind of outline I have for my mysteries. The real challenge is letting readers in both genres know the books are out there. Promotion is difficult for authors, and now I am faced with promoting in two markets since my book is for Regency romance readers and mystery readers. I just hope they find Brummell.
Any similarities between the genres that you weren't expecting?
Authors must tell a good story whatever they write, readers are great people whatever they read! One thing I wasn't expecting is that so many romance readers are also mystery readers. They tend to read the historical mysteries or the cozy mysteries, but romance readers are out in force reading mysteries.
Are you planning to return to Regency romance, or will you focus on mysteries for a while?
Researching and writing the Brummell books takes up all my time. My writing future will depend on their success. I certainly would not rule out writing Regency-set romances again.
Tell us about plans for future books.
I've signed a three-book contract with Berkley Prime Crime. DEATH ON A SILVER TRAY was released in May, 2000. THE
TAINTED SNUFF BOX will be a May, 2001 release. The third book is as yet untitled, but I imagine it will be released a year later.
How can readers get in touch with you?
They can email me via my website at www.beaubrummell.com or they can send snail mail to me at P.O. Box 414, Midlothian, VA 23113. If a response is required, I always appreciate a SASE.
Rosemary, thanks for joining us, and best of luck to you and Beau Brummell! Readers, we have a review of Death on a Silver Tray for you.
June 21, 2000