By Susanna Calkins
When I first started telling people that I was about to publish my debut novel—A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate--I didn’t know what to expect. Most people were
astonished—after all, only my husband knew anything about my scribblings for the
last ten years, and even he had only the vaguest notion what my story was
So the questions I got asked—as well as what I didn’t get asked—surprised me. No one asked me what had inspired the book, or how I did my research (those kinds of questions seemed to come up later).
Instead, I got:
Is there much sex in it? Uh, gulp. You’ll have to read it to find out. (Seriously, this was the number one question people asked me).
Who’s your agent? Will he represent me? I found this question very awkward. I didn’t want to shut the door behind me, but at that point, I had only known my wonderful agent David Hale Smith of Inkwell Management for a few days between the time I signed with him and when Minotaur bought my books.
I’ve started a novel. Can I pitch it to your publisher? Well, gee. I think that most agents, editors, publishers etc. are looking for finished products, which are ready to go. As everyone says… don’t spoil your book by sending it out into the world too soon!
Is your book much like Harry Potter or Twilight? Those books are awesome. Everyone wants to read them. Okay, well, my books are mysteries, so I guess that’s different. Sure, my main character, Lucy, is about the same age as Bella. But she’s not from Washington. She’s English though, like Hermione, but really nothing like Hermione at all. My book is set in seventeenth-century England, but there aren’t any trains in it. Or horcruxes.
So you set your book in seventeenth-century London. That’s when Elizabeth I was the queen. Or was it Queen Victoria? Close. Well, about sixty years after QEI, and 150 years before the other. The monarch was actually Charles II. (Nope, not the one who was beheaded. His son).
So you wrote a mystery. Are you as exciting as Dan Brown? Um…you’ll have to read it to find out? (How often can I use that one?)
Do you plan to quit your day job? Um…I don’t think many writers make a living this way. (If my boss is reading this—Plus, I love my day job. I’d never quit! If he’s not reading, then I’ll stick to my first response. I don’t think most writers make as much money as what people assume).
Are you going to make your book into a movie, like The Help? That would be pretty darn surprising, but hey if BBC or Masterpiece Theatre comes a-calling, they know where to find me!!! And yes, I will see if they can cast you/your cousin/your child in the production.
Do you think my sister/aunt/cousin/neighbor/long-lost pet would like your book? YES!
Susanna Calkins is a historian and academic, currently working at Northwestern University. She’s had a morbid curiosity about murder in seventeenth-century England ever since she was in grad school, when she was first working on her Ph.D. in history. The ephemera from the archives—tantalizing true accounts of the fantastic and the strange—inspired her historical mysteries, including A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons. Connect with her at her website or on twitter.
Book synopsis: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press) April 23, 2013
When someone she loves faces hanging for the murder of a fellow servant, Lucy Campion—a seventeenth-century English chambermaid—must interpret the clues hidden in miniature portraits, popular ballads, and a corpse’s pointing finger to save his life…all before the true murderer turns on her…