|Presenting C.S. Challinor
|Agatha Christie fans here you go! You have been waiting for a mystery writer that can hold the
torch, well we found her, C.S. Challinor. Christmas is Murder is her first book in the Rex Graves
series, and we didn't solve the mystery! In fact, we were not even close. She told such a wonderul
story, that we were lost in her world for a while!
On a side note, Caroline is very much a supporter of Soliders' Angels. She donates 15% of her
royalties to the charity. Click on the link above to find out more.
|Book two in the Rex
|Shades of Agatha Christie. A disparate
group of guests snowed in at an English
hotel await Christmas and death.
Rex Graves, QC, makes the trip from
Scotland to Swanmere Manor just in time to
turn sleuth. The proprietress, Mrs.
Smithings, a widow who recently lost a son
in Iraq, is an old friend of his mother's. But
Rex's fond memories of childhood visits are
about to be polluted by a series of murders.
Soon after his arrival, he is taken aside by
honeymooning EMT Charley Perkins, who
confides his suspicions that what caused
old Mr. Lawdry's death was not a heart
attack but poison in his almond tart. The
next to die is unpopular New York literary
agent Miriam Greenbaum, whose edited
biography of George W. Bush has been
delayed by a fall down the stairs that was
obviously helped along. Rex is attracted to
Helen d'Arcy, but when her friend Wanda
Martyr falls victim to the killer, he has to
add Helen to his necessarily small list of
suspects. Nothing daunted, he uses his
prosecutorial expertise to work his way
through method and motive until he
announces the murderer in a denouement
in the classic style.
Exclusive interview with C.S. Challinor
Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration?
I'm going to be obvious here and say Agatha Christie. The first and fourth novels in my series
(CHRISTMAS IS MURDER and DARK SIDE OF THE MOOR) pay unabashed homage to the Queen of
the Mystery Genre. Kirkus Reviews says of CHRISTMAS IS MURDER: "(Rex Graves) uses his
prosecutorial expertise to work his way through method and motive until he announces the
murderer in a denouement in the classic style. Challinor's debut is a pleasant modern knockoff of
Christie. It remains to be seen whether Rex's skills are the equal of Poirot's or Miss Marple's."
Believe me, they are!
What is your all-time favorite book?
For the purposes of this interview, I'd have to say "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier. If there is one
book I wish I could have written, that would be it. A beautifully written suspenseful romance with all
the elements one could wish to find in a mystery: memorable characters, atmosphere, page-turning
plot, a believable and sympathetic protagonist (who is never named), and because this is romantic
suspense, the requisite handsome enigmatic hero, Max de Winter! And that memorable first line:
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…"
How long does it normally take you to research your books?
Several weeks at least. Each of my books is set in a different locale, which I like to think keeps the
stories fresh and varied. I have either lived or have spent time in the locations I write about, but I
still do a LOT of fact-checking. And, of course, there is always (often gruesome) medical research:
poisonings, hangings, drownings, you name it. The plot can be as far-fetched as the author feels
she can get away with, but the facts should be researched down to the last detail so as to never
carelessly misinform the reader.
What is on your Ipod right now?
Nothing--I don't have one.
Do you have any superstitions, little quirks, etc when you write?
I sharpen all my pencils and I make sure there is nothing lying around to distract me except my cat.
If you could solve any mystery for yourself, what would it be?
As far as terrestrial mysteries go, the JonBenet Ramsey case. It is so harrowing and bizarre a
story. Last I heard, the family members were finally exonerated through touch DNA after eight
years. So who is the Christmas Day killer of the six year-old mannequin? We may never know.
My sleuth solves a similar mystery in DARK SIDE OF THE MOOR. In this case, the serial child
abductor is caught, which is the nice thing about fictional cozies: the bad guy always gets his.
If you could talk to any one person, Alive or Dead, who would it be?
Hemingway, over a rum runner at Sloppy Joe's. I'd say: "So, Ernie, you rewrote the last page of 'A
Farewell to Arms' how many times?" It was reputedly 39 times. Ernest was nothing if not true to his
craft. He led a fascinating life. I've read more biographies of him than of any other famous person.
However, his posthumous novel "Islands in the Stream" probably offers more insight into his
personality than the non-fiction about him.
I love to hear stories from authors about their first published book, how did you
get it done?
I was going to start with what ultimately became the second novel in the series (MURDER IN THE
RAW), which takes place at an exclusive nudist resort in the French West Indies. My Scottish
Presbyterian sleuth was appalled and insisted he needed to lose a few pounds first, and so we came
up with CHRISTMAS IS MURDER to launch the series. The characters and plot for this flowed quite
easily. The eccentric Mrs. Dahlia Smithings is an old friend of my sleuth's mother and, having fallen
on hard times, has converted her English manor into a hotel, where a host of guests converge to
spend what for some will be their last Christmas. I spent the latter part of my childhood in East
Sussex, where this mystery is set, so it was an exercise in nostalgia and loads of fun to write.
What future plans can you tell us about?
I plan to continue with the Rex Graves Mystery Series. So far, my publisher has bought the first
two novels and loves the third, but wants to wait to see how the first sells. So, anyone reading
this: please buy a copy of CHRISTMAS IS MURDER, tell your friends, call Oprah, and write a rave
review on Amazon! I'm donating 15% of my royalties from your purchase to veterans severely
wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The average age of these young men and women is 23. Proceeds
will go to Soldiers' Angels (soldiersangels.org).
I also have a romantic suspense novel that I've been working on for so long it's gone through three
titles. It is now completed and looking for a top New York agent. It's very Daphne du Maurier. The
latest title (wait while I check) is NIGHT ETERNAL.
When you are not writing, what do you do for fun?
When not writing—or rewriting, researching, revising, editing, or promoting—I like to travel, spend
quiet time at home, attend my Book & Wine Club in Ft. Lauderdale, walk the beach at sunset. Take
long sudsy baths, read, watch a good movie. OK, so this is beginning to sound like a personal ad...