This month I talked to Daniella Bernett, the author of the Emmeline Kirby/Gregory Longdon Mysteries. I read number four in the series, A Checkered Past, and enjoyed it very much. Even though it’s a series, I jumped right in, without any difficulty. It’s a fast-paced mystery with sharp and often witty dialogues, and the adventure was compelling. Book 5, When Blood Runs Cold, has just been released—all the more reason to hear more about this author!
Welcome Daniella! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America New York Chapter. I graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University with a B.S. in Journalism. I am the author of a mystery series featuring journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief Gregory Longdon. They are former lovers. Both are British and my series takes place in the United Kingdom and Europe. The first four books are Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy, From Beyond The Grave and A Checkered Past.
Lead Me Into Danger is set in Venice and London, my two most favorite cities in the world. In this book, Emmeline and Gregory haven’t seen each other in two years, but she literally runs into him in Venice after witnessing two men try to murder her colleague. Then, Emmeline and Gregory become ensnared in a hunt for a Russian spy in the British Foreign Office. Deadly Legacy, Book 2, is about $100 million in stolen diamonds, revenge and murder. It takes place in London. From Beyond The Grave, Book 3, is set in the seaside resort of Torquay along the English Riviera in Devon. It’s about the deep, dark secrets of Gregory’s past, love, betrayal and, of course, murder. A Checkered Past, Book 4, is back in London and deals with a looted Nazi painting, an IRA collaborator and, alas, a murder or two.
I’m also the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections.
You live in New York City. Your books take place (mostly) in England. Why?
Since I was little, I’ve been an Anglophile. I devoured any book that was set in England and I’m a devoted Masterpiece Theater and Mystery fan. I’ve visited London and other parts of the United Kingdom several times. Therefore, when I started writing my own books my characters had to be British.
Would you trade in NYC for London?
As much as I love London, I can’t imagine living anywhere else but New York. It’s home. My family is here. I would be lost without them.
What’s your favorite thing to do in London?
Walk and walk and walk. London is a city that is best appreciated on foot. As one ambles along the pavements, there is much to admire. The first thing that comes to mind is the grandeur of Buckingham Palace and the pomp of the Changing of the Guard, a dazzling spectacle steeped in tradition, respect and duty. One can travel down the centuries simply by tilting one’s head toward the heavens and gazing at the intricate carvings and columns of such structures as Parliament, Whitehall’s buildings, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I also enjoy visiting the plethora of parks, royal and otherwise, scattered throughout the city. Regent’s Park is lush and romantic with winding paths, where the long, flowing tresses of the willow trees dandle on the breeze, and swans send ripples shivering across the surface of the lake. One of my favorite spots is Queen Mary’s Rose Garden. In June and July, the air there is redolent with the intoxicating scent of full-blown blossoms with velvety smooth or ruffled petals. Treasures also abound in Hyde, St. James’s, Green and Holland parks, ranging from palaces and Italian Gardens to preening peacocks out for a daily constitutional.
What is your writing routine?
I have a full-time job, so trying to squeeze in the time to write is an ongoing struggle. I can only write in the evenings when I come from work and on the weekends. I try to be disciplined about it.
What is one place you still would like to write about (and why)?
I have never visited New Zealand. It’s on my bucket list. I’ve seen documentaries and read articles about the country. The landscape is absolutely stunning: rugged coastline; the mountains; lush rainforests and more. I would love to come up with an adventure for Emmeline and Gregory set in New Zealand.
What do you think is the hardest part of writing a series?
Devising trouble in which to embroil Emmeline and Gregory. I chose to write a series because I wanted to take time to develop my characters—their flaws, admirable qualities, likes and dislikes. Each book provides another nugget of information to peel back the curtain on Emmeline and Gregory, while also leaving something dangling. After all, the human species is full of contradictions that are begging to be explored. At this stage, I don’t have any idea how many books will be in the series. If, and when, I reach the point where I can’t come up with anymore juicy plots for Emmeline and Gregory, perhaps I’ll have conceived a new series and off I’ll go in a new direction.
Do you travel to the places in your books to research them?
I don’t travel specifically to the places where my books are set to conduct research. Rather, when I’m there the ideas spring to mind because a particular area has made a strong impression on me. That’s why I’m able to give readers a taste of the sights and sounds of the cities to make them feel as if they’re walking in my shadow.
What can you tell us about your new book (When Blood Runs Cold)?
The book, which is set in London, explores how one can never escape the past. Emmeline is reeling from the recent discovery that her parents were murdered while on assignment when she was five. She’s determined to find their killer. At the same time, she’s working on a story about the suspicious death of Russian national Pavel Melnikov, a man who tried to double cross Putin and Russian mafia boss Igor Bronowski. Her probing questions have attracted unwanted attention from those on the wrong side of the law. Along the way, two men are poisoned to prevent them from exposing these ugly machinations. If this wasn’t enough, Emmeline learns that everything she believed about her life has been a lie and she becomes a murder suspect.
Gregory Longdon, her dashing fiancé and jewel thief-cum-insurance investigator, has grave problems of his own. His past has caught up with him in the form of ruthless entrepreneur Alastair Swanbeck. Swanbeck has ties to the underworld and Putin. He has been waiting years to exact his revenge for Gregory’s meddling in things that should have been left alone. And now, he has found his perfect tool: Emmeline.
To add a bit more tension, I’ve included a Sotheby’s auction of the Blue Angel, a flawless 12-carat blue diamond that men are willing to kill to possess.
Thank you, Daniella!