Author Interview – Daniella Bernett

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 muchEven 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!

Daniella Bernett Author PhotoYou can find Daniella on her website and follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Asmat Bis Poles and Rituals of the Dead

This time, a guest blog from my good friend and AWESOME writer Jennifer S. Alderson, who has a new book coming out! Read all about Zelda Richardson’s new adventure in Rituals of the Dead, a book filled with mystery, art and anthropology. This time Jennifer takes us back to historic Papua New Guinea, where headhunters once roamed…

JenniferSAldersonAuthorPhoto_Twitter

I am so excited to announce the impending release of my third novel, Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery. Set in Amsterdam and Papua New Guinea, it combines anthropology, art, and history into one thrilling adventure. It’s been a joy to write because the subject matter is near and dear to my heart.

The exhibition central to my artifact mystery is based on an actual exhibition of bis poles entitled Bis poles: Sculptures of the Rainforest. They are ancestor objects akin to Native American totem poles. They were created to honor dead ancestors during a six-week long ‘bis’ or headhunting ceremony.

Those featured in this exhibition were primarily collected from Asmat, a region of Papua New Guinea whose villagers (also called ‘Asmat’) are famous for their exquisite wood carvings. Bis poles are considered to be the highpoint of Asmat art. Since Westerners discovered them in the 1930s, they have been a much desired cultural artifact, purchased by private collectors and museums. Though most were acquired through barter and long negotiations, too many of the Asmat objects in public museum collections worldwide were stolen by opportunistic Westerners.

 

 

I worked on this exhibition in 2008, as a collection researcher for the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam’s anthropological museum. I was tasked with conducting archival and photographic research into the poles, as well as a number of legendary Dutch missionaries and anthropologists active in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s through the 1960s. During my research, I came across so many bizarre stories about headhunting raids, brave missionaries, crazy explorers and daring anthropologists. It felt like I had the basis for a great mystery in my hands.

My hope in writing this book is not only to entertain readers, but also inspire them to learn more about the Asmat and their fascinating culture. I can’t wait to share Rituals of the Dead with mystery and thriller fans!

Thanks Jennifer! I can’t wait to read it. Learn more about Rituals of the Dead below, and find out how to order it!

RitualsoftheDead_500wRituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery

Art, religion, and anthropology collide in Alderson’s upcoming art mystery thriller, Rituals of the Dead, Book Three of the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series.

This time she’s working at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam on an exhibition of bis poles from the Asmat region of Papua New Guinea – the same area where a famous American anthropologist disappeared in 1962. When his journals are found inside one of the bis poles, Zelda is tasked with finding out about the man’s last days and his connection to these ritual objects.

Zelda is pulled into a world of shady anthropologists, missionaries, art collectors, gallery owners, and smugglers, where the only certainty is that sins of the past are never fully erased.

Join Zelda on her next quest as she grapples with the anthropologist’s mysterious disappearance fifty years earlier, and a present-day murderer who will do everything to prevent her from discovering the truth.

Expected release date March 2018.

Pre-order Rituals of the Dead now via Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble NOOK and Smashwords. 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rituals-Dead-Artifact-Adventures-Richardson-ebook/dp/B0795Z3HRX/

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/rituals-of-the-dead-an-artifact-mystery/id1332496345?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/nl/en/ebook/rituals-of-the-dead-an-artifact-mystery

NOOK: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rituals-of-the-dead-jennifer-s-alderson/1127732017?ean=2940155064152

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/771033

About the Author: Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. There she earned degrees in art history and museum studies. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

You can find Jennifer on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

The Lover’s Portrait

51KNLQlFsBL._AC_US218_The Lover’s Portrait written by Jennifer S. Alderson, was a fun and exciting read!

The main character is Zelda, a young American woman, who has been immersing herself in Dutch culture, studying art. When she gets an internship at an art museum in Amsterdam, trying to restore the in WW II stolen art to the rightful owners, a painting gets claimed by two different women, and questions, as well as trouble, start piling up!

The mystery itself was compelling and made me want to keep reading (I read it in one day, because I couldn’t put it down). The location and time period were the icing on the cake.

The story not only takes the reader to the Amsterdam of today, but also of the past, during the time of WW II. Featuring the stolen and lost art during the German occupation of the Netherlands, it tells about what was happening in Amsterdam during that period, without it turning into a history lesson. It was both a fascinating glimpse back in time as well as very educational. I had the impression Jennifer must have invested a great deal of work researching the era and the city. Having lived in Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities, I felt the descriptions in the book were very accurate, bringing back great memories.

Obviously, it being a mystery novel, I don’t want to provide any more spoilers. You just need to read it!

Why I Still Read to My 8 Year Old…

I have always read to my children. This made much sense when they both were younger, since they had trouble reading on their own. But my oldest is eight now, and reads like a maniac. His bedroom floor is covered with books, animal encyclopedias, and magazines. I have to hide “The Economist” from him, otherwise he’d read that too. Believe me, he has tried.

Of course, reading to your child from an early age on is beneficial. It builds vocabulary, communication and reading skills, and hopefully creates a love for reading, which, in this digital age, is something I fear may get lost.

But when is the moment to stop and let them go at it alone? Despite my son’s great reading skills, I still read to him at night on a frequent basis. I don’t have to—obviously—and sometimes I wonder for how long I should continue it, but for now, I still think it’s important.

For one thing, the books I pick to read are different. These are the books that he could read, but maybe not quite fully understand. These are the books with bigger words that he can read, but does not necessarily know what they all mean. These are the books through which I can gage his emotional readiness for other books. So, reading to him offers me a great understanding of where he is at, emotionally, and cognitively, and it gives me an opportunity to explain things if needed.

But it goes beyond that. Reading to my son (or my daughter) is a wonderful way to connect with them. This is our moment of the day. The moment he does not have to vie for my attention with anyone else. The moment he gets to cuddle up with me and we share the same experience. It is a special moment of bonding we both look forward to. He will actually ask me to read to him.

This year, we have read many Roald Dahl books—because we’re both fans—and others of course, and I look forward to tackle some of the classics we haven’t covered. In my “Books I enjoyed reading” section I have highlighted a wonderful book we just finished, which we both very much enjoyed reading.

So, how long will I continue to read to my son? The answer is, I don’t know. I guess at some point he will give me the signals that he doesn’t need or want it anymore. It’s a day I know will come and I already dread. But, for now, I will keep reading to him, for as long as I can.

The Lost Ones

As 2016 has passed, and we are starting 2017, I can’t help but think of the writers we lost last year. A few of them made the “celebrity death list,” and they and their books are well known. Think of Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Umberto Eco from The Name of the Rose, or Elie Wiesel, the Nobel-Peace-Prize winner who wrote Night, and just recently, Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down. Their books had much publicity, and some were translated to the movie screen, ensuring that they and their work will not be easily forgotten.

Wikipedia has a 2016 death list of famous people as well, which includes more writers, known and lesser known, from all over the world. The list itself is pretty extensive and primarily comprised of international athletes, politicians, actors and singers, but also more obscure professions like wine-producers and serial killers. I am not sure who decides on the “notability factor” —I also spotted a polar bear, a cockatoo, a penguin, as well as a horse and a cat.

Most writers on this list appeared to have made it to a very respectable age. If this means writing induces longevity, this is encouraging. But maybe it just means one usually has to spend a long life writing to become notable. I suspect this might be the case.

A few writers mentioned stood out, primarily because it seemed to me they left us too early, with plenty of writing still ahead of them. I am an avid reader, but had never heard of them prior, or read their books. Despite that, they are not unknown writers, often with fame in their own country. Somehow their stories struck me. So I decided to find their books and read one from each of them. To celebrate their work, since their words will remain, even after they themselves have long gone.

The first writer I wanted to highlight is Roger Hobbs. I read his debut novel, Ghostman, which is a crime novel. He wrote it during his last year in college and it was published in 2013, made the NYT bestseller list and won several awards. Warner Bros. bought the movie rights.

ghostman

I will say up front, books like these are not my usual read. Nevertheless, I cruised through it as I found it to be slightly addictive. The pace is high and the plot well thought out. It is violent at times, but then it revolves around a heist and quite a few merciless criminals, so that wasn’t completely unexpected. It’s well written and very descriptive (sometimes a bit too much… perhaps) which usually read well and made it easy to imagine what was happening.

I found the lead character not unsympathetic, but he has a personality that is very hard to pin down. Despite this, his character was surprisingly well-developed. He comes across a bit cold, and his life seems devoid of real relationships; as a reader it made it harder for me to bond with him, but for the story, it works! He is a ghostman, after all.

For a debut novel, and for a writer as young as he was, it was quite impressive. Roger Hobbs wrote a second novel, Vanishing Games, which I haven’t read yet, but look forward to doing so. He never finished his third. He died last November from a drug overdose at the age of 28. I can only imagine that with his talent, he would have written many more.

RIP Roger Hobbs.

 

Finally…

Finally, winter has arrived in Michigan (ugh), finally, my website is—sort of—ready (read: work in progress) and finally, the sequel to “The Baby on the Back Porch” has been delivered to the editor. It always surprises me how much time writing a story takes, after writing it.

First, there’s editing by myself, then my beta-readers read it and give me feedback (thank you, lovely ladies!), after which there will be more editing, and then maybe it’s ready for the actual editor to take a look. But of course, I am not her only client, so chances are there is some more waiting involved. And after that, you guessed it, there’s probably more editing.

If I was more organized, I would have had my cover ready to go by now, so I would at least have something to show you. Unfortunately, I am still  on the fence about the title of the sequel…and it’s hard to have a cover without a title. Decisions, decisions.

So what can I tell you? Well, Sara returns to Dunnhill, but things don’t work out quite as she hoped. We all know they rarely do. For one thing, an old girlfriend of David’s decides to come back to Dunnhill as well. And if that wasn’t the only problem, Sara remains a magnet for disturbing experiences that demand her attention. Again, she will try to solve a mystery, but will she succeed in giving the story a happy ending? You will have to read the novella to find out! I will keep everyone posted on the release date. 🙂

One last word on the website. I hope you’ll like it. It’s been a long process, with a lot of cursing and yelling at my laptop. I can type, but I am not very tech-savy. Feel free to give me suggestions by leaving a comment or contact me on my contact page, if you have questions or think of something on how to make it better. Just FYI, not every page has content yet, but the plan is to fill up those spaces as I go along!

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