That strained look, that grey pallor. I can see you’re probably looking for a little pick-me-up that will propel you towards the end of the half-term holiday and thrust you, like a rocket, out the other side. Look no further — we’ve got a treat for you, right here, right now.
Maureen Jennings is the Canadian author of the Christine Morris and Tom Tyler series. Her seven Detective Murdoch novels have become a Canadian television phenomenon. The Murdoch Mysteries, about a Victorian detective who uses CSI-style techniques, has run for over 100-episodes and counting.
What you may not know is that Maureen was born in Birmingham at the outbreak of the Second World War. Her DI Tom Tyler novels evocatively revisit that time and place. The third, No Known Grave, is set in 1942 at a remote convalescent hospital for injured soldiers, and follows the detective’s investigation into a horrific double-murder. No Known Grave is published by Titan. You can buy it in shops or click it magically onto your device in an instant.
All the Fellas on the Board have pronounced themselves hugely satisfied that Maureen has agreed to give us the intel on Tyler, Murdoch and, of course, her writing process…
Tell us about DI Tom Tyler…
The physical characteristics (he’s a red head) came from Thomas Craig who plays Inspector Brackenreid in the Murdoch show. Some of his personality also.
You were born in Birmingham at the start of the war, but emigrated to Canada at the age of 17. Are you consciously revisiting that the early part of your life for the novels?
Sort of. I thought I knew a lot about it but soon realized I didn’t. It’s one thing to experience bombing and rationing as a child, another to understand what was going on. I wanted to come to terms with that childhood as well and give recognition to the adults who lived through it.
No Known Grave is your third Tyler novel – do you plan to take him through the length of World War II and beyond?
Not sure yet. Fiction time can advance much more slowly or quickly. Books three and four both take place within a six month time period. The post war years are utterly fascinating and haven’t been totally mined as yet.
That’s the easy part because it’s so much fun. I never think of it as fitting in. I read constantly as much original material as I can get my hands on. Then I say…better get started on this book now.
The Murdoch Mysteries, which is based on your books, has run for over 100-episodes — why are we so intrigued by Victorian detectives?
Even though Murdoch uses the technology that was available, he still has to rely on his mind.In an age where there are so many specialists and such amazing technology, I think we are still drawn to a time when it was all a bit simpler.
Take us through a typical writing day for you?
Stage one. Answer emails. Walk dogs. Think. Stage two. Return, have iced latte. Answer more emails. Stage three. Sit down with lap top. Write or make notes depending what stage of process I’m at. Close lap top. Stage four. Research something doesn’t matter what. Stage five. Walk dog. More thinking. Stage six. watch tv, especially British crime series. Study them. Stage seven. Make more notes. Go to bed. Perchance to dream.
What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?
IT WILL NEVER BE PERFECT. Do the absolute best you can.
How do you deal with feedback?
Everything is to learn from. The best feedback is when the person has obviously read carefully and isn’t just asking you to write the kind of novel they would have written.
Who are the authors you admire, and why?
There are too many to list really. Books have been my friends all of my life. Currently, I would say I am a huge admirer of John Le Carre. His elliptical style is captivating. Absolutely have always loved Conan Doyle. Those stories stand the test of time. I love good storytelling. Loved P.D.James. Miss her.
Give me some advice about writing…
Can I just repeat what I wrote earlier? Oh and add one more thing. A really good piece of advice that was given to me years ago and which I follow faithfully — get your first chapter down as solidly as you can. Rework it until you’ve got it right. that might seem to contradict the previous advice about not editing but it actually doesn’t. I like prologues and they are nice and short. I will work on those a lot before seriously moving on.