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Interview: Rhys Bowen by Gayle Surrette
Review by Gayle Surrette
Gumshoe Review *Interview  
Date: 25 February 2010

Links: Author's Website / The Lady Killers Blog / Jungle Red Writers Blog / Biography of Rhys Bowen /

Rhys Bowens bio says it best:

    Rhys Bowen’s mysteries have been nominated for every major mystery award, including the Edgar for best novel, and she has won nine of them. She currently writes the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring a feisty Irish immigrant woman. In 1997 she began a new, lighter series, this one about a minor royal in 1930s England. The first book was called Her Royal Spyness.
Each series is well researched and a joy to read. Readers pace impatiently waiting for her next books. This month sees the publication of the newest Molly Murphy book, The Last Illusion, featuring Harry Houdini needing Molly's help.

Gumshoe: How often are you asked how to pronounce your first name? And how is it pronounced? I've heard readers say it many different ways and thought it was time to go to the source.

Rhys: It's pronounced Reece. It's the Welsh spelling. When I first started writing mysteries I was asked how to pronounce it all the time. I found it was a great ice-breaker. Now I get occasional emails about it, but I don't get introduced as Rice, Russ or anything else any longer. I also think there are various celebrities like Jonathan Rhys Meyers so that people are now familiar with the name (which is usually male).

Gumshoe: Gus & Sid are wonderful and colorful characters from Molly Murphy series. Readers seem to delight in the way they come alive on the page. Do the characters come first and then the story idea or the other way around?

Rhys: I also adore Sid and Gus. When Molly first met them in a tavern I realized I'd stumbled upon a couple of great characters and I've made sure they figure in all the stories ever since. As to character coming before story--of course. My stories are all about characters and what happens to them.

Gumshoe: You've currently got two series (Molly Murphy and Her Royal Spyness). How difficult is it to tune one out when your writing on the other? Do you alternate the books? How do you keep track of such a large cast of characters?

Rhys: I work exclusively on one series, finish that book, take a short break and then step into the other world. I don't get them mixed up because I write in the first person and I am always so completely in the voice of Molly or Lady Georgie. I write two books a year so I'm always facing a deadline. As to keeping track of such a large cast of characters--I should be better organized and have a coded bible like other writers. As it is, I have to re-read old books to find out what various secondary characters were called. I don't have problems with recurring main characters. That would be like forgetting the names of friends.

Gumshoe: Both of your series are historical mysteries and research is a big part of getting the feel of the story right. I also read that you really enjoy the research part of writing. How to you manage to stop yourself and write? I mean when I'm looking up something I could spend hours following an interesting thread that has nothing to do with the reason I started except it caught my attention and off I go. Does that ever happen to you? How do you keep yourself focused?

Rhys: Yes, it does happen to me. All the time. I can spend a whole morning looking up where Molly buys a length of ribbon if I'm not careful. And the other difficulty is not putting in everything I discover during research. I reckon that I only use about one tenth of my research, but the fact that I know the other nine tenths somehow makes the story stronger and more valid. People have asked me why I don't hire a research assistant, but nobody could else could know what might turn out to be valuable in my researching. One thing I do is to take care of all my major research ahead of time. I read all the biographies on Houdini before I started Last Illusion, so it is only a case of checking maps, rail routes, theater names etc while I'm working. Gumshoe: What book do you wish you'd written?

Rhys: Harry Potter. Not just because of the money but because she has created a wonderful, believable and rich universe. Gumshoe: What has surprised you most about the response of readers to your books?

Rhys: The number of fan letters I get from men, even for the Royal Spyness books which I thought would be considered chick lit. Gumshoe: Thanks for your time.

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