But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
Robin was also kind enough to answer a few interview questions!
According to your website, you were born in California, moved to England when you were three, and have an MA in crime fiction. Did any of these factors influence and/or enhance your desire to write, and can you tell us more about your journey toward publication?
I definitely think growing up as a half-American girl in England made me look at British culture from an outsider’s perspective. I’m fascinated by the way British people think and behave – most of the time I nearly get it, and then something happens that just floors me. A lot of this has fed in to Hazel’s narration – although she’s from a different culture than my own, she’s an outsider looking in on British life, just like I was.
I’ve been a crime fiction fan since I was a child, so I think choosing to write my MA dissertation on crime novels was a sneaky way to spend more time with the books I was already obsessed with. I wrote about the golden age crime novels of my three favourite authors, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers, and the way they use real historical crimes in their books. I had an indecent amount of fun with the essay, and although I had already written the first draft of Murder Most Unladylike before I began it I think it was incredibly helpful to the book. It’s so useful to know about the conventions and history of any genre you’re trying to write in, so you can decide what works for you and what you want to alter.
After I’d finished my MA I reworked my manuscript and began submitting to agents. After several rejections I had interest from an agent, Gemma Cooper, and I signed with her in January 2013 – it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I got my contract with Random House in March of that year and Murder Most Unladylike came out in June 2014. It’s been a crazy, exciting adventure that I’m not sure I quite believe in yet. It still amazes me that I really am a published author!
With books as good as yours, I'm glad that you are! And I love the premise of ARSENIC FOR TEA, the follow-up to MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE. How does it add on to what you created in the first book, and how does the Detective Society develop in this newer installment?
Thank you! I had a huge amount of fun writing it, and I hope readers enjoy it just as much. It takes place four months after the end of Murder Most Unladylike, during the Easter holidays – Daisy and Hazel are still pupils at Deepdean, but the action of the book takes place at Daisy’s big country mansion rather than at school. I love country house murder mysteries, and this was my go at writing one of my own. In Arsenic for Tea, you get to meet all of Daisy’s mad, aristocratic family members and get a better understanding of why she is the way she is. It’s a tough book for her, actually – when the murder happens, it doesn’t take long for the girls to realise that the killer might be one of Daisy’s relatives.
Hazel and Daisy’s friendship is just as strong as ever, but Hazel’s becoming more confident and there are changes for both of the girls and for the Detective Society. I want Arsenic for Tea to follow on from Murder Most Unladylike, and feel very similar to it – but nothing ever stays quite the same in life, and Daisy and Hazel aren’t quite the same as they were at the beginning of Murder Most Unladylike. I think that’s a good thing!
It definitely is, and I'm glad that Daisy and Hazel will continue to grow! In Spring 2015, the US edition of MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE (titled MURDER IS BAD MANNERS) will debut. How has marketing the book for North American audiences differed from the books you've released in the UK, and what advice (if any) do you have for authors publishing in different countries?
It’s amazing that the book will finally be out in the US this year! I can’t wait. The marketing effort hasn’t quite kicked in for me yet, but I’m already noticing a practical difference – with the best will in the world I can’t connect with bookshops in the personal way I can in the UK. I can’t just walk in to my local Barnes & Noble and say hi! I am planning a short trip to the US towards the end of this year, though, and social media has been wonderful for making me feel part of what’s going on over there. I think being active on places like Twitter is really crucial for authors whose books are selling globally – through it I’ve heard from readers from Singapore, South Africa and America, which is an incredible experience.
I'll bet it is--and I'm sure word will spread fast. What are some of your current projects?
At the moment I’m deep into edits for Daisy and Hazel’s third adventure, First Class Murder. It’s set on the Orient Express, and it’s coming out in July this year, just less than 200 days away (I know this daunting fact from checking on Waterstones.com). I need to really focus on finishing it!
Promoting the first two books (by doing events, workshops and school visits and writing blog posts and interviews like this!) also takes up a lot of my time. I love doing it, but it’s something you just don’t realise before you get published – how much time you’ll spend not writing your books. Oh, and I’ve also got a full-time job: I work as an assistant editor at a children’s publisher (not the one who publishes my books). Luckily, I like being busy.
Thank you, Robin, for such great answers! We appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience with us!
To pre-order MURDER IS BAD MANNERS, click on the link below:
And to read the UK versions that are already out, click these!