Come on in and enjoy my visit with Alyssa Maxwell, author of Murder at Rough Point.
We saved a scone for you!
Hello, Alyssa! Congratulations on your newest release, Murder at Rough Point. Love having you over to visit. While the scones are baking, I have three kinds of tea for you: Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, and a fruity herbal. Your favorite?
Those scones smell heavenly! How about some strong Irish tea to go with them. But then, I’m a tea drinker so you really can’t go wrong no matter what you offer me. Usually in the late afternoons I’ll make some green tea in my little cast iron pot. I like to mix flavors too, so maybe green and peach tea, or a nice chai blend.
Your main character, Emma Cross, is a reporter. Why did you decide to choose this career for her?
Being a society reporter was a viable occupation for a woman in those days, if indeed she absolutely had to work. And I wanted Emma to have a good reason to be present at society events. Being only a poor relation of the Vanderbilts, she couldn’t simply rely on her connections to get her in the door of the summer cottages, but the Four Hundred were a show-offy bunch. They wanted their extravagance known far and wide – how else to one-up each other? Then there was Nellie Bly, who was a reporter during the Gilded Age. Nellie wasn’t content to report on frivolous topics, and went to great lengths to get a story, such as having herself committed to an insane asylum in New York City in order to report on the conditions there. She was no shrinking violet, and neither is Emma.
How do you research or find information about a character’s career or job to make things realistic for the reader?
The Gilded Age has been very widely written about, so there’s no shortage of resource material. One thing that has helped fill in any blanks that come up is old newspapers. Through Newspapers.com I’m able to tap into articles from the period, as well as advertisements for products that existed then. For instance, I was having a heck of a time pinpointing where the polo matches were held in the 1890s, and finally found what I was looking for in several Newport Daily News articles from the period.
What is the most amusing phrase or behavior of Emma’s?
She can’t say no to anyone who needs help. She simply can’t. Hers is a family of strays—the woman who served as her nanny is now her “housekeeper,” but is much more a grandmother figure. Her maid, Katie, was dismissed without a reference from The Breakers. Her dog, Patch, was brought over by her brother after he found the mutt roaming one of the wharves. Her cousin, Neily, has been ostracized from the Vanderbilt family, but Emma remains his steadfast friend. She’s the type of person who, when she sees something that needs doing, does it without asking if she should. I guess this isn’t so much amusing as endearing.
I’m a huge fan of Victorian Britain. What draws you to the place and era?
Newport has been beckoning to me to write about it for over thirty years now. I first set foot on Aquidneck Island in about 1979, and I fell head over heels in love within minutes. It’s a place where you feel you’ve stepped back in time, but also a modern, exciting place with visitors from all over the world. Then again, Newport is also a small town where the locals all seem to know each other. The city is actually a microcosm of American history, with very distinct phases of development that we can still see today. Thornton Wilder’s Theophilus North said there were Nine Cities of Newport, each depicting a different era and aspect of the city’s personality. For such a small city, then, Newport is chock full of fascinating places and details. My husband grew up there (as did generations of his family before him), yet we never fail to find something new each time we visit. In short, Newport is a writer’s dream setting.
At last the scones are ready! Don’t they smell divine? Which one would you like?
Ooh, one of the blueberry ones, please! Blueberries are good for you, right? So no guilt! Please pass the lemon curd and clotted cream….
Who is your favorite playwright and why?
That’s easy. Shakespeare. Because he understood human nature and captured it’s very essence, and sometimes even did so in rhyme.
Your website is fun and filled with interesting period information. How do you balance your online presence with actual writing time?
That can be tricky. Writer’s need that online presence to engage with readers, and that’s something I find very enjoyable. But we need to set limits. As far as my website is concerned, it started off simple and gradually grew. What you see now has been accumulating over the past few years, with things added with each new book. I consider it a labor of love. But the writing has to be my priority. Reminding myself I have deadlines helps. I would never want to be late handing in a book.
What is one aspect where you are different from Emma? How are you two the same?
I certainly don’t have Emma’s energy! Or her courage – sad but true. But I suppose it’s no surprise that we share many of the same beliefs. Although Emma might be categorized as a feminist, she isn’t political. She’s too busy living her life and taking care of people. Instead, she believes one very vital thing on which she bases her life: that people should be judged on their abilities and willingness to act, rather than who or what they are. She gets that from me.
Any secrets you can share about Emma’s past or what she is getting into soon?
Readers familiar with the first three books might have wondered about Emma’s relationship with her parents. More than once she’s expressed her frustrations and even touches of bitterness toward them. Well, in Murder at Rough Point, they’ll be reunited and Emma will have to deal with them—and her own feelings—head on. And it’s much more complicated than she anticipated, but in the end, worth the effort. Also, we’ll see a bit more of Jesse Whyte in this story.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your Emma with us! Please come back anytime! And take the rest of these scones with you to enjoy on the road!
Thank you so much for having me, and for these wonderful scones! I hope your readers will take a moment (or several) to visit me at alyssamaxwell.com. From there they can find all my social media links, as well as lots of information about me and my books.
Synopsis of Murder at Rough Point
In glittering Newport, Rhode Island, status is everything. But despite being a poorer relation to the venerable Vanderbilts, Emma Cross has shaped her own identity—as a reporter and a sleuth.
As the nineteenth century draws to a close, Fancies and Fashion reporter Emma Cross is sent by the Newport Observer to cover an elite house party at Rough Point, a “cottage” owned by her distant cousin Frederick Vanderbilt that has been rented as an artist retreat. To her surprise, the illustrious guests include her estranged Bohemian parents—recently returned from Europe—as well as a variety of notable artists, including author Edith Wharton.
But when one of the artists is discovered dead at the bottom of a cliff, Rough Point becomes anything but a house of mirth. After a second murder, no one is above suspicion—including Emma’s parents. As Newport police detective Jesse Whyte searches for a killer, Emma tries to draw her own conclusions—with the help of Mrs. Wharton. But with so many sketchy suspects, she’ll need to canvas the crime scenes carefully, before the cunning culprit takes her out of the picture next . . .
Alyssa Maxwell has worked in publishing as an assistant editor and a ghost writer but knew from an early age that being a novelist was what she wanted most. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She lives in South Florida in the current year, but confesses to spending most of her time in the Victorian, Edwardian, and post WWI eras. In addition to fantasizing about wearing Worth gowns while strolling manor house gardens, she loves to watch BBC and other period productions and sip tea in the afternoons.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Alyssa__Maxwell
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gildednewport/
Webpage – http://www.alyssamaxwell.com/
GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7163135.Alyssa_Maxwell