Today I welcome lady authoress Tracy Grant to Between the Sheets. Her eleventh novel THE PARIS AFFAIR is a historical mystery set during the Napoleonic wars with a hefty dash of romance, I’m dying to get my grubby hands on this book! Congratulations on your release, Tracy!
ABOUT THE BOOK
In the wake of the Battle of Waterloo, Paris is a house divided. The triumphant Bourbons flaunt their victory with lavish parties, while Bonapartists seek revenge only to be captured and executed. Amid the turmoil, British attaché and intelligence agent Malcolm Rannoch and his wife, Suzanne, discover that his murdered half sister, Princess Tatiana Kirsanova, may have borne a child—a secret she took to the grave. And Malcolm suspects there was more than mere impropriety behind her silence. . . .As Malcolm and Suzanne begin searching for answers, they learn that the child was just one of many secrets Tatiana had been keeping. The princess was the toast of Paris when she arrived in the glamorous city, flirting her way into the arms of more than a few men—perhaps even those of Napoleon himself—and the father must be among them. But in the mêlée of the Napoleonic Wars, she was caught up in a deadly game of court intrigue, and now Malcolm and Suzanne must race against time to save his sister’s child from a similar fate. . . .
Your historical mystery is set set during the Napoleonic era? Are there any other time periods you would consider writing about?
I was initially intrigued by the Regency/Napoleonic era through Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I think it’s such a fascinating time period, on the cusp between the 18th century and the Industrial Revolution, between the classical and romantic eras, between the Les Liaisons Dangereuses generation and Victorian repression. The ferment of the French Revolution ripples through despite the efforts of some politicians to turn back the clock. In many ways those tensions came to the fore in the post-Napoleonic era when politicians and diplomats redrew the map of Europe. My protagonists, Malcolm and Suzanne, are both intelligence agents, and there are so many wonderful opportunities for spy stories in this era. So many different sides, so many different factions within sides. Lots of interesting moral dilemmas. The French under Napoleon had been bent on conquest, but they had also brought much-needed reforms to many countries. Some liberal Spaniards saw supporting the French in the Peninsular War as the quickest route to progressive reform. And after the Napoleonic Wars, a number of the victors wanted to turn the clock back to before the French Revolution and saw any hint of reform as one step away from blood in the streets.
Forensics weren’t really around in the 19th century, so how do Malcolm and Suzanne conduct research to uncover clues or find suspects?
Malcolm and Suzanne can gather some forensic evidence. They can look at footprints, find stands of hair or threads of fabric caught on cobblestones of table legs or left behind on sheets. Of course they can’t do DNA or chemical analysis, all they can do is compare the color of the hair or fabric, look at where the mud left behind by a shoe might have come from. If they’re really lucky someone drops a distinctive earring. They can use lividity and rigor to roughly arrive at time of death But mostly their investigations involve talking to people who knew the victim or may have witnessed something and examining the victims possessions and whatever may have been left at the crime scene. And then, more often that not, they find themselves followed or attacked and that has a way of leading them to uncover further evidence…
What is your favorite type of scene to write and why?
Hmm… Good question! I find action scenes challenging to choreograph, but once I have the action laid out they’re a lot of fun to write. The Paris Affair opens with a brawl in a tavern by the Seine that i had a lot of fun with. I like writing real historical set pieces, such as the Carrousel, a recreation of a medieval tournament in Vienna Waltz. But I think my favorite type of scene is one of intense emotional revelation, whether it’s between Malcolm and Suzanne (who still have a lot of secrets from each other) or one of the other characters, whether a real historical person or a fictional character, revealing something to Malcolm or Suzanne. Those sort of scenes seem to write themselves, and I often discover knew aspects of my characters as I write them.
I’m always intrigued by how a mystery or thriller writer plots their high tension scenes. Do you write an entire draft and then plant your clues later, or do you know where they’ll go before you begin?
I lay out my plot on index cards. Now that I’ve discovered Scrivener (amazing writing software) I use their corkboard feature, and I find I can write scenes as I’m plotting, often out of order, which makes me much more efficient, as I can go on writing even when I’m stuck on a particular plot element. I also find a spend less time on transitions this way, which is good for pacing. I usually know major plot points before I begin writing (I think of my books in three acts, like a screenplay)
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write what you love. It’s a crazy business. Make sure you at least enjoy the process, because that’s all you can control.
*Best Place on Earth: The San Francisco Bay Area,. Closely followed by Ashland, Oregon, and London.
*English beer or French wine: French wine – champagne or a complex red. Not that i don’t enjoy English beer…
*Which historical figure would you like to be: Harriet Granville, younger daughter of the Duchess of Devonshire. She wrote wonderfully witty, acerbic letters and managed to have a remarkably happy life.
*Hidden Talent: Since my daughter was born fifteen months ago, I’ve mastered the art of typing with a baby nursing or asleep in my arms.
Teresa (Tracy) Grant studied British history at Stanford University and received the Firestone Award for Excellence in Research for her honors thesis on shifting conceptions of honor in late fifteenth century England. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with her young daughter and three cats, and is on the board of the Merola Opera Program, a professional training program for opera singers, pianists, and stage directors. Her real life heroine is her daughter Mélanie, who is very cooperative about Mummy’s writing. Tracy is currently at work on her next book chronicling the adventures of Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch.
Find out more about Tracy Grant and her many books at her website HERE