Today we sit down for a chat with mystery and historical fiction author Jeannette de Beauvoir. Learn more about her and her books at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I wrote my first novel when I was eight years old. It was awful. I’ve kept improving on it since then!
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I was first published when I was in graduate school, though soon thereafter one of my publishers went out of business, which rather put a damper on that experience!
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Where do you write?
I’m terribly conventional: I love my desk. I have set it up to be both functional and inspirational, with everything I need to hand. There’s a tray filled with objects that are meaningful to me: a vase with fresh flowers, a calendar, a lamp, some books, and (of course) my MacBook. Oh, and my fountain pen collection.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I’ve always preferred silence, but recently I’ve been trying to listen to Radio Classique out of Paris in the background while I work. I turn it off a lot, though, to focus.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I’m very influenced by real events, whether they’re historical or present-day. My ex-husband used to say that any of my books could be subtitled, “Jeannette goes to therapy,” and in a sense that’s true: I figure things out by writing about them. Sometimes it’s just because stuff happens that you could never make up, and I grab it for my stories.
Describe your process for naming your character?
I took one of the Great Courses on the history of espionage and was quite taken with Sydney Reilly, the spy Ian Fleming based his James Bond character on. I liked his story and liked his name, too, so I adapted it for my protagonist in this series. It’s really important to find the right name, I think, especially when you’re doing a series, because you’re going to be stuck with that name for a long time! (And if I had it to do over, I’d probably give her a different name, as more than one person has gotten confused and thought Riley was her first name!)
Real settings or fictional towns?
Almost exclusively real settings. I love being able to delve into a real place, learn its history and secrets, and bring readers into a relationship with it. I love when people come to visit Provincetown they find that the places Sydney frequents are real, that many of the people she knows are real, and that they already feel at home here.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Sydney works at an inn that has a world-class restaurant. The quirk isn’t so much with a character, but in the way others refer to her: the inn’s diva chef Adrienne. We haven’t yet met her, but her influence on everyone who works at the inn is clear. And everyone says, “our diva chef Adrienne.” (I don’t know that I ever want her on stage, so to speak: I’d probably never be able to do justice to her after all this buildup!)
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m not sure I have any, which makes me sound completely uninteresting! Though people who know me might have an opinion on it…
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Trapeze by Simon Mawer. I was just starting to write a similar book—something about the women who parachuted into France during World War Two, amazingly brave people—when I read Trapeze and realized he’d written “my” book. And that he’d done a far better job of it than I would have.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
The Catch-22 of publishing is that you want your books out there to be read, but once they’re published you can’t change anything about them. And the more you write, the better you are at it. I can’t re-read any of my books, because I want to do them over again.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who don’t travel well. I live in a tourist destination, and many of the people who come here are respectful. Some aren’t; in fact I have to think that some behave in ways they wouldn’t at home. Every summer it makes me crazy. Come and visit, but be nice.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
As many books as possible, an unending supply of Diet Coke (the kind with ginger and lime), and my cat Beckett. That actually sounds pretty much like paradise.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
In college I worked at a chocolate-chip cookie place. It was right across the way from a bar, and drunk people used to stumble over and demand raw cookie dough, or buy and eat too many cookies and then throw up. I don’t think I’ve had a chocolate chip cookie since.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
“Best” is such a difficult term. Staying inside my genre, it’s probably December by Phil Rickman. I’ve re-read it countless times.
Ocean or mountains?
Oh, ocean. I live on Cape Cod.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
City. I live in a small town now and while I love it, I need to get infusions of urban life on a regular basis. I spend a lot of time in Boston and Montréal.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Book Five of the Sydney Riley series, The Christmas Corpses, is coming out in November. There will be another book in 2020, but also a young-adult novel I’ve been working on; I’d like to finish that and see if there’s any interest in it.
A Killer Carnival
A Sydney Riley Provincetown Mystery, Book 4
This year’s P’town carnival parade begins with a real bang: a float exploding. No one’s been hurt, but wedding planner (and float decorator) Sydney Riley finds herself once more at the center of a mystery. Was the explosion meant to kill her? Why has her boyfriend’s sister, Boston Police Commissioner Karen Hakim, suddenly shown such an interest in the carnival goings-on? Are there really white supremacists at work on Cape Cod? Is her boyfriend Ali keeping secrets from her? Sydney will need to rely on her usual cast of characters and a few new ones for help in finding out what’s going on… before this killer carnival takes any more victims.