Monday, June 30, 2014

Featuring the Drew Farthering Mystery Series by Julianna Deering

It is my pleasure to feature a wonderful British mystery series on my blog this week. If you have not yet discovered Drew Farthering, you are in for a treat!

First let me introduce my guest:

JULIANNA DEERING has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her new series of Drew Farthering mysteries set in 1930s England debuted with Rules of Murder (Bethany House, 2013) and is followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado (Bethany House, 2014). Also, as DeAnna Julie Dodson, she has written a trilogy of medieval romances (In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered) and four contemporary mysteries for the Annie's Attic series. She is represented by Wendy Lawton of the Books & Such Literary Agency (www.booksandsuch.biz).

Visit her blogs at:  www.juliannadeering.com and www.deannajuliedodson.com

And now a visit with Julianna (DeAnna) herself!

Jill: Welcome to Books, Cats, and Whimsy!  It is truly an honor to host you here. I've been excited about this series since I first heard of it, nearly two years ago now.

Please tell us a bit about yourself first off. Any most-thrilling life moments you’re willing to share? Hobbies? Favorite places? 

Julianna: I don’t know about thrilling life moments since I pretty much stay in my office-cave and make up stories all day, but I do enjoy quilting and cross stitch and
embroidery and am crazy about NHL hockey (Go Stars!). My favorite place is home, but I’m extremely fond of Great Britain. I’d love to go to Canada (it’s that hockey thing again), too.

Jill: How and when did you begin writing? What is your publishing story?

Julianna: I’ve always loved reading, but I never dreamed I’d be a writer.  When I was growing up, I used to write really wretched episodes of my favorite TV shows. I guess we all start somewhere. Anyway, I really started writing when I was in college. My Business Law class was so boring, I started writing scenes about a medieval prince who had been hurt in a battle and was just waking up. I didn’t have a clue who he was or what the battle was about. Over time I wrote a lot more scenes with him and his family (he had issues with the legitimacy of his father’s reign and definitely did not want an arranged marriage) and finally decided to put them all together into a real story. My first book, In Honor Bound, was the result. After that, I couldn’t stop.

Jill: I totally understand--writing is addictive! So, tell us: Why English cozy mysteries? Have you published any other genres? What was your first published work?

Julianna: I decided to write my 1930s English cozies because I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham, some of the major mystery writers of the 1920s and '30s. I love the time period, especially the social conventions and the way people talked. I couldn’t help trying my hand at mystery myself, and Drew Farthering was the result. As I mentioned above, my first published work was In Honor Bound, which was the first book of my medieval trilogy. I’ve also written four contemporary needlework-themed mysteries for Annie’s Attic.

Jill: I discovered Sayers and Christie years ago, but during an exchange of emails a few years back you first introduced me to Margery Allingham's Campion books--for which I am eternally grateful! Please tell us about your Drew Farthering Mystery series, especially Murder at the Mikado. How did this particular story idea come about? Did you discover anything remarkable while researching for it?

Julianna: Each of my Drew Farthering Mysteries has some literary or musical theme.  For Mikado, obviously, I chose Gilbert and Sullivan. The basic idea I started with was that Drew and his sweetheart Madeline were rapidly headed to the altar and I had to do something to throw a spanner into the works. So enter old flame in trouble. Poor Drew never knew what hit him.  I don’t think my research turned up anything remarkable, but I did have a lot of little details to try to get right. I think my English readers always find something I’ve missed.

Jill: Well, being an American I wouldn't notice if maybe you missed a detail here and there. But I did live in England for seven years, and IMHO your books capture the heart and essence of the country. I could wax eloquent here, but this is your time to talk so I'll bide my time.
Please tell us about your favorite character in this book/series. What makes this character so dear to your heart? Is he/she like you in some way or like someone you know?

Julianna: Oh, my favorite character is definitely Drew. For me, he’s the perfect hero, charming and stylish, well read but not stuffy, learning how to truly live his faith. He’s nothing like me or anyone I know. He’d probably do well as a matinee idol of the early talkies.

Jill: Drew is pretty much the ideal English gentleman, and quite the heart-throb. :-) How about the setting? What makes it unique or important to you?

Julianna: I love Great Britain. It’s so beautiful and there’s history everywhere you look. My medieval books are set in a fictional place, but that place is definitely based on England and Wales. Even now, since I've moved forward in time several centuries, I still want to be there. I love the little villages, the great manor houses and, for a sophisticated evening out, London itself. For me, a ‘real’ cozy is set in England.

Jill: I agree! Which authors would you say have inspired you most or had the strongest influence on your own work?

Julianna: For this series, it would definitely be Christie, Sayers and Allingham and the BBC adaptations of their work. And, since Drew’s sweetheart, Madeline, is American, I have to add Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man and the movie series it inspired. Drew and Madeline definitely owe their existence to Nick and Nora Charles as portrayed by William Powell and Myrna Loy. Who knew marriage could be so much fun?

Jill: I just recently watched The Thin Man movies through from start to finish! I've always loved them. Heh. No wonder I love your books!
What aspect of writing do you enjoy most? Least?

Julianna: I love having written. I love when I get a scene or a chapter or a book finished. I especially love when my words actually appear in book form. It’s like a reward for doing the actual hard work of writing. But my favorite part of the actual writing is when my characters do or say something that I haven’t planned. Sometimes they surprise me with what they say or do, and it’s then I know they’ve really become themselves.
What I don’t like, and I mean I really, really don’t like, is writing outlines and synopses. Yes, they’re necessary. Yes, they’re helpful. But they are not fun to write. They’re just lifeless skeletons waiting for flesh and blood.

Jill: I hear ya. Writing is a love/hate relationship, for sure.
Do you have any work currently in process? Can we hear about it?

Julianna: Actually, I just started working on a book for a new Annie’s Attic series.  The series is called Annie’s Secrets of the Quilt and it’s about a present-day woman who inherits a quilt made with fabrics from famous people throughout history. The one I’m writing has to do with a lady in waiting in the court of Marie Antoinette.
And I am happy to say that Bethany House will be presenting three more of Drew and Madeline’s adventures starting in the spring of 2016. I definitely have a lot of work to do.

Jill: Yay! I was so delighted to hear this news! Drew and Madeline have more exciting adventures ahead.

Would you share a brief excerpt from Murder at the Mikado?

Julianna: I’d love to! Here’s how the book opens:

            "Actors," the barman muttered to no one in particular as he wiped a freshly washed glass.
            The Knight and Steed was empty but for the dozen or so customers clustered around the big table in the middle of the room and two others off by themselves in the corner. From the gramophone, a quartet sang the jaunty American tune "Nobody's Sweetheart."
            The all knew one another, of course. All of them came from down the street at the Tivoli. Mostly they came in late, after performances, with the rest of the theater crowd. But Mondays, when the theater was closed or when they'd had an early rehearsal, they might come in for a little something, often with friends and hangers on.
            This was one of those early days. It wasn't even five yet, a grim, blustery day, and they'd only just started to drink. The large group was boisterous, chatting and laughing, sometimes roaring when one of them displayed a spark of wit. The two in the corner were huddled together, talking so low no one could have heard them even if the others had been utterly silent.
            The man was well known, lead actor and owner of the Tivoli. His leading lady wife was at the large table with the others. The woman with him was a reporter for one of the local scandal sheets. As he spoke to her, his eyes gleamed with a passion that had nothing to do with love or even lust, but it was vivid and urgent all the same.
            "Not much more," he was saying when the barman brought them a second round, sherry for him and pale ale for the woman. "It's exactly what they want, you'll see. And it's got plenty of–"
            He broke off, glaring until the barman hurried away. Then he and the reporter put their heads together, conspiring once more as the group at the large table called out their orders.
            "Coming," the barman singsonged. "Coming."
            Before he was again behind the bar, the door swung open with a jingle of the bell and a rush of November wind and then clattered shut again. A tall woman swathed in furs hurried over to the corner table.
            "Fleur darling." The actor smiled lazily and did not rise. "I didn't think we'd see you again so soon."
            Seeing he was not going to take her coat, the woman removed it herself, revealing an alluring body clad in the latest fashion. She brushed a few determined snowflakes off her sleek black hair and then looked pointedly at the unoccupied chair next to him.
            He shrugged. "Some other time, love. I have business to attend to."
            She sat anyway, ignoring the other woman at the table. "We have to talk, Johnnie. I mean it."
            His wife glanced at him from the middle of the room, her expression a mix of boredom and disdainful amusement, and then she turned, laughing, to her companions again. The actor lifted his glass to her and then took a sip of sherry before turning again to his uninvited guest.
            "You'd best get used to the idea, love. I'm absolutely going to–"
            He scowled at the barman who had brought the other table their drinks and was making a great show of not listening in, and then he dropped his voice. The conversation was again low and intense until the lady reporter gave a shrill, mocking laugh.
            The room fell silent and, with a dull screech of chair legs, the newcomer sprang to her feet and snatched up her furs.
            "You don't really want to do that, Johnnie." Her black eyes snapped in her pale perfect face. "I promise you don't."
            The actor merely gave her a wink and a grin. "Do pop round again, darling, when we're not so busy, eh?"
            "Come on, Fleur," cried one of the men from the other table, a character actor, bald and rotund. "Have a drink with us. Leave those two to their plotting. It's all monstrously dull. Come and hear all about when I played Hamlet in Berlin. I was all of twenty-two."
            "Don't be absurd," said the bored young man who played all the juvenile leads. "When you were twenty-two, Hamlet hadn't even been written."
            "Yes, do join us, Fleur," the leading lady drawled over the good-natured jeering that followed his remark, and she leaned back so she could pull up a chair from an empty table. "Johnnie seems to be quite done with you."
            With an icy glare, the other woman shrugged into her furs and stalked into the cold.
            "Oh, dear." The leading lady traced one slender finger over the rim of her wine glass. "What a shame."

I love this opening scene! Thank you so much for joining me at Books, Cats, and Whimsy today!

Thank you, Jill!  It was a pleasure.

And here it is, the brand-new book #3 in the series, now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CBD.


When a celebrated actor is found murdered in his dressing room, all signs point to Drew's old flame. But behind the curtains nothing is what it seems and this quickly becomes his most puzzling case yet.

Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has calmed down some, Fleur Landis, a former girlfriend, reappears, in dire need of his help. She's married now, no longer an actress--but the lead actor in her former troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect.

Drew would rather focus on his fiancée, Madeline Parker, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur and her family in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline begin investigating, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. It seems nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between.

Both the murder case and the presence of the beautiful, exotic Fleur put a heavy strain on Drew and Madeline's relationship. Will their still-young romance survive the pressure?


My Review:

Book Three in the Drew Farthering Mystery series reads like a classic 1930’s mystery with descriptions that bring to mind gorgeous actors and actresses from that era. I so admire Julianna Deering’s use of language and setting to build her characters and plot! The theatre motif, including scenes, lyrics, and lines from several Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, adds even more flavor to this particular book. Each of the novels in this collection brings up dark themes and events—they are murder mysteries, after all. The author makes no attempts to explain the inexplicable, yet her characters turn to God for comfort and purpose amid the chaos of this world. Murder at the Mikado, in particular, handles the matter of sin, repentance, grace, and growth in a quiet yet powerful fashion.

I highly recommend this series to all anglophiles and lovers of a good cozy mystery. Each new book builds on the one before, and the characters and themes improve upon acquaintance--which is ideal for any series!

Finally, to complete the fun, DeAnna has offered a giveaway of a paperback copy of Murder at the Mikado to one lucky winner! Please share the word about this excellent "cozy mystery" series!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


15 comments:

  1. Thank you, Jill, for letting Drew and me visit your lovely blog. I SO understand about being a "handmaiden" to one's cats. So true!

    Can't wait to see who wins the book! :D

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    1. I am thrilled to feature you and your books on my blog, DeAnna! It is truly a privilege. :-)
      And Drew . . . (fans self)

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  2. My favorite literary detective (for now, anyway) is Sara Mills' Allie Fortune from the Miss Fortune series. Set in the 1940s, it's a fun, film noir tribute with Remington Steele type overtones. I'm looking forward to reading Murder at the Mikado, too, of course!

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    1. I haven't read the Miss Fortune books, Lynda, but they are on my TBR list. They look great!

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  3. Hmmm... so many good literary detectives to choose from! I think I might have to go classic though and say Nancy Drew. I LOVED her books when I was growing up! She was smart, resourceful, fun, kind, and always classy! :)
    I'm so looking forward to reading Murder at the Mikado though (that cover design is to die for!)!

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    1. Isn't that cover great, Amy?

      It's definitely my favorite of the three. I love them all, but Drew in white tie? Oh yes! :D

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  4. My comment disappeared so I'll try again. I apologize if it appears twice.
    There are many fictional detectives I enjoy reading about, including Drew. I think my favorite, though, has to be Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence. They are such a fun couple who work well together to solve the mysteries.

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    1. Oh, I love Tommy and Tuppence, Pam! They were definitely a huge influence on Drew and Madeline, too. :D

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  5. I read all the Rex Stout detective stories waaaaay back in college on the recommendation of the librarian. She knew I had read just about everything available, and was always on the lookout for new authors and genres for me to read. At the time, he was on the racier edge of acceptable (tame by today's standards), but totally foreign to someone like me who didn't even have the TV yet!

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    1. I've heard of Rex, but I haven't read any of those. Definitely one of the classics. :)

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    1. Oh, yes, Nancy is definitely a classic. :D

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  7. Hi Jill! This was a fun stop! I love how you handled the interview and these books sound interesting for sure. I've not read anything like them. I have a book give away that I will close tomorrow. Ruth Logan Herne is the author I've interviewed on my new writer's blog. inkyquillbysuzie.blogspot.com If you grab a magic minute stop on by! I will be back her for sure! :)

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  8. Oh Jill!!!! You won Ruthy's novella!!!!!! Please visit inkyquillbysuzie.blogspot.com and see how your name got picked and leave me your email, so that I can get it to Ruthy!! Congratulations! I've announsed that there is a winner on FB and tweeted it too!

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