Tuesday, March 1, 2016

An Interview with Nancy Atherton

An Interview with Nancy Atherton
by Pamela James

MM: Nancy, how many books have you written? What genres have you written?
My tally (so far) is twenty-one books, if one includes my latest, AUNT DIMITY AND THE BURIED TREASURE, which one does.  AUNT DIMITY AND THE BURIED TREASURE will be published in May 2016, but readers can preorder it online or from their favorite local bookseller right this minute! 
I've written in precisely one genre: cozy mystery.  I'm far too impressionable to write stories about horrible murderers murdering people horribly, which may be why Kirkus Reviews described AUNT DIMITY DIGS IN as "the coziest cozy of them all."  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  There's more to mystery than murder!  I suspect my splendid readers would agree.

MM: Tell us about the latest Aunt Dimity book?
AUNT DIMITY AND THE BURIED TREASURE gives us a glimpse of Aunt Dimity's wartime and postwar life along with metal-detecting adventures, thrilling discoveries, a long lost love, and a badger hunt in London!

MM: Where do you write your books?
I'm not a writer who can write on airplanes, in train stations, or at the kitchen table.  Ideas may come to me anywhere and at any time---and I always jot them down---but I write my books in my office, which is a small spare bedroom crammed with two extremely cluttered plywood-on-filing-cabinet desks, two wheeled office chairs, two scratching posts for my kittens, and a tall rustic wooden cabinet filled to bursting with office supplies.  The walls are plastered with pictures, posters, maps, and two vastly overcrowded bulletin boards, and there's a built-in bookcase filled with reference books, including the books in my own series.  A purple bunny named Printz sits on my printer and a pink bunny (a German Reginald!) sits on one of my desks, to keep me company.

MM: What would Aunt Dimity tell us about you? It's always fun to get the perspective of the characters.
Aunt Dimity would tell you that I bear a strong resemblance to my main character, Lori Shepherd.  Lori and I both have sharp tongues, hasty tempers, and a tendency to get things wrong!  Lori's a whole lot wealthier than I am, of course, and although Aunt Dimity might disagree with me, I'd say that Lori has a bigger heart.

MM: What has writing taught you about life? What has life taught you about writing mysteries?
I can't think of an answer that doesn't sound embarrassingly self-involved, so I'll politely decline to provide one.

MM: Do you have a humorous story you can share with us about creating your characters?
When I started writing AUNT DIMITY'S CHRISTMAS, I had no idea that Julian Bright---a massively major character---would be in the book until Lori spotted him through the glass wall in a hospital's intensive care unit and wondered who he was.  I've never stopped being grateful to Julian for showing up in the ICU!

MM: It's 2016 so what are you looking forward to or can share with us about your touring, writing and convention schedule?
I haven't heard anything about my 2016 tour schedule yet, but when I do, I'll post the information on my website (www.aunt-dimity.com) and on the Aunt Dimity's World Facebook page.  I currently have no plans to attend any mystery conventions.  As for my writing schedule . . . I don't have one.  I'll start writing the next book when I start writing it, not one moment sooner or later.

MM: They say it takes a village to write a book. Who is in your village?
No one helps me to write my books, but my literary agents look after my contracts, my editor guides my books through the publication process, and my publicist takes care of my publicity (including tours).  As a writer, I've been singularly blessed to have a team of kindhearted and highly skilled professionals by my side every step of the way. 

MM: When you were growing up, in college or a beginning author. Are there a few people you would like to thank? Such as teacher, mentor, mother etc...?
I thank people (and cats) by dedicating books to them.  So far, I've thanked 17 people and 4 cats.  Since you can find their names on the dedication pages of my books, I won't bore you by listing them here.  Except for Miss Mousehole, Mr. Scooter-pie, Emma, and Chloe, good and helpful kittens who would be very hurt if I didn't mention them by name.

MM: Now for some fun questions. Do you ever binge watch television shows or movies? Do you have favorite books you reread from time to time? Tell us about where you live and be our tour guide?
When I finish a book, I have no brain power left to do anything other than to binge watch Midsomer Murders or Miss Marple (the Joan Hickson edition, naturally) or Rosemary & Thyme or any of a number of series I've watched a thousand times before. 

I regularly reread books by Terry Pratchett and by Georgette Heyer, both of whom where brilliant and hard-working enough to produce many, many books, all of which are well worth rereading. 

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Hometown highlights include, but are not limited to, Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, the Olympic Training Center, the Air Force Academy, and the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel. I love heading into the high country to hike, but there are plenty of gorgeous trails to tackle in town, too!

MM: How do you set up writing your books? Such as by outline or will you tell us?
I don't use an outline.  I've never used an outline.  I begin with a face or a place or a phrase or a scene or a scent or just about anything that sparks an idea and I see where it leads.  I always write from beginning to end---no starting in the middle or writing backwards from the end---and I start each night's work by rewriting the last 30 pages or so of the previous night's work.  Oh, and I do write at night, truly at night, from around 10PM to Whenever-I'm-Done AM.  Writing at night allows me to sink into my work without interruption---no ringing doorbells or telephones, just me and my characters, off on our latest adventure.          

MM: I love your titles, book covers, and your Aunt Dimity Series. In particular I loved "AUNT DIMITY and the WISHING WELL. I think the plot was very clever. How do you decide what plots will make a full length book and what plots will not make the cut?
Thank you for your very kind words about my titles, book covers, and series, but thank you in particular for complimenting me on the one thing I rarely think about:  plots.  I don't map out my plots ahead of time, so I've never had to decide whether a plot will work or not.  I simply tell the story that wants to be told.

MM: In closing please leave us with a Lori Shepherd words of wisdom?

Since Lori Shepherd isn't known for her wisdom, I'll quote Lori quoting another, much wiser, character---a ten-year-old girl---in AUNT DIMITY AND THE SUMMER KING:  "Everything---everything---begins with the imagination."


  1. Nancy - three things - Badger Hunt? Definitely got my attention! Loved how Julian happened and finally - great words of wisdom!

  2. I adore this series. I found it by accident or provenance but am excited whenever I add another book to my collection. Even duplicates. Thay are like welcome comfortable friends.

  3. Wow, what a world I've stumbled into! I can't wait to start on my first Aunt Dimity book. :)


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