What do you like most about historical mysteries?
Today I’m interviewing Rhys Bowen. Her latest novel is City of Darkness and Light, A Molly Murphy Mystery
Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of two historical mystery series: the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in early 1900s New York City and the lighter Royal Spyness series featuring Lady Georgiana, thirty fifth in line to the throne but penniless in 1930s England. Rhys’s books have won numerous awards including two Agathas and two Anthonys. She is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona.
Her Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Her Website: www.rhysbowen.com
Her FaceBook: www.Facebook.com/rhysbowenauthor
Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Rhys. Your protagonist, Molly Murphy, is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read. How did you come up with the idea of a female investigator set in turn of the century New York City?
I wanted to write a strong, feisty first person female. I was deciding where to set her story when I went to Ellis Island. I was so emotionally moved by my experience there that I knew I had to set a book there. So Murphy’s Law became Molly’s flight to America.
Your Molly Murphy Mysteries are set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. What is it about that historical time period that interests you the most and how have you immersed yourself into the historical setting?
The time period fascinates me because it is so modern, so close to us in some ways and so remote in others. My own grandmother was alive and told me tales of her childhood so I felt I was familiar with Molly’s world, and yet it was a time when half the population couldn’t vote! And New York in particular—the whole concept of the melting pot—so many immigrants with such different stories. I’ll never run out.
I take my research seriously—lots of background reading, looking at old photographs, then being in Molly’s New York, walking the streets she walked. I’m rewarded by hearing from so many New Yorkers that I’ve captured the city of their childhood, or their grandparents’ neighborhood. That feels so good.
Tell us a little about Molly Murphy Sullivan in “City of Darkness and Light”.
This is one of the more harrowing Molly Murphy stories. Something terrible happens at the beginning of the book, forcing Molly to flee to find her friends in Paris. She has her infant son with her and her friends have vanished. So she is alone in a strange world with no support and a murder that may be linked to the disappearance of her friends.
Most of your other Molly Murphy Mysteries are set in New York City. Why did you decide to set this story in Paris?
I was fascinated with the art world of the early Twentieth Century. Why did art so suddenly move away from those serene Impressionists to the garish, violent distorted paintings of Chagal, Picasso etc? So I asked myself what was happening in the world at this time and the answer always came back to Paris, and what was happening there. So I knew Molly had to go there, to be a part of the turbulent art world and changing social outlook of that city.
You have some interesting real life historical characters in your novels. In this novel, Pablo Picasso made me laugh. Tell us a little about why you add real historical figures in your novels.
I’m writing about a real place and time so it’s only natural that my heroine should meet some real people. In this book the story centers on the art world so of course Molly would meet Picasso, Degas, Gertrude Stein. They were fun to research and write about. I always try to keep my historical characters as close to real life as possible.
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