Every Thursday I ask ten questions to authors of mystery, thriller and suspense about their books, their inspirations and how to get away with the perfect murder. In the hot seat this week is... Liz Hedgecock.
Liz Hedgecock spends much of her time hopping between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, murdering people. To be fair, she does usually clean up after herself. When not concocting mysteries, Liz lives quietly in Cheshire with her family. That’s her story, anyway, and she’s sticking to it.
Q1. Hello Liz! Can You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And Your Books?
Hello! I grew up in London, did an English degree, and then took forever to start writing. After a fairly brief spell of university teaching I worked in the NHS for several years, with occasional secret forays into creative writing.
Then, unexpectedly, about three years ago, I was bitten hard by the writing bug. I wrote a short story. It was published. I wrote another. I discovered flash fiction. That was it; I was hooked. The short stories began to grow longer — and then the murders began…
Nowadays I live in Cheshire with my husband and two boys, and I write mysteries. Several are set in the Sherlock Holmes universe, and the specifics of that depend on who’s telling the story. I’ve also begun a contemporary cozy mystery series, the Pippa Parker Mysteries.
Q2. What Three Things Should Readers Expect From A Liz Hedgecock Novel?
*Goes to check reviews*. OK.
1. A pacy plot. When I’m reading a mystery, I like a plot that rattles along, with plenty going on to keep you guessing. I try to do that in my books too.
2. Three-dimensional characters. Even with Holmes and Watson, I like to explore some of the tensions and insecurities that could have sprung out of their friendship - and as Watson isn’t always in charge of the narrative, we get to see a little more of what goes on behind the scenes at 221B Baker Street.
I’m also very much enjoying creating a whole new world and cast of characters in the Pippa Parker stories — there I have the inhabitants of a town and five villages to go at!
3. Atmospheric settings. Holmes’s London is a character in itself, whether it’s the genteel townhouses and shopping streets, the dens and alleys, or down in the slums. I spend far too much time looking at Booth’s maps and Google Street View!
In my contemporary cozy series, my challenge was to create a believable village which doesn’t bear any relation to the one where I live. It looks pretty as a picture, but of course menace lurks beneath the surface…
Q3. Can You Tell Us About Some of Your Main Characters?
I’ll choose two. In A House of Mirrors, which is the first book in the Mrs Hudson and Sherlock Holmes series, Mrs Hudson is a twenty-eight year old whose policeman husband has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. She herself worked in an unofficial capacity for Inspector Lestrade before her husband vanished.
As a result, she has been forced to live as a widow under police protection, and her life has been turned upside down. All she wants is to get her life back and find out the truth.
When we first meet Pippa Parker in Murder At The Playgroup, she is the young mother of a toddler with another baby on the way. They have moved from London to the village where her husband grew up, and Pippa is desperately trying to get her bearings and settle in. And of course, someone gets murdered…
The plan is for time to pass as the series continues, so in the next book Pippa has two children and pre-school to contend with, which should mix things up a bit.
Q4. If Your Books Were Turned Into Movies, Who Would Play Your Main CharacterS?
Sometimes I get feedback about which version of Sherlock Holmes readers were thinking of when they read my books - Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone have all featured!
Pippa Parker… hmmm, that’s a question I’ve never thought of… I could imagine Gemma Arterton as Pippa. Whoever it was would need a good line in snark, though.
Q5. How Do You Come Up With The Ideas For Your Stories – What Is Your Inspiration?
Often it’s a ‘what if’ thought, which I keep in the back of my mind and toy with every so often. Gradually it gets clearer, and I have to start writing snippets of ideas down as they occur to me. The more insistent it becomes, the closer I am to sitting down with paper and post-its and getting some sort of structure together.
For A House Of Mirrors my ‘what if’ was What would Sherlock Holmes be like if a woman told the story? I’d been reading A Study In Scarlet and marvelling at how Holmes and Watson are cooked for, cleaned for, laundered for, and we never even learn the name of their landlady. What if she had her own story to tell?
Q6. What Do You Enjoy Most About Writing Mysteries?
Finding out what happens! I always have quite a detailed idea of the beginning, and a vague idea of where everyone will end up, but I tend to plot a few chapters ahead as I write, building a bridge to the ending. The characters do most of the work, to be honest; as they reveal themselves I get to understand their motivations and the little quirks behind them. So as I write things drop into place. She’s going to have the accident! That’s why he had a broken kneecap! *tries not to do any spoilers*
Q7. What Are You Working On Right Now?
I have a few books on the go. I’ve just sent my second Halloween Sherlock novelette, Sherlock Holmes and the Deathly Fog, for proofing. I’m planning to take a break from fact-checking my second Mrs Hudson novel to edit my second Jack and Sherlock novella, Something Blue.
I’m just finishing up the first draft of the second Pippa Parker mystery, Murder In The Choir. And yes, I do have a lot of second-in-series books going on!
Q8. Who Are Your Favourite Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Authors?
I tend to read a variety of genres. Agatha Christie’s in there, for sure. I particularly like the early Sherlock stories. I’m discovering Ngaio Marsh. I’d also add in Ian Rankin’s Rebus stories and Gillian Flynn. Oh, and a Victorian bonus - Wilkie Collins!
Q9. You're Being Sent To A Desert Island. You Can Only Take One Book With You. What Is It?
Can I take a solar-powered Kindle? No? *sulks* Well, if I can only have one book it’s going to be a big fat one. I’m going for a late Dickens, either Bleak House, Great Expectations or Our Mutual Friend. I can also use it to stand on for hailing passing ships.
Q10. How Do You Get Away With The Perfect Murder?
Motive? What motive?