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Wednesday 7 September 2016

ℚ The Coniston Case: Lake District Mysteries [3] - Rebecca Tope

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about The Coniston Case (, Witness Impulse, 320 pages), a Cozy Mystery & Detective novel, book three of the Lake District Mysteries series.

'Intrigue and family disputes, hidden secrets and suspicion...a pleasant read, from an author with a string of crime novels to her name.'

Synopsis | Teaser | The Series | Author Q&A | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

A very warm welcome to Rebecca Tope; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

What was the inspiration for The Coniston Case?

"After the success of my Cotswolds crime stories, the publisher suggested a second series, set in a different part of England, but with a strong female central protagonist. We agreed on the Lake District, and Persimmon Brown quickly came into focus. The scenery is obviously a big attraction, with wild fells, lakes and valleys. But I opted to give more attention to the small towns scattered around the region. Starting with Windermere, at the softer southern end of the area, I have moved around to include Ambleside, Coniston, Troutbeck, Hawkshead and Bowness. These are, to varying degrees, ancient and characterful settlements. They are very distinctive, one from another. Even Bowness and Windermere, which adjoin each other, have totally different tones.

Persimmon (Simmy) is a florist. She discovers that flowers are integral to the big life events which are imbued with drama and high emotion. A very innocent and unhappy woman at the outset, she soon becomes more mature and understanding of human complexities. She is surrounded by very young friends – Melanie, Ben and Bonnie are young enough to be her children, but they become genuine friends and advisors. Simmy’s parents are children of the 1960s, retaining elements of those hippy days, and providing another layer of insight and attitude. There is violence and danger in the streets of these pretty little towns, bringing genuine jeopardy to a harmless florist. The only buffers between her and the crimes she encounters are young Ben Harkness and Detective Inspector Moxon. The latter is a good-natured chap, concerned for Simmy’s vulnerability and increasingly impressed by Ben’s intelligence. The spate of murders is almost as surprising to him as it is to Simmy.

Simmy seldom finds herself instrumental in actually solving the crimes, but she creates the circumstances which make it possible, and asks pertinent questions.

‘The Coniston Case’ is the third in the series. Coniston is a remote settlement, on the edge of one of the Lakes (or ‘meres’ to be exact), famous for Donald Campbell and his Bluebird, as well as the lowering mountain that rises directly behind the town. The Old Man of Coniston has a character all off his own, and can never be ignored. Much of the action takes place on his slopes. Simmy has a busy week delivering flowers for Valentine’s Day, and discovering just how malicious the motives for sending flowers can be."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"I find this very difficult to answer. My writing method is old-fashioned to the extent that it is far from self-analysis. I believe myself to be doing little more than telling a story, drawing inevitably from thoughts I have had, things I have seen, people I have engaged with. But I don’t feel that knowing about any of this is relevant. In fact I think it is mildly damaging to the process of writing – and more importantly, reading – the books. It absolutely doesn’t matter."
Why should we read The Coniston Case and the Lake District Mysteries series; what sets it apart from the rest?
"It would seem, from feedback I get, that people like my direct approach to the details of life and contemporary issues. I have ‘politically incorrect’ characters who go against the mainstream of current opinion. Readers also enjoy my descriptions of real English villages. This is probably my unique selling point, along with the accidental, unprofessional nature of my central female characters."
Can you tell us something quirky about The Coniston Case, its story and characters?
"Persimmon’s name is quirky, I suppose. I wanted something memorable, and was in the garden of a friend;’s big old house in France when I focused on the lovely persimmon tree there.

Ben Harkness is also highly quirky. He is 17, extremely intelligent, ambitious and outspoken. As the series progresses, I find him getting increasingly like Sheldon Cooper, but Ben is much better with people than Sheldon is. He comes from a big middle-class family, and knows the Lake District intimately. He studies history, biology, forensics, Latin, doing extremely well at them all. He falls in love in ‘The Troutbeck Testimony’ which is Book 4."
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I like to write about the way people behave when out of the public gaze. I like history, philosophy, topography and politics. I read a wide range of genres, with historical fiction a fairly new favourite. I also love family sagas, fiction from the 1930s and thrillers. I have written three historical novels, which are self-published as ebooks. Two are set in 1840s America – the Oregon Trail and early settlers during the Gold Rush."
What is your writing process?
"Almost every morning I take my dogs for a walk, and think about the writing, and what might happen next. I sometimes puzzle out plots when they’re stuck. Then I sit down and write at least 1000 words. This doesn’t usually take very long. At about the halfway point in the book I print it out and read it through, spotting the clues I hadn’t noticed myself writing and – with luck – establishing much of what will happen in the second half. But often I don’t know for sure what the outcome will be until very close to the end. I am telling myself the story as I write, and know almost nothing when I begin."
What is in store next?
"I am continuing the Cotswolds series, which so far has 14 titles. The Lake District series now has six complete titles, and two more are planned. (Planned actually means nothing more than having titles for them – the Stavely Suspect and the Grasmere Grievance). I am also very much engaged with a biography I have just finished, after 12 years in the writing. The subject is a Victorian writer called Sabine Baring-Gould. He was extremely famous in his day and wrote 130 books. It is in the process of production at the moment, hoping for actual publication by the end of the year."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"I have two dogs, Gracie and Bunty. Gracie is an elderly black labrador, and Bunty is a small mixed breed terrier. My spaniel Beulah died last year, having been the model for Hepzibah, the spaniel in the Cotswolds series. Until a few years ago I kept pigs, which were a delight."
Sorry to hear about Beulah, it is so difficult when they have to go.  Lots of cuddles to both Gracie and Bunty! We'd love to see them :-)
We hope you are having a great tour!

The Coniston Case
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CMash said...

Really enjoyed this post since I did read this book and enjoyed it. Great interview!

Unknown said...

Great interview! A lot of fun to read and get to know the author.
I will be reading this book soon myself.

"Ben Harkness is also highly quirky. He is 17, extremely intelligent, ambitious and outspoken." - Can't wait to read this and meet this character - I love characters like this.