Thursday, November 4, 2010
Guest Post: Why A Place to Die by author Dorothy James
Today I am pleased to post the following guest post from Dorothy James, author of the thriller/mystery: A Place to Die.
Why “A Place to Die”?
A murder mystery, I thought, that’s what I’ll write, now that I’ve retired from the world of work and can do what I like. I’ve always read murder mysteries for fun—though with a bit of a bad conscience--how, when you really think about it, can murder be fun? But now I wanted finally to escape the academic straitjacket and write something that would entertain. And I wanted to escape from myself, and write something that was distinctly not autobiographical. But the freedom of a open-style novel was not yet for me. I have always liked the constraints of form in poetry; I could never write free verse. And a murder mystery has a form, it has conventions, it has certain set patterns that drive the plot forward, that discipline the writer and even develop the characters. So a murder mystery it was.
I visited the mother of my dearest friend in an old people’s home, and I thought, an ideal setting for a murder mystery: a group of people confined in one place, all with long lives behind them, many motives for murder, past and present, many reasons to love and to hate, many intertwined stories. And so it began, old people living together in a place to spend the rest of their lives, or, one might say, a place to die. I was living in Vienna at the time, a wonderful city for stories rooted in the past. But soon after I began to write, my own father in Wales began to die and his dying took many months, and the murder mystery that was started for fun, to escape from myself, became an exploration of growing old, of slowly, slowly facing the passing of time and the inevitable end of life. One way to preserve dignity in this daunting phase of life is to face up to it with humor, with irony, with the ability to laugh at oneself. And so it was that I did after all write a murder mystery for fun, a place to find my own laughter, to catch my own tears.
About the Author: Dorothy James was born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, and translator, she has published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature. She has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home now in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin. She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods. She has travelled far from Wales, but has not lost the Welsh love of playing with language; she writes poems for pleasure as does Chief Inspector Büchner, the whimsical Viennese detective who unravels the first mystery in this new series of novels.
Read an excerpt of A Place to Die here.