I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Anna Castle to Layered pages to talk with me about her story, Murder by Misrule. Anna writes the Francis Bacon mysteries and the Lost Hat, Texas mysteries. She has earned a series of degrees — BA in the Classics, MS in Computer Science, and a PhD in Linguistics — and has had a corresponding series of careers — waitressing, software engineering, grammar-writing, assistant professor, and archivist. Writing fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. She physically resides in Austin, Texas and mentally counts herself a queen of infinite space.
Hello, Anna! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, Murder by Misrule and Congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. How did you discover indieBRAG?
You know, I honestly can’t remember! Most likely I noticed some of my author role models, like M. Louisa Locke, had those nice shiny medallions on their books and looked them up. I wear mine proudly.
Please tell your audience about your story.
Murder by Misrule is the first book in the Francis Bacon mystery series. It is set in 1586. A man who was performing a ticklish task for the government has been murdered, and the Lord Treasurer — who happens to be Francis’s uncle — asks Francis to find out who did it. Francis can’t say no to his powerful uncle, so he agrees, but then he enlists his law students to do the running around and talking to witnesses. This group of lively lads is led by my co-protagonist, Thomas Clarady. Tom’s father is a privateer, so he has money, but not status. He’ll do anything to raise himself into the gentry, including tracking down murderers.
They pursue different possibilities and uncover other crimes being perpetrated right under their noses. Another barrister is killed. Bacon narrowly escapes death. Secret identities are exposed. The woman Tom adores is thrown into jail. Things look very dark, until Francis figures out what happened and devises a plan to expose the murderer before the queen and all her court.
Who is Francis Bacon?
Francis Bacon was a statesman and a philosopher in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. He is sometimes regarded as the Father of Science because of his persuasive arguments for grounding scientific investigations on observations of the real world, instead of spinning speculative theories. He wrote a collection of Essays which has never been out of print since they were first published in 1597.
What is Gray’s Inn?
Gray’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court, the honorable societies of lawyers and judges. The others are Lincoln’s Inn, the Inner Temple, and the Middle Temple. These societies still exist today, but their roots are lost in the mists of history. They were formed originally as places for legal men to live cheaply while the Westminster courts were in session. Francis Bacon lived in his chambers at Gray’s Inn for much of his adult life. In his day, the Inns of Court were booming, and Gray’s was the largest of them all.
Could you give your audience a little of the history of the period your story is set in?
Oh, boy, a whirlwind view of the Elizabethan period? This was an age of expansion and optimism — that’s what I like about it. Maybe I’ll just tease you with some of the glittering names: Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I, the Earl of Leicester, Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe….
The Elizabethan period is certainly a whirlwind and all notable names indeed. I adore your character, Thomas Clarady. Could you tell your audience a little about him? What are his strengths and weakness?
Thank you! Tom is meant to be adorable, because Bacon can be a little hard to like. Tom was designed as a foil for Francis Bacon: likable, extroverted, fond of the ladies, physically active, friendly, and street smart. His strength is his empathy, which gives him good intuitions about people. His weakness is also his empathy, because it makes him too easy to influence. He needs Bacon to teach him discipline and supply that strong rational ballast.
What was your inspiration for this story?
Next time I write a book I’m going to start by drafting a brief essay about why I’m writing it :-). I started this book in 2010 and honestly don’t remember exactly what or why. It’s set in 1586, because that’s when Francis Bacon enters the historical record through his surviving letters. It’s set at Grays, because that’s where he was. And I think I chose the season of Misrule because I thought it would be colorful and fun. I had all kinds of misruly antics that got cut, like Tom & the lads seating cows and goats at the governors’ table and transporting a sleeping barrister, bed and all, out into the yard in the middle of the night. Undergraduate pranks. Of course they actually did all those things, but I had to cut them from the book.
What do you like most about writing historical crime thrillers?
OK, I’m a writer, so I get to quibble. I write mysteries, not thrillers. The question in my books is, “Who did it?” not, “How will they catch them?” I like the structure of mysteries, which helps me plan the story, and then I like the challenge of making a story built within that familiar structure fresh. The best thing about writing historical’s is that there are virtually no forensics. I don’t have to learn about soil analysis or whatever. It’s almost purely character. Who could have done this terrible thing? My sleuths have to explore the setting thoroughly to find ways and means, which is the most fun for me. I work with the A to Z of Elizabethan London (indexed map) at my side.
What is the title of the next book in this series?
Book 4 will be Publish and Perish. Someone is publishing scurrilous broadsides attacking the established Church of England. Not a Catholic — this mud is being slung by a Puritan. The government is desperate to shut off the flow of these popular broadsides, but they can’t catch the offenders or even locate the movable press. They hire Thomas Nashe, an uncontrollable satirist, to pen counter-attacks, which only makes things worse. Now someone is trying to kill Nashe but keeps missing, striking down innocent poets. The Lord Treasurer, at his wits’ end, hires Francis Bacon and Thomas Clarady to sort out the mess. Everything about this story is true – real history – except for the murders.
Who designed your book cover?
Jennifer Quinlan of Historical Editorial. Jenny also edits my books, doing both a content edit and a copy-edit. She’s wonderful; I couldn’t publish this series without her.
How did you decide on the title?
Titles come to me out of the create-o-sphere. Sometimes they come first and I have to invent a story that fits. Obviously I like alliteration, and puns, and quotes from Shakespeare…
Where can reader purchase your book?
Murder by Misrule is available in every online bookstore in existence and in the indie brick-and-mortar stores in my town, Austin, Texas. You can sign up for newsletter to get advance notice of sales and other goodies.
Thank you, Anna!
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Anna Castle who is the author of, Murder by Misrule, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Murder by Misrule, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.