I’d like to welcome back Julie McElwain to Layered Pages! I had the pleasure of being the first person to interview Julie about her book A Murder in Time and she is here with me to talk about her second, A Twist in Time. Julie is a national award-winning journalist. She began her career working for a fashion trade newspaper in Los Angeles, and is currently a West Coast editor for Soaps In Depth, a national soap opera magazine, covering the hit daytime drama, The Young & The Restless.
Hi, Julie! It is a delight to chat with you again! First, tell me how your first book, A Murder in Time was received from your audience.
Thank you, Stephanie. I’m thrilled to be chatting with you again, too! I have to say that I was honored and humbled by how well A Murder In Time has been received. Book bloggers such as yourself were so kind and encouraging with your reviews, and the librarians from Library Reads chose the novel as one of their April recommendations. Overdrive, the digital library that is connected to more than 34,000 libraries around the world, selected A Murder In Time as their mystery to read last year, and it became a finalist in Goodreads’ Best Books of the Year, in the sci-fi category. I’ve been so blown away by this journey, and truly grateful for all the support.
That is fantastic to hear, Julie and 34,000 libraries around the world is outstanding!
Would you please give us a brief description from your first book how Kendra Donovan stumbled through time?
Kendra traveled to Aldridge Castle in England to take down the man responsible for getting many of her fellow team members killed on her last mission. I won’t give away any spoilers in case someone hasn’t read A Murder In Time, but this mission also goes awry, and Kendra is forced to flee through a secret passageway. That’s when things take a really strange turn. When Kendra stumbles out, she is in 1815. Kendra’s mother is a quantum physicist, so Kendra knows something about time travel. She can only surmise that she went through a wormhole or a vortex. She only has theories, but it was an extremely painful experience!
I remembered reading about Kendra’s experience travel through time. It was incredibly vivid. Tell us about your book, A Twist in Time.
Kendra’s attempt to return to her own timeline fails, but before she can worry too much about her situation, she’s caught up in a new mystery. Lady Dover, who was introduced briefly in A Murder In Time as Alec’s mistress (he dumped her for Kendra) has been viciously murdered, and Alec is the main suspect. Kendra and the Duke travel to London to clear his name, save him from the hangman’s noose and a crime lord named Bear.
How has Kendra adapted to the early nineteenth Century thus far?
Even with the Duke of Aldridge’s support, Kendra struggles with being in this time period. Her parents had very rigid expectations of her, and when she rebelled, they abandoned her. Kendra survived emotionally by becoming independent and self-sufficient. Yet she is thrust into an era where women had no rights; upper class women especially relied on the men in their lives — husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles — to provide for them. As a real-life example, Jane Austen never married, and her oldest brother, Edward, gave her the cottage she lived in.
Kendra also hates being treated like a child. The fashions of the day required assistance to dress. And as a young, unmarried lady, she needs to be chaperoned whenever she leaves the house. This loss of independence is incredibly hard on Kendra.
On the other hand, Kendra is now forced to depend on other people for the first time since she was a teen. It’s great to be self-sufficient, but not to be so closed off from relationships. Some cracks might be forming in Kendra’s protective shell.
You really brought together characters in your story from different classes/walks of life and I admired how you portrayed that. I still believe in today society we can still learn from that.
Thank you! And I completely agree with you about today’s society. America was conceived as a nation without a class system, and England today no longer has the rigid class system that it once had. Yet I think it’s human nature to create hierarchies and be a bit snobbish when we look at groups that don’t conform to our own belief system.
I love trying to figure out how people came to their viewpoint. I’m seeing way too much divisiveness in present-day society, and shutting down or shouting down someone else’s point of view. I think the joy of a being a writer is to get into characters’ heads to see a situation through a variety of perspectives. It’s fun to have people at odds, battle, and learn from one another’s differences. Sometimes they may change. Sometimes they may just have to agree to disagree.
You also touch on the fact that there was no real police force at that time. Did you find it a challenge to make the investigation believable? The process was surely brilliant in my mind. Without the technology we have today, their process was surely a challenge at times.
The lack of technology drives Kendra a bit crazy. She can’t utilize something as basic as fingerprinting. While fingerprints were known as a method of identification during this time — and earlier — it wasn’t used in law enforcement until the late 1800s.
Kendra also has huge problems with the lack of police procedure. In both A Murder In Time and in A Twist In Time, I mention the Marrs murders, which are also known as the Ratcliff Highway murders. This was a true crime during that time, in which a family and their servants were slaughtered. The public was allowed to wander through the crime scene to satisfy their curiosity. Can you imagine that today? Kendra is appalled by what actually was pretty standard practice for that time of civilians visiting crime scenes.
Thankfully, though, basic police work — interviewing suspects and eye witnesses, comparing stories, checking alibis — crosses centuries. In fact, basic police work today still catches more criminals than utilizing technology, mainly because most police departments simply don’t have the budget for the kind of technology we see on cop shows.
What challenged me the most is that my protagonist is a woman. Kendra can’t flash her badge to show her authority. She can’t haul a suspect down to an interrogation room. She has no official capacity. As I already mentioned, she can’t even go anywhere alone. She needs a lady’s maid to shadow her, or risk being ostracized. The Duke, of course, is her greatest asset in gaining access to the people she needs to interview, but it’s awkward for her to grill people in the ballroom.
Was there a scene you found humorous to write about?
Actually, there were several scenes that I had fun writing. I think the changes in language over the centuries lend themselves to humor. But also there are things that we take for granted now that were unknown back then, and that can be pretty humorous when you look at it through nineteenth century eyes. I won’t get into specifics, but at the end of A Twist In Time, the crime lord, Bear, views something that Kendra has done in a way that makes perfect sense from a nineteenth century perspective, but startles Kendra considerably. When I received the manuscript back during the editing process, I laughed when I came across the scene again. It’s just a little thing, but I hope readers will find it as amusing as I do!
Tell us a little about Sam Kelly. I have to admit; I enjoy reading about him. He is one of my favorites.
I love Sam Kelly as well! I feel like he’s a cop deep in his soul. You could take him out of the nineteenth century and plop him in the twenty-first century, and he wouldn’t change. He’d still be a bit rumpled, still love being a detective, and still love his whiskey. He may be puzzled by Kendra, but she earned his respect when she was nearly killed catching a serial killer. If she wasn’t a woman, I think Sam would try to convince her to become a Bow Street Runner.
Duke Aldridge’s prim and proper ways are entertaining to say the least but not in a snobby way. His open-mindedness does him credit. I am delighted you didn’t portray him as the stereotypical male we often see in stories such as this era. What are his attributes you find most intriguing to write about?
What I love about the Duke is that he is far more complicated character than anyone might suspect. He is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word, yet he’s not a pushover. He doesn’t trade on his wealth and title, but he will exert his influence if it means getting his way. The darkest period of his life came when he lost his wife and daughter — and that still haunts him — but the tragedy has made him more empathetic. He is enthusiastic and optimistic, which is a nice counterbalance to Kendra, who tends to be a bit more cynical and careful. The Duke recognizes that Kendra comes from a different time, but I sort of like that he does have an internal struggle on accepting Kendra’s more modern sensibilities. He loves the discussions he has with Kendra, but sometimes he is taken out of his comfort zone.
Can we expect another Kendra Donovan story, if so, how soon?
It will probably depend on how well A Twist In Time does. However, I can tell you that I am working on the third Kendra Donovan book, which I’m actually very excited about. There is a twist in it that I really don’t think readers will see coming, mainly because I didn’t see it coming when I was plotting the book in my head. If things go as planned, it should be out in bookstores April 2018.
Julie, thank you for this wonderful interview. It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please come back to Layered Pages soon. You are always welcome here.
Thank you, Stephanie. I spend most of my time writing, but when I talk to you, you make me think about the writing process. I love that!
Thank you, Julie!