Contest Give Away
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Amy will be giving away a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years. She writes romance, historical and cozy mysteries. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.
Amy’s books include the three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; Regency mysteries, THE VITAL PRINCIPLE, and A ROSE BEFORE DYING; and her first cozy mystery, WHACKED!, will come in in 2012 from Five Star.
Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.
The Vital Principle
An inquiry agent seeks to expose a spiritualist as a fraud only to uncover a murder.
In 1815, inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. When the séance ends abruptly, an unseen killer poisons Lord Crowley, leaving Gaunt to investigate not fraud, but murder.
Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard. But as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers a series of deadly secrets. Long-time friends soon turn against one another as the tension mounts, and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction before another death at Rosecrest.
The Vital Principle is the first mystery in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series and features coolly intellectual Mr. Knighton Gaunt, the agency’s founder. This witty, historical whodunit in the tradition of Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice will keep you guessing until the unexpected end.
“Murder, mystery, and a dash of romance combined with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters make The Vital Principle a book that will definitely go on my keeper shelf!” —Lilly Gayle, author of Into the Darkness and Slightly Tarnished.
1.What or who inspired you to start writing?
I wrote my first book when right before I turned 7, but I think it was a combination of reading The Swiss Family Robinson and my father’s love of books. He used to read to us at bedtime, until he got halfway through The Swiss Family Robinson. He stopped at a really exciting part—I believe pirates were involved—and said, “If you want to know what happens, you’ll have to read the rest, yourself.” ARGH! Needless to say, I read the rest and not to be outdone, I wrote my own story.
Ever since then, I’ve wanted to write, it just took me a while to dig deep enough to find the discipline to do so. However, more recent inspiration came from re-reading favorites including Barbara Michaels fabulous paranormals and Georgette Heyer’s mysteries.
2.How did you come up with ideas for your books?
Honestly, I have no clue. Generally, though, I’m doing something else and I think of a character with a particular trait or background. The character grows and eventually demands his or her story to be told.
That’s how my books start. With a character. Then I work very hard to come up with a plot worthy of that character.
3.Have you ever written a regency before? Is this part of a series?
Yes, I’ve written several Regencies, and my first book published was a traditional Regency romance (Smuggled Rose) and my book, I Bid One American, actually hooked me two agents and publication with The Wild Rose Press.
Knighton Gaunt, the hero in The Vital Principle, had actually been demanding his own story for a long time. In fact, he was so insistent, I gave him a minor role in I Bid One American, first, with promises to him that I’d devote at least one story to him in the near future. He was a very troublesome bloke because not only did he want a story, he founded in Inquiry Agency and insisted that it be featured in all of my Regency mysteries. Then he said The Vital Principle was insufficient to tell his story, particularly as it related to Pru Barnard, so I had to write an additional one (Hidden Aspects) which is currently in the editing phase.
In between, I wrote several other books where Knighton, or another of his inquiry agents, were featured, so he’s bullied me into complying with his demands. So far.
4.What expertise did you bring to your writing?
Persistence. I work as a computer specialist during the day, in a tier 3/expert role. We’re the ones who get pulled into resolving issues that no one else (tier 1 & 2) can solve. The trick is that in many cases, the reason the problem is intractable is because the definition of the problem is incorrect or even nonexistent.
The ability to step back and analyze an issue to find and resolve it, as well as my programming experience, has been enormously beneficial. I truly believe many of the same skills are in play with both professions.
5.What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?
Gosh, I feel like my life’s pretty much an open book what with Facebook and all. J Perhaps, that I was a late bloomer and even later bride. I didn’t get married until my late thirties, but I’m glad I waited long enough to find the right man. And that led me to learn one lesson I think a lot of us don’t know or forget: no matter how smart you are, you can never really predict what the future holds for you, so you should never give up hope.
6.As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans?
I’ve got characters bugging the heck out of me in the Second Sons series, so there’ll be at least two or three more books there. And I have the first cozy contemporary mystery coming out in 2012, with an idea for about 5 more in that series. So I think my future plans are to keep on writing until these characters stop pestering me.
7.If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?
I love them all, so it’s hard to decide, but perhaps either Pru Barnard from The Vital Principle, or Sarah “Sam” Sanderson from The Bricklayer’s Helper. Pru is smart and has much better self control than I have, something I’ve wanted to acquire all of my life. Sarah never lets things get her down and she loves nothing more than an adventure. I wish I were more adventurous.
In many respects, my characters exhibit traits I wish I had, myself, although they are not perfect, either.
8.Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?
I’ve belonged to several critique groups. I doubt I’d be published without them. I often write something and think it is perfectly understandable, only to find when a critter reads it, that they take away something totally different—and that’s different in a bad way, not a good way.
There is no way you can write without others input, including first readers, editors, and/or critters. It’s critical to get that input.
9.When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step?
I wrote to submit it to an agent, so the thing that encouraged me was the completion of the manuscript. Although (thankfully) my crit group convinced me not to sub the first three manuscripts I wrote, so I had plenty of practice before I wrote my first novel. J
10. What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)
The best advice is the same advice everyone gives you: just write.
The worst advice has been in the form of “rules” that are patently misleading if now downright false. Particularly grammatical rules which are inaccurate. They really annoy me. My recommendation is to not listen to a thing others say, particularly about passive voice. Buy a grammar book and use it.
11. Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I have to outline. If I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish in a chapter, then I can’t write that chapters. I have to have a goal so what I create can fulfill that goal and move the story along. Without it, I get what others call writer’s block.
12. Do you have any hobbies and does the knowledge you've gained from these carry over into your characters or the plot of your books?
My hobbies have carried over into my books. I started growing old garden roses several years before I started writing in earnest. Roses and the history of rose hybridization has found it way into a number of my books. I’m also a bird watcher, and I obsess over the bird life and other natural elements in my books.
I’m always torn about the names of these things. If I use the Latin name, it may put off some readers and would seem unnatural for most o the characters to throw around a Latin name for a bird in general conversation. Even birders don’t do that.
But once you sink to common names, you’ve got a problem. They change over the years or from locality to locality. If I use the common name from the period and locality, today’s reader may believe I’ve got the bird “wrong” or not know which bird I’m referencing at all. Or the name may actually belong to a different bird today.
Okay, sorry. I’m obsessed.
13. Do you have an all time favorite book?
This is going to strike people as weird, but yes, The Haunting of Hill House.
14. Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book?
I’m editing Escaping Notice, which features Knighton Gaunt in a minor role. There are actually three main characters who collide. Each one has a different purpose, mostly to escape notice while they pursue something. The hero, Hugh Castle, Earl of Monmouth believes someone tried to kill him by sabotaging his boat and accidentally killed his brother, Lionel, instead. So Hugh goes undercover to investigate, and hires Gaunt to explore additional avenues.
The heroine, Helen Archer, lost a valuable but cursed necklace, at a ball given by the earl. She doesn’t want anyone to know she was so irresponsible, so she hopes to find a way to retrieve it without anyone knowing.
And the earl’s nephew, Edward, has run off because he wants to join the navy. But he runs into Helen, who won’t let him travel alone, and the two of them stumble into Hugh. The three then hatch a plan to begin a masquerade as servants in the earl’s home, each keeping secret his or her true purpose.
I’ve always been fascinated by perceptions, and how easy it is to be mislead by our perceptions. Often, we see what we want and expect to see. That fact is used in social engineering by people trying to gain access to things (your house or your computer) they shouldn’t. Again, you can see I’ve a mild obsession about perceptions, both false and true.
15. Your interview will be posted before spring break. Is there a family tradition or recipe you would like to share?
We used to have hot cross buns at Easter, and I still crave them, although that desire isn’t limited to the spring. But these days, I tend to have less time, so sugar-coated muffins fit the bill as a fast substitute.
2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2-½ tsp. baking powder
(Sift the 3 preceding ingredients together)
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. shortening
Mix together and bake at 350° for approximately20 minutes.
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ c. butter
Mix sugar and cinnamon in a sack or plastic bag. Melt butter and drop muffins in melted butter and then shake in the sack of sugar & cinnamon.
16. What is your favorite reality show?
17. Who is your favorite actor and actress?
I always feel weird saying this, but I don’t following actresses and actors. Individuals are good in specific movies, and I enjoy their work in movies. When the movie is over, that’s it. I don’t even want to know their “real names” per se, and I definitely don’t follow their private lives which are often simply messy and ridiculous.
18. Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?
In The Vital Principle, the black moment comes when Knighton has been unable to flush out the murderer and because of this, another person dies. It’s a terrible tragedy and one he feels should never have happened.
I can’t really say more than that without giving too much away about the mystery.
19. Anything else you might want to add?
Thank you for this opportunity and your kindness in interviewing me!
In this scene, Pru Barnard is accused of murdering their host, Lord Crowley during the séance she conducted. Inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, is not so sure, however, that she’s the guilty party, but he does think she lied about being able to speak with the spirit world.
“So you lied—” Mr. Gaunt said.
Pru interrupted, shaking her head. “No, I merely—”
“It was not the truth!” His lips thinned and anger ignited a slow burning fire in his eyes. “Her husband did not speak through you. Admit it.”
She tilted her head to one side, examining him. “Do you believe her husband did not love her?”
“I have no idea. That’s not the point.”
“Then you don’t know if it was the truth or not.” She offered, instinctively knowing the men would tear her apart like a pack of hungry dogs if she reacted emotionally. Her mind raced ahead, abnormally clear, encased in the fragile ice of logic that could shatter at any moment and leave her raging at their accusations. “And it eased the dowager’s mind. So I fail to see I did anything wrong.”
Mr. Gaunt said, “You mislead—”
“No. I told a desperately lonely woman what she needed to hear. That’s the sum of it. There are many truths. You have yours. I have mine.”
“There is only one truth.”
“Nonsense.” She folded her hands at her waist and turned partially away, unable to bear the intense scrutiny of his hard eyes. Her fingers felt stiff and icy with fear. “I refuse to discuss this any further. It’s futile. You’ll believe what you wish. If you chose not to trust me, then so be it. But regardless of what you think, I did not kill Lord Crowley.”