Interview with Ms. Anne Cleeland, Author of “Murder in Thrall”
Ms. Cleeland holds a degree in English from UCLA as well as a degree in law from Pepperdine University, and is a member of the California State Bar. She writes historical fiction set in the Regency period as well as a contemporary mystery series set in New Scotland Yard. A member of the Historical Novel Society and Mystery Writers of America, she lives in California and has four children.
To get your copy of Murder in Thrall, please visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble, her website, or click the book cover below.
MP: Do you have a philosophy for your writing career or life?
AC: I wish I was that deep, Lina! Mainly, I love to read good stories and I think if you are a reader, sooner or later to get the itch to try to write something. In my case, the stories I like best involve ordinary heroines in extraordinary situations, and so I write what I like.
MP: What drives you to write?
AC: Writing a story is the most fun thing to do in the history of the universe—especially once you’ve figured out the plot and the characters. I can’t wait to get all the other day-to-day stuff out of the way so I can get back to my little laptop.
MP: How did the desire to write begin for you?
AC: I think I’ve always wanted to write, and I’d scribble down ideas in a spiral notebook from time to time. Then comes the moment of truth when you look at yourself in the mirror, and ask, “Are you going to regret never giving it a try?” Since then, I’ve never looked back, and I encourage all your readers who are likewise on the fence to give it a try—buy a laptop and start banging out a few paragraphs. You’ll be amazed how easy it is.
MP: How much of your writing is driven, influenced by your readers?
AC: I’m a very generic reader—my tastes are probably shared by many others, and so I try to write stories that appeal to that broad audience. I love Regency adventure, like Georgette Heyer’s The Toll Gate, and so I thought I’d write a series that centers on an adventure plot. Tainted Angel is the first one in that series. I love British detective, too, which is where the idea for Murder in Thrall was born.
On the other hand, I’m not going to write a story that I wouldn’t buy myself—life is too short!
MP: Is there something that you would like to share that your readers or peers do not know about you?
AC: Up to now, my career was as a legal writer—an attorney who writes briefs. No adverbs or adjectives allowed!
MP: Who is your favorite romance/suspense writer? What draws you to this writer?
AC: For romance it’s Georgette Heyer and for suspense, it’s Mary Stewart. The reasons are the same for both; I don’t like anything too gritty, but I like an engaging plot that moves along, has great characters and good dialogue.
MP: We know that authors love all of their creations, but is there one of yours that is your ultimate favorite? Why?
AC: I suppose it would have to be Murder in Thrall, because it came out of nowhere, when I had no intention of writing a contemporary story. It was also my first full-length book
MP: Tell me more about Murder in Thrall.
AC: It’s a contemporary British mystery set in New Scotland Yard, featuring two detectives, Acton and Doyle. I loved bringing these characters to life because my favorite plot device is the hidden identity; the character who is not what they seem on the surface. Most of my books use this device.
Doyle is the female detective, but she’s not the usual tough, hard-as-nails character; she’s sweet, and funny, and a little Bridget-Jonesy. But she has a powerful tool that no one else knows about—she knows who’s telling the truth, a gift she inherited from her Irish ancestors. She is an interesting character to write because there are always two levels to any conversation—what is being said on the surface, and what she knows is the truth. It makes for some interesting dilemmas.
Acton is the much-admired Chief Inspector, but he’s a little dark. Beneath his reserved manner, he’s a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Dexter and Dirty Harry. So Doyle is an unlikely hero and Acton is an anti-hero, with Doyle acting as his moral compass (with only limited success.)
In this story, there is a killer on the loose, but he’s a paradox; he appears to be a professional assassin, but the crimes appear to be crimes of passion. Acton and Doyle begin to realize there is a personal element to his motivation; while they are investigating the killer, the killer is investigating them. Then the net begins to tighten. . .
MP: Can’t wait to get my hands on that one. Tell us about discipline in your writing career.
AC: I’m pretty disciplined in that I write every day, as much as I can. I don’t need a word-count goal, because I tend to churn out a lot of pages.
MP: I noticed you have two books coming out: Murder in Thrall and Tainted Angel, and you are working on a third and fourth book: Murder in Retribution – a sequel to Murder in Thrall and Daughter of the God-King – regency period murder mystery. Can you tell me a little more about the two books?
AC: There are two series—the stories in the Regency series have different characters every time (with some crossover references) and the stories in the mystery series are a continuing storyline with the same characters.
Tainted Angel is a Regency version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The heroine is an agent for the Crown, but her spymaster suspects she is “tainted”—a double agent working for Napoleon. Her love interest has his own dark secrets—unless his affection is feigned and he is actually setting a trap to reveal her own treason. The story offers up a compelling game of cat and mouse, as the attraction between the two spies becomes more powerful than their mutual distrust—and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Daughter of the God-King is about a heroine who travels to Egypt after her parents disappear, only to discover that various factions from the last war are desperate to find her, for reasons that are unclear.
In Murder in Retribution, Acton and Doyle are immersed in a turf war between rival gangs, and as the body count mounts, Doyle discovers the murderer is closer to home than she would like.
MP: Any words of wisdom for newbies?
AC: Be patient, and revise, revise, and revise some more. Seriously; try to keep adding layers, whether it is humor, or a running theme, or symbolism as a plot point. I never stop revising, up to the moment I turn a book in and even then, I always wish I had more time to make it even better.
MP: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.
AC: It was my pleasure, Lina, I appreciate the opportunity!
About the Interviewer
Ms. Miguelina Perez is a writer, and jewelry artist. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of the District of Columbia. As a jewelry artist one of her lariats was showcased in the San Antonio Express-News. She has won several awards including a critical Writing award for an essay on the gender roles of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
It was during her high school years at the school’s library that she first encountered her first romance mystery writer – Ms. Victoria Holt and then Ms. Phyllis J. Whitney. Her love of romance novels stems from those discoveries, especially the Romance mystery genre.
Several of her poems have been published in anthologies, and she was named “Poet of Year in 1995”. She finished her first book, The Vicar’s Deadly Sin – a Regency romance mystery, the first of a seven-part serial based on the Seven Deadly Sins.
Currently, she is editing the sequel to the Vicar’s Deadly Sin, “Angel’s Lust.” Her next project is a contemporary romance thriller called “A Hero of Her Own.”