Today I’m excited to spotlight a brand new historical murder mystery novel and the first in The Perfect Poison Murders series – The Strangled Servant!
1806 Hertfordshire – The worst held secret in town is that shy Poppy Morton has been in love with Tom since they were children. Unfortunately, Tom has long been in love with Mary, Poppy’s vivacious best friend.
When Tom proposes marriage to Mary, it breaks Poppy’s heart, But when Mary demands Poppy break his heart in return by refusing his offer for her, Poppy refuses. She won’t destroy Tom’s hopes and ruin their friendship, even if it means losing her own heart in the process.
But Mary won’t take no for an answer, and when the best friends have the fight to end all fights, Poppy ends it by shoving Mary through a glass door.
Shocked, heartbroken, and humiliated, Poppy flees. But the next day a handsome constable, Henry Dyngley, shows up at her door. A carriage has overturned on the road and a young woman’s body has been found. Poppy is the only suspect.
Will Poppy be able to prove her innocence? Or will she lose her heart again as she and Dyngley search for a killer?
about the author:
E. L. Johnson writes historical mysteries. A Boston native, she gave up clam chowder and lobster rolls for tea and scones when she moved across the pond to London, where she studied medieval magic at UCL and medieval remedies at Birkbeck College. Now based in Hertfordshire, she is a member of the Hertford Writers’ Circle and the founder of the London Seasonal Book Club.
When not writing, Erin spends her days working as a press officer for a royal charity and her evenings as the lead singer of the gothic progressive metal band, Orpheum. She is also an avid Jane Austen fan and has a growing collection of period drama films.
Interview with author E.L. Johnson:
Q: Hello! Your new novel, The Strangled Servant, is set in England in the early 19th century – is this a particular time period that interests you or did it just work very well for this series?
A: I love this era as it’s right during the same time as Jane Austen was alive and writing. It’s a crossover period between the Georgian era and the Regency, and it’s a great time to be alive, in some ways. At this time Great Britain has entered the Napoleonic Wars, so the Battle of Trafalgar had happened, and at the time women could not easily own property. Women depended so much on men for their financial security and happiness, which offers historical fiction writers a great setting in which to explore social interactions and plots. There were certain social rules at the time that were respected, and it’s looking at a snippet of time within that world that my story is set.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration to write historical fiction?
A: I start thinking about ‘what if’ scenarios, and then a character starts to form, and then a plot. So for this book, I was thinking, what if you had two girls, frenemies, who had the fight of all fights in public, and the sweet shy girl loses her composure and does something really terrible? What if her best friend turns up dead the next morning, and because of what the entire town witnessed, the shy girl is the only suspect? That’s the scenario for book one. Take an ordinary situation, and think about the implications of it happening in another era. At the same time, when writing historical fiction, you have be aware that there should be something about the time period and setting that is unique to your characters and the plot, otherwise the story could be set in the year 3000, or in the stone age.
Q: What genre of books do you tend to read and enjoy the most?
A: I read what I write, mysteries. I love a good historical mystery, especially the 1930s golden age of detective fiction in the UK like Agatha Christie, or Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries (set in 1930s New York City). At the same time I adore M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series, because they’re cozy mysteries, where you might have a character who rubs people the wrong way (but has a heart of gold) and solves crime as an amateur sleuth in a small town. I think that’s what I like most, is that you get to read and write about characters who aren’t kings and queens, they’re your neighbours putting arsenic in the tea, or hiding a body in the back garden with the petunias. The dastardly events can happen right under your nose, and that’s what I like to read and write about.
Q: What has been the most enjoyable and also the hardest parts of writing and publishing a book?
A: The most enjoyable about writing for me is creating villains that readers love to hate, and then making them the murder victims. At the same time, creating characters that start out small and shy and then see them grow over time into someone really strong, independent and admirable is really enjoyable. But I’m very character driven in my stories, and their internal struggles are just as important as the major plot ones.
With publishing, I’d say one of the hardest parts is knowing when to listen and pay attention to reviews, particularly the negative ones. I’ve seen readers rant about my characters, particularly the dislikeable ones, and I view that as a success. You don’t have to create characters that are inherently likeable, as no one is. But creating characters that are memorable, that I do care about.
With reviews, you rejoice with every positive one and the negative ones can make you question yourself as an author: did I write a bad book? Am I just bad at writing? But at the end of the day, you can’t and won’t please everyone, so you’ve just got to write that story, however it comes out, and hope for the best. And then write the next one and make it even better.