Today I’m delighted to welcome crime author Juliet B Madison back to Authors to Watch to talk about her new DI Frank Lyle novella Old Sins Cast Long Shadows.
JULIET: Thanks Tricia, it’s always good to be here.
I understand that Old Sins Cast Long Shadows deals with an important aspect of the main DI Frank Lyle Mystery Series story arc.
JULIET: That’s right Tricia. All the DI Lyle Mystery series characters are important to me and sometimes things happen in their lives outside of work that are way too important to be diluted by a main novel.
Is this story about DI Lyle himself?
JULIET: No, as a matter of fact DI Lyle isn’t in it very much. It’s about DS Thomas Fox, who has had a bit of a rough time recently, what with nearly dying in Best Served Cold and having to confront an unpleasant memory from his past in A Winter Murderland. Thomas learns something that will change the way he sees himself forever and we also finally find out the truth about what happened the night of the fire in which his parents died. This event is often hinted at throughout the series, but never been fully explored until now.
Do you feel bad putting your characters through the emotional wringer so to speak?
JULIET: Not at all, because such events shape and mould character. They discover their strengths and limitations. None of us would learn anything in life if we didn’t experience bad times. To use a quote from Cora, Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
How do you think the characters in the DI Lyle series view death, which is amazingly still a taboo in the Western World of the twentieth century when the series is set?
JULIET: I think that the DI Lyle series police characters have a grudging respect for death, because they professionally deal with the physical aspects of it on a near enough daily basis. However both DI Lyle and DS Fox have had more personal close encounters in Unholy Alliance and Best Served Cold respectively. As Coroner, Dr Barry Fox is slightly more removed, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t emotionally affected by death in both his professional and personal life.
Does DS Fox return to his Ashbeck CID duties in Old sins cast long shadows?
JULIET: No. DS Thomas Fox will get the medical all-clear to return to duty in the next full length DI Frank Lyle novel Dead on Arrival, as will Desk Sergeant Timothy Harding.
How did you come up with the title for this novella?
JULIET: I initially thought it was a quote from the Bible; it certainly sounds like it should be. However I am reliably informed that it is an Irish and Danish proverb.
Did you have to step outside your comfort zone while writing this story?
JULIET: Yes, quite a bit in this one. I had to write about the feelings a woman might experience when she learns she cannot have a child of her own. I also touched on surrogate motherhood, which is a rather controversial topic in some quarters. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have no ambitions towards motherhood myself so it was quite tough trying to approach such a topic with sensitivity. It was really hard trying to imagine wanting a child almost at any cost, when I have never experienced such a desire. The Chanel fragrances eau de baby puke and eau de shitty nappy/diaper just don’t do it for me and I make no apologies for that either.
In what way is this story different from, or similar to, previous DI Lyle stories?
JULIET: The fact that It isn’t centred on a police investigation and DI Lyle himself isn’t really in it much are two things that make it different. The multiple first person POV and the shifts to different time periods can be found in all DI Lyle books and stories.
Can you give us a brief excerpt from the novella?
JULIET: It was tough finding an excerpt which doesn’t contain major spoilers, but this comes from the prologue which takes place in December 1966. Please note that in 1966 you had to be twenty-one to marry without parental consent in the UK.
Sylvia Fox looked around the austere hospital ward. The grey lino and magnolia walls only added to her darkening mood. Tears slid down her pale face. Why did life have to be so damned unfair?
Her husband had gone to get himself a cup of insipid hospital vending machine tea. She forced a smile; under trade descriptions legislation the stuff could barely be called tea. She loved Barry dearly and wondered how they were going to cope with the future; a barren future devoid of the experience of motherhood.
Barry was a doctor and a good one. Sylvia had waited with anticipation while he was away at medical school in Edinburgh. It had been hard for them both to abstain from carnal relations, but Sylvia’s strict upbringing meant she would not countenance the idea of sex before marriage and, although Barry did not share her convictions, he respected her decision. After all the mothers of children conceived outside of wedlock were still judged harshly even in these so called enlightened times. During his medical training Barry had seen far too many young women scarred for life after resorting to back street “doctors” to rid them of their shame. He had married Sylvia six months after qualifying and gone into General Practise in Ashbeck. It was his first step on the ladder that would one day lead to him becoming Ashbeck’s District Coroner, but he had no major ambitions in this direction as yet. He wanted to get a few years medical experience under his belt and a few years of family life; the last had been dealt a severe blow the previous evening.
A nurse came into the ward.
“Are you alright Mrs Fox?” she asked.
“As well as can be expected,” Sylvia sighed and, to her horror, burst into floods of tears. The nurse handed her some tissues.
“I can’t even pretend to know what you’re going through, Mrs Fox. I’m not even old enough to get married without parental consent yet. Mind you I’m too busy for boyfriends and all that anyway.”
“Don’t wish your life away, it passes fast enough.” Sylvia said.
The nurse took Sylvia’s temperature and blood pressure, recording the details on the chart hung at the end of the bed before moving on to the next patient.
Sylvia felt so incredibly forlorn. She had wanted to give her beloved Barry a child, ideally more than one. She herself had been an only child and would not have wished that loneliness on anyone.
Does this story offer us insight into characters that have not been previously explored in the series?
JULIET: Yes, this story looks at Ashbeck District Coroner, Dr Barry Fox, and his respective relationships with his identical twin brother, Matthew, his wife, Sylvia, and sister-in-law Yvonne. At this time though Barry was not the Coroner, just an ordinary family doctor or General Practitioner (GP) as we call them in the UK..
How do you relax when you’re not writing?
JULIET: Lots of ways. I enjoy reading, spending time with friends, mucking about on Facebook and watching a good TV drama like NCIS (I have a thing for Agent Gibbs aka Mark Harmon).
Where can readers get their hands on a copy of Old Sins Cast Long Shadows?
You can learn more about Juliet B Madison and the DI Frank Lyle series at the following links: