Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare’s College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Connie won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of the Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie. You can learn more about Connie and her writing at her website www.connieberry.com.

About the book:

The Art of Betrayal is the third book in the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series.

Kate is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. She’s thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the Chinese jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI Tom Mallory searches for the victim’s missing daughter, Kate notices puzzling connections with a well-known local legend. This complex case pits Kate against the spring floods, the murky depths of Anglo-Saxon history, a house with a tragic history, and a clever killer with an old secret.

The Art of Betrayal can be purchased everywhere:

Amazon: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery: Berry, Connie: 9781643855943: Amazon.com: Books

Barnes & Noble: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Indiebound: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery | IndieBound.org

INTERVIEW:

Thank you for having me on the blog. I’ve been a writer all my life. As a child, I wrote the kind of stories I wanted to read—all with some mystery or twist (no murders). In college and graduate school, I went on to academic writing; and later, as an adult, to business writing and editing. After retiring from a teaching career, I dipped back into the world of fiction. Now, once again, I write the kind of stories I like to read—traditional mysteries set in the British Isles.

  1. How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

That’s a good question. My process so far (I’ve written four books) has varied—it’s probably still evolving. Writers are usually called plotters, meaning they plot out the whole book in advance, often in great detail, or pantsers, meaning they write by the seat of their pants, letting the characters take the story wherever they want. I’m somewhere in the middle, so you’d probably call me a plotser. I have a general idea of the story I want to write. I know most of the characters, although a few pop in unexpectedly from time to time. I begin with an idea of pacing—approximately when certain clues will drop and where twists and subplots will come in—and I usually know the ending. So I have destinations in mind, but I don’t always know how I’m going to get there. That’s where the creative process comes in. At the moment, I’m finishing the manuscript on another Kate Hamilton Mystery, and this one has surprised me. The story has changed significantly from my first conception of it. And the bad guy has changed three times. Am I evolving or devolving?

 

  1. Did your book require a lot of research?

My books revolve around fine antiques and history. Although I grew up in the antiques trade, there’s always a certain amount of research involved. What are things selling for these days, for example? And then there’s history. With all due respect to Jodi Taylor (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s), history isn’t something you make up or get wrong. People tend to throw things at you. So research is important. Fortunately I love research. Too much. If I’m not careful, I fall down rabbit holes. My research topics for The Art of Betrayal included Anglo-Saxon history, the Domesday Book, sheep farming on the Australian Outback, the sacking of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860, British folk tales and legends, and “green sickness,” an ailment apparently common among Victorian virgins. Research can be a landmine. One click and before you know it, I’m reading about Queen Elizabeth the First’s makeup routine and the Dowager Empress Cixi’s pet Pekingese.

 

  1. What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

Fortunately for crime writers, it isn’t necessary to have personally experienced everything we write about, although I’m sure my computer search history has landed me on some watch list.

If you set your books in another country as I do, though, it is crucial to have the personal experience that comes from being there—seeing the land, hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, tasting the food, listening to the language, interacting with the people.

Even before beginning this series, I’ve been traveling to the British Isles once or twice a year. The Art of Betrayal is set in a fictional village in Suffolk. I love that part of England, the heart of Anglo-Saxon culture. Last time I stayed in a fourteenth-century weaver’s cottage in a small village with a Norman church, a village store, two tea rooms, and five pubs. Once, in preparation for my second book, I wanted to know how someone could get up on the roof of a large country home. At the time, I was staying in a large country home, so I asked. Fifteen minutes later, I was on that roof, experiencing vertigo. I used that experience to write a scene.

Just before Covid hit, I was planning a trip to England. That trip was cancelled. So was the next one. Fortunately, I’ve developed sources—among them, a detective inspector, a coroner, a solicitor, and an assistant priest in the Church of England.

 

  1. Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas?

That’s hard to answer because great ideas can be found everywhere. For my current book, one of the main plot ideas came from an NPR radio broadcast of This American Life I heard in 2002 and never forgot. During the writing process, many of my ideas come to me in the shower or in the wee hours of the night. If I happen to wake up at three a.m., I immediately turn my thoughts to the scenes I’ll write the next day—or a problem to solve. Two nights ago, I woke up and started thinking about a plot hole that needed to be filled. Four ideas came to me. I got up and wrote them down because I knew I wouldn’t remember them in the morning. Then I could go back to sleep.

 

  1. Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I wish I could say I write non-stop until I have a first draft. That would probably streamline my process. Maybe one day that will happen, but it hasn’t yet. For me, writing a first draft is hard work. The fun starts once the words are on the page. Then I have raw material I can work with.

I love revision. One of my favorite quotes, mistakenly attributed to Dorothy Parker, is “I hate writing. I love having written.” That could be my motto. That’s why I begin every writing session by revising the scene or chapter I wrote the previous day. Not only is it fun and relaxing; it’s also a way to get back into the book. I was pleased recently to hear the prolific author C. J. Box say the same thing. When he finishes the first draft of a book, it’s actually probably the third or fourth draft because he’s already done so much editing and revision. That’s me.

 

  1. What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

It all depends on the critique group. Early in my writing, I was in a bad critique group. I probably should have dropped out but felt obligated to fulfill my commitment. There were three main problems. First, we were writing very different kinds of books. Some members of the group didn’t “get” what others were trying to do. Second, we were at very different levels of craft, which resulted in some members trying to rewrite the work of others. That’s never a good thing. It’s fine to point out what didn’t work for you, but let the writer solve it. The third problem was length. We’d decided in advance on a maximum number of words to submit each time. One writer refused to honor that and tried every trick in the book to add words (single spacing, narrow margins, etc). At the end, when everyone else was finished, that same writer still had 100 pages to go. We were stuck with her for another month.

If that sounds harsh, or if anyone is discouraged from seeking out a critique group, let me quickly say that a great critique group is invaluable. Years ago I attended a writers’ retreat and met a several dozen fledgling writers. We were all writing mysteries, and we were all eager to learn. Coming out of that weekend, I was invited to join a small critique group. Those writers are still my best beta readers and my personal friends.

 

  1. Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

The next in the Kate Hamilton series, The Shadow of Memory, is scheduled for publication in May of 2022. After that, I don’t know. More books in the Kate Hamilton series? Something entirely new? I have an idea for a series set in England between the wars. Time will tell.

Thanks so much for having me today.

 

 

 

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