Exclusive Interview with Rhys Bowen
Rhys Bowen stands alone after success in series storytelling.
(Perennial bestseller Rhys Bowen recently made time to indulge some curiosities regarding her new standalone thriller, In Farleigh Field, as well as what readers can expect next in her storied career.)
TSM: What ignited your desire to write In Farleigh Field, and why is revisiting the WWII era both relevant and resonant in contemporary times?
RB: There were several reasons for wanting to write this story: as a child in the years following WWII, I was very aware of what life had been like during the war. I knew of the rationing, the deprivations, the husbands and fathers serving abroad, the very real fear of invasion. And I feel that this was the last time that people had a clear sense of good and evil. Everyone felt that evil had to be stopped or it would swallow the world, and everyone was prepared to sacrifice to make sure evil didn’t win.
And it turns out that the timing is most fortuitous. In this unsettled political climate, we want to be back in a time when we knew what we were fighting for.
TSM: This book is a standalone, whereas your others are series titles. In what ways did this change your approach to plotting and process, if at all, and did you find that there were particular liberties and/or challenges with this undertaking?
RB: I’ve wanted to write this particular story for some time and realized it would not fit into my Royal Spyness series. One cannot make jokes about such a dark time. So I realized if I wanted to write the story, it would have to be a standalone. The challenge was that both of my current series are first-person narrations featuring just one individual’s point of view. This book has several protagonists, and we jump from Bletchley Park to the English countryside to Paris. I had to make sure we could follow all the storylines and that they made sense, tied in with one another and all linked for a satisfying conclusion.
TSM: Your works are steeped in history. How do you endeavor to balance fact with fiction—and what is the role of “creative license” within your brand of storytelling?
RB: All of my novels have solid underpinnings of real history. I do a lot of reading and research and I don’t deviate from what we really know. Any real character who steps across my pages says things I know that they said or expresses opinions I know they held.
The creative license is obviously that I bring fictional people into a real scenario and have them interact with true-life figures.
TSM: You were born and raised in England but now live in America. How has this dual citizenship influenced your worldview, and in what ways does it enhance the ambiance of your novels?
RB: I think it has helped me tremendously because I know what I am writing about. I grew up about ten miles from Farleigh! And when I go home to Britain, I am an observer. I notice small nuances of class distinction, strange phrases and things that are quintessentially English. I probably wouldn’t be as keenly aware if I lived there.
And it has certainly helped me that American readers are so in love with British settings!
TSM: You published this book through Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing imprint. Why was this a good fit for the project, and how do you view Amazon as being innovative within the industry?
RB: I think it was wonderful for me that Lake Union is not the mystery imprint, but rather the women’s fiction/book club/general fiction arm and thus has opened my work to new readers.
This has been an amazing experience for me. I feel as if I’ve been nurtured throughout this whole process. I’ve worked with a private publicist and with a team who is anxious to please me and to get everything right. I feel a bit like a princess! And they have been so enthusiastic about everything. Truly a wonderful experience.
I think Amazon publishing houses are doing well because they are so savvy about marketing and promotion. They have enormous mailing lists and fan bases so that the book is brought to the attention of millions of people at once.
TSM: Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?
RB: I am so excited about having free rein to write another standalone. This one is also partially set in WWII but this time in Tuscany. One story involves a British airman shot down over Tuscany in 1944 and a parallel narrative follows his daughter in 1973 when she tries to make sense of an enigmatic letter that was never delivered. So enough of what my fans enjoy about my work (a British aristocrat and his daughter) but with some of that wonderful Tuscan scenery and food (and a murder and some bad people, of course—characters in my books always have to suffer).
However, before that book, I have another Royal Spyness book coming out in August, this one taking place in Stresa on Lake Maggiori in Italy (you can tell where I spent last summer, can’t you?). It’s called On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service and it does involve some real spying this time.
Rhys Bowen is the New York Timesbestselling author of the standalone thriller, In Farleigh Field(Lake Union Publishing)—which debuted at #1 on Amazon (Kindle). She currently writes two historical series—The Royal Spyness and Molly Murphy Mysteries; she previously wrote the ten-book Constable Evans saga. Rhys’s books have won fourteen honors to date, including multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards; they have also been translated into many languages around the world. Rhys was born in Bath, England, visited Wales often as a child, and now splits her time between California and Arizona.