Debbi Mack interviews mystery author Daniella Bernett on the Crime Cafe podcast.
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Debbi: Hi everyone. This is the Crime Cafe. Your podcasting source of great crime, suspense and thriller writing. I am your host Debbi Mack. Before we get started, I’d like to mention that you can buy the Crime Cafe Box Set and Anthology, as well as Crime Cafe merchandise on my website. Just go to debbimack.com and click on “Crime Cafe” and look for the buy links. And while you’re there, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. Thanks! Now I’d like to introduce my awesome guest who’s just released the third novel in her mystery series. It’s Daniella Bernett. Hi Daniella, I’m so glad to have you on today.
Daniella: Hi, hi Debbi. I’m glad to be here today too!
Debbi: Awesome! Well, let’s talk about your series. Even though, strictly speaking it’s the Emmeline Kirby/Gregory Longdon Mystery Series, I see Emmeline as a very strong and independent female protagonist. Do you think of her as the primary protagonist of the two?
Daniella: Yes, I do. Yeah, she is definitely the primary protagonist. Emmeline is a journalist, so she’s inherently curious about many topics. So, of course murder would intrigue her and she would want to see that justice is done and to ensure transparency and she’s also a bit reckless, which gets her into trouble a lot of the time. But, I have Gregory there who’s a jewel thief. He balances it out. He’s on the other side of the law, so who better than the criminal to know how a fellow criminal’s mind works. And yet the two of them do have similarities because for Gregory he’s a gentleman and murder is not the done thing. So, of course he cannot let a murderer go free. So, in that sense, they are similar and their paths cross and they work together to see that justice is done.
Debbi: And of course they’re both a little bit attracted to each other; more than a little.
Daniella: Oh, yes well they do have a past. They are former lovers, but in my first book, Lead Me Into Danger, they hadn’t seen each other in two years and Emmeline literally runs into him in Venice after she witnesses two men tried to murder a fellow colleague of her. And then they become embroiled in a chase for a Russian spy in the British Foreign Office and so on and so on and things take off from there. The first book, Lead Me Into Danger, takes place in Venice and London.
Debbi: Those are exotic places.
Daniella: Yes. In the second book, Deadly Legacy, which is about a hundred million dollars in stolen diamonds, and murder of course. That one takes place entirely in London. And then my new one, From Beyond the Grave, which just came out, it takes place in Torquay, in Devon which is along the English Riviera.
Debbi: Wow! You pick some very interesting spots to set your stories. How do you choose the locations?
Daniella: Well, first of all, I’ve been an Anglophile since I was a little kid, so England, anything about England always attracted me. So when I started writing my stories, of course my characters had to be British, they had to take place in England or in the British Isles. So, that’s why they take place in Britain.
Debbi: In Britain. And how did you choose Venice or the other place?
Daniella: Venice, well Venice is, aside from London, Venice is one of my favorite cities. I adore Venice! I’ve been there several times and I simply love it and Venice itself has its own history of intrigues; political intrigues and Machiavellian machinations and so forth. So, naturally that fit in quite well with my storyline.
Debbi: [agrees] Where do you see Emmeline and Gregory going? Can you give us a hint of where they might be heading in future books?
Daniella: Well, to start, let’s take it from Beyond the Grave, which is the book that just came out. Emmeline is, you know, she hasn’t seen Gregory, but now she’s been involved with him in the first two books and she’s leaning towards him again. Her feelings are being rekindled again, but she can’t quite trust him. That’s why she went to Torquee for a holiday to try and sort out her feelings and so on. But, who should turn up in Torquay, but Gregory.
Debbi: Who else?
Daniella: Who else. But not only does he show up, he brings all his past secrets and one by one they keep tumbling out and of course there is a murder or two involved in Torquee. But as for your question, well, you know, there are tensions, there’s back and forth but you know, if readers are pulling for them, continue to pull for them, but I’m not going to give too much away about their relationship, so that readers can see how things progress.
Debbi: Well, it’s intriguing. I love their relationship. When I read Deadly Legacy, I thought Gregory is such a great foil for Emmeline. Emmeline is…you’ve had something of a journalistic background, correct?
Daniella: Yes, my degree is in journalism so you know, they always say write what you know. So, I hadn’t been a journalist but I did write, I did lots of writing in school in the newspaper and such, so picking a journalist was for me a natural thing because as I said before, a journalist is inherently curious about things and wants to follow up, wants to know the why; why did something happen. So, that fits in well with the sleuth.
Debbi: Yeah, absolutely! I was going to say being a journalist gives you the perfect excuse to ask questions and investigate.
Daniella: Oh and Emmeline asks lots of questions and again that’s why her questions often rankle people and get her into trouble. To round out my ensemble, there’s Chief Inspector Oliver Burnell and Detective Sergeant Jack Finch who represent the law and all its gravitas and Gregory and Burnell have a cat and mouse relationship. Burnell is always after him but he can never quite catch Gregory, even though he knows for certain Gregory is guilty of so many crimes.
Daniella: But again, that’s another aspect of it. I have the professional sleuth against the amateur sleuth to show the different sides of how cases can be solved and how the two interact and work together to ultimately solve the crimes.
Debbi: So, you have kind of a triangle going there between the law, the outlaw and the investigator.
Debbi: The amateur investigator…
Daniella: Yes, and Chief Inspector Burnell has a soft spot for Emmeline. You know, normally the police and journalists, there is a tension there, but he has a soft spot for Emmeline and the feeling is mutual. But of course he’s too gruff to actually demonstrate that. But sometimes it peeks through that he has a soft spot for her
Debbi: Is there anything of a romantic tension there that could come out in later books?
Daniella: No, in terms of Burnell, No. The romantic tension is solely between Gregory and Emmeline.
Debbi: Ah, OK. I couldn’t help but notice that you’re from New York. I’m also from New York, from New York City.
Daniella: Oh, well I’m a native New Yorker. I grew up in Queens. I work in Manhattan, so yep.
Debbi: I’m from Queens also.
Daniella: Small world.
Debbi: Wow! But you’re a self-described Anglophile and actually I’m something of an Anglophile myself these days. How did that come about for you?
Daniella: Well, as I mentioned before, I’m a voracious reader and I’ve read a lot of books that took place in England and I’m a devoted Masterpiece Theater and mystery fan, so that’s how I became an Anglophile since I was a little kid.
Debbi: Hmmhmm. Since you were a little kid, so were you a fan of The Avengers I have to ask?
Daniella: I’ve watched a few Avengers, but I didn’t really…I wasn’t really, I didn’t watch that show too much. But other shows I did like The Saint with Roger Moore and a whole host of other ones, and like all the British comedies on PBS.
Debbi: Hmmhmm. Yes, yes. I’m trying to think of one. Have you…Are You Being Served?
Daniella: I saw a couple of those. That was…I’m not too fond of that one.
Debbi: Really? That one makes me laugh like crazy. I don’t know what it is about that one. But, what writers have most inspired your writing?
Daniella: Well, the writer that inspired me the most was Agatha Christie. I started reading her when I was a little kid and I just…I devoured all of her books. I admired her skill in dropping little red herrings and leaving it up to the reader to put them all together to figure out the puzzle because for me, in terms of mysteries, of course the character is primary but the puzzle is what intrigues me. You know, I don’t need to know how many blood and guts have been spilled. It’s the puzzle and how the author leaves the clues for you to put them together to figure out.
Debbi: Hmmhmm. Yes, I can understand that. Are there any other writers that you have found particularly inspirational?
Daniella: Emma Jameson is wonderful. Her…she has two series, The Lord & Lady Hetheridge series, which is about two Scotland Yard detectives and she has another one, Dr. Bones, which takes place in World War II in a little town in Cornwall. And then some of the historical ones like Tasha Alexander, Charles Finch. I’ve read a number of Elizabeth George too, and Tracy Grant. In terms of more spy thrillers, Daniel Silva is one of my favorites.
Debbi: I was thinking there’s one about Jacqueline Winspear. Do I have that correct?
Daniella: Oh, yes! I read a couple of her books as well. She’s very good. Tessa Arlen is another one that I enjoy. Oh, and the D.E. Ireland books, which are the Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle series. That’s another wonderful series, yeah.
Debbi: You go for couples [laughs].
Daniella: Well, yeah it’s different because it’s different in certain cases but I mean that’s the, either you have a man and a woman, they think differently. In my series, you have a journalist who is always after the truth. You have Gregory who’s the jewel thief who is on the other side of the law. They both bring different viewpoints. But on the other hand, they are similar in the fact that murder is not the done thing and the crime must be punished. So, you have similarities, you have differences but in the end they work together from different viewpoints to solve the crime.
Debbi: Yes, that makes sense and that way you get the conflict as well as the common desire to figure out the puzzle.
Debbi: Well, that’s very interesting. I understand you like to travel.
Daniella: Yes, I like to. I’ve traveled a lot. That also for me it’s like, I love meeting new people and cultures and learning about them and traveling different places also provides inspiration for me. It’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful way to broaden your mind and give me inspiration as well.
Debbi: I agree. I love traveling. I assume you’ve been to England.
Daniella: Oh yes! I’ve been to England several times and other parts of the United Kingdom as well. You know, Scotland, Wales, Ireland. I’ve been to a number of places. I love it! I love Venice too. Venice is one of my favorite cities.
Debbi: Venice is quite a place. I particularly loved Rome.
Daniella: Rome, of course how could you not love the Eternal City?
Daniella: For me, Venice has a special place in my heart. It’s a watery world of enchantment. It’s unique.
Debbi: It is.
Debbi: Very much so. Yeah, I would love to do more traveling outside the United States.
Daniella: Yeah, it’s nice. But I also have a day job so you know I have to squeeze in; you know I have only a certain amount of vacation per year so I have to plan for it carefully.
Debbi: Absolutely! Well it’s nice to think about places to go and what you can do on those days off.
Daniella: Oh yeah! Yes, exactly.
Debbi: Let’s see. What else? I was going to ask you if Emmeline and Gregory were adapted to TV or film, who can you see playing them?
Daniella: That’s a tough question. Let’s see; very difficult. For Gregory, I think, I think Rufus Sewell would make a good Gregory, and in terms of Emmeline, that’s a little bit harder but Lily James. I think Lily James would make a good Emmeline.
Debbi: I noticed you write poetry.
Daniella: Yes I did do two collections. I’m actually, I wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid, and I actually started, when I was in school, doing short stories and they were mysteries and other types of stories. And then when I graduated from college in the few months before I found my first job, I wrote a mystery novel and my first job was at Penguin, the publisher. And one day when I was there, I got up the courage to show it to one of the editors and she actually read it and she said it was better than a lot of books she gets from first time writers, but I had to think more in terms of a series. So, I revised it and then I started sending it out to some agents and I kept getting rejections and so on and then I said, you know what, I’m going to chalk this up to a good exercise. And then I started focusing more on my poetry and that’s where my two poetry collections came out. And then after that, in all that time, the kernel of the idea for the Emmeline and Gregory series kept swirling around in the back of my mind and then one day I said, you know, it finally crystalized, I’m going to start. And the result of that was Lead Me Into Danger, the first book.
Debbi: Wow, that’s fantastic. It’s funny how things just sort of do that. You know, you’ve got a seed of an idea, it’s like a pearl. It’s sitting there and it kind of grows and accretes.
Daniella: Yeah, it’s like a little whisper that keeps, in the back of my mind. It’s kept there, it’s like going over and over and then finally one day, you know it’s like the little light bulb pops on, on top of your idea, like that’s it! Then I started.
Debbi: That’s it. Yeah. It’s funny; I remember the first time I tried to write a novel is when I was a little kid. I was reading Nancy Drews back then.
Daniella: Oh, yeah. I loved Trixie Belden. I love Trixie Belden. I don’t know if you read that series.
Debbi: No, I haven’t actually. But I’ve heard of it. But, I sat down and wrote one chapter and then I thought, where do I go from here [laughs]. That’s always the hard part; the plotting.
Daniella: Yeah, for me, I know a lot of writers outline. I don’t outline, but I do like to plan the books in my head before I start writing the story. And of course, you know, I change things along the way, but I like to have that basic skeleton of the plot to follow.
Daniella: I can’t…I know some people just start writing, but I can’t do that. I like to just have that basic idea in my head before I start.
Debbi: Exactly! I can’t do that either. I can’t just write and just see where it goes because I’ll end up just going off on a tangent [laughs]. It’s like who did it and why did they do it and how am I going to plant clues.
Daniella: Right, because the planting of the clues, that’s a very important process.
Debbi: It is, yes [laughs]. Kind of like you can’t have a mystery without clues.
Daniella: Yes and then the red herrings of course. Those are just as important.
Debbi: Misdirections, unreliable witnesses, things like that; all that good stuff.
Daniella: Yes, exactly.
Debbi: Well, I’m so glad you were able to be on the show, and I’m so glad I was able to get you on the phone [laughs].
Daniella: Yeah, no and I really appreciate this. It’s delightful to share my work with somebody new and with others. I hope people will dip into my work. If people want, I have a website it’s daniellabernett.com. I’m also on Facebook and Goodreads, so people can follow me there or send me a message. There’s an e-mail address on my website so you know, feel free to send me a message. I’d be delighted to hear from people.
Debbi: Fantastic! Well, sounds like we’ve got it all wrapped up then.
Daniella: Ok, well thank you again; lovely talking to you.
Debbi: It’s been wonderful talking to you too, Daniella. And before I close out, I’m just going to remind you to please go to the Crime Cafe, to my website, where it says “Crime Cafe”, click on “Crime Cafe”. You’ll find the buy links for my book, as well as merchandise and where you can sign up to get the podcast. So, with that I will simply say thank you very much for listening and I’ll talk to you in two weeks.
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