Monday, April 29, 2024

Ava January

Ava January is a historical writer with a passion for mystery, and when she’s not found soaking up the Queensland sun with her two young sons, she can be found eavesdropping on conversations in cafes and making up entire backstories (and murderous intents) for unsuspecting bystanders. When she grows up, she’d like to be Miss Marple.

January's new novel is The Mayfair Dagger.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title of The Mayfair Dagger was the starting point for the entire story. I loved the idea of a woman in hiding, not just physically but from herself emotionally as well. Albertine Honeycombe is sweet and soft but has decided she will reinvent herself as Countess Von Dagga, a woman who needs no one and nothing (except money, one rather needs money regardless of their feelings about it). While she might fancy herself a crack detective referred to as The Mayfair Dagger, Albertine learns that changing who you are is never as easy as a mere name change. The reader begins with an idea of who Albertine might be, but that is challenged as they get to know her further.

What's in a name?

My main character is a woman who is pretending to be a married countess who also acts as a detective. Due to laws of the time she was unable to work, hold her own bank account or arrange her own accommodation so she communicates as her ‘husband’ in writing. I wanted to give her a name that could be both female and male – her husband is Albert and she is Albertine. Both referred to as Bertie.

Like Dickens, I give my awful characters awful names like Lord Grendel, named after the monstrous creature defeated by Beowulf in the Old English poem Beowulf, for no other reason than I find it personally amusing, although it does serve to remind the reader not to take the story too seriously. If the author doesn't, why should the reader? Relax and read it for pleasure, instead of aiming to review or critique.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Other than that I’d actually completed it, not very! I’ve always been in love with mystery novels and The Mayfair Dagger is a combination of everything I love - a mystery without gore and trauma, a strong sense of relationships outside the romantic storyline and a dog!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I always have a very clear vision of the beginning. For me it’s the springboard that spurs me into beginning a project. The opening scene of my stories come to me as a movie scene in my mind and once it’s really clear I begin. As a “pantser” (someone who doesn’t plan their stories) the ending often changes a number of times throughout the writing process, depending on where the characters take me! I knew Albertine would be a terrible detective and apart from a few good skills like lockpicking, she is a complete failure at her chosen profession. We journeyed together through the story to find out what she truly wanted from her life.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

My life experiences inform my characters – for instance, like Albertine I lost a much adored brother at a young age, but my characters personalities tend to be completely unique and unfold as we explore the story together. As I write humorous stories, often parts of their personalities are plot devices to add a layer of fun. Albertine’s best friend Joan, is a man crazy girl from the country which lent itself to hilarity in a number of situations, particularly as they began to be investigated by the men Scotland Yard and were supposed to be avoiding them, not seeking them out.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I lived in England in my early twenties and the history that is steeped into every building constantly blew my mind. It’s impossible to live in a building that’s centuries old without wondering how many stories occurred between the walls. Many a weekend was spent wandering the halls of grand country houses listening to audio tours. The online collections of the Victoria and Albert museum were also a source of research and constant inspiration.
Visit Ava January's website.

--Marshal Zeringue