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Join Book Club Girl of the blog http://bookclubgirl.com as she welcomes Jacqueline Winspear to discuss her bestselling Maisie Dobbs series and the most recent book in the series, A Lesson in Secrets. The show is a culmination of a 4 month read-along of the entire series by book bloggers and fans that has been headquartered at http://bookclubirl.com. In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs's career takes an exciting new turn when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard's Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities, "not in the interests of His Majesty's Government." When the college's controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Richard Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote's death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance. To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain's conduct during the Great War, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei the Nazi Party—in Britain. As the storm clouds of World War II gather on the horizon, this pivotal chapter in the life of Maisie Dobbs foreshadows new challenges and powerful enemies facing the psychologist and investigator—and will engage new readers and loyal fans of this "outstanding" series (Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review).
Hello, and welcome to Book Club Girl on Air, an online radio show that brings readers together with their favorite authors. I'm Jennifer Hart, founder of bookclubgirl.com, a blog dedicated to sharing great books, news and tips with book club girls and guys everywhere. Tonight, I'm so excited to welcome the New York Times best selling author of the Maisie Dobbs series, Jacqueline Winspear, to the show. Welcome, Jacqueline!
Thank you so much for joining us.
Well, it's my pleasure. I'm glad I got through. I thought I wasn't going to be able to get through to you.
We're very glad that you're here as well. Jacqueline Winspear began her acclaimed Maisie Dobbs series in 2003 with the publication of the first book titled simply Maisie Dobbs. In that book, she introduced readers to 13-year-old Maisie who has been sent into service in the home of Lord and Lady Compton following the death of her mother. An inquisitive and bright young girl, Maisie sneaks off to the house's library nightly to read and learn. When she is discovered there very late one night, she fears immediate dismissal but instead is taken under Lady Compton's wing and set on a path to get her education. When World War I breaks out, she leaved college to become a nurse overseas but she completes her education upon her return. In addition to a formal college education, Maisie is also the apprentice of one Maurice Blanche, a man with a mysterious past who, among other things, solves crimes. As the first novel opens, Maisie is setting up her own shop as psychologist and investigator. Throughout the subsequent seven novels, Maisie investigates crimes but find the root in a lingering effect that World War I has had on the people of England. The series is absolutely wonderful and in addition to the fascinating cases with which Maisie is presented, we learn much about England during the two World Wars and indeed the world itself as it teeters precariously and what is really a fairly short-lived time of peace. As some listeners may know, since January, many of us have embarked together on a Maisie Dobbs Read-Along, reading each book in the series together, one every two weeks. Yesterday, we completed the 8th book in the series which was recently released, A Lesson in Secrets. So, we're thrilled to have Jacqueline here today to talk to us about this series that we've really lived inside so intensely over the past four months. Jacqueline, can you tell us a bit about your initial inspiration for Maisie Dobbs and did you always envision that it would become a series?
Well, the first -- this on to the first part, you know, I didn't set out to write a novel. I wasn't one of these writers that was planning to write a novel sitting there developing characters or whatever. I was actually was having a day job, a writer of non-fiction, but what actually happened I was on my way to work one morning and literally while stuck at stop light in very bad weather and very bad traffic; literally in my mind's eye, the character of Maisie Dobbs walked into my life. I mean, it was sort of like watching a movie. And, you know, and literally, she came up through Warren Street station in London out through the Turnstile, she's got to talk to a newspaper vendor called Jack Barker. She walked down the street, Warren Street, she opened an envelope and inside were a couple of keys and she went into an office and you read the first chapter of the first book, you know where that comes from. And it was extraordinary experience because by the time I got to work, I sort of had the whole story in my head and I since come to refer to that moment as a moment of artistic grace because I can't think of no better phrase to describe it. But having said that, I don't believe those moments in life happen in a vacuum, and certainly for me, I've always had an interest in the years of another integrated war between the war years. And very much those of the people of that era and the cheeky the women who came of age during that time, the women of that World War I generation, and so when I sat down to write with the book that was in my head.
And it was -- I would say around about halfway through, I thought I might have a series because ideas, scenes, conversations were coming to me that I knew were not part of Maisie Dobbs, I knew they were part of something else. And by the time I have finished Maisie Dobbs, I actually had the bare bones ideas I would say for about another five novels in my head.
Oh, that's so interesting.
You know, it was an extraordinary time for me and actually I have to confess at times it looks scary because it's almost like being a sales by characters and their lives.
It's so interesting that you say that because Julie who's one of the bloggers who was along for the whole Read-Along, she just wrote in to say, to ask if you knew the plot to the future books as you were writing it, and if so, how far out did you know? So, it's so interesting to hear that you really were inspired and had all these ideas for so many novels going forward.
Yes. I mean, sometimes when I say bare bones ideas, it was just a conversation or an image that came to mind and then I'm making notes of it. And then when I finished Maisie Dobbs, I took a long look at my notes that I've made, and I'm talking about no more than a page or so of notes, and I started thinking well, that paragraph there which describes a certain thing I don't think that has anything to do with the one in front. So, maybe that's a different book and the characters were just coming together in different ways. So, having sat down and gone through that process as thinking about, my train of thought if you will during that period of time, I was able to write this as sort of a one paragraph on each of the next five books, and this is what it's about. And then I would make -- as time went on, I would make additional notes, and I do that even now when writing and a scene comes to me that I think, "You know, that doesn't belong here" but I'm not going to ignore it. I'm going to put it to one side so I can come back to it and I'll find out where it fits.
So, yeah. So, yes I did. I wouldn't say -- I wasn't like J.K. Rowling on the bus from train from London to Edinburgh suddenly four Harry Potter's came to her, there weren't four books but I would say I had the bare bones ideas.
I'm open to a book number six.
Right. Michelle has written in to ask, were there really psychologists/investigators at this time in the UK?
They're almost definitely psychologists, and in fact, elements of psychology were being brought into investigation at that time. But I don't know if there's someone exactly like Maisie, although certainly in about 1929, the Metropolitan Police started hiring their first women detectives under the I would say the leadership of Dorothy Bishop, but if you remember also that during the early years of the last century, modern psychotherapy as we know it within its infancy. Young had written his doctoral thesis in 1904 and Floyd and Young were having their conversation and that was sauntering down to people who were working, one of them working with a shell shop in the Great War and putting a lot of those theories to the test because before that you would have psychiatrist and very much people would call neurologist and so on. But there was suddenly this new idea, the new ideas of this new -- I would say thesis of the psyche, interesting enough, which we interpreted being the psychology of the mind, but in fact, when Floyd's work is translated properly, it's actually __8:11__. So, to Michelle's question, yes, there is certainly -- there were elements of psychology being brought into the investigative process during the early years of the last century.
In each book the war and the effect that had on everyone involved is that the root of nearly every crime. Can you talk a little bit about how the war affected England in particular and how you research those sections of the book -- of your books?
Well, in terms of how the war affected Britain, and it's not only Britain, I would say it's also Britain and her colonies, and we're talking Canada, Australia and New Zealand, I mean Australia and New Zealand had just had __8:54__ day which is an event where they look back at the terrible loss they've suffered in one of the greatest defeats of the first war were __9:04__. But exactly in Britain, I would say it was a terrible shock to the nation and to people. To give you an example and for me it always comes down to what was it like for ordinary people. I remember reading one account, and this was something that I read just in magazine, a local magazine that's published. My parents live in quite a rural area, one of the local rags so to speak. And it was recounted from the diary of someone who had passed away and he remembers his childhood during the Great War -- this is a few years ago that I got my hands on this -- and he said that there was a certain day, everyday when the postman came. He said you would see the neighbors all running in and out of each others houses saying, "Who have we lost? Who have we lost? Who is gone?" And you see, it wasn't just that in a street that you lost maybe your own son who was killed, but you lost all boys that you had played with as a kid. Even in some of the tiniest villages, they lost you know maybe 100 boys and they were all lost on the same day because of the way they structure the regimens and that's a shock. That's a terrible collective shock. Britain lost 750,000 young men during the Great War and that's Britain without her colonies.
In addition, there was about 1.5 million who were severely wounded and about the official figure say 80,000 profoundly shell shocked. It was probably near 200,000 to 250,000 but you could argue that no one who goes to war comes back in the same line. And that has a huge impact on people on what you see in the streets. When I was a child -- and I was born in the mid 50s -- but when I was a child there was many ladies of a certain age who had never been married. They will miss this, miss that, miss the other, and the reason I have never married is because you know they were one of a generation of women for whom they're only had the one intention for getting married.
And that's what I look at. What does it come down to ordinary people? People like my dad who his father was a veteran of the Great War. He was shell shocked, gasp and he had severe leg wound. And for my father that meant a childhood where his father had to be taken away every now and again to the Coast because he couldn't breathe, because his lungs was so congested. A father around whom you had to be fairly quiet because a shell shocked meant he really couldn't stand loud noises. Even when I was a child, I was told you mustn't make noise are granddad.
So, can you imagine that in almost every home and people just bearing the weight of not only a war but the aftermath of war and that's I think one of the things that I consider and that is when we read history books or accounts, we say that, "Oh, this war lasted from 1914 to 1918," and we'll read for example, the first Gulf War started in 1991 and ended -- I can't remember exactly when it ended -- but there is fine nighttime. But in fact that's -- that's not how it goes because there's always veterans of wars. There's always families dealing with the aftermath of the war, and certainly in England after the Great War, that went on for years.
Right. Martha just wrote in to say that was the most heart-rending part of an incomplete revenge where the town lost so many boys in that novel and you really just -- we saw the devastation. And it was just unbelievable.
Yes. And you know I thought of that deeply when I was -- even as a child because every town, every local town, her own village, has its war memorial. And even a bank will have its own memorial to the people who died in the First and Second World Wars, people who were employees of the bank, or a factory, or post office or whatever. But I remember going to the war memorial which was in -- you could miss it, it was in the town so you saw the war memorial -- I'm looking at the names and seeing just the many, many names that were lost in the Great War and knowing also that many of them would have been killed on the same day because of the way they structure the regimen and you think of -- and also. in some cases, it was four or five boys from the same family. There's a whole notion of Saving Private Ryan. That's nothing new if you go to Britain and see almost in every city, every town and every little village that you can see that there are so many families lost all their boys and it's so sad.
And you can really understand how Priscilla is at times barely hanging on just at the mere thought of her brothers were gone and she looks at her sons and I mean whenever she gets on that state, I feel that we can so identify with that, that fear she is living with.
So, you're knowledge of the history of the war is so deep and broad. I've learned so much from the books, from the existence of the White Feather Brigade which I have never heard about to the plight of nurses during the war, the importance of cartographers and so many other things. I'm curious about whether or not you studied history at university or how much research you do into each of the novels.
I didn't study history at university. I reflect upon that and there are times when I think I wish I had. But...
I don't know how you could know more.
But you know, how much research do I do on each book? That's a very good question because what I have at my fingertips, I have a few what a base of knowledge. So, with each book, what I'm looking at a very specific aspects of the time and that might be to do with war and it might not be to do with war. So, let me give you an example for an incomplete, not incomplete revenge, let's say for __15:30__. I wanted to know some very specific things. I wanted to know about the army's intelligence core during the war. Now, that is quite separate from the Secret Intelligence Service. It was separate from Military Intelligence 5, Military Intelligence 6, the Naval Intelligence Service. The army has it 'sown Intelligence Core. I wanted to know more about that. I wanted to know more about the experience of airman at a certain point in the Great War. And also, I knew a bit about the phenomena sidekicks in the Great War and that really happened. Many people tend to have a little bit of British phenomenon that people often in difficult times will actually turn to the occult. Now, when I say the occult, I mean that which cannot be explained, the original meaning of the word 'occult', that which cannot be explained. And certainly in the Great War, there were lots of sidekicks, circle of sidekicks and medium who definitely may pay. So, the many people who wanted that one last conversation, one last touch with their son who had been killed and obviously, many were __16:50__. So, I want to find out more about that and so what I do at the absence of the book I know roughly.
Okay, there's a lot that I know about the basic history of the Great War. There is a lot great specifics, social history that I am very well aware of but then there's the specifics that I need to know more about and I go about finding out about it which maybe be in conversation with archives in different places for example, to find out more about the Intelligence Core, I turned to the historians that works in the Intelligence Core and there were some sort of going back and forth with them. And I find archives is incredibly helpful, people who work at libraries, everywhere from a drug company to the military. So often, my research now is building down in some real specifics and as you can imagine, I had to do that for the mapping of love and death, I mean the whole business of cartography which was fascinating.
Right. Yeah. It was so interesting to learn about that. Someone named Avid Bookreview has written in with the couple of questions. She wants to know, did care for the shell shocked after World War I developed in time to help that generation?
This is a very good question. In some, that might seem familiar. It's funny how history has their way of repeating itself, but frankly, the military authorities really didn't quite know what to do about the shell shock because they started to come through in great numbers. And there's part of a much deeper conversation there in exactly what do we mean by shell shock because it meant different things actually to different classes of people. There were many who suffered from a lot of shell shock, well actually almost like a percussion injury. It was to do with the sound. And there were others who it was to do with the sheer pressure of leadership and so on. But if we talk about the shell shock, it seems about many people are shell shocked because they also are suffering from a physical wound is that you can't see it. And there's those great numbers started coming through. Well, first of all, the military worried because of the situation, and so did the treasury, the __19:16__ are really worried about it because of the pension situation. We are going to be paying out a lot in disability-type pensions and what we have today called disability pension. And so initially, you would have an armband that said that you were wounded and then you would also have an S on it if you were shell shocked and they started doing way with the S. And so that if you were shell shocked and you had no other wound, you were basically sent home and you could end up in an ordinary asylum. You could end up just languishing and with no monthly support at all and they had been promised that the consequent had actually been __20:00__ to be heroes and it was very, very evident to the population that had been followed through because after the Great War, Britain was broke.
And there's only one country that made money during the Great War and that was actually the United States of America. So, Britain was pretty broke and it has an interesting in the way that these things happen, an interesting turn of event and how it impacted our history because if you -- I've talked about the women of that generation, in fact a little we've been to this answer. The women of that generation were definitely in greater numbers by the early 20s because of the number of men that were lost. They were actually confirmed to be 2 million selfless women of marriageable age. Now, if you consider then that women were getting to vote, in 1918, the women less than 30 never gotten to vote. By 1929, it was women 21 and over getting the vote. That ultimately meant that there were more voting women than voting men. Many of those voting women were looking after family members, men who could not look after themselves due to injuries sustained during the Great War and with that voting, public of women that brought Britain a National Health Service after the Second World War.
And that much of that was to do with the fact that they knew that people needed help and they knew that people needed that sort of help, and when Clement Attlee ousted Winston Churchill in 1945, it was largely due to the women's vote and his promise that there would be literally a Welfare State. It would be, indeed, a land fit for heroes. So, to sum up that question, how would the shell shock treated, in some cases, very well that there was definitely a difference in the treatment between the -- what was called -- you would call the officer class and the ordinary men, the ordinary soldiers, and very often, most soldiers would turn round as quickly as they could. Basically, they're walking and they could walk in a straight line and they could carry a gun, they would send up the line again. They needed men on the battlefield.
So, I can only imagine how terrible that type of shell shock was, and knowing someone like my grandfather who couldn't bear loud noises around him. You have to be really quiet around him because it would make him very, very, very, very uneasy and discombobulated and yet he held out a job. But I remember reading somewhere, you would have read this definitely in a __23:00__ and listening also, I listen to old audios that's been recorded. And men who said they walk the streets at night during that time because they couldn't sleep because horrors can come back -- it comes back the minute you close your eyes in the darkness and there were many who never slept at proper nights or night again after the war.
Right. I could imagine.
Well, moving on a little bit to Maisie herself. Maisie is a woman who...she really lives in between in many ways. She lives in between the classes, the class the grew up and that she was born into, the class that she sort of attends to as she gets her education, and she is also a person, a woman of her time but also ahead of her time and that she lives alone, unmarried, has a career. What was it like creating that character in a very specific historical time frame? Were you ever concerned of how to make sure it's not achronistic and positioning her properly in that sort of in between a place?
Well, one of the things that I wanted to do from my part, what it takes in my part is I really feel that developing a character is a two-way process as much as I create Maisie Dobbs so she continues to reveal herself to me so to speak. But from my part, one of the things that I wanted to do was to getting used to this language, to do right by that generation of women. I really wanted to show something of their spirit because I remember that generation of women. As I said, they were -- in a small community where I grew up, there where several women even on our street who miss this, miss that until they had never married and they were -- now, they were getting on when I was a child. But you know, I used to spend time with them and say every single one of them, there was that city of photograph on the mantle piece of a young man lost to war and I remember there was a certain character. I certainly -- I absolutely believe an archetype was born at that time, a woman who was fiercely independent because she had to be. That had taken care of her life in a very poor slight manner because she had to, there was no one to do it for her. And she was -- that woman -- you will see her in all sorts of turn up and all sorts of books, and on TV and so on. That woman, that British woman who is very fiercely independent and rather opinionated and got a heart of gold but really knows what's going on everywhere, a sort of a Maggie Smith if you will.
I wanted Maisie to reflect, not only that __26:00__if you are to use a slightly more modern word and that's fortitude but also that compassion and that almost a yearning as well to worry. That yearning that you -- you know, part of you says I can't think like that because I thought you can't go back and being British. You just have to get on with it. The part of you thinks how imaginative brain is.
And what maybe might seeing very modern, in terms of the British woman of today, those that what they call the bachelor girls at the time, seems like, isn't there. Because they were very, you know, who was going to tell them what to do because they could please themselves to a large extent.
Right. Well, I think one of the most striking and unique things about the series is also how Maisie grows and changes from book to book. She is not at all a static character. We see her move from a life largely living on her own in early books to one with more friends and eventually a lover and I think that's what I think also brings people back to the next book, that things are happening and things are changing for her. She is not staying in one place in any respect which I think really makes the novel so rich. I know one question that's come up along the Read-Along is there is a lot of curiosity about the years that she spent working with Maurice and won her apprenticeship and I have heard from a few readers that they've love to know more about this time period. Do you think we'll ever see anything about those earlier cases when they worked side by side?
Yeah. I'm glad you asked about that because for years, I mean almost in the beginning, that was something I wanted to explore but I wasn't ready to do that and here's why. I often wondered why wasn't I ready to do that? Why did I draw back from that and just wanted to see where Maisie was going at this particular time, and certainly I'm glad, very glad that I have done it in the way that I had. But at that time, Maurice Blanche, it comes down to Maurice Blanche. He's a very powerful character and almost to the point where you could say a little goes along way and I...
He is an incredibly powerful character and I wasn't sure when I would be ready to get the grips with him because if I go back to Maisie's the years -- the early years of Maisie's apprenticeship, then I'm going back to Maurice as well.
And I have to be ready to take him on almost.
I think I've...
I know it sounds like a funny language there. And it's something I wanted to do and I haven't worked out exactly how I'm going to do it yet but it's the case of...where is the case to watch this phase? It will happen but not in the next year or so.
Right. Okay. Well that's interesting and sort of leading into my question which was that the secondary characters of the novels are so rich and we come to love Billy, and Stratton, and Priscilla and her father almost as much as we love Maisie which is the real testament to the writing, and I like how a different novels they all took on different and larger roles when Priscilla said -- I think it was in The Mapping of Love and Death that she was trying to keep a Maisie notebook. I can just see it and I love the idea that she is going to maybe sort of helping her. So, that leads to the question, are you ever attempted to write more about them but have to kind of pull yourself back from delving further into their lives?
In a way, I do, that there is certain things that never end up in the books that just have to be written. It might only be a paragraph here or there. I don't know about them carrying a book on their own but definitely, I think at different times, you are going to see more different characters and all those will flip to the background.
Just like in life. There are certain people that for a time will pay a very big part in our lives and then you know maybe it doesn't mean to say they are out of their lives but they don't play the same part, one might play a bigger part, and I think that happens in life and certainly in families and among friends, those friends that you might see a lot of when they're going to a difficult phase and then you know maybe you don't see so much of them when they've got a new boyfriend or __30:29__.
Right. Speaking of boyfriend, there is a lot of chatter in the chat room about Maisie's boyfriend. Martha is wondering, when did you first decide about Maisie and James? Martha asks.
Actually in book one.
Yes. That was that -- when I was writing book one, I decided that Maisie and James, that something would happen with Maisie and James. I wasn't sure when the...
So that goes back a bit of the way and it was never the right time. It was never the right time and there was something happening really between the minds and an incomplete revenge. And so he has been back and forth, so to speak. He has been on the horizon.
Right. Well, Julie is still hoping that something happen to Stratton.
I'm not saying anything.
Okay. Well, there you go. So, let's see. I'm just going to look to some of the questions that we've gotten. Darsa just wants to say, "Please don't send Pricilla's __31:37__ off to war," I know, not realistic.
It won't be up to me I'm afraid. It will be up here to the __31:43__.
And they're very __31:45__ boy and they're like their mom. She a fine ones tool, I mean Priscilla would be a fine ones tool, wouldn't she, because she was the one that took herself off to war.
Absolutely. I had a question about the titles of your books with each one is so perfect, Pardonable Lies, Messenger of Truth, The Mapping of Love and Death. How do you cope with them, did they come to you as you writing the books or do you have them set beforehand?
It's a very organic process. I don't have to sit and figure it out for long. I've always started a book with a title in lined because to me, in many ways, the title defines the book and so I've always had title in mind. If I think of a good title, I'll even put it away somewhere. I think it was -- which one, oh, An Incomplete Revenge. I had that tucked away for ages. And with The Mapping of Love and Death, it just seemed so appropriate. The whole idea was knowing your way or not knowing your way and having some measure of direction through life. So, I definitely have s title in mind before I start writing.
And as I said, in a way it does define the book and it has some impact from the direction that the story takes.
And I like my titles. I really like my titles and they never change or they might be tweaked a bit, but no, they never change.
That's fantastic. Denise has written in a question about your writing process. She's wondering if you outline or storyboard or do the ideas just flow, and wondering if you make a case map and tack it to the table? Can you talk to us about what you're writing process is like?
I don't tack case map to the table. But that could have as funny person which I'm just thinking about it again today because it came about more through circumstance than through some great design. I started writing Maisie Dobbs in the early part of 2000, and as I said, I was working at that time so I wasn't getting as much time to write as I would like. And then later on that year, I sort of abandoned it because I was very, very busy. And then in early -- so 10 years ago, early 2001, it was in May 2001, May 5th, I wouldn't forget it, I had a very, very bad accident, horseback riding, and crushed my shoulder badly, broke my right arm, and I was hoping it's a very serious time spent in rehabilitation and get trying to use my arm again. And it was during the time after my third year, one of my friends said, "Now is the time for you to finish that book," and I look to her as if she was mad and said, "Look at my right arm, how can I do that?" "At least you can wiggle the left hand, haven't you?" And she's right. I'm going to finish this book with my left hand so I have something to show for myself. Now, because my right arm was completely out of commission -- I mean the structure -- I only had my left hand, and I'm not one of this people that it's greatly ambidextrous. I cannot write very well with my left hand, so I can only write big letters. And I got my husband to go to office depot, buy this great thing poster-sized post-it notes so I could write notes on them and I found that it was easier for me to draw diagrams than to actually write things down and so what I did I ended up with one diagram of the arc of the story.
And if you know anything about stats, it sort of look like the standard mean with the numeral at the top of the arc and then there's working away from it and I scribbled down the major points of the story and the major scenes. In another one of the poster-sized a post-it note, I wrote down my character's names and that's really important because I change my names about character's name. I change the name sometimes there. Someone might start off as Phyllis and end up with Lydia because as the character emerges, the name starts to jar against the characters but I have to keep track of them, otherwise I'll be racing back at the corner stat. So, has the characters and I'll write down anything about the characters. So, I'm looking at this all the time and then on my third one, I write down things that I need to know that I don't know anything about, it's my research needs, and I have kept, even though I can use my arm as well as anybody else, now I've checked to that same message. I'm sitting here in my office and I'm looking at my three post-it notes, my three poster-sized post-it notes, and in fact on one of them, I write it down, I have my right arm now, but it's still so I can look up and see it on the wall. I can see my arc of the story, I can see my research notes, I can see my character names and any other notes, they go up there.
Oh, you have to put the picture online at some point. It sounds awesome.
So, I'm surrounded by my story, I can look up and see it. I don't have to suddenly go to a little book, although I do have a little book that I make notes in, but I like to be able to just look up and say, "Huh, that's what I was going to do there" or "What was her name again?" (Laughs)
So that is my post-it and do I plan it out in great detail beforehand, no, I don't. I know my basic arc of the story but I want to allow time to dance with the moment and what that means is that it's like having a map. If you have a map, you're more likely to be adventurous because you'd always know where you're coming back to. But I don't want that to be too prescribed, I want it to be able to as another character comes that I haven't plan, I want to know why that characters turned up and that happens. What have you turned up on what is your purpose to be here, I'm going to carry on liking and see who you turn up to be. I don't want to think, "Oh, I haven't planned you. You're not going in there."
That's fascinating. I make it to the chat room over there because we have lots of questions coming in here. So, Martha wanted to know beside Maisie, who is your favorite character, if you can name one?
In my own books?
In your own book. Yeah.
I should have told between Maurice and Priscilla. I really like Priscilla. Priscilla is in a way speaking from the perspective of a writer. She's kind of an antidote to Maisie. Maisie can -- how is it -- can be rather serious at times and it's really in a way nice to have Priscilla who can come __39:09__ but couldn't save Maisie. You know, come on, let's go out, let's do this all or yes, I am having another gin and tonic and what about it. She is the -- for almost -- in some ways, the __39:24__ in other ways, she is very much like Maisie.
She is an interesting friend. So, I love Priscilla. I feel she might only be with me for a short time at the beginning, but I had to bring her back not at least because one of my arms was insistent upon it.
But I said I had to bring her back because she is a lovely character for me to work with as well.
And The Book Girl wants to know if Sandra -- if we'll see more of Sandra in future novels?
You know, I think you will. I think you will. I like Sandra and I wanted to bring her back and I have my reasons for doing so. So, I'm not __40:06__ going to say about that, but you will probably be seeing more of Sandra.
Because she's going to a bit of tumultuous time right now, but you're going to see more of her.
And The Book Girl is also wondering if there was a college at Cambridge that was dedicated to promoting, to establishing world peace as there is in A Lesson in Secrets?
No, that is completely fictional, college.
Okay. So, some other questions are coming in about what mystery series do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite authors?
That's a good question. I go in and out of different series. I mean a few year ago, not a few years ago, 10 to 15 years ago, I read everything I could lay my hands on the Jonathan Kellerman had written because I think it's because I have a bit of crush on Alex Delaware actually. And then I obviously read a lot it with George. He will always come up with a wonderful writer to read, PD James. I'd like a very short series by Rennie Airth for example, A I R T H, that was insisting to me. But I have spent so much time reading non-fiction these days that I tend to dig in and out of now individual novels or often a series, although when I get into a series, I want to read everything now, immediately. But I think you know I look don't back at some of the real classics. I mean I love PD James very much, really enjoyed, really, really enjoyed her work. [Crosstalk] And some other...Sorry.
__41:53__ we've enjoyed about reading the series in such quick succession many of us and many people here have been reading them over the years so the spot that I have to wait now a year. Correct? Is it going to about a year before the next one?
It will indeed. You know, there's another author that I -- she's not a mystery author per se that it grieves me that she hasn't written anything for a few years now and that's Susan Howatch. I love her I think its called the Starbridge Series, and the series about some _42:25_ healing center because although there were mysteries as such, I felt the book was something to really, in many ways, something to inspire you in the way that she combined scholarly research with wonderful storytelling and to present highly commercial fiction and a very, very, very engaging, especially the...if anybody could make the church on England compelling deserves -- I'll take my hat off to them if you really did.
Doris had written in to ask, do you always have an idea for the theme of the book and then do you research or have you ever come across some aspect in your research and then written a book around it?
Let me think about that. Have I come out with anything in my research and written a book of it? Well, that's a good question because as I explained for example there's a little clip on my website where I am speaking about the origins of The Mapping of Love and Death and with that book, and I would say with every book, the story comes together. It's almost like they are two or three things that come together to create a story and sometimes it's something I've read, sometimes it is something I've found out, sometimes it is something in my background or whatever, and none of those things could create a story on their own. One thing is like the kindling and spark comes a long to create the fire. So for example, take The Mapping of Love and Death, I would say the kindling was my interest and curiosity about the whole notion of being missing, being missed to just missing in the Great War. You go to the Great War back with villages as I have several times and you see the endless memorial for to the missing and this take the Menin Gate Memorial, 54,000 names there missing, be me tens of thousands of names, time got tens, all these people, men that were missing, their parents or their loved once received cards saying missing, presumed dead. In another place, there will be a gravestone, a marker saying a soldier of the Great War known unto God and you know that the person that's down although remains down there corresponds to the name up there because the dog tags disintegrated, never __44:59__. And so the whole idea of being missing, I thought about that a lot from not only what it meant to the families but from you almost __45:11__ like a point of view. What does it mean to be missing?
And I kept thinking about that and I knew that one day I would write about it but I didn't know how. And then a few years later, a couple of years later, my husband read an article in a local paper and he said you should read this, it's really interesting. And that article was in fact the reprint of a letter that had been sent to the local paper. And it'd been written by a gentleman who _45:42_ with the whole story but he is involved with trying to identify the remains of soldiers that were unearth in the Great War battlefields and that is even today found as well be digging a field and suddenly they will unearth the remains of the World War I soldier. And there was this one particular soldier that there was enough evidence to suggest that he might have had some kind of link to Santa Barbara and that fascinated me. And I corresponded with this gentleman and tried to see if I could help to identify this young man and of course there was nothing that could be done but at some point in that deliberation, in my mind as a storyteller, Michael Clifton was born.
And it come from that notion of what does it mean to be missing.
And then Michael Clifton as a cartographer. And this young man as you might what have been a cartographer and the idea that you could be a cartographer, you could be a man who makes maps and you're missing. What does that mean? And so that's how that seem come about. So to answer that question, again a recap, what it is that never one thing that makes a story. A story comes about from the alchemy between two or three different influences, sometimes four influences.
Right. That was fascinating. We know that you're working on the 9th Maisie Dobbs book now and I know that we've just pound you from what's going to happen next but is there anything you can share with us about what's in store for Maisie?
Right. Let me think about that. You know, this one probably won't have so much of a link to the Great War. We're looking forward a little bit more and in fact, let's just say it's a little bit about horses. That's all I'm going to say.
So, several people have also written in to ask another question I have as well is will there ever be a movie or a TV series based on the books that you know of?
There is nothing in the works at the moment. The books had been auctioned a couple of times that the truth is it actually cost a lot of money to make a historical series before you even get to sort of this principal shooting that it cost a fortune to go on location just get people to take down their satellite dishes and things like that. So it's a very expensive proposition and with Maisie Dobbs, there's a lot there and there's a lot of...there would be I would imagine a lot of location shootings. So that -- you know, it's a big proposition for any production company, but having said that, there is currently quite a lot of interest in the books but we'll have to see. We'll have to see.
Okay. Do you have an idea of cast, wish list in mind, someone's asking?
You know, over the years, I have had an idea, I do a wish list and every time I had the idea wish list, everybody -- as time goes on, everybody gets older and suddenly, the people...you can't actually put the people in the place anymore. There is a wonderful actress called Hattie Monahan who I think would make a wonderful Maisie Dobbs and she was most recently seen on the...she was seen I think a couple of years ago on the most recent television production of Sense and Sensibility, not the one with Emma Thompson, that was the movie.
But this was a television production of Sense and Sensibility and she played Elena and she had so much emotion just with almost the flick of one eye. Just a wonderful, wonderful actress, an incredibly versatile actress as well. So, she...you know, depending on if it ever happens in the next three or four years, she will be my first pick, but you know what, it's nothing to do with me. As a write, you have as much say in this sort of thing as we don't have a lot of say, put it like that.
It's out of your hand. It's out of your hand.
Alright, because of the vast attitude you can possibly have.
Yeah. You know, it's a different medium, it's nothing to do with me. I'll just cross my fingers and hope they make a good show of it.
Absolutely. And then I just want to make sure we answer all the questions we have in here. Darsa wants to know will Billy ever go to Canada or do you feel he needs to stay a major part of Maisie's immediate world?
We'll have to see.
Okay. I think that's what happened.
I can't give a definitive answer on that one. I'm not sure yet.
You know, he is very dog eared about this. He believes that the best place in his family is somewhere other than Britain.
And you know, he is not...we don't know yet, we don't know.
Right. Well Martha just wrote in to say that she just looked up Hattie Monahan on the internet and she agrees that she would be a very good Maisie, so you have at least one vote of agreement there. So Denise wrote in...(cross talk) I don't. I knew they were all rushing to IMDB as you're answering that question. Denise wrote in to ask, have you ever thought about writing a book about something else other than Maisie or a different time period?
Well absolutely. Absolutely, and in fact I've got a couple of things on __51:33__. One that I hope to finish later on this year actually which is actually set in the second World War and there is another one that's a bit more contemporary which I...but the thing is that I have to write a book of year and I'm not one of these people that, you know it takes me a lot to write a book of the year. There a lot of background work that I do for my work and I do a lot of thinking but it doesn't leave a lot of time to do other things but I do have a, as I say another novel that I'd like to finish this year that is set to the most part of the second World War. And then there is another one that's more contemporary that I think I'd like to probably get into, maybe I'll have time to go into it next year.
So I have finished a few other things and I've written some essays that have been published and some short stories last year. And I got another short story coming out next year which is coming out in a compendium, the collection of stories, actually about Sherlock Holmes, or inspired by Sherlock Holmes.
So that will quite fun.
Oh yeah, we have to look for that.
What this place and then also there's another book which is being published which is a series of essays by writers on animals they've love and lost, it's called Cherish and that's just being published and I wrote about my dog.
Oh, okay. I have to look for those.
It's fun to do other things.
Right. Martha has written in, and thank you Martha for reminding me because this question got lost in the chat. She loves learning the cockney slang and she looked up so many words but she wasn't sure if she understood what you meant when you say when you and Maisie -- when Maisie and Triton would say that the caf�� that they met at was really more caf than caf��. Can you explain that?
Okay. Yeah. The caf is at first sort of a working class way of referring to a caf��, cool with the caf.
You know, people didn't know their own accent, you know so it would be a caf�� but so you'd call it a caf and in fact there was very much in the old days that's what people would call a caf��. We'd call it the caf. And so there was very much this sense that...there was a slightly, the smaller things that you can instinctively know that you're British but how to explain that a caf was very much of a place where not...I mean wasn't Starbucks but a stop. It was more of...it is sort of place where you get tea from the urn and if you ask for bread and jam, you don't get a little piece of butter on the side and jam on the side. It's already spread for you. I mean when I was first working in London, there where lots of cafs and they were pretty down to us. I'd go in in the morning and I'd ask for my hot chocolate and my croissant with marmalade, and literally, the guy would chop it open and slap in the butter and marmalade, stick it in the paper bag and make me a hot chocolate and being to go and you know there were no __54:44__. You're just waiting to get your food. And something that was caf, let's what you call your caf which usually pretty down to a...I mean it wasn't dodgy but is pretty down to basic tables. I it wasn't...don't get the picture of a nice little French caf��.
It's fun. Although you could post caf��. Some people was a little bit more up scale that the caf is somewhere a bit like a greasy spoon, what we call the great view, is out of town. It's not very American. People don't know that term. The greasy spoons is somewhere that you call a greasy spoon is just where you go to get your basic cup of tea and some bun or something. An ordinary place, nowhere __55:28__.
Okay. Great. The book Carol has written in to ask do you already know, another want to ask this question, but do you already know how the series will end and in what time period? You don't have to tell us how but...oh, you do. Okay.
I actually know the very last scene in the very last book.
Oh...you're killing up here.
Yeah. Yeah. But you know, don't worry, there's a way to go yet.
That's right. Okay. Well, we're very glad to hear that. Jacqueline, this has been so much fun. I think we could talk for probably three or four hours. I've just -- I had such a wonderful experience reading these books as I did back to back. It's just been, oh my God! It made this winter so less dreary than it was and...
Whoa, thank you.
And we just all had such a lovely time and it's has been so great to talk to you and be able to get all this insight into your writing process and I hope that you will come back next year when the 9th novel is published and then we can talk again.
I would love to, I would love to, and I'm sorry that little confusion at the beginning because I was hearing some clicking and I thought gosh, can anybody hear me?
I'm sorry about that as well.
No, it's been great. It's been great listening to the...hearing the questions and I'm just so glad that everybody's cued in and listening, it's great, it's wonderful.
Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining us.
You're welcome. Thank you.
The most recent book in the Maisie Dobbs series, A Lesson In Secrets, is just out in hard cover and the previous seven books are all available in paperback and all the titles are of course available at e-books as well. You can visit Jacqueline's website at jacquelinewinspear.com for more information and you can find her on Facebook, too. Thank you to everyone in the chat room who joined us tonight. This has been such a fun show. Please join us again next week, Wednesday, May 4th, when we welcome Dorothea Benton Frank to discuss her new book in paperback Lowcountry Summer. You can see a complete schedule of upcoming shows on bookclubgirl.com and you can follow Book Club Girl on Twitter and Facebook as well. Good night.
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It's good to talk.