Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Conversation with Mystery Author N. M. Scott

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with N. M. Scott
with N. M. Scott

We are delighted to welcome novelist N. M. Scott to Omnimystery News today.

N. M.'s new English village whodunit mystery is Murder on the Santa Special (Book Guild Publishing; March 2014 hardcover and ebook formats) and we recently had a chance to catch up with the author to talk about it.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about Murder on the Santa Special.

N. M. Scott: Murder on the Santa Special is mystery fiction, an old-style whodunit set in the rural England of today. The story features life on a preserved railway, in an English village.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in your books?

NMS: I generally conjure up my characters from imagination, especially for the Sherlock Holmes stories, but in my latest novel, I admit to wickedly basing certain characters on a couple of dearly loved, if eccentric, old ladies who live in my mother's village in Sussex, England.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

NMS: I shall give an example. For my next Sherlock Holmes novel, although as yet unwritten, I have already the central core plot formed in my mind's eye. For some months I jotted down various bits of random dialogue, ideas, and rough sketches. Gradually these scribblings transform themselves into set pieces like scenes from a movie so I become a sort of film director as well as simply writing down the words. This "imaginary" movie, now stays put in my mind and all the jottings, my pages of notes, although useful, no longer form the main thrust of the writing process. Writing is a magical process and I am constantly surprised by how much a story can almost write itself once you get going.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

NMS: For the fictional "Bramley Cross & Brocklehurst" preserved steam railway featured in Murder on the Santa Special, it helped to watch railway DVDs presenting real-life people and issues facing the mostly unpaid stalwart band of volunteers who keep the steam locomotives pristine.

Luckily I have had a lifelong interest in steam preservation and transport so I have a library of data and like many people have visited preserved lines.

By a lucky coincidence my mother mentioned the "sponsor a piano key competition" to raise funds for a new piano for the village hall so with a little research (the Parish magazine) this got me thinking and gave me a fresh and original sub-plot for the book.

OMN: How true are you to the settings of your books?

NMS: I live along the Sussex coast. My trilogy of Sherlock Holmes books (containing 34 new adventures for the great detective), features many towns and villages in the region along with Sussex landmarks, including the Seven Sisters and the South Downs. The setting for Murder on the Santa Special also refers to some aspects of the Sussex landscape.

OMN: If you could visit one place anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, to research a setting for a book, where would it be?

NMS: Although I would like very much to write and research a crime book during a Norwegian winter, sunny Australia comes out tops as I have many friends and relatives who live in Perth and Melbourne, and we do the long haul fairly frequently.

OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author?

NMS: My first "author pen pal" was Shaun Hutson known primarily for his bestselling horror novels and enthusiasm for heavy metal. I was amazed when he was kind enough to spend the time to answer my various silly questions and actually read a selection of stories I sent him. I received much useful advice and encouragement. Shaun was adamant that to get on in writing luck was the No.1 factor, followed by talent, and that you mustn't necessarily write novels as a means of making money. At this point in time (1980s) Shaun had written Slugs, Erebus, and Spawn and was already a big name in horror. He proved to be both extremely generous and instructive to me as a "budding author" and I shall always be grateful for those letters.

Another cherished correspondent was the ghost-hunter and author Peter Underwood who was also generous with his time in giving me encouragement.

OMN: Tell us more about the title and cover design of Murder on the Santa Special.

NMS: I am fortunate in having an extremely talented book illustrator do my covers. Murder on the Santa Special to me evokes the classic golden age of crime writing — Mansh, Allingham, Sagens, and Christie. Murder on the Orient Express is one of Agatha Christie's finest Poirot mysteries. I had for a long time wanted to write a crime novel featuring a steam train — hence the title for my book.

OMN: If Murder on the Santa Special were to be adapted for television or film, who do you see playing the lead roles?

NMS: I'd love Dame Judi Dench and Geraldine James to play the main character roles of Miss Parrish and Edie Blenchley.

OMN: You mentioned your interest in steam preservation and transport; what are some of your other hobbies and interests?

NMS: Classical music, cycling, long walks, outdoor pursuits; observation of nature: changing seasons, the weather, the lush beauty of the English countryside all feature (as with Conan Doyle) very strongly in my trilogy of Sherlock adventures and Murder on the Santa Special.

OMN: Have any specific authors influenced how and what you write today?

NMS: Conan Doyle and Stephen King were the two authors who inspired me to write — like all great authors both have the ability to create pictures with words and take you on a journey. In Conan Doyle's case, back in time to gas lit Victorian England and with Stephen King — across the Atlantic to New England, America and often rural small towns. Anyone who has read any King, particularly his earlier works say from Carrie through to Pet Cemetery knows he is much more than a straightforward horror author.

OMN: Who are your favorite series characters?

NMS: Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, Faradin, Inspector Harry Hole.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

NMS: Top 5 Books:

• Jo Nesbø – The Snowman;
• Wilkie Collins – The Woman in White;
• Dorothy L. Sayers – The Nine Tailors;
• Fyodor Dostoevsky - Crime & Punishment; and
• Stephen King – Dolores Claiborne.

OMN: What's next for you?

NMS: The publication of my next Sherlock Holmes novel, Disquiet at Albany, later this year. I absolutely love this adventure — fast paced, witty, the story took me by surprise and it seemed my trusty old fountain pen nibs got burnt down trying to keep up, so quickly did the story unfold!

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N. M. Scott was born and educated in south London, and after a career in advertising moved to the Sussex coast where he now lives and works. He maintains a lifelong interest in the history of transport, along with church architecture and, of course, the Canon of Sherlock Holmes.

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Murder on the Santa Special by N. M. Scott

Murder on the Santa Special
N. M. Scott
A Traditional English Country Village Whodunit

The sleepy village of Bramley is deep in decline: the school, cottage hospital and local post-office are threatened with closure, and the Bramley Cross and Brocklehurst Preserved Steam Railway is in desperate need of repair and extension if it is to survive.

When a benefactor in the shape of an obscenely wealthy Russian oligarch begins to transform the fortunes of the village, tongues wag about the provenance of his village-saving cash is he Mafia or self-made millionaire? Concerns abate with the transformation of the Post Office, a new maternity unit for the hospital and a completely revamped railway museum — featuring Stalin s famous armoured carriage.

But the sudden death of a passenger on the train line's popular Santa Special forces one canny villager to investigate. Elderly Miss Parrish has a sharp mind and a fearless determination, but is she really prepared for what she discovers? Print/Kindle Format(s)


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