Thursday, October 30, 2014

Please Welcome Mystery Author Peggy Hanson

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Peggy Hanson
with Peggy Hanson

We are delighted to welcome author Peggy Hanson to Omnimystery News.

Peggy is the author of two mysteries in her series featuring international correspondent Elizabeth Darcy — Deadline Istanbul and Deadline Yemen — and is working on a third.

In her guest post for us today, Peggy tells us more about the character and the series, and gives us a hint on what else she is working.

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Peggy Hanson
Photo provided courtesy of
Peggy Hanson

The Elizabeth Darcy series — a kind of cross-breed between mystery and thriller — features a Washington journalist who goes to various countries on short assignments. The issues she faces range from global threats like terrorism and arms smuggling to murders down the hall in the hotel. (The hybrid nature of the series made it hard to fit into a niche for several years, until publishers began to stop thinking strictly in terms of "niche.")

Elizabeth's name deliberately conjures up Jane Austen, a particular favorite of mine. Her profession has the familiar feel of my years as a reporter and correspondent for the Voice of America. The cats she meets are probably cats I have known. Elizabeth's view of life is a bit wry and ironic. She doesn't take life too seriously. So the reader is encouraged to "go with the flow" and travel with Elizabeth as she encounters unexpected situations.

The countries Elizabeth visits are dear to me, and inspired the series. The first draft of Deadline Istanbul was written while I lived in Indonesia. Deadline Yemen had its start during a tenure in India. After a space of about twenty years, I finally took the final steps to getting the mysteries published, with the help of the amazing Wildside Press and editor Carla Coupe. And great book group, and classes at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, especially ones by Noreen Wald.

Deadline Indonesia is underway but will not come out for another year because I am starting a new series, the "Mary Matthews Missionary Sleuth" series, starring my great Aunt Mary, who spent thirty-two years educating girls in Macedonia from 1888-1929. Her collection of diaries and letters, often from war years, has been donated to Mount Holyoke College, where she is listed in the class of 1885 — and where as an alumna she was awarded the Medal of Honor. The first book in that series I am calling Unholy Death on the Orient Express (there will be numerous religious figures aboard, as well as diplomats and a journalist.) It turns out I have to make all this up, as bare bones facts are all that Aunt Mary left of her journey to the unknown Orient when she was only twenty-three. The rest of the books in the series will be based on incidents and people she talks about in her diaries. I want Unholy Death to come out in time for the grand opening of the Mount Holyoke Mary L. Matthews collection next year in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Back to the "Deadline" series: Why did I choose Elizabeth Darcy as my protagonist? It was obvious, I thought. It allowed me to revisit places I had loved, to put myself on a street and conjure memories of what it looked like, smelled like, felt like. I wrote the first drafts when I had been away from both Turkey and Yemen for a long time, though I had visited Turkey often over the years. Starting in 2004, I began to revisit Yemen, too. Some of my most amazing adventures happened on those trips back, though there had been changes from when I lived there in the 1970s.

Putting the "Deadline" series into first person came naturally. I put myself into the role of my reader, and it came naturally to bring that reader along for the exploration. There are writers who know exactly what's going to happen in their plots and plan them out with care; I can only admire them and feel a touch of envy. I start on Page One with a scene that I know I will rewrite ten times, or fifty times. It's important to get started. I know Elizabeth pretty well by now, so I try to see through her eyes what is going on, why she is in a certain country, how she feels. And then I start making trouble for her!

My son Jeff has said he finds my series autobiographical. Not true! I shout. It is perhaps inevitable, at least for a novice writer, that my protagonist shares many of my values, curiosities, and approaches to life. Most of the plots have absolutely nothing to do with anything I've ever encountered — though some of them, like the terrorist honey network in Deadline Yemen relate indirectly to items you might once have found in a newspaper.

I cannot say I've ever based a character on anyone I've known. The characters come up to me as I devise a scene, we greet each other, and then they begin to act and interact, putting me in my place as an observer. And I am as surprised as they are about what might be around the next corner!

Somewhere around the third of the book, I begin to get an idea of what the plot will be, and then I start to rewrite earlier scenes to make them fit. With luck, ensuing scenes will carry on the general idea. More characters emerge as they are needed. Some come in even when they're not needed. Some will eventually have to be killed off for clarity. Some, of course, have already been killed or have "doom" written over their heads. This is a murder mystery, after all! (There have been cases, such as in Deadline Istanbul, where I killed a character, couldn't sleep, and decided to resurrect him the next day.)

Elizabeth Darcy doesn't change all that much over the series. Her situations change around her. She comes in contact with new people in each book, though occasionally a character from a previous book will make an appearance. Since I fooled around with the books for so long, and had so many life experiences during that time, I decided not to saddle Elizabeth with a definite age. She is a woman, that's all. And when it comes right down to it, age doesn't determine what a person can experience. I have personally had adventures during varying eras of my life. I can only hope I dealt with them more maturely as I aged!

I do take liberties with facts in the "Deadline" series, but I try to be true to the actual feel of the place. For example, I needed an airport in the northern Yemeni city of Sa'da for my plot. So I endowed Sa'da with an airport. The wonderful emir's palace hotel, the Dar al Hamd, is no longer a hotel in Sana'a, but I stayed in it earlier and wanted it to play a role. What I am saying is that, while I know the countries well that I write about and most of the places described are real, the books cannot be taken as guidebooks for the present.

My life is complex and rich, both complementing the writing and competing with it. I sometimes lead groups to Turkey and I travel often with girlfriends (we call ourselves the "Turkish Delights") or with my husband, an international economist. I have four children and six grandchildren. I have two lively cats. Our house is full of books and oriental carpets. Woops, getting off into other interests!

In short, I am a mystery writer and an exceedingly busy 74-year-old with not a moment to waste. So much to do. So little time. And so much joy in doing what I love, which almost always includes writing.

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Peggy Hanson is a veteran traveler who has lived in developing countries more than twenty years. She was a Peace Corps volunteer, a journalist with the Voice of America, and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. She loves to share her travel adventures and does so in blogs and in her books.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at PeggyHansonAuthor.com, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Deadline Istanbul by Peggy Hanson

Deadline Istanbul
Peggy Hanson
An Elizabeth Darcy Mystery

Elizabeth Darcy is in the world's most intriguing city to cover for old friend and fellow correspondent Peter Franklin, found dead in the Bosphorus. She's convinced it wasn't an accident. But uncovering secrets can be a dangerous business. Are spies involved? Criminals? Where does religion become politics, and vice versa? And who are those men following her?

Danger stalks her through the ancient streets. Elizabeth will be lucky to return safely to Washington. Fortunately, she has her Jane Austen book and the cat Sultana to hold onto — as long as that comfort lasts!

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

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Deadline Yemen by Peggy Hanson

Deadline Yemen
Peggy Hanson
An Elizabeth Darcy Mystery

Called to Yemen to help her old friend Halima, correspondent Elizabeth Darcy combines work with the chance to repay an old debt. But the narrow, mysterious streets are populated with armed men and veiled women; who can tell friend from foe? Her first priority is to help Halima's young brother Ali, who has become involved with religious extremists. But murder dogs her footsteps, and she is under police surveillance.

Abducted along her investigative trail, Elizabeth is drawn into the terrorists' web. She must work with two men — one Yemeni, one British — who are on a mission of their own. What are their plans? And why have they all ended up in the remote Hadhramaut wadi where the Incense Road once began? Elizabeth pieces together the plot, hoping she's in time to save Halima and Ali. But can she save herself as well?

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

2 comments:

  1. I love the description of the locales in these books - makes you feel like you've been there!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Somehow as Elizabeth Darcy invites us along on her sleuthing adventures, she also manages to serve as an insider's tour guide to fascinating and exotic parts of our planet. As a bunus, she even weaves in descriptions of delectable-sounding dishes which make me want to travel to these places just to taste the food... I found both of these books to be intriguing reads, and hope there will be more in the series.

    ReplyDelete

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