It is a pleasure to warmly welcome Ellen Read to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a short form author interview series. To help celebrate the release of The Inca’s Curse, we sat down for a chat. Thanks Ellen!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
At the moment I’m having a cappuccino. With this year being so restrictive, I bought a coffee machine. I can’t do without one cappuccino a week.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I’ve written since I was very young. To start with I wrote poetry and short stories. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. One book was accepted by an agent in London and I very nearly had a contract, but the publisher merged with a larger firm and I was dropped from the list. To be a writer is to know disappointment. I kept writing until I became heavily involved in the performing arts. The old saying that the show must go on is very true. My writing took more of a back seat for a while, although I loved all of my experiences in the music and theatre world. When we moved to a new house and towns five years ago, I started writing more. I self-published a novella Love The Gift and The Dragon Sleeps – the first book in The Thornton Mysteries series. Then a US publisher – Crimson Cloak Publishing – offered me a contract for the first four books in the The Thornton Mysteries series. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!
Can you tell us what inspired the creation of your new book, The Inca’s Curse?
I love mysteries that surround ancient artefacts. In this case, I was inspired by the Hope diamond and the stories that surround it. The Inca’s Curse is also about gold and fitted in with the ancient Inca Empire that was renowned for its amazing wealth in gold. The story is set in 1929 but the mystery weaves back to the first Thomas Thornton who had a goldmine during Victoria’s goldrush days. This mine still existed in 1928 when the story is set.
Why did you decide to set The Inca’s Curse in late 1920s Victoria?
I had visited Werribee Park mansion years ago and I always had it in the back of my mind that one day I’d love to write a story with a grand mansion in it. When I had the idea for the first book, I needed a grand house that had servants. I realised that the 1920s was the last decade that this could happen. The 1930s, with the Depression, saw the sale of many of the great houses and estates. Even in the 1920s, following the Great War (World War 1), staff numbers decreased, and mansions had to be sold. I loved the 1920s, so it all seemed to come together. I chose Victoria because I’d lived in Melbourne for a short while and knew it reasonably well. The grand mansion, the Thornton estate and antiques business all seemed to fit better in Victoria.
What was the research process like for The Inca’s Curse and what sources did you use?
The Inca’s Curse finds the Thornton family at their home near Melbourne but also in Daylesford in the Macedon Ranges, where they have a holiday home and their goldmine. Their ancestor Thomas Thornton Senior had started his goldmine in the 1850s during the Victorian goldrushes. In the 1920s, some mines still operated. I chose Daylesford for a couple reasons. One is that I knew it had previously had goldmines, and secondly because I had been there several times and loved it. I bought several books on my last trip there. I find that books on a town’s history written by the local people is always a great source of information and anecdotal stories. One surprising fact I discovered is the thriving Swiss-Italian culture in Daylesford.
I always visit the location, take heaps of photos, and buy books. Then comes all the reading but I enjoy the research process. Over and above the background for the story, I research the fashions, music, books and films, cars, food and the 1920s in general. The history of the times is very important. For The Inca’s Curse, I researched Italian food, as there is a lot of Italian cuisine mentioned in the book.
I also draw up family trees, as my story entails several generations of a few families. I find this very helpful. So, overall, I do a lot of research.
The Inca’s Curse is book two in The Thornton Mysteries series. Can this book be read as a standalone?
It can most definitely be read as a standalone. Each book in the series has a separate mystery. The Thornton family is the thread running through the stories. It’s like reading an Agatha Christie with Poirot solving the various crimes.
What is one thing that you really hope readers will take away from the experience of reading The Inca’s Curse
I hope readers will find the book an enjoyable experience. The research is necessary to set the scenes, so that the reader can settle back and feel they’re in the 1920s and they’re joining Alexandra as she hunts out clues.
Have you developed any quirks or habits while writing your books?
I prefer to write at my desk and in comparative silence. For instance, I love music, but I don’t like to play any while I’m writing. I don’t mind household noise as long as it’s not too distracting. I go into my bubble and once there I step into the Thorntons’ world.
How has your writing process been affected by COVID-19?
It’s quite surprising that my writing hasn’t been adversely affected. If anything, I’ve written more. I was writing full-time anyway. With not being able to go out and about, I’ve had even more time to write.
What book or books do you recommend that I add to my reading pile?
I recently read The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth. It’s so beautifully written and a wonderful story.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson is another I loved. It YA fantasy, which is not something I’ve read a lot of, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
I’ve not long finished the fourth Thornton mystery. I’ve done two drafts and I’m letting it rest, which also allows my head to clear. I’ll go back to it with a fresh perspective after the initial stages of marketing for The Inca’s Curse.
I’m also finishing a novella set here in Queensland. It’s a love story, with a twist to it.
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Ellen. Congratulations on the release of your new book, The Inca’s Curse.
Thank you so much, Amanda. It’s been a pleasure to chat to you.
Set in 1928 in Victoria, Australia. The Thornton family made its money in the goldfields during the 1850s and the antiques trade. Thornton Park is their lavish mansion close to Melbourne. They also own a home and a goldmine in Daylesford, in the heart of Victoria, where their close friends, the Bassetti family, are part of a thriving Swiss-Italian community.
Alexandra Thornton has married Benedict Archer. On their honeymoon in Daylesford, Alexandra’s pearls are stolen and within days there are two murders.
Back at Thornton Park, Alexandra discovers a secret compartment in a desk. Inside is a gold and diamond necklace and a letter written by her grandfather, James Thornton. It’s a love letter, Alexandra assumes written to his wife after her death. He claims the necklace is cursed.
After further investigation, Alexandra uncovers the deaths of two miners at Thornton Goldmine.
The family return to Daylesford where Thomas Thornton is accused of murder.
Alexandra is determined to work out how it all connects.
What is the link to the Inca Emperor Atahualpa? Is it gold?
Is gold the curse?
The Inca’s Curse by Ellen Read was published on 18th August 2020. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
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