Friday, March 10, 2023

Q&A with Charles Todd




Charles Todd is the author, with his late mother, Caroline Todd, of the new mystery novel The Cliff's Edge, the latest in their Bess Crawford series. They also write the Ian Rutledge mystery series. 


Q: Your mother, Caroline Todd, who passed away in 2021, was the other half of your writing partnership, and I’m so sorry for your loss. How would you describe her impact on the Bess Crawford series, and also on the Ian Rutledge novels?


A: Caroline and I were the co-authors of all of the Charles Todd works. Losing Caroline was like losing my mother, business partner, and my right hand.


All of the works were truly a joint process. We wrote each book or short story scene by scene. We would write our versions, share them, and then combine them. Once we felt the scene was completed, we discussed what was going to be the next scene and then wrote that scene.


As a result, we could never pick up a published book and point to a certain phrase or paragraph as “mine.” Our goal as storytellers was not to confuse the readers with a disjointed tale. A story is told to entertain and perhaps inform and not to interject one or the other’s way of writing.


Q: How did you research The Cliff's Edge, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: We firmly believed, and I continue to believe, that you must go to a place to capture the people and place you want to write about.


Our visit to the Yorkshire Dales and Fells was memorable. We came to know the people, the local legends, and walk the ground where our characters may have walked. We gathered so much research it would take three books.


Except for some surprises in the book which we will let our readers discover, we are always surprised to meet and get to know the people, customs, and legends that make each place special.

Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, in part, “Todd has few peers at both keeping readers turning pages for the reveal and making every character on those pages feel real. Those seeking emotional depth in their mysteries will be richly rewarded.” What do you think of that description, and how do you create that emotional depth?


A: The description from Publishers Weekly was wonderful to read. The emotional depth we attempt to create comes from our approach to writing. We have to become vested in each character. Some may be good or bad and that doesn’t matter.


What has our experience traveling the British Isles for over 40 years taught us about people? What in our own life experiences have we learned about people? How can we create a character that readers can relate to?


A fan comment we love is, “Lady X is just like Mrs. Y who I have known for years. I know exactly how people like her behave.” Is our protagonist someone you can cheer on and wish the best for as the series progresses?


How do we do that? If the characters are not real to us, we cannot expect a reader to believe they are real. The problem with that concept is that our characters will not do what we want and often surprise us. If characters are treated like puppets on a string the writer controls, then they will never be real. In my humble opinion.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have turned the manuscript for the 25th Inspector Rutledge mystery in to my agent. I will be starting the manuscript for the 14th Bess Crawford mystery in the next few weeks.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I cannot begin to thank the readers and fans of Charles Todd for the outpouring of sympathy and support during the difficult time of Caroline’s passing. Their words of caring were a pillar of support to me and my family. I will always be thankful for their kindness!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Charles Todd.

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