Today it is my pleasure to have R. J. Koreto as my guest...
The Origins of Lady Frances Ffolkes by R. J. Koreto
I get this question a lot: where did Lady Frances come from? She has a long history.
She wasn't the first sleuth I imagined. I first wrote a couple of novels featuring modern-day reporter Ted Jellinek and his not-quite-girlfriend, attorney Penelope Tolford. The novels didn’t find a publisher, but I did get a short story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine out of them. Then I turned to historical fiction with Captain Edmund Winter, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. Again, I got a short story out of it in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, but no takers for the novel.
That's when a friend-of-a-friend read one of my manuscripts and said that she found my female characters especially strong. Could I write a mystery with a female protagonist? I didn't think that was "allowed." Could a male author create a female sleuth?
Very well, but what time period? I really wanted to stay with historical fiction. My wife and I have always been huge fans of the original "Upstairs/Downstairs" series, which starts in the Edwardian era, so I wanted to make my own mark in turn-of-the-century England.
Next, where would the tension come from? Well-born ladies didn’t have a great deal of freedom in this time period; they lived with their parents until they got married to men their fathers approved of. What if I made Lady Frances a rebel? She lives on her own, helps lead a group for women's suffrage and chooses her own romantic partners—accepting the heartbreak that comes with it.
That became "Death on the Sapphire," the first Lady Frances mystery—and my first published novel. Lady Frances continued to stand up to Edwardian conventions with "Death Among Rubies," where she thwarted he police to save friends who were involved in a same-sex romance. And now, with "Death at the Emerald," Frances slips into the lively theater world, befriending actors—something well-born ladies simply didn’t do back then.
So I was able to successfully create a female sleuth! But there's a final twist: I'm published under my initials "R.J." because my publisher didn’t want to highlight the fact that a male author was writing about a woman detective in a book with a large female readership!
One-named stunning actress Helen mysteriously vanished 30 years ago. An elderly family friend is unable to bear not knowing any longer and commissions Lady Frances Ffolkes to track her down. Taking on the role of Lady Sherlock, with her loyal maid Mallow drafted as her Watson, Frances finds herself immersed in the glamorous world of Edwardian theater and London’s latest craze—motion pictures.
As Frances and Mallow make their way through the theaters, they meet colorful figures such as George Bernard Shaw and King Edward II. Tracking the theaters seems like a dead end. That is until one of Helen’s old suitors is suddenly murdered. With the stakes raised, Frances and Mallow work quickly to uncover a box of subtle clues to Helen’s whereabouts. But someone unexpected wants that box just as badly and is willing to kill to keep it shut.
The stage is set for murder and Frances and Mallow are determined to unravel the decades-old conspiracy in Death at the Emerald, R. J. Koreto’s third installment in the captivating Lady Frances Ffolkes mysteries.
About The Author
R.J. Koreto is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England, and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College.
With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Website: www.ladyfrancesffolkes.com (contains sign-up form for my weekly newsletter)
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