March onest

It’s the first of March, so let’s open the floor to questions.

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  1. chris on March 1, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve often pondered the question – if you’re within sight of the end of your work-in-progress, what do you do if an amazing idea hits you for something totally different? For example, whilst you’re currently working on “Touchstone”, if a brilliant Mary Russell idea jumped in and said “write me”, would you draft out these ideas for future use?


  2. Geri on March 1, 2006 at 3:09 pm


    Your books have such a strong sense of place (one of my favorite things about my favorite writers). How do you go about developing the sense of place. Do you make numerous visits, take photographs, ?

  3. Anonymous on March 1, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Watching you write a short story! How awesome is that! May 20th is now highlighted in my calendar.

    Now for a nit-picky question from a former academic: In MRW, Mary is abducted on her way to Oxford to present a paper with Duncan. Does she ever get to present it?


  4. Anonymous on March 1, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    I love, love, love the Mary Russell series, but I need something else to read! Would you share some of your most recent “favorite reads”?

    Shari 🙂

  5. Anonymous on March 1, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    How do you approach research? Do you prefer to dive into books, or travel, or just blue-sky imagine first?

    As an artist, it is fascinating for me to be privy to another kind of artist’s method–thanks for your willingness to share the creative process. –Sara

  6. sinda on March 1, 2006 at 4:17 pm


    I’m curious about a theme I’ve noticed where a psychiatrist or therapist is instrumental to the salvation of the character. I’m thinking of Mary Russell – most notably Locked Rooms – and A Grave Talent, specifically. Can you tell us why you chose that route to develop your characters? Do you have experience with therapy that inform your work?

    Also, I wonder how writing this blog has affected, if at all, your other work? Do you find that it clarifies your thoughts when you capture them here for us, or does it distract you?

    Thanks for the opportunity to pose some questions – I look forward tor eading your answers!

  7. Vicki Larson on March 1, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    Where do you find the energy and physical strength, to say nothing of the mental strength, to do all that you do? Would you say you are a Type A personality? Work being what keeps your engine going?What do you do for relaxation?

  8. Robin King on March 1, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Laurie

    Seeing that photo of you and your husband with the Dalai Lama has me wondering whether you have been influenced by the intrepid explorer, pioneer feminist and theologean – Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969).

    This extraordinary woman might have been a role model for Mary Russell. Disguised a a beggar, with a revolver concealed beneath her rags, at the age of 54 she became the first European woman to enter the forbidden holy city of Lhasa in Tibet; this through bandit-ridden forests in the dead of winter.

    She was a world authority on Tibetan Buddhist tantric rites and was ordinated as the first woman Lama. Lawrence Durrell admired her and she was an accomplished singer who went on to live until she was nearly 101 years old.

    I do hope Mary Russell enjoys similar longevity!

    Cousin Robin from Old Jersey

  9. Maxine on March 1, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Laurie, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your books – I’ve read them all, some more than once. My favortie is “Folly”.
    Do you ever get to the “right” coast to the Baltimore/DC/Annapolis area? It seems as if you’re more well known on the West Coast, but I keep encouraging my friends to read your books. Thanks for many hours of entertainment.
    Maxine in Annapolis, MD

  10. Anonymous on March 1, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Would a person be able to download your next book directly onto an IPOD? Are any of your books available for downloads?
    Thank you!

  11. Jacqui on March 1, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Mrs. King,
    Will there ever be a film version of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice?

    Jacqui M.

  12. Anonymous on March 1, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Dear Laurie, I have just received and read your newsletter for the first time. I can only marvel at how much you resemble the person I was about 16 years ago. Especially your chutzpah, which delights me. You’re planning a real in-your-face demonstration of writing a short story “on the air”. You go, girl! This is the kind of thing I delighted in doing in years past. Oh, to have that kind of confidence in my abilities again. I hope this quasi-manic overconfidence never deserts you, because no power on earth can recreate it once it has fled. I love to see you dancing on the edge as you put your talents to the test. I remember the joy it brings. Euphoria! Have at it! Colorful Old Lady of the Iris Garden

  13. Anonymous on March 1, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    Dear Laurie,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for creating such great books. Mary Russell is such a positive character and I love being able to hand your books off to my younger sister, knowing she can have a female hero to relate to. As a biblical archaeology student, I’ve loved the theological tidbits in your stories. I was wondering how you originally became interested in writing about Sherlock Holmes. Were you a Doyle fan as a child?

    Jennifer from Minneapolis, MN

  14. laura on March 1, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    Is there a setting (locale?) that you really want try to use in a story sometime?

    Laura in GA

  15. Liz on March 2, 2006 at 12:57 am

    I have a writing question which is, I fear, slightly obscure. But I often wonder how a professional writer, with editorial committments, deadlines and so forth, recognises that a story is non-viable. That there’s no point in telling it, or that it’s too ambitious/grim/doesn’t fit with the existing style of the series, etc.

    I particularly wanted to ask you because I have a vague recollection that you once said you rarely leave anything unfinished. Have you simply developed an instinct for recognising ideas that won’t work out in the long run, or do you have have enough self-confidence to hammer the thing out?

    Like I said, terribly obscure. I’m in the early throes of research for an embryonic novel, which is probably causing masochistic musings on Books That Don’t Work.

  16. Maer on March 2, 2006 at 1:26 am


    I love your Mary Russell books and have read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice almost to shreds. There are layers and layers in that one book, and plenty of details to get lost in. One detail I come back to time and again is the location of Holmes’ cottage. Did you base its location on the Doyle Canon, or decide on another location based on your own travels in England?

    I am sooo very excited about The Art of Detection, and am looking forward to reading it when it is released. Oh, how delicious it’s going to be!

  17. dementedslinkybrain on March 2, 2006 at 1:32 am

    Have you read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vokosigan Saga? I see that you read Michael Connelly and Robert Crais (whose new book “The Two Minute Rule” is next on my tbr pile. I know this is a dumb question, because they ARE fictional characters (aren’t they?) but how is Mycroft?

  18. Anonymous on March 2, 2006 at 1:54 am

    I’ve been thinking, (shocking, isn’t it?) will we ever know what the wedding of Russell and Holmes was like? There seem to me a lot of interesting theories floating about.

  19. Anonymous on March 2, 2006 at 2:02 am

    This may be a subject you choose not to comment on, but have you read any of the Mary Russell fan fiction? I’m specifically thinking of some of the stories from the Hive. (I discovered it one night when I was longing for new things to read, but had no desire to leave the house for the bookstore – it saved the day!) How is it to see other people writing episodes for characters you created?

  20. B. N. Harrison on March 2, 2006 at 3:50 am

    Could you tell us the precise nature of Russell’s professional position at Oxford after A Monstrous Regiment of Women?

    I know that in later books she describes herself as doing some “informal tutoring” which sounds like she advertises her services to students struggling with the material. Except that doesn’t sound like something Russell would much enjoy—do you mean that she conducts actual tutorials under the aegis of her college? Does she have a fellowship or some other official position within the college? Does she have her M.A., and if so when did she acquire it? Is she at Somerville or Lady Margaret Hall? Or even Shrewsbury?

    Erm. Not to deluge you, or anything, but any comments you would care to address on Russell’s academic career would be valued.

  21. Vicki Larson on March 2, 2006 at 3:55 am

    Where’s the Hive? What is it? I am dieing to know.

  22. Anonymous on March 2, 2006 at 4:47 am

    Yee ha! I had been hoping that the dangerous activity you described was not skydiving. I guess this amounts to doing that in literary format. I’ll just betcha you can do it, too –look at all this blogging you can pull off. Greatly looking forward to May 20 in mid air and also TAOD.–Meredith T.

  23. Trix on March 2, 2006 at 5:00 am


    The Hive is a collection of fiction written by various random people about Laurie’s characters – “fan fiction” or “fanfic” is the usual term. From what I understand, Laurie has no objections to this fanfic repository (other than the usual caveats of respecting copyright and not trying to “pass off” derivative works as one’s own, I imagine).

    If you do a Google search on “the hive mary russell”, it’s the first entry on the page.

  24. Anonymous on March 2, 2006 at 6:09 am

    Laurie, Do you ever have trouble creating a villain? I have a terrible time demonizing even a fictional character. Makes writing a murder mystery a tad difficult. I always keep seeing the villain as a multi-dimensional person who has been influenced by his background and experience, and turning him into a sympathetic character. Go figure. Iris Lady

  25. hgladney on March 2, 2006 at 6:28 am

    You may have already asnwered this earlier, but I wonder how you work on period details. I love the feel that you get for different eras. Mary Russell as an academic bluestocking in her youth seems so different than the flapper we see partying in San Francisco. I just love how she’s the same person, very consistent, but in a different period of her life. When you write about period details, do you also go to the effort of listening to period music, and looking at costume, and so on?

  26. Anonymous on March 2, 2006 at 7:17 am

    Hi, I’mliving on Orcas Island in the San Juans. I actually moved out here after reading “Folly”, how could I not? I was wondering if you were planning on setting any other books out here?

    Thanks, Melissa

  27. Ruth on March 2, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Am I correct in thinking that yourself and Val McDermid share Mutt, the dog who appears in Night Work?

    I read Hostage to Murder recently and noticed the mention that Mutton had been left behind in America with some friends in the bay area, then appearing in Night Work as Roz and Maj’s dog?

  28. Roxanne on March 2, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    Ms. King:

    Like Karen, who posted at 7:10am on 3-1-06, I, too, have wondered
    whether Russell was ever able make up the presentation of her paper missed due to her abduction.

    Also, I echo Maxine of Annapolis, MD’s sentiments: do you have any plans to visit the East Coast? I would love for my daughter and myself to to be able to see you.

    As for Jacqui M.’s 10:27am query regarding a film version of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice–I shudder to think what the film industry could do to your wonderful BA. However, I did want to mention that I think Keira Knightley might make a good Mary Russell. As for Holmes, however, I do not know who could ever match the incomparable Jeremy Brett. I watched Rupert Everett in PBS’ Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking back in October 2005. Although I enjoy Mr. Everett, I personally found him to be an overly languid and lethargic Holmes. Perhaps you have some ideas who could do Holmes justice?

    Thank you for your books and your blog. You have brought much pleasure into my life.


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