From Fantasy to Regency Mystery: Meet Prolific Author Janet L. Buck
I’m so delighted to welcome Janet Buck, who has a brand-new release this month, THE DEAD BETRAY NONE. Janet had a distinguished legal career prior to becoming a fulltime author. Below are her responses to my interview questions, followed by a description of THE DEAD BETRAY NONE, her buy links, and her bio and contact information.
First off, congratulations on the upcoming release of THE DEAD BETRAY NONE, the first book in your Viscount Ware Regency Mysteries series. Can you tell our readers about the book and what inspired you to begin this series?
Thanks so much, Lynn. I am as eager for his release as I was for the first book I wrote. July 12th cannot come quick enough!
In 2019, I had brought most of my fantasy storylines to a close, and I decided to change my writing focus (more about that later). I had just read several mysteries set in the Regency period in England, i. e. those of C. S. Harris, Ashley Gardner, and other. No one had a new release coming, so I wrote my own. 😊. The editor at Camel Press liked it and offered a four-book contract with the option of more. Three are already written with the fourth close to a completed first draft.
In The Dead Betray None, Lucien Grey, Viscount Ware, has returned home after four years of spying for England in the on-going conflict with Napoleon. Finding himself restless, Lucien and his fellow spy Andrew Sherbourne agree to take on secret assignments within England for the Crown. While attempting to recover a stolen war code-key, Lucien meets the third major recurring character, Lady Anne Ashburn, over a dead body at a High Society ball—and they each suspect the other committed the murder.
How did you go about researching this historical period?
I purchased about 30 books on the era that discuss everything from history to manners and dress to slang and even the criminal underground. In addition, the internet has dozens of sites of information due to all the Regency romances, although you do need to double check the facts, and I haunt English history sites. Trying to stay true to the language of the time is probably the hardest part. Since the true Regency era ran from 1811 to 1820, I bought an 1810 dictionary, regularly access the 1828 dictionary online, and use Etymology.com on a daily basis (records when the word first appeared in print). You’d be surprised which words are modern and which have been around for a very long time.
Recently, you shifted your focus from writing your sixteen published fantasy novels (written as Ally Shields) to focusing on historical mysteries. So, I’d love to know first what drew you to writing fantasy, and then what inspired you to shift your focus to historical mysteries.
I never intended to write fantasy. Oh, I had read quite a few and watched all the Buffy and Angel episodes, but I’d always been a mystery fan, and that is what I intended to write. I started my first story, and it was going okay until my heroine on day three told me she was a witch. I stopped writing, invented a fantasy world for my witch to inhabit, and found she had a lot of stories to tell—and my publisher kept asking for more. I was writing three or four fantasies a year, which left no time to write mysteries. One day I said to myself, “That’s it. It’s time to write those mysteries.” As a result, I lost my publisher but was fortunate enough to find another.
You had a long and distinguished legal career, including working on a Child Abuse Trauma Team, whose investigations led to both civil and criminal court prosecutions. Fantasy and now historical mystery seem far afield from the work you did, but has your work as an attorney influenced your writing?
After my first fantasy was published, I told a former colleague I was writing fantasy because I had had enough of reality. In a way I was joking, but there was truth to it. There is a very sad side to juvenile law, especially in the child abuse cases, and perhaps that’s why I wrote all those fantasies before circling back to mysteries. However, mystery and the law are a natural fit. Collecting evidence and sowing clues are only two sides of the same coin, and my years doing investigations taught me interviewing techniques that, although modified, still feature on the pages of my books. The historical part of this equation—the Regency period—is simply because I like it.
You’ve been remarkably prolific since you began writing fulltime in 2009. Can you share with our readers a bit about your writing process?
I’m a pantser, ie I write without an outline. I know my major characters first, then a vague idea of the plot, and I write the opening pages in my head before I sit down at the computer. Then I let the characters lead me through the story. In the first fantasy, I admit they led me astray several times, and I had a hard time cleaning it up for publication. After that I put a little thought into it before forging ahead. I make little notes to myself—my desk is littered with them—but usually they are to remind me of the butler’s name or the color of Lucien’s favorite horse, etc. One creative writing coach called me a “discovery” writer—I keep writing to know what happens next!
One thing that’s really impressed me is how generous you are to other writers, regularly featuring other authors (including me!) on your Ally Shields website blog. What inspired you to do your Wednesday Coffee Chats?
Self-preservation. Well, not entirely. A lot of authors helped me when I first started, and I wanted a way to “pay it forward.” The Coffee Chat seemed to fill that slot, but honestly, I also couldn’t imagine coming up with a blog full of content every week and still keep up with my writing schedule. The Coffee Chats help all of us.
Did you always know that you wanted to write?
Yes, I wrote my first long story when I was nine. I was addicted to the Walter Farley horse books. When I had read them all, I decided to write my own, the story of a wild, palomino stallion named Golden King. Mercifully, it has disappeared over the years.
Law careers are mighty demanding. Were you able to fit in any fiction writing while you were practicing?
The short answer is no. I wrote a cozy mystery during that time, but it was pretty bad. By the end of the workday, I hardly had enough energy to put my elbow on the bar.
What advice would you give to aspiring fiction writers?
Read, read, read and then write, write, write. Repeat. That’s really what it takes. Study the craft, then perfect your own version. Be persistent. I received 160 rejections of my first fantasy before I received that one “yes.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add, or wish I’d asked, but I didn’t?
Only that I want to thank you for hosting me. It’s fun being on this side of the interview!
The Dead Betray None (A Viscount Ware Mystery)
Genre: Historical (Regency) Mystery
Release Date: July 12, 2022
Author: JL Buck
In 1811 England, Lucien Grey, Viscount Ware, recently returned home from four years on the Continent as a spy for England, secretly agrees to work for the Crown’s private spy unit in London. When the key to Napoleon’s war codes is stolen at a country house party, he chases it into London’s notorious rookeries and even its glittering ballrooms.
Lady Anne Ashburn missed her London season while caring for her invalid mother, but when a young cousin becomes embroiled in a blackmail plot, Anne goes to London to face down the scoundrel.
On the night of the elegant Christmastide Ball, Lucien finds her in the library standing over a corpse. What follows—the risks they take, the intrusion of a notorious crime lord, society gossip, and good intentions gone awry—send them spiraling into danger and potential disaster for England’s war effort.
Pre-order/Buy Links (available at most online and other booksellers) including:
Ring of Fire (Guardian Witch Legacy #3) and the other fantasy novels are available at several online outlets and through the Ally Shields Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Ally-Shields/e/B009AKNDZU/
JL Buck lives in the Midwest with Latte, a mischievous Siamese cat, who attempts to co-author her writing by taking over the keyboard. When not writing or running two blogs, Ms Buck enjoys her eight grandchildren (and a great-grandson), reading (preferably on a sunny deck), travel (USA and abroad), and binge-watching any sub-genre of mystery shows.
She can be contacted through her website, her Ally Shields fantasy website, or social media (including twitter: @janetlbuck or her pen name account: @ShieldsAlly)
Thanks for hosting me, Lynne. I really enjoyed doing the interview!
Judy, I wanted to add my agreement to the remark about your generosity! As a fellow pantser, I find the writer consumes for for days, then when I come up for air, I am always relieved to find authors like you throwing life lines. Be safe, write happily,
Murder on Eagle Drop Ridge, July 21, 2022