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Author Talk: September 12, 2019

THE SPOTTED DOG is the seventh installment in Kerry Greenwood’s mystery series featuring professional baker and amateur sleuth Corinna Chapman. In this interview, Greenwood talks about the differences between writing these books and her Phryne Fisher series, which is set in the 1920s; the feedback she has received from readers concerning Corinna’s adventures in cooking, as food plays a major role in the series; the mystery writers who have had the most influence on her work; and the actress who she would like to see portray Corinna in a potential television adaptation.

Question: THE SPOTTED DOG features baker Corinna Chapman as its protagonist, but you are best known for your Phryne Fisher series, which is set in the 1920s. How different do your preparations need to be when you switch gears from the Miss Fisher series to write a Corinna mystery?

Kerry Greenwood: Writing Corinna is easier than Phryne because she is present-day. I do not have to monitor my language constantly so she is pure 1920s. And first-person narratives are always easier in any case --- though with the downside that there is no metaphorical second film crew, and I am restricted to describing what Corinna sees herself or what has been told to her.

Q: Food plays a major part in the Corinna Chapman series, as evidenced by the five pages of recipes you offer at the end of THE SPOTTED DOG. What kind of feedback have you received from readers regarding Corinna’s adventures in cooking over the first six books in the series? And what kind of cook are you?

KG: I am a good traditional Welsh cook. Reader feedback about the recipes has been exceptionally favourable, with the risible exception that in THE SPOTTED DOG, I somehow misplaced “teaspoon” in one recipe and put in “tablespoon” instead. This did not go over so well, as you would imagine.

Q: Before you wrote your first book, which mystery writers had you been reading whose work most influenced and/or inspired you?

KG: My main inspiration was Dorothy L. Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey. The latter is a wish-fulfilment figure of the sort of man every straight woman would love to marry. And rightly so, because he is a splendid creation within the confines of the English class system: generous, abnormally sensitive, whip-smart, faithful and loving. But I wanted to write a new series where Harriet Vane got to be Lord Peter herself. Sayers loved to expand her readers’ imaginations and intellectual horizons. This can only be a fine thing.

Leslie Charteris’ Saint books were also an inspiration. Think of Phryne Fisher as a female Simon Templar, able to do all the things he did. Except lose her head completely when peril threatens her loved ones. Charteris thought this a lovable flaw. Phryne wouldn’t. She gets even.

Q: Are you able to keep up with any of today’s mystery series? If so, can you name a few that you particularly enjoy reading?

KG: I love Charlaine Harris and Janet Evanovich because they are creative, funny, fast-paced and intelligent. I am very open to the idea of enjoying contemporary male mystery writers, but boys, you need to try harder. Less violence and gloom, more wit and humour, please. Let me know when you’ve managed it.

Q: The success of the “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” television series begs the question of whether or not there soon might be a Corinna Chapman television adaptation in the works. And if that comes to pass, which actresses do you feel ought to be considered to play Corinna?

KG: We are still working on a TV Corinna, but I will not compromise on a plus-size actor to play her. Even allowing for the film/TV tendency to add 30 pounds to your appearance, she must be size 14 at least. I have an Australian actress in mind. For America, the only possibility I can think of would be Lena Dunham.