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Author Talk: October 27, 2011

In A CRIMSON WARNING, the latest installment in Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, a malicious vandal is on the loose. Someone has been splashing red paint on the homes of London’s elite, a precursor to publicizing their deepest and most guarded secrets. It is up to Lady Emily and her husband, Colin, to stop the destruction of innocent lives and find out who is behind the twisted scheme. In this interview, conducted by her husband, thriller writer Andrew Grant, Tasha describes her approach to developing Lady Emily over the six-book series and her unique process of researching the city of London. The couple also explains how they evaluate each other’s writing and shares their favorite London restaurants.

Andrew Grant: In A CRIMSON WARNING you bring Lady Emily back to London, where the series began six years ago with your debut novel AND ONLY TO DECEIVE. Why?

Tasha Alexander: Emily's primary residence is in London, but I like to have her travel --- I want readers to see how she reacts to different cultures. Eventually, however, everyone has to go home. 

AG: How would you compare Emily in AND ONLY TO DECEIVE to the Emily we see in A CRIMSON WARNING?

TA: Emily is more self-assured and more confident. In the past, she's struggled with getting society matrons to accept her eccentricities, but now she's mature enough to be less affected by what they think.  

AG: Tell me about your use of the colour crimson in the book.

TA: Everyone has a secret he or she wants to keep hidden, something that would be mortifying if it were to be widely known. I have our villain splash the front of his victims' houses with red paint to put them on notice that whatever they want to keep quiet is going to be exposed because I wanted to explore how people would react in that situation. What would you do? Panic? Rise to the occasion with dignity? Run? Proactively confess? Or would the shame be so great it might drive a person to suicide?

AG: Now that we're married and spend more time in England, you've become better acquainted with London. Do you see the city any differently?

TA: I'm much less romantic about England in general than I was before --- it's not all Mr. Darcy and cream tea. But I appreciate the culture more and have a deeper understanding of the people. As for London itself, it's the first city I lived in on my own, and I will always love it with a mad passion. There's no way London could be de-romanticized for me --- it's one of my favorite places on earth.

AGOne of my favorite parts of the book is when Emily finds a body in Hyde Park. How did you come up with that scene?

TA: Hyde Park was central to the social season in the late Victorian Era, so it was a natural place to have our villain leave the body. All of society went there to see and be seen. I spent a great deal of time in London doing research and writing this book, and took a long stroll through the park on a cold and rainy afternoon to find the precise spot I wanted to use. I still get chills when I walk past it.

AG: Is it a bigger challenge now to keep the Lady Emily character fresh?

TA: Through the series Emily has grown as her circumstances change. She's constantly reacting to what's happening around her and being formed by what she observes in other cultures, which (I hope!) keeps her fresh.

AG: Readers ask if I'm a fair critic of your work. You answer first and then I will answer. :)

TA: Absolutely. You're always honest with me. We both know how important that is --- you never help someone by telling them a manuscript is ready to go when it needs work. 

AG: I agree. Honesty is the key to writing --- and so much more...

AG: I think we should each tell readers our favourite place to dine in London. Mine is Chor Bazaar because they have excellent curry. Tell them yours.

TA: Chor Bazaar is spectacular. I also love The Ivy, but would be hard pressed to pick one dish there. The Escalope of Veal is delicious (butter never hurts, does it?) and I'm always tempted by their Eggs Benedict post-theatre. And the Squash and Ginger Soup. So good...