Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Because my books tend to have a lot of humour in them, I thought readers might be interested to hear about the little secret references that I sneak into the text!

Something I very much enjoy when I’m reading a novel is spotting little in-jokes and references to other aspects of life. Lindsey Davis does this particularly well in her novels featuring Marcus Didius Falco, the Roman detective and I’ve never forgotten yelling with laughter when I spotted Falco turning down a job offer from some Hebrew slaves who were building the Colosseum. They wanted him to go on a raid in search of The Lost Ark!

Because I find this so much fun I decided to slip in some odd references into my own books. So far, nobody has commented on the allusion to Cold Comfort Farm, in Scuba Dancing, though the use of a phrase from the Chalet School books has been picked up.

In the first of my Victorian mystery series, Murder Most Welcome, I nailed my colours to the mast (so to speak) by calling a main character, Mr Knightley, and keeping a Jane Austen theme running through the book, as the heroine, Charlotte Richmond, is (like me) an Austen devotee. There are also references to places in Hampshire, where the book is set, and local readers have told me what fun it is to watch out for these.

The latest book, Death is the Cure, (number two in the Victorian series) has some Austen mentions as befits a novel in which the heroine sets off to Bath with a friend who is taking the Cure. However, nobody so far has spotted that a famous fictional female turns up in the book, as does an equally famous, but real, historical gentleman.

Borrowing again from Lindsey Davis, I use the slightly archaic device of having a Dramatis Personae or Cast of Principal Characters at the beginning of the novel. Again, this is something I particularly relish when I’m reading for my own pleasure, and in my books it’s been a way of signalling to a potential reader that there is humour in the story. Jilly Cooper has been doing this successfully for years and my reasoning is that if it’s good enough for those terrific best-selling authors, it’s certainly good enough for me!

I’m not giving away all the secrets, allusions and references in my books but would be delighted to hear from readers if they spot them!

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