JQM Literary Chat Welcomes Rhen Garland
Tell us about yourself:
I started writing the Versipellis Mystery Series after I was diagnosed with CFS and I ended up spending a huge amount of my time at home, staring at four walls…the options were; go mad, or use my overactive imagination to entertain myself…so I started to write.
I am very easily distracted, so the peace and quiet of the countryside is far preferable to me than city or town living…where we live at the moment is out in the middle of nowhere in Somerset, England, and the peace is extremely helpful to me, both from a health point of view, and because the lack of urban living and sensory overload helps me focus a little more on my writing.
I’m a Gemini, which is quite handy in my writing, as apparently a sizable number of the most famous serial killers are/were either Gemini, Pisces, or Virgo, so I can use my imagination to come up with some rather messy methods of dispatching people!
Tell us about your book:
“A Portrait of Death”, is the first book in a series of Paranormal Victorian Murder Mysteries.
In the quiet English village of Marmis Parva, a weekend house party is organised by a society hostessand all the top names are invited…but this is no ordinary party, the entire weekend is a ploy to cover for aGovernment meeting to discuss the possibility of a second Boer war.
Renowned Contralto Giselle Du’Lac, American socialite Lady Bunny Ellerbeck, and the society nerve specialist Dr Weatherly Draycott are all invited to make it the social event of the season, but the weekend ends in horror, when two men are savagely murdered during the course of the first evening and a young man, presumed dead, returns home after two years’ imprisonment in South Africa, bringing with him proof of treason.
Detective Chief Inspector Elliott Caine’s long-awaited holiday in the Lake District is cancelled as he is brought in to investigate the peculiar nature of the murders. More bodies are discovered and Elliott has to manoeuvre between High Society, Government protocols and the heinous nature of these crimes if he and his old friend, Detective Sergeant Abernathy Thorne, are to catch this sadistic killer and the traitor lurking amongst them.
When Caine’s mysterious past comes back to haunt him, will his judgement be too clouded to focus on solving the crime?
Will the Boer spy’s identity be uncovered before they can flee?
How are these murders connected to another in New York?
What influenced you to write your current genre?
I think it landed in my lap fully formed, and I really didn’t have any choice.
I have always enjoyed mysteries, even as a child…I used to read Enid Blyton’s “Mystery” series and I absolutely loved them.
When I was nine, I read Agatha Christies’ “By the Pricking of my Thumbs”…a nine year old child reading a murder mystery about madness and a child-killer might not have been a sensible start, but I think it explains a great deal about the kind of books I write today!
I could read a 600 page book in one sitting, so epic fantasy was a firm favourite; murder, mystery, fantasy, and horror, they are all folded into the books I write today.
During my teens I also had the standard unhealthy obsession with true crime stories…
I always thought that when I started writing, the stories would be set in the 1920’s/30’s, because I absolutely love that era for murder mysteries, but when I tried to set my first book in that era, nothing would come out…it just felt wrong, so I tried moving the time frame back a little, from 1925 to 1899, and it worked.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love “Golden Era” murder mysteries; Ngaio Marsh, Gladys Mitchell, Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, John Dickson Carr (who also wrote as Carter Dickson…he was the King of the “Locked Room” mysteries), Arthur Conan Doyle,
I enjoy the “creepier” side of reading; Dennis Wheatley, James Herbert, Kelley Armstrong, and Dean Koontz.
I also have a great love for old school fantasy; Terry Pratchett, David and Leigh Eddings, Simon R Green, JRR Tolkien, and Terry Brooks.
What are your favorite books?
Oooooohhh…..That’s a nasty one, there are a few!
“The Elfstones of Shannara” by Terry Brooks; epic fantasy…636 pages of Elves, Demons, Druids, Magic, Love, friendshipand an accidental hero…what more could you ask for?
“Singing in the Shrouds” by Ngaio Marsh; classic murder mystery set on board a cargo ship that’s taking passengers to South Africa…with a killer who sings after their murderous act, it’s rather creepy!
“Fata Morgana” by William Kotzwinckle; an absolutely glorious adult fantasy written by the same man who gave us the novelization of “ET” (yes, really!) Set in the 1860’s it involves immortals, toymakers, and magicians…I love this book.
“The Man in the Brown Suit” by Agatha Christie; not one of her more well-known mysteries…it is more of a “Girl’s Own Adventure” with murders, ocean travel, trains across Africa, and a bit of a romance thrown in for good measure.
“It Walks by Night” by John Dickson Carr; gloriously creepy Grand Guignol mystery with an axe murderer…set in Paris in the late 1920’s, it is a classic example of the Locked room Mystery.
“The Belgariad and the Mallorean” by David and Leigh Eddings; again…epic fantasy, ten books worth of adventure, magic, fear, love, loss, friendship, family, and how to create flowers with the Will and the Word.
“Portent” by James Herbert; he’s most well known for some really terrifying horror stories…The Rats, The Spear, The Fog etc…but this book is my favourite Herbert; the earth is changing, violent weather patterns threaten human life…children may have the answer to our salvation, but Mama Pitie is not about to let them interfere!
“Last Call” by Tim Powers; a card game played with Tarot cards that can lead to you losing your body, as well as your soul, a one-eyed Jack fighting to save his friends, and a Mob boss who just will not die…Danny Boy! Again, I love this book.
“Lords and Ladies” by Terry Pratchett; when the Fae try to take over the Kingdom, who you gonna call? The three Witches of Lancre, that’s who…with a supporting cast of Morris Dancers, the truth behind crop circles, Faery Glamour, and a mad unicorn, this is classic Pratchett.
“Space Captain Smith” by Toby Frost; the British Empire in space…with a sex-bot who walks out of her job on the first day, evil space ants, a spaceship that is rather battered, war crazed giant rodents, a hamster called Gerald, a companion who is about seven feet tall (with an impressive collection of sharp implements and an unwholesome preoccupation with collecting skulls) and with enough nods to classic sci-fi/fantasy/horror books, TV shows and movies to keep even the most dedicated nerd happy (me, I’m the nerd…it’s a cracking series!)
Who are your favorite literary characters?
This is rather difficult…I enjoy so many different types of book, but most of them aren’t what many people would refer to as “Classics”.
I enjoyed the battle between Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice…they both needed taking down a peg or six, and their characters were so beautifully written, it was a joy to read.
The character of Glady Mitchell’s “Lady Adela Lestrange Bradley”; she is described as a “toad like” woman in appearance, descended from an ancestor who was killed for being a Witch. She uses psychology to solve murders. For the era (1920’s), she was very open minded as an investigator, Speedy Death (the first book in the series) was considered quite shocking when it first came out.
I rather like the character of Colonel Race in Agatha Christie’s books…he pops up in quite a few, The Man in the Brown Suit, and Death on the Nile amongst others…he is a man of few words, but a solid type of person, utterly trustworthy, the type where even if the odds were stacked massively against you, if he could help you, he would.
Miss Jane Marple, her title is very important…I love the way she uses the lens of her life in a small village to solve crimes that are sometimes massively urban, “Oh yes, of course…it was the Vicar’s cat” Wait! What was the Vicar’s cat??? We’re on the Riviera…what did I miss?
Sam Vimes, he is the lead character in Terry Pratchett’s City Watch books, part of the Discworld series. When we first meet him in Guards Guards he is a non-functioning alcoholic, in charge of the police officers who patrol at night…someone in the city summons a dragon, all hell breaks loose, and he has to face his future and decide; does he want to be a good man…or a pile of smoking ash! Again, it’s the strength of the writing, you care about him as a character, even if at the beginning he doesn’t even care about himself!
Is there anything you want to share with potential readers?
As an author, it’s always a little concerning…actually, it’s rather terrifying…putting your book-babies out there in the cruel, and sometimes harsh light of day, you hope people will enjoy the story, the characters, the odd little red herrings, the not so subtle clues, and the occasional twist of the macabre…and a lot of the time people do.
Getting fans and supporters is a lovely part of writing, interacting with people who have read your books, who have enjoyed them, and who take the time to tell you they have enjoyed them, is something I really look forward to.
So please, if you read a book, and you enjoy it, please, please, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Bookbub…let the authors know what you thought about it…and if you didn’t enjoy it, then please pass it on to someone else who might, or drop it off at a charity shop, so it can continue to give.
WHERE CAN WE GO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR LITERARY WORKS?
“A Portrait of Death” and the second book in the series “Death in the Sound” are available in Paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited.