I tried to raise her to do the right thing, but then my little girl grew up to kill people. She does it with a light touch of course, but even so. Who would think that could happen? Of course, I must have read two hundred mysteries when I was expecting her, so I guess I’m lucky she only kills on the page.
You see, some mothers and daughters make cookies together, take a trip or join a choir, but we decided to see if we could bump off the unsuspecting for fun and profit.
That’s what happens when you agree to collaborate with your daughter on a mystery series. Now we’re over on the dark side together. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m having too much fun.
We used to be Vic and Mum, now we’re Victoria Abbott. We used to read mysteries, now we write them. We used to love and collect books, now we try to get inside the world of book collecting. We used to get annoyed with people, now we can turn them into characters that come to a bad end. Crime writing: there’s no life like it.
But what of this collaboration? How does it work? Everyone wants to know. Sure, we’d like to know too. For us, the biggest mystery is how the first book came together. Two different people, vast difference in ages (don’t ask) and different speaking, writing and working styles. How could that possibly succeed? Yet it did and we are very proud of The Christie Curse: the first in a book collector series hitting the stands on March 5th from Berkley Prime Crime. The protagonist, Jordan Bingham, is a grad student in desperate need of funds who accepts a job as a research assistant to a reclusive and difficult book collector. Her task is to track down a previously unknown play by Agatha Christie. Much as she loves her attic accommodation and the wonderful food served by the cook, Senora Panetone, she’s not so happy to hear that her predecessor died mysteriously.
The strange part is that as we near the completion of book two: The Sayers Swindle, we still don’t know how or why the collaboration functions. We just know that it does. We’ve tried all the variations: sometimes alternating scenes, or having each one write from the point of view of a certain character and most frequently working on the telephone, acting out scenes. As weird as it may sound, that seems to be the most effective way.
It was during these phone calls that the extensive cast of Jordan Bingham’s larcenous uncles first showed up in their small kitchen behind Michael Kelly’s antiques. Uncle Mike immediately started cooking, if you can call it that. KD, anyone?
And it was during a phone call that the secret of the bi-polar cat was revealed to us.
If we are tracking the benefits of this collaboration, laughter must be the first one. Victoria is the taller, funnier one and she continues to crack me up as she introduces whimsy and humor into the story. She’s also the pro on vintage clothing and antiques. I am in charge of the bad food that the Kelly uncles specialize in.
Of course, there is much pussyfooting around. Mother/daughter relationships might be full of love and hugs, but they are also fraught with peril.
Like any creative endeavor, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. We’re not sure how we got there, but we like the world we’ve created for Jordan Bingham, we get a charge out of the crotchety employer Vera Van Alst and her bag lady wardrobe. We enjoy watching Jordan squirm as a certain police officer becomes very interested in her. She’ll never be able to introduce him to that particular family of crooks. Most of all, we’re keen to see how Jordan’s life changes and how she grows in expertise and value to her book collector boss. Naturally, we have to put her in danger and then let her use her considerable smarts to get herself out again.
We are rolling with the challenges: finding the right time to work together, keeping up the story energy, homogenizing our voices and, as always, having fun.
Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between the always very funny and creative artist, photographer and short story author, Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, award-winning author of three mystery series and two dozen short stories. As you can see, their four miniature dachshunds are understandably outraged that a pug and some Siamese cats have wiggled their way into the series.
The Christie Curse: a book collector mystery, by Victoria Abbott
First in a new series! Coming March 5, 2013
Victoria Abbott is Mary Jane Maffini & Victoria Maffini