Interview with Author Trisha Durrant by Melissa Brooks
Trisha Durrant was raised in post-war Britain and immigrated to the US as an adult. She is the author of the Kate and Doris Mysteries. I interviewed her to find out more about her writing, her inspiration, and what she is working on now.
1. Have you always been interested in writing?
From early childhood, I was a writer and also a voracious reader. My local library had a large children’s reading room where I spent countless hours sitting on the floor with my back against a warm radiator, a pile of my favorite books next to me, lost in my fantasy world. I came back to reality at closing time or when one of my siblings came looking for me with dire predictions of the trouble I was in for staying out so long. In elementary school, we were required to write essays. One, entitled ‘A Walk with my Dog’ earned me a half crown from the headmistress—the first time I was paid for my writing. Another, ‘My Favorite Holiday’ was responsible for the scholarship I was awarded to my first choice of grammar school in Cardiff. Since we didn’t have a dog and I wrote that my favorite holiday was skiing in Switzerland, about which I knew nothing, it was inevitable that I should become a fiction writer. I should explain that the half crown was in ‘old money’ and that I was born and raised in the UK. After my last child entered college. I returned to school with a concentration on writing classes, winning ‘Outstanding Student Writer of the Year.’ After graduation, I wrote for our library staff publication and also for an annual play I directed. After working on short stories (some of which were published in obscure magazines which are no longer in print), I decided to work on a full length book manuscript and have been writing books ever since.
2. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
I have always loved mysteries. As a child, my favorite author was the British writer, Enid Blyton. The Famous Five, Secret Seven and Malory Towers series were my favorites and they were all mysteries. Another influence was Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. You may not think of an archaeologist as being a mystery writer but his three volume account of his discovery of the tomb of an unknown Pharaoh reads like a mystery story. From the first clue that there could be an undiscovered tomb in the Valley of the Kings, to the finding of the entrance, and the cliffhanger when Lord Carnarvon asks Carter, “What do you see?” and Carter looks through a small gap he has made in the door and replies, “Wondrous things.” The reader doesn’t discover what those wondrous things are until Volume Two. The curse of the Pharaohs and the death of Lord Carnarvon shortly after add to the suspense. And then there was my teenage favorite author, the Queen of Cozies, Agatha Christie. I checked out every one of her books from our local library, and if I guessed the perpetrator before the ending I was thrilled.
3. What is your writing process like? How does writing a story start for you?
I’d like to say that I’m totally disciplined. That I sit at my computer daily and write for X number of hours, that I outline, research, write character sketches and know exactly where the book begins and how it ends. I’d like to say that but of course it isn’t true. I start with a character. Sometimes I develop character sketches, but usually I know my characters so well that it’s not necessary. I write a fluid outline, fluid because it can change radically as the story or characters take me in a different direction. I know how the story starts and I know where I want the plot to take me but the ‘middle’ usually takes a lot of rewriting.
4. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
I think every writer gets writers block at some time. I deal with it by free writing, jotting down random thoughts, which direction I want the plot line to go, a short—sometimes only a paragraph long—scene between two or more of my characters and then I start something new. After a week or two, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter I’m ready to go back to my original work.
5. How did writing the second Kate and Doris mystery differ from writing the first one?
By the time I wrote my second Kate and Doris mystery I knew my characters, their thought processes and reactions, so it was a much easier story to write compared to the first book where I was still getting to know them.
6. How did the characters of Kate and Doris develop as you wrote them? What was your inspiration for the characters?
Kate evolved from a bio I wrote for a staff publication when I worked at a library. The bio was intended to be somewhat humorous, and I wrote about living in a downtown neighborhood of Indianapolis with my cats and, being recently divorced, stated that I’d take a cat over a husband any day. From the response this generated it was evident that a lot of my readers felt the same way and Kate was created. One day I was in a small café when two women were arguing at the adjoining table because the elder of the two was putting all the sugar and sweetener packets on the table into her purse. I heard her say, “We’re paying for them, you know and they wouldn’t leave them on the table if they didn’t want us to take them.” That’s how Doris was born.
7. Are you working on anything right now?
I’m always working on something. I started writing another Kate and Doris book, but that has been supplanted by a WWII story set in Cardiff, S. Wales. Since the neighborhood I lived in had been heavily bombed in WWII, and even after the war was over, rationing was still in force and goods in the stores were in short supply; I am writing a story about the war and how it affected the people who lived there.