The Advent of Mrs. Meade: by Elisabeth G. Foley

Monday, April 07, 2014


Today I have a special feature from Elisabeth Grace Foley, in celebration of her newest release: The Mrs. Meade Mysteries Volume 1! (Purchase here.) Enjoy.


-The Advent of Mrs. Meade-

I have a terrible memory for dates and times, so I discovered quickly that if I didn’t date the first pages of my stories I’d have no idea when I began writing them. I don’t bother to date every page of the notebooks where I scribble my first sketches of story ideas, though, so their exact origins often end up (if you’ll pardon the expression) shrouded in mystery. Unless I happened to mention it in my journal, I can’t remember when an idea came to me or what sparked it.

With the Mrs. Meade Mysteries, however, I’m a little more fortunate. To begin with, we have documentation:

July 27, 2011
[Watched] Gaslight [tonight]. Second Victorian thriller from the 1940s I've seen this month—I think I liked The Spiral Staircase best of the two. Plotting out a little suspense novella of my own, titled The Silver Shawl. Future project, of course.

Things would change along the way—at this point I was referring to it as Victorian suspense when it would actually turn out Edwardian mystery (which, if you want to be particular, is a better definition for The Spiral Staircase too). But even this entry wasn’t the real beginning. I frequently bounce ideas around in my head for a while before putting pen to paper, and the basic concept for The Silver Shawl had been bounced around as an idea for a Western story—the concept being the disappearance of a young woman, with some question as to whether she was kidnapped or fled of her own accord. Some of the details remained the same to the final draft. She worked at a post-office. She had a fiancĂ© or sweetheart who agonized over her disappearance and didn’t know what to make of it. Most importantly, there was the character of an older woman who reassured him and offered council. After playing with this idea a while I found it didn’t really work as a straight Western, but at some point it dawned on me that it would make a fine historical mystery.

Mrs. Meade came into being very naturally, born of that original woman character and definitely influenced by some other lady sleuths of detective fiction. As a lifelong mystery reader, of course I was well acquainted with Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, but it may have been Anna Katharine Green’s Miss Amelia Butterworth who had more effect on the creation of the Mrs. Meade Mysteries. Green, though not as well known today, was a very popular mystery author in the 19th and early 20th centuries—her novels, written in flowery old-world prose, are thick with intricate plots and clues and lashings of Victorian melodrama. That Affair Next Door, published in 1897, introduced the character of Miss Amelia Butterworth, who would go on to appear in two more novels—a very proper but forthright spinster who always insisted she was not an inquisitive woman, but was very much aware of what everybody else was up to, and put that knowledge to good use in solving mysteries! My Mrs. Meade has her own personality, somewhere between these two ladies and no doubt inspired by both, but it was the rich period atmosphere of the turn-of-the-century world Miss Butterworth inhabited that sparked many of my ideas for setting and background.

October 5th
I had another historical mystery-novella idea and decided I could link it with The Silver Shawl by using the same amateur detective—in the tradition of Miss Marple and Miss Amelia Butterworth, an elderly lady. Mine is a widow, though, not a spinster. She lives on an annuity in hotels or boarding-houses, and always "happens to be across the hall" when things happen. The stories can bear the subtitle, "A Mrs. Meade Mystery." That sounds neat!

And the rest, as they say, is history.

We all know how much things can change between the original inspiration and the final product, but this is a rare case where some of my first ideas made it through: I liked that line about Mrs. Meade always “happening to be across the hall” so much that I kept on the lookout for a place to use it, and did eventually work it into the second story, The Parting Glass. See if you can spot it when you read the book!
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Elisabeth Grace Foley is a historical fiction author, avid reader and lifelong history buff. Her first published story, “Disturbing the Peace,” was an honorable mention in the first annual Rope and Wire Western short story competition, and is now collected with six others in her debut short story collection, The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories. Her other works include short fiction set during the American Civil War and the Great Depression. A homeschool graduate, she chose not to attend college in order to pursue self-education and her writing career. Visit her online at www.thesecondsentence.blogspot.com.
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Elisabeth is hosting a giveaway for one lucky lady (or gentleman, I suppose!) to win a signed copy of The Mrs. Meade Mysteries: Volume 1! Enter below...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment

  1. the rafflecopter won't let me log out of my mom's account (which it's done to me before) so I'm entered under Michele:)
    I'd love to win this giveaway!

    ReplyDelete

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