>Today the Dolls welcome author Jacqueline Winspear to the Dollhouse – just in time for the publication of her new book A Lesson in Secrets – the 8th installment in the Maisie Dobbs mysteries – out March 22nd!
Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. Following higher education at the University of London’s Institute of Education, Jacqueline worked in academic publishing, in higher education and in marketing communications in the UK.
She emigrated to the United States in 1990, and while working in business and as a personal /professional coach, Jacqueline embarked upon a life-long dream to be a writer.
A regular contributor to journals covering international education, Jacqueline has published articles in women’s magazines and has also recorded her essays for KQED radio in San Francisco. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a regular visitor to the United Kingdom and Europe.
PBD: Your biography states that your grandfather took part and was wounded in WWI, which was how you became interested in the ‘War to end all wars’ – why then a female heroine? How did you conceive the idea for Maisie Dobbs in an era so focused on the heroes – the men – fathers, sons, brothers who gave up so much.
JW:My grandmother was a munitions worker who, at the age of 18, was partially blinded in an explosion at the factory. Several of the girls alongside her were killed in the same accident. In addition, I have a deep interest in the women of that generation – the first generation of women in modern times to go to war. The Great War was a war of heroines as much as it was of heroes.
I did not “conceive” the character of Maisie Dobbs. In fact, I had no plans to write a novel at all. Instead, the character came to me while I was daydreaming in bumper-to-bumper traffic. What I refer to as my “moment of artistic grace.”
PBD: The Maisie Dobbs series focuses on the years following the ‘Great War’ (WWI) and most of the mysteries Maisie sets out to solve in these books focus on events that happened before or during the war – rather than the present (in Maisie’s present) – why?
JW: No reason. It just happened that way. But we’re moving on from the Great War now.
PBD: Many books that focus on the 20s and 30s are filled with the endless parties, dancing and well, what turned the roaring twenties into the roaring twenties. Maisie’s life seems very separate from that, will we ever see her partying the night away?
JW: Maisie’s been to a few parties – but there are people who are party hounds and people who aren’t. She likes the odd party, but not every night of the week – that’s not really her style, and she has a business to run.
PBD: Maisie is such a wonderfully complex character and I feel that as each book progresses she opens up more – to herself, to those around her and even to the reader – has she finally put the past to rest?
JW: I don’t know, she hasn’t told me yet – but a painful past is hard to completely put to rest.
PBD: Did you base Maisie’s character on someone you know? Do you see yourself in Maisie?
PBD: Reading these books, I can’t help but want to warn the characters of the dangers that lie just a few years in the future. It breaks my heart when I read about Priscilla’s sons – knowing that another war is just around the corner. Is that something you think about when you write these books? Do you already have the characters’ futures mapped out for them or are you strictly focused on their ‘present’?
JW: To some extent I have a future in mind for my characters, but you never know what will turn up in life, so I’m not too prescriptive. With some characters – like people you know – the future seems to be writ large, but others, not so clear.
PBD: Is there a certain writer – mystery or other genre, that has influenced your style of writing? How so?
JW: No one has influenced my style of writing and I have never tried to emulate anyone else, though there a many writers I admire. Writers have to develop their own style, and that should be a very natural process.
PBD: When you have free time, what kinds of mysteries do you enjoy reading and do you have a favorite book?
JW: When I have free time, for the most part these days I seem to be reading non-fiction and researching the historical backdrop to my novels. I enjoy reading memoir and biography, and I confess I am drawn to well-reviewed fiction, whether literary or genre fiction, though frankly that line is increasingly blurred. If I am reading a mystery, I like novels that have rich characterization.
PBD: One of the most well known plots for a mystery book is the ‘country house murder’ or ‘locked room’ plot – do you see yourself writing something like that?
PBD: The 8th installment of the Maisie Dobbs series comes out on March 22nd – do you have a certain point where you want to end this series? What next from Ms. Winspear?
JW: I have a certain point in mind when I think the series will come to a natural end, and I have rough plans for the characters and how life will treat them. I also have other writing projects in the works, but I am afraid I can’t tell you about them – if you talk about your work before it’s finished, it takes away the compulsion to write it!