Please welcome author Carmel McMurdo Audsley to my blog. Her latest historical novel, The Undertaker, came out in October 2015.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have worked as a Journalist, Author, Editor and Theatre Reviewer in Brisbane, Australia for over 30 years and retired from full-time work at a newspaper a few years ago. I say ‘retired’ but I have never stopped working. I created a magazine and then started researching my first novel which was published in 2012. My fourth novel The Undertaker has just been released.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
All of my books have a strong female lead character – I couldn’t write them any other way. They are quite like me in that they don’t take no for an answer and are always trying to find solutions to problems. In The Undertaker the main character Kate would love to study medicine but in Edinburgh Scotland in 1858 women are not admitted to the prestigious School of Medicine. She is just 23 years old, and inherits her father’s undertaking business, and while most girls her age are only interested in finding a suitable husband, Kate is more interested in studying anatomy with a young male doctor she has befriended.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
My next novel will be set in Scotland and Australia. A rather well-to-do young woman (another strong female) inadvertently gets transported to Australia in the 1800s. She tries to help the many women from poor backgrounds who have turned to prostitution to survive. She falls in love with an Aboriginal man and has a child. I can’t say too much more, but she eventually returns to Scotland.
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like?
I write every day. Each book takes months of research, writing and editing and so after nine months gestation a new book is born. After the book has been published I get very involved in the marketing as well, so really each books takes about a year to get into the marketplace. I begin each day by checking and answering my emails. I always reply to emails received from readers. It’s a great joy to be in touch with someone who has taken the time to buy and read my book and then write to me. After breakfast and a bit of tidying up, I drink a lot of tea and get on with researching or writing my book. Because I write historical fiction, it is important that the details are correct, so I spend a lot of time checking and cross-checking facts.
What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)
Most of the writing advice I received was when I was at university studying to be a Journalist, and also from Editors at newspapers and magazines. The advice was always ‘keep it tight’ and those three little words really say it all. You can apply that advice to any type of writing. In the interests of keeping your reader engaged, don’t waffle, don’t give too much description and don’t go off on too many tangents – keep it tight.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I always write an outline for each book so that I have a roadmap for where I’m going. That doesn’t mean that I won’t take a few twists and turns to get to the destination. You have to be prepared to allow the characters and story guide you. I view writing a book a bit like an extended holiday. You have an approximate idea of when you will reach your journey and how you will get there, but if you find something interesting along the way, give yourself time to explore it. Sometimes a character will do or say something that leads to a new idea and so long as it flows with the rest of the story, I go with the flow.
Please tell us about your current release.
My latest book is The Undertaker. It is set in Edinburgh in 1858 and tells the story of a young woman, Kate Grainger, who inherits her father’s undertaking business. Not only is it not expected that she will continue with the business, but Kate suspects that the first client on her watch has been murdered and she sets out to find the killer. Even though a lot of the story is set in an undertaker’s office, there is also some humour and she takes off on lots of adventures as she digs into the background of her suspected killer.
What inspired you to write this book and how did you come up with the title?
All of my books are set in Scotland and I love researching period stories. There were some very intelligent, educated and creative women living in that period of course, but history is dominated by the achievements of men. I wanted to create a strong character who was rather unpredictable in her approach to life. I also wanted to introduce the theme of someone who could communicate with those in the after-life and Kate has that ability. The name – The Undertaker – has several meanings. Obviously, she is an undertaker by profession, she undertakes to solve murder mysteries and she is able to take people under by using hypnosis.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I researched how people lived in 1858 in Edinburgh and incorporated actual events such as an encounter Kate has with a little dog, known locally (and now across the world) as Greyfriar’s Bobby. When the little dog’s master died, he stayed by his graveside for many years. The canon would fire at Edinburgh Castle at one o’clock each day and the little dog would trot off for his only meal at a local coffee house that he used to frequent with his master. I also discovered that there is an area in Edinburgh known at The Vaults – underground caverns that were originally built for merchants to store their goods, but which became home to an assortment of unsavoury characters so of course Kate goes down into The Vaults. I also had to research poisons and how they killed people.
If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?
I would be Kate from The Undertaker, for sure. She is so self-confident and fearless. I would also be Mary from Ours, Yours and Mines. Mary is actually my great-great-grandmother. She gave birth to eight children and buried seven of them, mostly from tuberculosis. She was a very strong woman and I don’t know how she found the strength to carry on. I would also be Marion from Faeries, Farms and Folk. She lived in the 1700s in Scotland and was publicly mocked by the church because she became pregnant before marriage. She also befriended an old woman who was treated as a witch, so she wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in.
In 1858 in Edinburgh Scotland, a 23-year-old woman named Kate Grainger inherits her father’s undertaking business. It is a time when not much is expected of women, other than to be wives and mothers, and Kate wants to be neither. She wants to be a doctor but women are not allowed to enter the prestigious Edinburgh School of Medicine. She has a male friend, James, who is a doctor – he is smitten with her and wants to marry her, but she has made it clear that she has no such intentions. She spends a lot of time with him looking through his medical books to learn all that she can. She has drive and ambition – and a special gift. Kate can communicate with people who have passed over. She had, what her father thought, was an imaginary friend when she was a child, but her companion was the spirit of a little girl who had died in the Great Fire of Edinburgh. When Kate discovers that her first client at Grainger Undertakers has been murdered, she sets out on a journey that takes her deep into Edinburgh’s underground and into the spirit world to catch a serial killer.
About the Author
This is author Carmel McMurdo Audsley’s first foray into the world of crime fiction writing. Her three previous novels, all set in Scotland and based upon her family history, received glowing reviews from readers around the world. The Undertaker continues the theme of strong women who forge on against the odds to do what they feel is right. The author has researched life in Edinburgh Scotland in 1858 to take readers on a journey with the protagonist Kate as she walks the cobbled streets of the city, prepares the dead for their final journey and meets with people from all walks of life. As with her three previous novels – Ours, Yours and Mines; Far Across the Sea and Faeries, Farms and Folk – the writer takes readers through a door into the past.
You can find out more about Carmel on her website.