Charles Finch was kind enough to agree to an interview. He’s one of my favorite authors and his first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2007, one of only five mystery novels on the list.
Q. You chose the Victorian Era as the foundational time frame to your novels because it serves as a reflection of contemporary issues in a literary framework. Notwithstanding the connection, given the opportunity, would you travel back in time to the Victorian Era? Would you want to live there, or just visit? Why or why not?
I would love to travel back in time to the Victoria period – briefly. One of the things I try to emphasize in my books is that no matter how civilized life was, it also had a brutal, unpleasant side, with widespread illness and poverty, early deaths, and every stripe of prejudice…and think of all the things you would miss from the modern era! Could I check Facebook? If not I think I’ll stick with our time and have fun daydreaming about theirs.
Q. At the end of The September Society, Charles Lenox agrees to run for Parliament with Lady Jane’s blessing as well as his brother, Edmund’s support. His dream of standing for Parliament finally comes true in book 3. Did you already know at the end of A Beautiful Blue Death that Lenox’s dream would come true? As for yourself are you politically inclined, and do you have any aspirations in that sphere?
From the start I really liked the idea of pulling Lenox away from his work as a detective, and I planted the seeds for him to enter politics in the first book, yes. But actually I wasn’t sure whether Lenox would win his election in Stirrington until the day when I wrote the chapter! I like to make big decisions like that one by feel.
I love politics, and I’ve worked in it before. But I’m happy writing.
Q. You’ve previously named Elizabeth Gaskell as a source of research for your work. Which of her novels did you rely on the most, and how do you feel about her writings? Did the underlying themes relating to the social and political strata of British society impact your writings?
Some time ago I read North and South, and I loved how astute it was about exactly the political and social calibrations you mention. She was much more sophisticated than Dickens, for instance, who wrote from a more emotional angle. Gaskell is definitely the writer I try to think of when I’m writing about class clashes…
Q. If the opportunity ever comes, would you sell the rights to the Lenox series for either television or film? How often have you “cast” it? Who’s your ultimate dream cast?
I would love to sell the Lenox rights, preferably for TV – I agree with the cliché that suspense novels work for film, mysteries for episodic TV. My friend and family love to cast the books, and on my Facebook fan page I think the fans ended up casting Jeremy Northam as Charles Lenox, Jennifer Ehle as Lady Jane, Andrew Lincoln as Graham, Matthew McFayden as McConnell, Aaron Johnson as Dallington, Imogen Poots as Toto, Kenneth Branagh as Edmund, and Stephen Fry as Shreve. Can’t argue with those picks!
Q. A couple of the books were written while you were a postgraduate student. How did you balance coursework and writing? Did your fellow course mates know? What was their reaction as well as that of the faculty?
I definitely tried to keep those two parts of my life segregated – the faculty didn’t know, and only my friends among the course people. I never found it hard to balance the two; in fact, if anything I’m happier when I have a couple of different projects to shift between.