My author in the spotlight today is Tansy Rayner Roberts whose latest book “Keep Calm and Kill the Chef” will be published tomorrow by Twelfth Planet Press under the name of her alter ego Livia Day. Thanks for joining me Tansy. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I’ve lived in Tasmania all of my life. I work for a gravestone company. I am married, and raising a couple of theatre kids which means that our world is full of musicals. So many musicals. I write fiction under two names: Livia Day for murder mysteries, and Tansy Rayner Roberts for science fiction & fantasy.
What inspired you to start writing?
I was an only child who learned to read very early (my mother taught me as a toddler because we lived in the bush and I was bored) so I had a lot of time on my hands. I was writing page 1 of novels (and beautifully drawing my own cover art in crayon) from the age of about 6. For almost as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve been seeing the books I wanted to make, and from there it was a fairly short step to obsessively writing and planning stories. (learning to finish them was what took the time)
I’m an eclectic reader and that’s transferred into my writing – I work across many different genres and styles.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I wrote several novel manuscripts in my teens, including two versions of a crime/adventure novel set in Hobart with characters called Tabitha, Zee and Stewart. Also an epic fantasy novel, and a comedy about a space assassin… I sold a couple of fantasy novels to Transworld/Random House after winning a competition when I was 20, and wrote what became A Trifle Dead (my first murder mystery) thanks to an Arts Tasmania grant. There were a lot of ups and downs and near-misses of publication over the next few years. So many peaks and troughs in my career!
My crime novel manuscript kept running aground because agents and publishers on the mainland weren’t convinced by the version of Tasmania I was writing about – full of art, weird fashion, great food and coffee, and creative young people having fun. To the old guard of publishing, fiction set here had to be about ghosts, convict history and sadness. Luckily that has changed a lot over the last few years, thanks to things like MONA, Dark Mofo and a wave of Millennial tourists.
I finally sold A Trifle Dead to Twelfth Planet Press, a science fiction publisher who were looking to start a new crime imprint: Deadlines. My publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, has always championed the cozy crime subgenre, and we’ve had so much fun with this series – from a student film project creating a deliciously gory book trailer, to a recipe contest so readers could add their own trifle recipes to the first book!
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Keep Calm and Kill the Chef is about a YouTube cooking show that runs into disaster when its Head Chef, the despicable Cameron Crewe, is found dead with a knife made out of toffee sticking in his chest… and our heroine, Tabitha, is a prime suspect! It’s the third novel in the Café La Femme series about friends working in a Hobart café and having stylish adventures while solving crimes. But each of them, like any good crime series, works as a standalone, so you don’t have to start from the beginning.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It popped into my head and I knew it needed to be a murder mystery. Naming books is my favourite thing, and the Café la Femme books have been a particular joy. A Trifle Dead was a late change because of a joking exchange between my publisher and I on Twitter – while Drowned Vanilla and Keep Calm and Kill the Chef both came to me before I had the story to go with them.
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
A Café La Femme book always calls for coffee and cake! We’re also holding an official launch on 29 September at the Hobart Bookshop, who are fantastic about supporting Tassie writers. I think there’s plans for a digital book launch on Facebook too!
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Always. I’m working on a few shorter pieces right now, including a fairy tale serial for my podcast, ‘Sheep Might Fly’. I’m working on a writing book based on my experiences of getting back my writing mojo after a long break when I had kids. And… (whispers) a PLAY. Maybe. We’ll see.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I’ve rediscovered Lindsey Davis this year, with her fantastic Flavia Albia series about a young female informer solving crimes in Ancient Rome. I also adored Cat Sebastian’s Hither, Page which is a m/m romance set in an Agatha Christie style post-war village, with a great murder mystery and a cast of lovable villagers. The two leads are a shell-shocked doctor and an emotionally stunted spy. It’s SO GOOD I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.
What are you reading just now?
It’s August 2019 as I’m speaking to you, and the latest Sarah MacLean historical romance just dropped – Brazen and the Beast, from her Bare-Knuckled Bastards series. Why would I be reading anything else? MacLean is one of my heroes at inventing book titles – she wrote Nine Rules To Break When Romancing a Rake.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Just the one?? If I was practical I would say Dick Francis’ Longshot, which taught me more survival tips than any other crime novel and I would really need the help because I am not a person equipped to survive nature.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
I was thinking the other day how we don’t see nearly enough Wilkie Collins adaptations. I’d love to see The Law and the Lady done as a lavish film or mini-series. Valeria Woodville is the first female detective in a crime novel, and a precursor to the Agatha Christie style of having a random young lady solve a mystery. Someone like Sophie Turner would be great at the heart of a gothic mystery, I think she’d be a splendid Valeria.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I’m on Twitter at @tansyrr. For Livia Day/crime-specific news and updates, you can sign up for my newsletter — https://mailchi.mp/tansyrr/liviaday or find me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LiviaDaySleuth/
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Harriet Vane of Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries – 1930s fashions, a housekeeper to manage everything, plenty of time to write in a private study, and witty banter all around when I’m looking to procrastinate! She lives the dream.
Keep Calm and Kill the Chef will be published as an e-book tomorrow by Twelfth Planet Press. You can order a Kindle copy online here: Keep Calm and Kill the Chef
From the back of the book
Scones, tea, and a stabbing…
When Tabitha Darling entered Cafe La Femme in a reality TV show hosted by an infamous “bad boy” Chef, she never expected to be a suspect in his murder.
When Xanthippe Carides quit working in a cafe to become a private detective, she never expected one of her first cases would be keeping Tabitha out of jail…
These two friends have a mystery to solve, and only one of them is telling the whole truth.