Interview & Giveaway: A Murder By Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Hey everyone! Today on the blog I have an interview with Suzanne M. Wolfe who is currently on a blog tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for A Murder By Any Name, the first book in her new historical mystery series.

I loved this book and you can find my review here.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Suzanne! You can enter to win a gorgeous hardcover copy of the book too, so be sure to see the giveaway below.

Hello Suzanne and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about A Murder By Any Name!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I have always loved history and literature. In fact, I almost read history at Oxford but then I switched to literature. I didn’t plan on writing historical fiction, it just sort of happened.

Even though my first novel, Unveiling (second edition, 2018) is contemporary fiction, there is a historical element to it because my protagonist is an art conservator who has been sent to Rome to restore a medieval painting. The history of the painting—who painted it and why—is the mystery at the heart of the novel.

No one was more astonished than I was to see the historical element emerge after so many years of lying dormant. I have always pictured my imagination as a swamp into which random objects and experiences fall over time…and then suddenly pop up again. I guess that the biggest surprise was the re-emergence of my love of history in the plot of the first novel. Since then, my inspiration for stories seems to come entirely from the past.

My second novel, The Confessions of X (2016), tells the story in the first person of St. Augustine’s concubine, a woman who has been “lost to history.” In this novel, she speaks to us from the ancient world of Carthage at the end of the Roman Empire.

The Nicholas Holt spy mystery series is set in Elizabethan times; the first one, A Murder by Any Name, is set in London in 1585. The second, The Course of All Treasons, is set in 1586. This period in British history is crammed with drama, colorful characters—not least among them, Elizabeth herself—and is one of the most fascinating, if terrifying, eras of treachery, death, and intrigue in all of British history. What’s not to like?

What inspired you to write A Murder By Any Name?

Being a Brit, I was raised on the novels of Agatha Christie. The British penchant for murder mysteries lies, I think, in the discrepancy between the polite, social veneer of manners and the dark undercurrents of the human heart.

Why did you choose to write in the Elizabethan era?

No era in British history is more paradoxical than Elizabethan England. Beneath the brittle gaiety of a court presided over by the glittering Virgin Queen lies a malevolent and violent religious and political war zone; its soldiers are secret agents; its weapons are treachery and brutality. It is a war that is waged to the death.

An age which boasts a Shakespeare and a Christopher Marlowe also boasts the rack and the Scavenger’s Daughter (fearsome instruments of torture in the Tower of London). The good citizens of London might flock to the plays of Shakespeare, but they also flocked to see Catholic priests hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn.

I want the reader to walk the streets of London, to gape at the opulent rooms of Whitehall Palace, to sit on a bench in the Black Sheep Tavern and listen to the gossip of the Bankside locals. Above all, I want the reader to walk alongside Nick and Hector as they negotiate the minefield of hidden threats beneath the honeyed words of courtiers, the cast-iron alibis of suspects, the bald-faced lies of villains.

What research did you undertake when writing A Murder by Any Name?

I already had a pretty good working knowledge of the era from my studies of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan and Metaphysical poets. And growing up in England, I studied the reign of the Tudor kings and queens in school. I also felt comfortable with the era because I had visited Tudor homes and manors many times in my childhood and adolescence. So being a Brit was definitely an advantage as it gave me a level of familiarity with the era right off the bat.

But then I had to research the details, of course. That was a lot of work but it is something I really enjoy. For example: I had to figure out how long it would take a horse to gallop to and from Oxford in bad weather. I have to say that I live for this kind of detail. I guess I’m a history nerd that way.

How did your personal feelings about Queen Elizabeth I shape the way you wrote her? What do you think of Elizabeth I as a monarch?

I have always loved Elizabeth. She always struck me as a survivor and I have always admired her intelligence and independence. Perhaps it’s because I am a Brit, but I have never seen Elizabeth in a romantic light. It was always her strength and wit that appealed to me. The novel, A Murder by Any Name, starts off with Elizabeth’s voice—“God’s bollocks, girl. I’m freezing my tits off”—and it is definitely not a romantic voice. It is salty, acerbic, witty, coarse, intelligent, and, above all, commanding.

Elizabeth is one hell of a strong woman and she had to be; the religious and political warfare that characterized the time put a target on her back. She survived more assassination attempts than any monarch in British history. She is the consummate survivor. I think I love her for that most of all.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I adored writing the Codpiece scenes—he’s the fictional fool I’ve given to Elizabeth. I just love him.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

The romance scenes (or those that hint at, perhaps, future romance). That’s all I’m giving away.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 3 and began to read. And before anyone thinks I’m a prodigy, I may have been reading by the age of 3 but I couldn’t tell the time until I was 12. I am number dyslexic. That makes date checking very important and brings me out in a cold sweat.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

I like to get up early and write in the morning. If I am writing to deadline, I will write again in the evening or as long as it takes to get the job done. I’m not really big on waiting for inspiration to strike before I write; my Muse tends to be a lazy slut.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

My greatest challenge is probably myself, just not wanting to buckle down and do the hard work of writing. I have overcome it by being very disciplined about writing.

Who are your writing inspirations?

For historical fiction, my muses are Patrick O’Brian, Colleen McCullough, Sigrid Undset, Marguerite Yourcenar, Mary Renault, to name a few. Other writers I greatly admire: Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Tim Winton, Cormac McCarthy, Dennis Lehane, Jo Nesbo, Ian Rankin, Lawrence Block.

What was the first historical novel you read?

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken. I think I was 6 or 7.

What is the last historical novel you read?

The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar

What are three things people may not know about you?

I am a Brit; I have a pit-bull named Charlie who is the gentlest and most loving creature in the world; I am number dyslexic and frequently sit in the wrong seat on airplanes.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

The world is there: the historical novelist only has to find it. I love being a history detective.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

As evinced by my own novels, I love all time periods. I have written about the ancient world, the medieval era and, with this series, the Elizabethan era.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Reading, gardening, and hanging out with Charlie (the pit-bull).

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I am revising the second novel in the series, The Course of All Treasons.

I can't wait for the next book in the series! Thank you for spending time with us today, Suzanne!

A Murder By Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover & eBook; 326 Pages

Genre: Historical Mystery

When a brutal murder threatens the sanctity of the Elizabethan court, it’s up to a hot-tempered spy to save the day.

The court of Elizabeth I is no stranger to plotting and intrigue, but the royal retinue is thrown into chaos when the Queen’s youngest and sweetest lady-in-waiting is murdered, her body left on the high altar of the Chapel Royal in Whitehall Palace. Solving the murder will require the cunning and savvy possessed by only one man. Enter Nicholas Holt, younger brother of the Earl of Blackwell—spy, rake, and owner of the infamous Black Sheep tavern in the seedy district of Bankside. Nick quickly learns that working for the Queen is a mixed blessing. Elizabeth—salty-tongued, vain, and fiercely intelligent—can, with a glance, either reward Nick with a purse of gold or have his head forcibly removed.

When a second lady-in-waiting is slain at Whitehall, the court once again reels with shock and dismay. On the trail of a diabolical killer, Nick and his faithful sidekick—an enormous Irish Wolfhound named Hector—are treading on treacherous ground, and only the killer’s head on a platter can keep them in the Queen’s good graces.

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Praise for A Murder By Any Name

“Captivating… Fans of Fiona Buckley’s Ursula Blanchard and Kathy Lynn Emerson’s Rosamond Jaffrey will be delighted to add Wolfe to their reading lists.” ―Booklist

“[A] promising series launch… Fans of Elizabethan historicals will be satisfied.” ―Publishers Weekly

“An excellent series kickoff by Wolfe that cleverly highlights both the mystery and the many ills of Elizabethan times.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“In vivid passages, Suzanne Wolfe’s novel brings to the reader the light and dark of Elizabethan England, its squalor and splendor, filth and riches, intrigues and delights.” ―NY Journal of Books

“A deeply atmospheric and richly textured Elizabethan mystery... I was captivated by Nicholas and Hector as they navigated court treachery and the dark recesses of the lower classes in this compelling Elizabethan mystery.” ―Shelley Freydont, New York Times bestselling author

"Wolfe’s descriptions are unparalleled, immersing the reader in the time period as they join her wily protagonist on his quest to catch a cold-hearted killer.” ―Anna Lee Huber, bestselling author of the Lady Darby Mysteries

"I stayed up reading much too late to finish this book! Wonderful Elizabethan atmosphere, well-drawn and unusual characters, action and intrigue and excitement―I felt like I was in the 1570s" ―Amanda Carmack, award-winning author of the Elizabethan mysteries

“Bewitching! Suzanne Wolfe opens the door to Elizabethan life through her masterful creation of the sympathetic spy, Nicholas Holt. An exciting start to a promising new historical mystery series.” ―Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai series

“A classically plotted whodunit set against the background of Elizabethan London and the court of Queen Elizabeth the First, both of them well researched and vividly realized, with a wealth of detail. One can almost smell the reek of the 16th century streets and waterways.” ―Fiona Buckley, author of the Ursula Blanchard Elizabethan mysteries

About the Author

Suzanne M. Wolfe grew up in Manchester, England and read English Literature at Oxford University, where she co-founded the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society. She served as Writer in Residence at Seattle Pacific University and taught literature and creative writing there for nearly two decades. Wolfe is the author of three novels: A Murder by Any Name, The Confessions of X, and Unveiling.

Thirty years ago, she and her husband, Gregory Wolfe, co-founded Image, a journal of the arts and faith. They have also co-authored many books on literature and prayer including Books That Build Character: How to Teach Your Child Moral Values Through Stories, and Bless This House: Prayers For Children and Families. Her essays and blog posts have appeared in Image and other publications. She and her husband are the parents of four grown children. They live in Richmond Beach, Washington.

For more information, please visit Suzanne M. Wolfe's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 17
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, December 18
Excerpt at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, December 19
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Guest Post at Jathan & Heather

Thursday, December 20
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Review at Peppermint Ph.D.

Friday, December 21
Feature at What Is That Book About

Sunday, December 23
Review at Carole's Ramblings

Thursday, December 27
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, December 28
Review at Tar Heel Reader
Review at Amy's Booket List

Monday, December 31
Review at Tudor Enthusiast

Wednesday, January 2
Excerpt at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Thursday, January 3
Excerpt at T's Stuff
Guest Post at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Friday, January 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Monday, January 7
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, January 8
Guest Post at On the Tudor Trail

Wednesday, January 9
Review at Reading the Past

Thursday, January 10
Review at Broken Teepee
Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Friday, January 11
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Monday, January 14
Review at Maiden of the Pages

Tuesday, January 15
Interview at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, January 16
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, January 17
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at CelticLady's Reviews


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 3 hardcover copies of A Murder By Any Name! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Murder By Any Name

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