Q&A With Connie Berry

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Q&A With Connie Berry 

Another author I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with is USA Today Bestselling author of the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, Connie Berry! For those interested in her books sign up for her monthly newsletter at . I know I will sign up! 

Q: Connie, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about your Kate Hamilton series, & where did the idea for the series come from?

A: Hi Bianca! Thanks so much for allowing me to tell you about my books. The Kate Hamilton Mysteries are set in the UK and feature an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Kate is a young widow with two college-age children who now lives and works in the fictional Suffolk village of Long Barston. With the help of Detective Inspector Tom Mallory; antiquities expert Ivor Tweedy; local peeress, Lady Barbara Finchley-fforde; and Kate’s bossy buy lovable landlady, Vivian Bunn, Kate investigates crimes involving fine art and antiques. In 2023 I published an ebook novella, Mistletoe and Murder, also available on Audible.The fifth in the series, A Collection of Lies, is set in Devon and will be available on June 18, 2024. 

The idea for the series was inspired by the confluence of two pieces of advice often given to writers: one, write what you know, and two, write what you love. 

What I knew was the antiques trade. That’s the world I grew up in. My parents were collectors, lovers of history, and eventually dealers in objects of great age and beauty. Many of these objects ended up either permanently or temporarily in our house. I thought it was normal. Only later did I find out my friends were creeped out by life-size marble statues and Chinese porcelain nodders (figures with moveable heads, hands, and tongues). As a child, I spent weekends with my parents at antique shows and auctions. Every family vacation was a thinly disguised buying trip. I didn’t always appreciate old things. Once I asked my mom why we couldn’t have new furniture like other people. “Well,” she said, “our things have a history—so much more interesting, don’t you think?” That line made it into one of my books. 

What I loved was the UK. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Scotland as adults, and spending time with them was like spending time in the old country. In their eyes, everything British was good and everything Scottish was best. During college I attended St. Clare’s College, Oxford, where I really fell under the spell of the British Isles. I’m a true Anglophile. Even as a child, I devoured British authors like Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse.

When I decided to write a mystery series, these two streams of inspiration came together to produce the Kate Hamilton Mysteries. Since then, I spend time every year in the UK and never tire of exploring everything from quaint villages and historic pubs to spectacular National Trust Properties. I love talking to people, but it’s the history that really fires my imagination. Imagine eating in a pub that’s been around since before Columbus discovered the New World! Someone said once, “In the UK, a hundred miles is a long way; in the US, a hundred years is a long time.” So true.

Q: I love reading mysteries and you enjoy writing them obviously. Out of all the genres to write in, what do you enjoy most about writing mysteries?

A: That’s such a good question. The perennial popularity of the mystery genre is one of those things in life we know are true but have a hard time explaining. Maybe it’s the re-establishment of justice and order, or maybe it’s the solving of a puzzle—I don’t know. I do know that reading and writing mysteries has always been my favorite thing. As the child of an ex-elementary-school teacher, I was encouraged to use my imagination to write stories. My mother was also a saver, so I still have many of those stories, and it’s interesting to me that they all have some sort of mystery to solve (although no dead bodies). One of the things I love about writing mysteries is the working out of the plotline and the planting of clues, both real and red herrings. It’s like a game—making sure the readers have everything they need to solve the mystery but keeping them guessing until the end. Ideally, when the resolution is revealed, you want the reader to think, “Well, I should have known,” but also “Of course!” 

Q: Would you say the characters in your books are taken from bits and pieces of real people?

A: Everything authors write comes out of our own heads—people and events we’ve known or witnessed or read about or invented. To me, the most important part of a mystery are the characters. Even minor characters should come across as real people with good points and flaws. I know writers who say they create characters from real life—someone they actually know. Then they have to vary details to disguise the identity. I’ve never done that, but each of my characters combines bits and pieces of people I’ve known, including myself. One of the wonders of human life is the infinite variety. Every person is a one-off, a unique individual unlike any other. In creating characters, an author has that infinite variety to drawn upon. I love that part of writing. And sometimes characters actually take on a life of their own. I can’t explain it, but it happens; and when it does, it’s magical.

Q: Are you currently writing your next book in the Kate Hamilton series, a spin off series, a new series, or a standalone novel?

A: When I started writing novels, I didn’t realize just how long it takes from that first spark of inspiration to seeing a book in print. Right now I’m writing stories that won’t be available until 2025 or 2026. Right now I’m working on a possible sixth Kate book and some short stories set in 1920s England, featuring Chief Inspector Henry Blackstone of the Metropolitan Police. The shorts are so much fun. And I’m working on a historical standalone, which is just in the preliminary stage. 

Q: How does it feel knowing that your books are on the USA Today Bestsellers List?

A: That was a pleasant surprise. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have my books nominated for major awards like IPPY Gold, Daphne, Agatha, and Edgars. But what means the most to me are the warm reviews from professionals and readers. I love hearing from people through my website and my newsletter, and I always respond. People who love to tell stories want readers to enjoy them. That’s why we write—or at least that’s why most of us write. I heard someone say once (and it’s true): you aren’t a writer because you write; you write because you’re a writer. 

 Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your series? The entertainment industry needs new content again. Who would be your dream cast to play Kate Hamilton and your other characters you created?

A: Wouldn’t that be lovely! I’m available! As far as casting goes, I’ve always said that Kate looks like a younger Charlize Theron with dark hair. And I picture Tom a little like a younger Clive Owen. But “younger” is the important word because neither of them could play the parts now—they’re too old. If an author’s book or series is picked up by the TV or movie industry, you have to come to terms with the fact that the casting is out of your control. In many cases, so is the story. I remember Louise Penny apologizing to her readers because the producers of her Inspector Gamache books had taken liberties with the plot lines. As for the other main characters, I picture Vanessa Redgrave as Lady Barbara; Imelda Staunton as Vivian Bunn; and Jim Broadbent as Ivor Tweedy (one of my favorites).

Thank you again! This has been fun. Connie