Can you tell us the inspiration for writing your first book?
I really identified with Princess Diana because we had children about the same age and loved motherhood. I am an attorney and I do criminal appeals in my “day” job, so I read about murder constantly. (I know how that sounds.) Because I was interested in Diana, I read about the tragedy in the Place d’Alama tunnel quite a bit. I felt something wasn’t quite right with the accident stories, although I have never been a “conspiracy” sort of person. One day I read that she received a threatening phone call in January 1997 foretelling her assassination. She made a video tape naming the killer and gave it to someone in America for safekeeping. It has never been found. The fiction writer in me took over from there, and I created Nicholas Carey, Eighteenth Duke of Burnham, and Diana’s close friend who has dedicated himself to finding that tape.
Do you have books that have influenced you over the years?
I couldn’t really name all of them. There are too many. As a writer, I have always wanted to emulate Mary Stewart. I grew up reading her romantic suspense novels set in exotic places, and I loved the stories and her beautiful writing style. I liked her Merlin books, but I missed the original romantic suspense novels when she turned exclusively to the Arthurian legend.
Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
I have finished another novel and have outlined my third which I am going to begin writing any day now.
After looking back, is there anything you would change in 'Dance for a Dead Princess'?
No. I discovered writing two stories together was quite difficult, but I’m really happy with the way the modern romance and the Tudor romance work together. The details of each had to parallel the other to keep the book from being disjointed. The stories have important parallels. Thomas Carey, who became the first duke near the end of his life, was the son of a well-to-do and ambitious sheep farmer from the village of Burnham in Kent. He sent his son Thomas to Henry VIII’s court to train as a knight. Eventually Thomas and Henry would fall in love with heiress Elizabeth Howell; and Henry would circulate rumors Thomas murdered his wife to be free to seek Elizabeth’s hand. Similarly, Deborah Downing’s death under mysterious circumstances at the Abbey in 1994 and the coroner’s inquest led to gossip Nicholas was responsible for killing his wife. That gossip reaches new heights when his ward Lucy is found dead on a night when Nicholas has no alibi and when Taylor, who by now has fallen in love with Nicholas, has just discovered he cannot sell Burnham Abbey to her client as long as Lucy is alive. Both Thomas and Nicholas are accused of murdering those who stand in the way of what they want.
Have you encountered any criticism as an author?
I’m waiting to hear it. So far, all of the feedback on Dance For a Dead Princess has been very positive.
Can you share the best compliment you have received?
There have been a number, so it’s hard to pick just one. I liked the reviewer who said Nicholas was her favorite part of the book and called him “complex, romantic, and brooding.” I wanted him to be a lot deeper than the average hero of a romance novel. Another great line from a reviewer was “Enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.” As a writer, you always want to keep the reader turning pages. And I was happy with Kirkus Reviews’ description of my book: “British history and contemporary conspiracy collide in this satisfying novel.” That comment made me feel that I had accomplished my goal of weaving the two stories together in a way that a reader would understand.
Is there any advice you could share to help other authors?
Keep writing. And find a really good editor who understands your book and your unique style.
ABOUT DEBORAH HAWKINS
Deborah grew up in the South, wrote her first novel at the of age thirteen, and has been writing ever since. In graduate school, she studied Irish Literature and came to believe all Irishmen and Southerners are born storytellers. In addition to writing, she loves music and plays the clarinet. Now that her children are grown, she devotes her time to law, music, writing, and her two Golden Retrievers, Melody and Rhythm.
Deborah taught college English and worked as a technical editor before going to law school. She worked for several large East Cost firms before coming to California in the mid-1980's where she developed a solo practice as an appellate attorney while raising her three children as a single parent. She is admitted to the bar in two states and the District of Columbia, is a certified appellate specialist, and has a Master of Laws in addition to a Masters in English. She believes that even a legal case always begins with a story.