A Conversation with Jessica Berg Author of Murder Most Pemberley

Eliza Darcy travels to Merry Old England to partake in a Darcy/Bennet family reunion for one reason: to solve the estrangement between her father and uncle — Murder Most Pemberley (Eliza Darcy Mysteries) by @jessicaberg2003

What inspired the idea for your book?

 I am a self-proclaimed addict of all things Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. So, I had this harebrained idea…what if I combine my love of these two authors into one universe. And I did. In my world, Austen’s characters do exist, and the main character, Eliza Darcy, is the great to the sixth-degree granddaughter of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy. She, of course, uses her Agatha-Christie sleuthing skills to solve murder and mayhem when they rear their ugly heads. Also, add on the fact that she is an American learning how to transition to life across the pond, and well…let’s just say some things get lost in translation.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book

That being a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of her pants) does NOT work for writing cozies! This was my first cozy. I’m normally a contemporary romance author, so writing a cozy honestly kicked my hindquarters. There were several times I wanted to just Select All and hit the Delete button. But I didn’t. I simply—ha, anything but simple really—changed from a pantser to a plotter, and after I reverse outlined everything, the pieces started to fall into place. Since then, I’ve bought several books on the art of crafting and writing cozies as I want Eliza to continue her adventures in “Merry Old England” for as long as possible.

If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together? 

If my protagonist, Eliza Darcy, and I were friends we would spend our time in bookstores, tea shops, sticking our noses where they most certainly don’t belong, keeping Great Aunt Iris, who is much-too adventurous for her eighty-odd years, from getting into scrapes, and fighting over the delicious Heath Tilney, who appears twitterpated with Eliza…however, I’m thinking I could give her a run for her money. 

What does it mean to you to be called an author? 

Anyone who writes is an author. For too many years, I felt uncomfortable calling myself “author” as I had only written and self-published one book. Even now, after three more books, all contracted with a publisher, I look at the great ones, the household author names, and wonder if I can share that title with them. And, of course, the answer is YES, I can, and so can anyone who writes. The word “author” isn’t just reserved for best sellers or famous writers; that word is meant for anyone who puts the proverbial pen to paper and creates worlds and universes with words. Whether one or a million people see a literary work, does not change the status of the person behind the words. So, continue to write because you are an author!

How do you define success as an author? 

Ah, this is a tricky question, and one that I’m sure has a myriad of answers depending on who you speak to. I don’t think there is one ultimate goal, which once attained equals success. There are levels of success. The first one would be finishing the novel. This is by far the most difficult task, and not everyone can or will complete this pivotal moment. I can’t imagine the number of unfinished manuscripts out there…I have at least two that will never see the light of day, and trust me, that’s a good thing for everyone☺

The second aspect of success is the editing and publishing (whether tradition or indie) phase to perfect the book and get it out to an audience. This takes tough skin, a heart of iron, and willingness to admit your mistakes and grow as an author. Getting through this gut-wrenching, soul-crushing stage equals success. The third level is then up for interpretation. Does an author look at number or reviews, rankings on Amazon, solid author platform, number of followers on various social media sites, enough royalties to buy a bungalow in Bora Bora? Quite honestly, I’m proud of where I am and how hard I’ve worked for the success I have now. However, I constantly strive to improve my writing and my marketing because my ultimate goal, my personal “success” point, is being able to financially make it as a full-time author—a bungalow in Bora Bora not required.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals? 

The only quirky elements to my writing are my four children. Stealing a few moments here and there between their demands and, of course, keeping them alive, is my writing ritual.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters? 

That depends if I’m writing contemporary romance or cozy mysteries. Cozies are plot driven so I can reverse outline to make sure all my naughty little ducks stay in their row. For contemporary romance, I allow my characters to drive the plot. I put back on my pantser pants and let events and characters flow naturally as I write.

As an author what do you think makes a good story? 

Good, solid characters who are not automatons who act and talk unnaturally. I want flesh-and-blood characters who make mistakes, learn from them, and end the story better—not perfected—than they started.

What do you look for in a story as a reader? 

I read a wide variety of genres and would say that if the characters are strong, I normally enjoy the ride. There are other elements I enjoy, as well, such as humor, authentic romances between characters driven by chemistry and not because the author simply tells me they are in love, a sense of adventure or danger or difficult choices, and an ending that ties up all the loose ends and leaves me with a sense of fulfillment.

Who is your audience? As I write both contemporary romance and cozies, my audience may sometimes differ. However, I like a little spice and sass in my writing, so I do incorporate romance into my cozies☺ Who doesn’t love love? Anyway, back to the question: my audience is primarily women in their early twenties and beyond, who love to journey along with strong female protagonists. 

What has been your favorite reader feedback? 

The best feedback for me is when a reader tells me how real my characters are or how my story welcomed them in until they felt a part of my fictional world.

How do you interact with your readers? 

I love interacting with my readers through Facebook, Instagram, and my newsletter.

Newsletter sign up: https://www.jessicabergbooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicabergbooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessicabergbooks/

I also have a contact form on my website, and I always answer readers’ questions! I’ve recently revamped my Pinterest page and would love to interact with readers on the platform as well.

What is your all time favorite book or author? 

Do you think this has influenced your writing? My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. And it has absolutely influenced my writing from the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor Austen employed in her writing to my current cozy mystery series which is an adaptation of Austen’s works.

What was the defining moment that made you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to write a book that I will publish.”? 

I really don’t know. I wrote my first novel almost seven years ago, so things are a little cloudy! I think though that I had dabbled with writing enough that I finally got tired of messing around and decided to tear off the Band-aid and just do it. Granted, I did it all wrong, but that’s a whole different story!

How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block? 

I don’t! Ha, as much as I would love to put “just kidding” after that first phrase, I would be lying. Writer’s block is my number one nemesis and something that I have to actively defeat all the time. I am getting better at forcing myself to sit down and write at least a few hundred words a day, but it’s still a struggle, and I sometimes have to bribe myself. Like if I write two hundred words, I can do one of my online puzzles (I love puzzles!) or if I write a certain amount, I can go putter around in my flower garden or something like that.

What is the first book that you remember reading? 

That’s a great question. I’m not sure. I was and am an avid reader. I almost set fire to myself in my bed because of my reading habit! Thanks to my dad and his super sniffer, he smelled the smoke before my bed combusted into flames. Needless to say, a stuffed animal’s head against a 60-watt light bulb in a small lamp does not mix well.

Circling back to your question, I would have to say C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. I can’t say for certain these were my first books I read, but I can say that they left an impression on me and are still, to this day, one of my favorite books.

What is an underrated book, series or author that you think everyone should read at least once? 

I don’t know about underrated, but I think people should give Jane Austen a chance. Oftentimes, I think people are scared to even try her novels because they don’t think they’ll understand the writing style or are put off by the seemingly mundane plots. Well, I’m here to tell you that if my high school seniors can read her work, understand it, and enjoy it, I am positive that most adults would have the same results.

Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests?

 I love planting and caring for my flower garden—my favorite flowers are zinnias; I enjoy crafting and upcycling (I just made my own outdoor solar lights with whiskey bottles); I love to embroider (when I have the time); I love putting puzzles together and do both physical ones and ones on my iPad; I also enjoy going for walks and bike rides and being outdoors whenever possible. 

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? 

Finish it. Don’t wait for a muse or for perfection; just write it and finish it because the rest of the writing journey cannot start until you have a finished product, even if it’s not “perfect.” And trust me, the first draft is NOT good…no one’s is. I’m pretty sure that if we could see even the big authors’ first drafts, we would all be shocked!

What are you reading now? 

Freshmen narrative essays! I’d like to say I’ve had time to read for enjoyment, but alas, that would be a fib. But as I finish those up at the end of the school year, I will dive back into Nancy J. Cohen’s Writing the Cozy Mystery.

What is your author spirit animal? 

I’d like it to be a honey badger so mediocre or bad reviews don’t crush my soul, but it’s probably more like a panda bear or something fluffy and non-confrontational.

If you had your own talk show, what would the topic be and who would be your first guest(s)? 

My show would be called The Dangerous Women of 18th-century Literature, and my first guest would be Mary Wollstonecraft, and we’d discuss her work, A Vindication for the Rights of Woman.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

 If Murder Most Pemberley were made into a movie, Katie McGrath would play Eliza Darcy, J.J. Field would play Heath Tilney, John Slattery would play Lord Fitzwilliam Darcy, Sophie Turner would play Joy Bingley, Betty White would play Great Aunt Iris, and Rick Fox would play Detective Chief Inspector Finn Wentworth.

I had a grand time reading “Murder Most Pemberly” It is a delightful cozy with a huge Christie vibe. Eliza Darcy is invited to England for a family gathering and she has decided that it is far past time to get to the bottom of a family falling out between her father and her uncle, even if it means snooping around. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” takes on new meaning when people start going missing and turning up dead, leading her own investigation to cross with Scotland Yard’s.

It is an interesting take on an old tale with fun twists. The author’s writing style pulled me in right away.  Eliza is a fascinating character and as each major secondary character was introduced there was a feeling of anticipation. In future books, I am most looking forward to Eliza’s scoobies, especially great Aunt Iris, they were the perfect foil for her personality and style of sleuthing.The story is full of scheming relatives, unexpected surprises, quirky characters, clever twists and turns, and puzzling intersected whodunits. I was kept guessing until almost the end, and even then I didn’t quite fit it together without Eliza’s help. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

Eat a crumpet. Check. Say “bloody hell” in an English pub. Check. Solve three murders and fall in love? Definitely not on the list. But when England dishes up murder, even an American girl knows it’s time to channel her inner Agatha Christie.

American Eliza Darcy travels to Merry Old England to partake in a Darcy/Bennet family reunion for one reason: to solve the estrangement between her father and uncle. Not long after Eliza’s arrival and exploration of the vast estate of her ancestors, a dead body surfaces. Murder and mayhem replace afternoon teas and flirting with her British heartthrob. Eliza has every intention of keeping her snoot out of official Scotland Yard business, but when clues to the murder begin to merge with her investigation into her family’s rift, her inner wannabe sleuth self-activates.

With the help of her batty great-aunt and the sexy Heath Tilney, Eliza hurries to untangle the web of lies and secrets. As corpses start to pile up faster than the clues, Eliza fears the estate’s family graveyard will swallow another body: hers.

Purchase Links – Amazon – Kobo – B&N – Books2Read

Jessica Berg, a child of the Dakotas and the prairie, grew up amongst hard-working men and women and learned at an early early age to “put some effort into it.” Following that wise adage, she has put effort into teaching high school English for over a decade, being a mother to four children (she finds herself surprised at this number, too), basking in the love of her husband of more than fifteen years and losing herself in the imaginary worlds she creates.

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