This week’s Weekly Geeks topic asks us to
1. Choose a writer you like.
2. Using resources such as Wikipedia, the author’s website, whatever you can find, make a list of interesting facts about the author.
3. Post your fun facts list in your blog, maybe with a photo of the writer, a collage of his or her books, whatever you want.
Rather than choose one of my ‘old favourite’ authors I thought I’d learn something as well so chose an author I only recently discovered. A couple of weeks ago I read Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death, a historical crime fiction novel set in medieval England. I really loved the book (it received my first 5-star rating of the year) and have been banging on about it to all and sundry ever since I finished it (seriously if you like crime fiction or historical fiction or strong female characters with a sense of humour or words on a page in any form you should read the book). Thanks again to Norman of Crime Scraps for introducing me to my favourite read of the year so far.
So, what can a fairly cursory search of the internet tell us about this author?
What is the first piece of evidence we can find that Ariana Franklin is enticed by creating fiction?
Ariana Franklin is not the author’s real name. It’s is a pseudonym for Diana Norman, a British journalist and writer of historical novels and non-fiction. Clearly Ms Norman is comfortable creating new characters, even for herself.
Did Ariana enjoy her 21st birthday party?
Nope. She was working as a journalist at the time and her editor sent her to cover a murder in Southampton so she missed the entire thing. I wonder if they held it without her?
Does she come from a privileged background?
Yes and no. She was born just before World War 2 and spent her first years in the large London house of her father’s uncle who was a Minister in Winston Churchill’s government. They had nannies and chauffeurs and all of that. But she and her mother moved to Torquay to escape the air raids and her parents eventually divorced so money was tight and they no longer lived in any kind of opulence (in fact they lived in a flat above a shop and she left school early to start earning money).
Am I the only one blathering on about how good this book is?
Franklin/Norman with her husband Barry Norman, with her CWA award
No, Franklin has loads of fans. She won the Crime Writer’s Association Ellis Peters Award for best historical crime novel in 2007 for Mistress. To be eligible for the award each entry has to be involved with the investigation of a crime; evoke, capture and transmit the flavour of the period in which it was set (any time up to 1970); have a very high standard of writing; and finally should grab the reader so that they hated to leave the story on the final page. Sounds good huh?
Has Ms Franklin/Norman nearly caused an international incident?
The answer is probably not but every website I visited mentioned that as a journalist she invaded Wales with the Royal Marines. I’m guessing this wasn’t an actual invasion (surely the endless stream of entertainment news would have been interrupted for such an event) but the articles never really give any more details so I’m free to make up my own right? I’m guessing she was heading for the book lover’s capital of the world, Hay-on-Wye (a wonderful market town in Wales which does not much else but sell books).
Who is her favourite author?
I don’t know. According to the Book Depository interview it’s someone called Jane Austin. But I’ve never heard of her. One of my all time favourite authors is Jane Austen but that’s clearly someone completely different.
Is it dedication or madness to write a biography of someone so obscure that even after you’ve put in all that research and effort no one is interested?
OK this question doesn’t really have an answer but as Diana Norman she wrote a non-fiction biography entitled Terrible Beauty: Life of Constance Markievicz, 1868-1927. I have never heard of poor Constance but apparently I’m not the only one because even the publisher fails to provide any information about the book or the woman for inclusion on Amazon. I’m intrigued, but not enough to buy the book and find out what heck was so terrible about Constance’s beauty.
So if I go and read Mistress of the Art of Death and love it as much as Bernadette did will I go crazy waiting for the next installment of the life of Adelia Aguilar?
Well I can’t guarantee you won’t go crazy (I’m not a doctor after all) but there are two more books in the series already, The Serpent’s Tale and Grave Goods so you should be OK for a while at least.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Sources used for this post
Ariana Franklin website (especially biography page)
Crime Writers Association website
An interview with Ariana Franklin by the Book Depository