Victoria Tait - Surprises, Humor and Sometimes, a Tug on Your Heart Strings
Victoria Tait was born and raised in Yorkshire, UK, and never expected to travel the world. She’s drawn on her experiences following her military husband to write cozy murder mystery books with vivid and evocative settings. Her determined female sleuths are joined by colorful but realistic teams of helpers, and you’ll experience surprises, humor, and sometimes, a tug on your heartstrings. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Fake Death.
Please give us a short introduction to what Fake Death is about.
Fake Death is a British cozy mystery based in the picturesque Cotswolds.
Twenty-eight-year-old, inexperienced amateur sleuth, Dotty Sayers, is a recent military widow who accidentally found herself a job in an auction house. She’s shocked by the murder of someone she’s met and is brought into the investigation when the police ask her to document items found at the victim’s house.
But nothing, in this case, is as it seems. She’s drawn in deeper, both professionally and personally, until she overhears a conversation and pieces the clues together, at the same time putting her own life in danger.
She also meets her furry companion, Earl Grey, a British Blue cat in this book.
There is a free prequel to the series which readers can download via my website VictoriaTait.com
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
My husband is in the military and when we moved back to the UK from abroad, had to sell many of our possessions. I visited auction houses in and around the Cotswolds buying furniture and was fascinated by the people I met.
This prompted the Dotty series and I guess my knowledge of the British army led to the inclusion of military elements in Fake Death, but from a wife’s point of view.
Tell us more about Dotty Sayers. What makes her tick?
In Dotty, I wanted to write a character who is on a life journey and learns and evolves from her experiences, both good and bad. She’s been dominated by her father and then her older husband and some readers say she is naively unrealistic. But I have known military wives like her who, as long as they toe the line, have everything planned and undertaken for them by the military system.
In Fake Death, Dotty has to choose to either remain within the stifling military system or break out and live life on her own. Only when she does, can her quick intelligence and strength of mind breakthrough. But she remains shy, and genuinely wants to help other people.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
In the author business, I’ve had to learn loads of new skills from formatting to publishing, to marketing and advertising. But it’s still important to sit down and write each day.
I’m extremely organized, which I need to be with a very busy husband and two teenage boys. During the pandemic, we moved to Sarajevo, in Bosnia & Herzegovina, which was interesting but challenging.
Why did you pick a Remembrance parade as the backdrop for your story?
Interesting question. I wrote this whist living in Sarajevo, where everywhere you look, there are reminders of war and the siege of the city. And being associated with the military, remembering those who fought for the country is important to me. I think that I planned and wrote this book in November, when Remembrance was uppermost in my mind. And it seemed a good event to bring all the characters together.
Readers say this is a mystery that made them think. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
That’s interesting. I am trying to entertain readers and transport them to a new location with interesting and quirky characters, but not in a slapstick manner. Being open with the reader is important, and I don’t want them to feel cheated by the murderer being a character they’ve barely seen in the book. And for my own sense of completeness, there has to be a reason behind the crime. So I hope readers feel satisfied and entertained … and that they’ll want to join the characters for another adventure.
Did you plan out all the twists and turns in the story or did some of it just "happen" along the way while you were writing?
I sat down with a pencil and paper and worked out who the victim was and why. In this book, I knew the murderer from the beginning. I then developed a number of suspects, and some locations and started writing. Spoiler alert – there is the second death in this book which I never planned. It just seemed to be the direction the story was heading.
This is book 1 of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
I think this book can be read as a standalone although some readers have said it is easier to understand when they’ve read the free prequel, Hour is Come (download at VictoriaTait.com).
But I am taking my readers on a journey with Dotty and I hope they’ll join us, reading the rest of the series. I had an idea that there would be an initial 6 books with an overall arc, the seeds of which are planted in Fake Death. This is still the case, and I can’t wait to start writing book 6 next week, tying together all the loose ends. But I don’t expect the series to finish there, just that Dotty might need a holiday!
What did you have the most fun with when writing this story?
Oh, that’s a difficult one. As the first book in the series, I had to think very carefully about the characters as many appear in subsequent books and have their own stories and journeys. But not all the characters I introduced ended up being as planned. For instance, the elderly and wise but slightly crazy Aunt Beanie is a far larger character than I initially envisaged.
And I loved bringing in Earl Grey, Dotty’s British Blue cat, and asking my readers to name him.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
LOL. Yes, all the time. It’s great fun. I’m even planning a short side series with the klutzy police constable, Keya Varma, who also has her own journey to make.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Decide on the theme. Fake Death is based around the part of the hero’s journey where Dotty has to decide whether or not to accept the call to adventure. Later books are driven by the momentum of the overall series arc, but for them, the theme might be something like betrayal, which I use in my new release Christmas cozy, Gavels, Tinsel, and Murder.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
An average writing day at the moment isn’t average as I have a lot to deal with personally. I like to wake up around 6 and start writing in bed with a cup of coffee. I’m a slow writer but clean, in that I rarely change plot points and the editing I do is to tidy up grammar and add details here and there to enhance the reading experience.
Ideally, I like to exercise mid-morning and edit my morning’s work before a late lunch. I now have a job as a virtual assistant for another author, so I like to do a few hours of work for her and then concentrate on my own admin and marketing. Weekdays and weekends don’t make a particular difference to this routine, it just depends on what the family is doing.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve just finished a short story for a cozy anthology being released in January entitled Riddles, Resolutions, and Revenge. I launch my Christmas book, Gavels, Tinsel and Murder on the 4th of November so once I’ve completed the intimal marketing for that I’ll write book 6 in my Dotty series, which I want to complete by Christmas.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best place to interact and learn more about me is via my newsletter and as a bonus for signing up readers will receive a copy of the series prequel, Hour is Come. Just visit VictoriaTait.com.
Young widow, Dotty Sayers, is delighted with her new auction house job in Britain’s picturesque Cotswolds. But she’s shocked by death of an unknown soldier at a Remembrance parade. When she's asked to look after the lead suspect’s British blue cat, she realises appearances can be deceiving. Can she track down the real culprit and prevent an innocent man from imprisonment?