British mystery author M. C. Beaton is the prolific creator of such well-recognized characters as Agatha Raisin and Hamish MacBeth. Prose 'n Cons had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Beaton about her books, the years she lived in Brooklyn, and the delightful sense of humor that seeps into her characters. This is what she told us...
PnC: You lived in the U.S. for a bit. Where did you live and what's the biggest difference between American and your native/adopted hometowns? Did anything "American" end up in any of your books?
MCB: I lived in Brooklyn in the famous Gallo Boys territory in President Street for twelve years. Before that, a brief stay outside Oyster Bay and then working in a greasy spoon on the Jefferson-Davis Highway in Alexandria. I hope America is still the same, but I admired the Americans’ patriotism and energy to get on in life. And yet nothing affected my writing. It remained British through and through. I was aged thirty-four when we moved to the States. Had I been younger, I might have become more americanised.
PnC: Do you see or hear things that you automatically know will end up being spoken by (or enacted by) one of your famous characters?
MCB: Yes, sometimes if someone says something amusing, I ask, “Do you have the copyright on that?” I have a friend who talks about waking up at the crack of doom so I picked that up like a magpie because I have difficulty getting up in the morning as my shoulders feel velcroed to the sheets.
PnC: Do you purposely add humor to your books, or is that simply a natural outcropping of your personality?
MCB: To try to be funny in a book is the kiss of death. I have a frivolous mind. A literary friend in Paris asked me why I didn’t write something ‘er different,’ by which he meant more intellectual. I told him I was writing the very best I could. You can’t cheat the reader.
PnC: Do you have to make any conscious adjustments between writing for a male character like Hamish, and a female character like Agatha?
MCB: I don’t have to adjust to the masculine character of Hamish. Well, not consciously. It’s like writing about a male friend. He is based on a divinity student I once knew, a crofter friend and my husband’s humour.
PnC: What one luxury did you allow yourself after achieving success?
MCB: The one luxury - travelling to Venice by Orient Express. PnC