In July I responded to a request to review a cosy crime novel, A Portrait of Murder, by Beth Pratt. When I finished the book I posted my review on Amazon and Goodreads. I really enjoyed the story. In fact, soon after I started reading it I forgot that I was reading to review it as I was enjoying it so much. The plot is engrossing and humorous and I liked the quirky characters. Once I had my review finished I eagerly started reading the sequel, Murder Painted Blue. I enjoyed that novel just as much as the first one and, without any prompting, I reviewed it too.
I was still thinking about the books afterwards so I have invited the author, Beth Pratt to visit Ascroft, eh? to tell me a bit more about her novels.
Welcome Beth. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel.
My Veronique Berri series books revolve around Veronique Berri, an art thief who is trying hard to give up her criminal ways and lead a normal life, however she can’t seem to stop stealing. By day she’s an art historian who works in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and is working on her doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne. She also seems to be a magnet for murder. She finds herself involved in a number of murders of acquaintances she has meet in the social circles and professional world of art critics, collectors, and lovers. The recurring characters such as octogenarian neighbour Mme. Pavel, sexy jewel thief Andrew McFadden and geeky Inspector Theodoric add a hint of humour and romance to the novels while also complicating Veronique’s life and adding depth and complexity to the plots.
What prompted you to write about this topic?
I wrote these novels from taking the advice “write what you know”. I have an honours degree in art history from the University of Toronto and really wanted to include art into my novels. There is already so much intrigue and crime involved with art in real life, I found endless inspiration and information to incorporate into my books. I use art and artists that I know and find particularly interesting and develop my plots around them. The turning points in my first two books, however, have come from Spanish newspaper articles my mother has pointed out to me from her winter home in Malaga.
What research did you do for this book?
I did quite a bit of research for my books. Although I already had a good deal of knowledge about the artists featured in my books, I really delve into the artist by looking for interesting articles or books that can expand my understanding of the art and the people surrounding the art and artist. I also have read a number of books on art theft, fakebusting, forgery and insurance fraud. I find a lot of information that I don’t necessarily use, but file away for future books. For “A Portrait of Murder” I read Eunice Lipton’s book “Alias Olympia” which looks into the life of Manet’s notorious model Victorine Meurant and an article about a man who thought he had found an unknown Manet portrait under a pastel he bought at a flea market in Vienna. That led me to researching authenticating art and the famous Wildenstein family. I read some books on lock picking and safe cracking as well. I also research the places my characters inhabit. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and vacation in many of the places I mention in my book, but still have to research the locations as well.
How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
I bring my characters to life by trying to put myself in their place and I try to use creative ways to show how they feel. Since I write from a first person POV I really have to think about staying in Veronique’s head and noticing only things she would notice and not things I know or other characters might know. I also think about showing and not telling. I want my readers to experience the same emotions that my characters feel. I’m not going to say Veronique was scared, I’m going to describe her fear and the way that fear shows in her body’s reaction and in the thoughts running through her head. To bring the place to life I often rely on personal experience. Veronique’s Paris apartment closely resembles a rental apartment where I stayed in the Palais Royal a number of years ago. Some of the restaurants I’ve eaten in, some I’ve read about. Guide books to various cities are a great resource.
Do you prefer to write from a female or male point of view. And why?
I do prefer to write in a female POV probably because I’m a woman and my main character is a woman. I have written in a male POV before and enjoy it from time to time. I have also written in third person POV rotating from character to character but I much prefer writing in first person POV. I find I have a better connection to my character and know them better when writing in first person POV. I feel I can write more authentically when writing in a female first person POV.
Thanks for giving us an insight into your work, Beth. I can heartily recommend your novels – and I’m looking forward to the release of the third in the series in a few months time.
Readers can learn more about Beth’s books by visiting her website.