Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dorothy James - A Place to Die - Guest Post

My thanks to Dorothy James for stopping by The Character Connection for a guest post during the blog tour for her book, A Place to Die.

Guest Post

Developing Characters in A Place to Die

When I write a novel, I do not sketch the characters and plot the events ahead of time. I do have to know the setting and the viewpoint from which I will look at the place and at the events.

I thought of writing a murder mystery set in a retirement home when I was visiting a friend’s mother in a home, and so one important angle of observation became that of a woman visitor, Eleanor, to my House in the Vienna Woods. I gave this angle another dimension by adding sections seen through the eyes of her husband. And then of course there was the Viennese detective, a third quite different angle on the events of the novel.

These three characters were in my head from the beginning, and they all have something of me in their thoughts, their observations, their foibles. But each of them grew in the course of writing into an independent character. People who know me might think that Eleanor is most like me, and yet Inspector Büchner, a character of whom I am very fond, certainly incorporates some of my own thoughts, hopes and disappointments.

These three, as observers, cannot also be murder-suspects. I peopled the House in the Woods with a disparate group of characters, all of whom are suspects, from the porter and doorman through various employees of the House, such as the handyman and housekeeper, to the Director and to one visiting doctor in particular—and of course, the residents. For all of these, I would first have a physical type in mind—I visualized them, sometimes based on people I know, but usually only on people I had seen, and then imagined.

Sitting in the café of the retirement home where I first had the idea, I jotted down notes on the people I saw there: e.g. “thick waistline and hips, thick stockings, carefully guiding the wheeled Zimmer-frame,” or “elderly, well dressed gentleman, drinking a schnapps, with him an elderly animated lady, looking at him” . . . and then from these notes I imagined the person, and out of the person came pieces of the plot. Thus a whole variety of characters gradually peopled my House: a retired lady psychiatrist, a one-time opera singer, a former art-dealer . . . and so on. Through conversations, in this case often interrogations by the detective, they gradually grew into living beings, at all events they lived for me.

The hardest thing was to find out which was the murderer. I cared about each character, and I did not want any of them to have murdered someone. But this was a whodunnit, after all, and I had to find out who did it. By the last but one chapter I could see the one who had to be the culprit. Then the end was inevitable. I hoped it would be this for reader—inevitable, in terms of character, but not predictable.

About the Book
A Place to Die

Book Details:
Price: $34.99 hardcover, $23.99 paperback, $3.03-$9.99 ebook
Format: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Published: April 2010
Pages: 436
ISBN: 9781450082709, 9781450082693
Genre: Murder Mystery
Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Kindle, Nook, iBookstore

Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from New York to spend Christmas with Franzs mother in her sedate retirement home in the Vienna Woods. Their expectations are low: at best, boredom, at worst, run-of-the-mill family friction. But when the wealthy, charming Herr Graf is found dead in his apartment with an ugly head wound, the Fabians are thrust into a homicide investigation.

Some residents and staff have surprising connections to the dead man, but who would have wanted to kill him? Inspector Buchner tracks down the murderer against a backdrop of Viennese history from the Nazi years to the present day. Witty, suspenseful, lyrical, this is a literary whodunit that will keep you guessing till the last page.

About the Author
Dorothy James

Dorothy James was born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, and translator, she has published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature. She has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home now in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin.

She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods. She has traveled far from Wales, but has not lost the Welsh love of playing with language; she writes poems for pleasure as does Chief Inspector Büchner, the whimsical Viennese detective who unravels the first mystery in this new series of novels.

Connect with Dorothy:
Web Site

About the Tour

Tribute Books Blog Tours

A Place to Die Blog Tour Site

Tour Participants:

February 6 (guest post)
Proud Book Nerd

February 6 (guest post)
Bibliophilic Book Blog

February 6 (author interview)
You Gotta Read

February 7 (guest post)
vvb32 reads

February 8 (guest post or author interview)
The Character Connection

February 8 (author interview)
I Am a Reader, Not a Writer

February 9 (review)
Kritters Ramblings

February 10 (review)
A Lovely Shore Breeze

February 10 (guest post or author interview)
The Plot Thickens

February 13 (guest post)
Book Dilettante

February 13 (review)
Books and Needlepoint

February 13 (review)
Tic Toc

February 14 (review)
Reviews by Molly

February 15 (guest post or author interview)
City Girl Who Loves to Read

February 15 (review)
The Book Connection

February 16 (review)
Book Dragon's Lair

February 16 (guest post)

February 17 (review)
Simple Wyrdings

February 18 (review)
Lesa's Book Critiques

February 21 (review)
Words by Webb

February 22 (guest post)
Mama Knows Books

February 23 (guest post)
Fighter Writer

February 24 (review)
Minding Spot


  1. Happy to write a guest post for The Character Connection. Since my mystery is very much a "character" mystery, your blog is a great place to write about it. Thank you! Hope to hear from your readers.

  2. Thanks Connie for hosting Dorothy today on the blog. She made me realize how deeply an author becomes attached to her characters - even the murderers. I can see how hard it must be to turn one of them into the killer.

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed writing a guest post for us, Dorothy. It was a pleasure having you at The Character Connection.