Jacqueline Winspear: defining artistic grace
Excerpt from the interview by Virginia R. Knight in the June/July 2006 issue of Mystery News
Author Jacqueline Winspear writes the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series, set primarily in England, with a fair amount of action taking place in France. The first book, quite reasonably entitled Maisie Dobbs, spans the years from 1910 to 1929, and explores Maisie's life from the age of 13 to 32, including the years when she served as a nurse at a casualty clearing station in Francs, at the age of 17.
While establishing just who Maisie is, which includes being both a psychologist and a detective in a time when women traditionally wer neither, and what has shaped her, the book follows Maisie as she solves her first case as an independent detective. Her first case leads her to a larger, more dangerous case that arises from that first seemingly open-and-shut cast of possible infidelity. So far, all the mysteries arise from the cataclysmic event that shaped Maisie Dobbs' world, the war then known as The Great War...
Virginia R. Knight: The Maisie Dobbs series is not what one traditionally expects in a mystery, even in historical mysteries. Much of the books explore Maisie, her personal development and those around her as well as the central mystery plot to be solved. Maisie is also committed to solving the aftermath of each solved mystery for those involved. How did you come to this approach to your books?
Jacqueline Winspear: I never consciously considered "an approach" as such -- I simply sat down to write the first book as it came to me, and it's essentially the process I have adopted with each book. I cannot write to a prescription, which means that each book is likely to be quite different. Maisie's mode of work reflects, I suppose, a desire I have as a reader, to see what happens afterwards -- because there is always an "afterwards," even though it is not always positive...
VRK: ...If you could state a theme for each of the first three books, what would it be?
JW: There are several themes to each book, as well as recurring themes...The cases Maisie takes on challenge her to face her own demons -- or dragons, as they are called in Pardonable Lies. I had an email from a doctor who was a young medic in Vietnam -- he told me that "we who have been to war face our dragons every day, just as Maisie has to face hers." Yes, that's a theme -- how we face our dragons, and how we survive; how we function as a normal person with a roaring dragon inside us...
Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
Published by: Picador
Read the complete interview in the June/July 2006 issue of Mystery News