Please welcome Judy Hogan to the blog today…
How Did Passionate Love Come Into My First Mystery?
The Sands of Gower: The First Penny Weaver Mystery. Hoganvillaea Books, December 2015, Paperback: $15.00 ISBN-13: 978-1515191063 E-book: $2.99. 194 pages
As a writer, my first published work was poetry. Cassandra Speaking came out in 1977. Beginning in 1981, I scraped together enough money to go to the U.K.. for six weeks. I called it a writing vacation. My ex-husband had the children in the summer months. Once there, I found Wales my favorite place, very conducive to writing poetry, especially the Gower Peninsula near Swansea.
Somehow during the years after separating from my husband in January 1975, I began falling in love a lot–one man at a time. It surprised me. It didn’t take much–some man’s friendly interest, and I loved him. Not much happened. It wasn’t the same for him, I always came to realize. As for my feelings, I decided they were normal. Men talk about the attractiveness of various women and don’t think anything about it. Woman have their fantasies, too, I thought.
In fact, a few years later when I had read Carolyn Heilbrun’s book Writing a Woman’s Life, I decided that I fitted her understanding that for some writers, falling in love was a way to stimulate the Muse. Some people need to write more than to have an actual love affair. She suggested that W.B. Yeats did that. I wrote a lot of love poetry those years, and Wales became my favorite place to give myself a big chunk of writing time, it being so conducive to poetry, especially the Gower Peninsula.
The year that I began plotting The Sands of Gower, in 1990, I had visited Kostroma, Russia, as part of a Sister Cities writer exchange, and this time when I fell in love, with my Russian partner in the exchanges, he also fell in love with me. Then I went to Wales. The poems I wrote that summer were for him. I published two books written not long after that, in 1990-91 and 1992 (This River: An Epic Love Poem and Beaver Soul. It made complete sense to me to have my mystery novel’s amateur sleuth, Penny Weaver, fall in love with the Welsh detective inspector with whom she worked to solve the crime. Looking back, I’m sure some of my passion in the book was coming from that Russian visit. We held our erotic feelings in check in Kostroma, but they were certainly present.
Then the Gower landscape is perfect for describing passion. The wind off the sea is normally 40 mph, and then as I ranged the cliffs, I saw the impetuous waves crashing against the rocks. Everything I saw became part of how I felt. A few years earlier I had written:
Love is a golden liquid,
and today the sea is gold.
Heavy with light, it moves
toward foam and land.
I sit among grasses and laces,
wild parsley’s delicate umbel;
the lavender faces of woundwort;
below me the dark rocks
the tide is pulling away from.
Above me a gull, flying
skims in the golden sea, its bows
almost hidden by light.
Will the light engulf me then? Will I
weather that sea, plated gold, but underneath,
salty and cold? Only by remembering
all the kinds of light, and being able to return
when I am troubles to the drop of gold
in a single tormentil. Light Food, p. 59-60 (1989)
I was in Gower in 1981, 85, 88, 90, 95, and 96. In 1990 I sprained my ankle and couldn’t go out by day to walk and write poetry, so I wrote of the landlady’s garden, and some passion flowers climbing up the wall of her home, which I could see from my bedroom window, and I read mysteries. One day she suggested I write my own “murder,” as she called it.
My amateur sleuth is a poet like myself, the same age, but gifted in detecting. On the morning in The Sands of Gower when the death of the difficult, narcissistic German woman’s body was discovered on the sand at Three Cliffs Bay, Penny meeting Kenneth Morgan, come to investigate, and not only does Penny fall in love, but so does Inspector Morgan. Both in their fifties, and unattached, and they both fall hard. Kenneth knows the village, but Penny had come to know the other guests at the B&B, one of which could well be the murderer. So Penny helps the police with their inquiries, and their attraction is somewhat hampered by the needs of the investigation, and vice versa.
Here’s the plot.:Penny begins a new and lively stage of life, her children raised, with a powerful erotic attraction, and the freedom to cross lines that usually hold people apart.
The Sands of Gower is set in a Bed and Breakfast on the Gower peninsula near Swansea, Wales. Penny Weaver, luxuriating in her two-month vacation, is disturbed by the murder of a German guest. Penny’s independent, outspoken American lifestyle contrasts with the more conservative ways of the village’s pensioners. In the process of solving the crime, Penny and Detective Inspector Kenneth Morgan are powerfully attracted. This, plus the British post-World War II continuing distrust of the Germans, complicates their investigation.
Judy Hogan ©2015
Judy Hogan’s first two mystery novels, Killer Frost (2012) and Farm Fresh and Fatal (2013) were published by Mainly Murder Press in CT. Judy founded Carolina Wren Press (1976-91) and was co-editor of Hyperion Poetry Journal (1970-81). She has published six volumes of poetry and two prose works with small presses. She has taught all forms of creative writing since 1974. In 1983 she helped found the North Carolina Writers’ Network and served as its first president (1984-7). She joined Sisters in Crime in 2007 and has focused on writing and publishing traditional mystery novels. In 2011 she was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Mystery contest for Killer Frost. In 2015 she decided to set up Hoganvillaea Books, her own publishing imprint, in order to publish more of her mysteries. The Sands of Gower: The First Penny Weaver Mystery is her first release under this new imprint. Her Penny Weaver series takes up community issues. Most of the novels take place in central North Carolina fictional village of Riverdell, but three take place on the Gower Peninsula in Wales where Penny meets and falls in love with Kenneth Morgan, a Welsh Detective Inspector. The twists and turns of her life’s path over the years have given her plenty to write about. She is also a small farmer, a community activist, and lives in Moncure, N.C., near Jordan Lake.
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From Hoganvillaea Books, $15, paperback, plus $1 tax, $3 postage. $19.
PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559, USA