Special Guest interview with Toni Mount, Author of The Colour of Lies: A Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mystery (
Today I'm pleased to welcome author Toni Mount to The Writing Desk:
Tell us about your latest book
The Colour of Lies is the seventh Sebastian Foxley medieval murder mystery. Seb is an artist-cum-scribe whose eye for detail that others miss make him fifteenth-century London’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. In the series so far, Seb has progressed from being doubtful about his abilities and reliant upon his elder brother, Jude, to having a wife, a workshop and becoming a father but things never go smoothly for Seb.
In this book, he returns to London after a brief but necessary sojourn in Norfolk to discover Jude has ruined the business and the Foxleys’ reputation. With London’s famous St Bartholomew’s Fair in full swing, there are soon crimes to be solved and the possible suspects come too close to home, leaving Seb to have to choose between seeing justice served and protecting those dearest to him. Revenge, passion, infidelity and a great many lies complicate Seb’s life. Will our hero solve the crimes and save the day? All is revealed in The Colour of Lies as readers share in the fun of the fair, suffer the stinks of medieval London, go aboard a merchant ship and visualise life in the Middle Ages.
What is your preferred writing routine?
I don’t really have a routine because so much is always going on in my life: teaching, lectures, library volunteering, freelance writing for magazines, research and events but, if I’m at home then I plan to have done daily chores such as washing up, washing, meal prep, shopping by ten a.m. Then I’m at my desk. I skim emails for anything vital and then forget about it.
I work for an hour, take a coffee break. Work, take a lunch break, work until 4.30-5.00 then cook dinner. That’s it. I don’t work in the evenings or my head is too busy to sleep. That said; I often have my best ideas in bed or in the shower. The trouble with the latter is it’s too wet to make notes, so I have to remember them!
What advice do you have for new writers?
Three things. Firstly, if you want to write, just get on with it. Nobody else can do it for you or it won’t be the book you want to write. Secondly, be prepared to persevere. A book is a long haul and even once it’s written, there will be editing and checking to do. If your manuscript is accepted for publication, there will be more editing, tweeking, rewriting and proof reading, so be ready for that. And finally, don’t be shy. Get your work out there. If you enjoyed writing it, people will enjoy reading it.
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?
The short answer is that I’m still working on that. Being published by MadeGlobal, they don’t have a big publicity budget so events like this ‘blog-tour’ on other people’s websites are great. Facebook and other social media, listing on Amazon and reviews in magazines like GoodReads, Red Herrings (the Crime Writers’ Association monthly) and any other virtual magazines all help.
Author talks and competitions with freebie books as prizes get your name known. But I’m still open to ideas and looking for the ‘big break’. Although my book sales are in the tens of thousands, I’ve a way to go to catch up with JK Rowling and Lee Child, etc.
Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.
Unicorn horns. In The Colour of Lies I wanted some really exotic items to be for sale at St Bartholomew’s fair where much of the action takes place, something worth stealing that might also be used as a weapon. Extremely rare and lethally pointed, I decided a unicorn horn was perfect. Unicorn horns were reckoned to counteract every known poison in medieval times, so they were carved into cups for royalty to drink from, dipped into food in case it was tainted to make it safe to eat, or powdered and taken as a medicine – an extremely expensive one – to cure all ills, from plague to piles.
But from where and from which creature did the horns come? Arabian oryx, rhinos... Summer 2018 saw us holidaying in Iceland and we visited the ‘Whales of Iceland’ Museum in Reykjavik. Imagine my delight when I found the narwhal. Narwhals are fairly small members of the whale family, usually white with a single long tooth that grows out of one side of the mouth like a tusk. Examples of these tusks on display were exquisite spirals of ivory, 8-10 feet in length, and then I read the information card. ‘Narwhal tusks were often exported to England in the fifteenth century to be sold as unicorn horns.’ Perfect.
What was the hardest scene you remember writing?
At one point in the book, Seb reaches rock bottom in a state of emotional dilemma. I won’t say too much – you’ll know which bit when you read it and I don’t what to spoil it for you – but, fortunately, I’ve never been in quite so desperate a situation. I had to recall my saddest moments ever, add a big dash of conflicted interests and multiply by ten to get close to Seb’s emotional predicament. I hope I never experience anything like it for real: I had to take the afternoon off to recover from writing it.
What are you planning to write next?
I’m currently writing a factual history book, The World of Isaac Newton, commissioned by Amberley Publishing, deadline 1st October 2019. Then I have two commissions from Pen & Sword Books Ltd: How to Survive in Medieval England, deadline 1st June 2020, and Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England, (which should be fun to research), deadline 1st March 2021.
Then there is the next Sebastian Foxley mystery, The Colour of Shadows, currently evolving. This has no definite deadline but my publisher blithely added the words to the preview snippet at the end of Lies, ‘due out later this year!’ So, fingers crossed for that. And then there are all the other ideas brewing in my head: a sequel to my Victorian murder mystery, The Death Collector; an Isaac Newton mystery suggested by Heffer’s Bookshop in Cambridge; an off-shoot novel for one of the secondary characters in the Seb Foxley series and then The Colour of Evil, if I’m still here... Phew!