Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Tirzah Price Interview - Manslaughter Park

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Tirzah Price grew up on a farm in Michigan, where she read every book she could get her hands on and never outgrew her love for YA fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a former bookseller and librarian. Now, she’s a senior contributing editor at Book Riot, and co-host of the Hey YA podcast. When she’s not writing, reading, or thinking about YA books, she splits her time between experimenting in the kitchen and knitting enough socks to last through winter. She lives in Iowa.


Can you tell us when you started MANSLAUGHTER PARK, how that came about?
Manslaughter Park is the third book in the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries. The series came together by asking, “What if Jane Austen’s charcters were in a murder mystery?” The first book, Pride and Premeditation, recast Lizzie Bennet as an aspiring barrister who goes head to head with Mr. Darcy. In Sense and Second-Degree Murder, the Dashwood sisters must solve the case of their father’s untimely death. My editor was really excited about exploring Mansfield Park next, as was I, because there are so many antagonists in the original, and you’ve got a great set up for a murder mystery: A grand estate, a dysfunctional family, newcomers who arrive and disrupt the careful equilibrium of the estate, foils, secret affairs…all it’s missing really is a murder! Retelling the story as a murder mystery was fun because there were so many options!

What were your inspirations for the character development?
Mansfield Park, of course, but I also really love Agatha Christie and one book of hers I re-read before starting this book was Crooked House. Crooked House shares many of the same elements (the death of a patriarch, a grand estate, everyone in the family is a suspect) but it is much darker than the story I ended up telling. I also re-read Mansfield Park with an eye toward characters, and used them as inspiration. Watching the film adaptations of Mansfield Park was also useful, because each adaptation and each actor brings something new to the characters, and it’s fun to see the various directions they take and the nuances they bring to these well-known and beloved characters. Ultimately, I wanted to create a version of the story and characters that honors the source material but still feels fun and fresh.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Early on in the drafting process, my partner and I had the unexpected opportunity to adopt a golden retriever puppy. I love golden retrievers and I’ve wanted one for a long time so I couldn’t say no. For the first few months, he got me up multiple times at night so I was incredibly sleep deprived while writing early drafts. And then later on, he slept through the night but was just so energetic. And cute. So he was a big distraction, to be sure. He’s fully grown and a bit better behaved these days but sometimes demands that I get up from the desk and take him on walks.

What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
The covers of all three of my books are so gorgeous, and I am so grateful to artist Jess Rae Phoenix for the gorgeous artwork, Filip Hodas for bringing amazing texture to the art, and designer Corinna Lupp for pulling it all together. I’m so lucky to have such amazing, eye-catching covers. They’re truly better than anything I ever could have imagined!

What is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
All time favorites are hard to choose because I love so many books, but I gravitate toward Melina Marchetta’s work a lot. I’ve loved everything she’s written, and my favorite of hers is a tie between Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son. They’re both profound books about making connections after devastating loss, working your way through debilitating grief, and finding and building a family—blood relatives or otherwise. Outside of historical and YA, I really love mysteries and Tana French is one of my favorite authors.

Writing Behind the Scenes
In writing the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries, I’ve gotten my process down to a nice rhythm, although there are always some slight variations as every book is different. I like to start out by re-reading the Austen novel providing inspiration for the book, and I make sure to do so in a paperback copy I don’t mind getting grubby because I’ll mark up the pages and go back to the text often. I also take lots of notes about plot and character ideas, and even copy down or write little notes about how to tweak certain passages to fit my vision of the mystery retelling.

From there, I do a lot of note taking and brainstorming about the mystery plot, and I’ll even sketch out scenes or subplots. When I feel like I’ve got a fairly good idea of what the book will be about (and who the villains are!), I’ll start working on a chapter by chapter outline. Usually, this goes to my editor for approval and we’ll tweak it or revise accordingly. Once my editor signs off on it, I’ll start drafting. Drafting can take anywhere from 3-6 months, and I like to do a couple of rounds of light revision on my own before sending a working draft to my editor. If possible, I always try and print out my manuscript for a round of revision on pen and paper, too. Then, I usually do another round or two of revision with my editor before it heads to production.

Sometimes things vary in this process—I didn’t get the chance to print out Manslaughter Park for a round of paper and pen revisions at all, and I ended up rewriting the entire first two chapters right before we went to copyedits. With Pride and Premeditation, we actually cut a prologue after copyedits. And Sense and Second-Degree Murder required a bit of plot rejiggering in the first round of revisions with my editor. And I research before and while I write and revise, which means that I’m always tweaking some small detail even up to the moment the book goes to copyedits!


What is the first job you have had?
I did an odd assortment of babysitting, data entry, and boring office work throughout high school, all under the table. My first “real” job was as a gas station clerk.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school?
English, hands down. I’ve always been a big reader and writing has always come naturally, so I loved every English class I took.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
These days, my nightmares tend to manifest into stress dreams about retroactively failing college or high school, or having to attend an exam when I’ve skipped class all semester long. None of which I’ve ever actually done!

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Alligators and crocodiles. I don’t even like looking at pictures or videos of them. They’re so primordial looking and they’re equally dangerous on land and water…I just can’t stand them.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
I studied abroad in Spain in college, and I was half terrified and half thrilled the entire time. It was my first time in Europe, and my first time traveling on my own. It was also the first time visiting a non-English speaking country and so on top of the jetlag and overwhelming newness of everything, I was also navigating speaking a different language. But despite the challenges, it was one of my more memorable travel experiences because of how rewarding the trip was.

In this queer retelling of the classic novel and third book in Tirzah Price's Jane Austen Murder Mystery series, Mansfield Park is the center of a deadly accident (or is it?). Perfect for fans of the Lady Janies and Stalking Jack the Ripper.

Aspiring artist Fanny Price is an unwelcome guest at her uncle Sir Thomas Bertram’s estate. It’s his affection for Fanny that’s keeping her from being forced out by her cousins Tom and Maria and nasty Aunt Norris, back to a home to which she never wants to return. But then Sir Thomas dies in a tragic accident inside his art emporium, and Fanny finds evidence of foul play that, if revealed, could further jeopardize her already precarious position.

Edmund, her best friend and secret crush, urges Fanny to keep quiet about her discovery, but Fanny can’t ignore the truth: a murderer is among them.

Determined to find the killer, Fanny’s pursuit for justice has her wading into the Bertram family business, uncovering blackmail, and brushing with London’s high society when Henry and Mary Crawford arrive at Mansfield Park with an audacious business proposal. But a surprising twist of fate—and the help of local legends Lizzie Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy—brings Fanny more complications than she ever expected and a life-altering realization about herself she never saw coming.

You can purchase Manslaughter Park at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you TIRZAH PRICE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Manslaughter Park by Tirzah Price.

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