Interview with Murder Mystery Novelist Shelly Frome

Shelly Frome is a Professor Emeritus of dramatic arts at the University of Connecticut. A former professional actor and theater director, his writing credits include a number of national and international articles on acting and theater, profiles of artists and notable figures in the arts, books on theater and film and mystery novels.

His books include The Art and Craft of  Screenwriting, Tinseltown Riff, Lilac Moon, The Actors Studio, Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Playwriting:  A Complete Guide to Creating Theater and his most recent, The Twinning Murders.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Shelly. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Twinning Murders, is all about?

Fueled by the invasive tactics of a New Jersey development corporation inflicted on a quaint Connecticut village in the northwest hills, this mystery novel delves into a set of consequences, some of them dire. Among those affected are members of the old guard and eccentrics. preservationists, environmentalists, opportunists, a drifter, a state trooper and many more. By extension, the fallout takes the reader across the pond all the way to the moors and back again.

Underpinning the entire venture are the ties that bind and an abiding need to right a great wrong.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Emily Ryder is a thirty-something personal tour guide, rambler who unwittingly finds herself compelled to come to terms with the death of her mentor, a champion of the wild and open space. The supporting characters include Babs, a newspaper stringer and longtime friend and Will, the aforementioned drifter/ handyman.  Among those who stand in her way or deflect her every move are  three eccentric clients from the old guard and Doc, a street-wise front man for the GDC (the development corporation).

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

They’re a combination of people I’ve known, actors and characters I’ve seen on the screen, and products of my own unbridled imagination.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I generally have to have an engine: a catalyst, a provocative set of circumstances that will lead to an inevitable yet surprising resolution.

Q: Your book is set in Litchfield and the U.K. Can you tell us why you chose these settings in particular?

Litchfield is where I live and the site where a nefarious developer actually did invade the town and ruin a lovely, open tract of land. My wife and I went on a personal tour with a guide to the U.K. and the moors and did take part in a Twinning (a visit and exchange with a sister village in the U.K.)

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. The setting is, in effect, one of the major characters.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

As Emily awaits her flight to the U.K., Will hesitantly breaks the news over her cell about the accident that, according to his findings, was an act of premeditated murder.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Another jab of pain in her knee and thoughts about gaps that still had to be filled in.  Otherwise Pru would be right.  Just storytelling–bits and pieces, bits and pieces, depending on whose version you wanted to believe:

Pru the victim, Pru the patsy . . . Pru the co-conspirator; Pru the mastermind who, at this very minute, may be pulling something else.

Oblivious, birds twittered and called.  And in the whir of her mind a lingering blurred image of Chris Cooper. 

Emily propped herself up on her elbow, the long shadows stretching over sections of the tall grasses right and left, a tracery of leaves quivering, waving in the breeze.   But not where she lay.  Save for an occasional wisp of a scudding cloud, the blinding sunlight held steady.

The bird twitters and calls were replaced by the muffled sound of traffic passing well beyond where she lay and below, and the faint echo of someone calling.  It could be Will, it could be someone else, it could be wishful thinking.  After all, she’d never heard Will call out for anything.

She looked back, over to the brace of pines at the fringe of the Trail which still offered an exit and cover leading down to the cottage.   If, that is, she could get there.

She sat up straight, brushed aside the ferns and examined the thick vine and bracken that ensnared her right ankle.  She bent over and scoured around in all directions until she came up with a gnarled, knobby branch that had also succumbed to the undergrowth.   Tugging it out, she peeled off the damp bark, snapped off a few twigs but could do nothing with the forked end.  Regardless, she could use it to brace herself and free her foot.

The sunlight faded and streamed out again in full force.

On her feet now, hobbling and swaying on one leg, she poked away at the vine and bracken trying to ignore the pain coursing through her twisted knee and ankle.

It was useless.  Not that she was truly ensnared but that everything was so tender, the slightest movement seemed to jar her whole body.  Using the branch as a wobbly cane as she shielded her eyes, she glanced back to the way she had come, well past the expanse of the meadow to the stand of maples masking the red-flagged slope.

There was still only the muffled sound of traffic and perhaps a dog barking way off in the distance.

Then, gradually, she began to make out the stooping form slipping through the break in the maples, advancing toward her.  He was straggling, to be sure, mopping his high forehead with a handkerchief, but drifting steadily closer all the same.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, [Shelly].  We wish you much success!

Thank you for the opportunity to share my latest creative venture.


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