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INK Q&A: Laurie R. King

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of eight Mary Russell mysteries, four contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, and the bestselling novels A Darker Place, Folly, and Keeping Watch. She lives in northern California.

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Describe your latest project.

Touchstone is a standalone historical novel — or possibly the first of a series, I'm leaning in that direction. In either case, it could be described as a "country house political thriller," set in 1926 Englandit could be described as a "country house political thriller," set in 1926 England, when the country was on the brink of revolution. Yes, really: in the General Strike of April, 1926, people in all walks of life saw the clear potential for an outright worker's revolt.

There are six major characters, most of them English and involved with politics, from right wing to left, several of them related in some way to an ancient aristocratic family. Into this setting drops an American agent for the US Bureau of Investigation (the FBI), hot on the trail of an international terrorist...

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?

Getting paid to sit and read novels. Well, officially I was there to weigh out and sell coffee beans or tea leaves, but the shop was small and the town was quiet and I spent most of my days immersed in paperbacks bought around the corner at the used books section of another little shop.

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false? Why, or not?

God, no, writers are terrible liars.God, no, writers are terrible liars. It's because we edit, compulsively, and lies just don't come across when the would-be liar changes her mind in the middle of the paragraph and makes it evening rather than afternoon, and the person I was talking to was six-foot-four and blonde, no, with thick black hair that gleamed in the overhead lighting, or actually, he was only five-ten because then I could look him in the eye and see the reflection...

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?

Whenever I go to England I'm on pilgrimage. I walk the countryside around Eastbourne because that's where Sherlock Holmes retired. Conversely, when I'm going to Shrewsbury or York or the Lakes District I make sure I have a novel by Ellis Peters or Reginald Hill or Stephen Booth, to lend another dimension.

But the best is when I can stay on a site and justify it by calling it research. I slept in the bedroom used by Sabine Baring-Gould's wife when I was researching The Moor, and later the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor. The latter was memorable less for the inn itself than for the museum next door, an enormous collection of stuffed creatures dressed in costumesan enormous collection of stuffed creatures dressed in costumes: the schoolroom full of seated children, all pinafores and schoolbooks, that were actually dead kittens, had a nightmarish fascination that keeps trying to get into a novel. No doubt some day it will.

Why do you write?

How else could I justify going to visit museums full of dead kittens?

Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?

Fahrenheit. Also, analog over digital; CD (even cassette) rather than iPod or MP3; two buttons (one for on; the other for off) on the dishwasher; and manual shift. And until 1998, I wrote with a fountain pen, although I now use a laptop.

Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?

Blogs are the main exception I make in my aversion to complex machinery. Certain of them I read regularly ("Laurie's Daily Dozen" on my own blog's blogroll) and others I drop in on at intervals. I hate Saturdays because Sarah Weinman doesn't post that day; thank goodness for the Lipstick Chronicles.

Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?

I am currently owned by a pair of cats.I am currently owned by a pair of cats. The last dog I had was an Irish wolfhound — now that is a dog. Rather spoils a person for a lesser canine, that is, anything under a hundredweight.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.

Ah, the glorious richness of historical crime fiction! A few that are not well enough known:

Peter Dickinson, A Summer in the Twenties. (Thank goodness Dickinson didn't specialize in historical fiction, or I'd have had to quit. This one about the Great Strike nearly convinced me I shouldn't bother to try. Nearly.)

Jason Goodwin, The Janissary Tree. (1820s Istanbul: I am SO there.)

Alan Gordon, Thirteenth Night. (Any of them, really — twelfth-century tales about a guild of fools who, delightfully, are responsible for maintaining political order in the known world, from Jerusalem to Denmark. Glorious.)

Arturo Pèrez-Reverte, The Fencing Master. (Nineteenth-century Madrid; the reader finds herself speaking with a Spanish accent halfway through.the reader finds herself speaking with a Spanish accent halfway through.)

Walter Satterthwaite, Escapade. (1920s England, country house, Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle...)

Martin Cruz Smith, Rose. (Gorgeous, moving exploration of 1870s England.)

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