Jessica Estavao has always known that she wanted to be a writer. Lucky for us, she is now a talented, award-winning, bestselling author from New England with more than one alter-ego working at her computer.
As Jessie Crockett, she wrote the Sugar Grove Mysteries and “Live Free or Die,” a Daphne du Maurier winner.
As Jessica Estavao, she penned the Agatha nominated Change of Fortune Mysteries.
As Jessica Ellicott, she works on her current series, the Beryl and Edwina Mysteries which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.
Meet the writer that composed all those wonderful pages, sometimes while listening to sounds of the ocean. She outlines all her books, always works in a comfortable space with a flask of coffee at the ready, and likes to begin new projects with special notebooks, colorfully filled fountain pens, wet erase markers, and a glass ‘scrawl wall’ to plan the story.
NBR: You’ve written several series, each with different time periods, and now the Beryl & Edwina books set in England. How do you choose the time period and the setting? How much time do you spend on the research before starting to write the book? Where do you get all those terrific details in the Beryl & Edwina books and are you continuing the research as the series evolves?
JE: I love historical novels in general and mysteries in particular, so it is a real pleasure to write about different time periods. I choose those that interest me for whatever reason feels intriguing at the time.
Some stories grow out of a particular time period like the Change of Fortune series set at the end of the Gilded Age. Since it involved Spiritualists and also the burgeoning tourist industry in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, that was the right time to set it as those things were at the fore then and there. For the Beryl and Edwina books I wanted to look at a lasting friendship between women during extraordinary times. The period between the world wars in the United Kingdom provided a good way to look at that very notion.
I love the research phase of any book and I enjoy doing quite a bit of it for each novel I write. The Beryl and Edwina books have been especially fun for this. It is such fun to look into the particular aspects of each mystery like the world of pigeon racing, the role of the Women’s Land Army, or the way the census was taken in 1921.
I look to resources like the Imperial War Museum, the National Archive, watch documentaries, and read newspapers and magazines of the day to provide details of life during that time and in that place.
NBR: Some of the initial scenes in Edwina’s kitchen in “Murder in an English Village” revolve around the meager food supplies. That changes as the book develops and Beryl’s contributions improve the situation. Was this approach a result of the post-war research?
JE: I did make decisions about the available food for my sleuths based on research into the economic climate of the time. The U.K. hit a severe economic slump before the States did and for women like Edwina, things were especially difficult. It was a pleasure to give her some respite with Beryl’s arrival.
NBR: Do you like to cook? What are your favorite foods?
JE: I have lots of foods that I like but my two favorites are Thai Spring Rolls and Cheese Fondue. I often like to cook but don’t do it as often now that most of my children are grown as I did in the past. I may end up more like Beryl than Edwina for most of the time once the last one heads to college!
NBR: Are Beryl and Edwina based on historical figures?
JE: Beryl and Edwina are not based on historical figures. I adore books that feature actual people from history, but wanted to feel free to do just as I pleased with the pair of them. I decided to create them from imagination and a bit of wishful thinking!
NBR: People can truly identify with the women in the books. You’ve given Edwina a lovable small black and white dog, named Crumpet. Do you have pets?
JE: I do have a pet. I have a small white poodle named Sam. He’s almost two years old and he is wonderful company for me. He has a bed in my office and he does a great job of getting me to go out for some exercise a few times each day. His schedule helps me to plan my own and I am really grateful for what he brings into my life.
NBR: Beryl’s car is a character in itself. Are you a fan of fast cars?
JE: I am not necessarily a fan of fast cars but I do love ones with distinctive style! And I am partial to those that are cherry red! Someday, I would love to own a car just like Beryl’s!
NBR: What do you like to do when you’re not hard at work, writing in wintry New Hampshire or on the coast of Maine in the summer?
JE: I have a lot of interests. I love to travel. I love long walks, especially on the beach. I am an avid knitter. I adore throwing parties. I recently began running with some regularity and have also started to learn to paint.
NBR: What fun! You can stay physically fit, develop plot points, and do research, all while participating in activities you enjoy. Many thanks for taking time out to visit with the Nightstand Book Reviews community!
JE: Thanks for inviting me for the interview!
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Please check out Jessie’s Book List found here. Links to more information about all her books is included, as well as links to my reviews of several of the titles. The banner below shows the book cover for the new book in the Beryl & Edwina series.
The photos are from Jessie Ellicott’s Facebook page as well as her website. 🙂