Murder Books is pleased to present the following interview with Alexia Gordon––physician, writer, and textile and music enthusiast. Alexia is the author of Murder in G Major and Death in D Minor, the first two installments in an enormously entertaining series set in the fictional cliff-side village of Dunmullach, Ireland. With twenty-four named key signatures to choose from, in titling her novels, we’ve still got a lot of mystery and mayhem to look forward to from Dr. Gordon and her keenly intelligent and very witty cast of characters in Dunmullach.
MB: Are the Gethsemane Brown mysteries your first novels?
Alexia: Yes, the Gethsemane Brown mysteries are my first novels.
MB: What drew you to writing mysteries?
Alexia: The same thing drew me to mysteries that drew me to medicine—my love of solving puzzles and fixing problems.
MB: In a very entertaining inversion of the typical formula of the ugly-American clashing with sophisticates across the pond, you give us a charming, refined American making the best of finding herself stuck in the midst of middle- and working-class Irish society. Tell us about how and when this aspect of Gethsemane’s story entered the picture.
Alexia: From the start. I began writing with the idea of Gethsemane Brown as an educated, upper-middle class, African American woman who interacted with the world through that lens. The rest of the story gelled around that idea.
MB: How did you come to set your series in Dunmullach, the cliff-side village in southwestern Ireland?
Alexia: The story chose its own setting. When I imagined it, I imagined it happening in Ireland. It just felt right. I decided to set my series in a fictional village so I’d have control over the geography. Dunmullach needed to be on a cliff for plot reasons.
MB: Gethsemane is an interesting character and a very inventive thinker. Where did she come from?
Alexia: Gethsemane arose from a desire to see the type of women I grew up with—smart, graceful, strong, resourceful, proud, determined, capable, independent, dogged Black women—star in the type of books I liked to read. She came from a desire to see Black women portrayed in the type of world I grew up in—middle class, educated, upwardly mobile—instead of relegated to a brutal inner city or dismal rural world I knew nothing about. She was born from the need for full representation of the African American experience, not just the limited slice that made it onto the evening news. Gethsemane Brown was crafted from my determination to show the world that people of color, in general, and Black women, in particular, don’t fit neatly into the convenient stereotypes others have created for us.
MB: Do you have some secret algorithm for selecting the key in which the mystery will be told?
Alexia: Nope. Alliteration is all I’m going for.
MB: Murder in G Major contained a lot of vocabulary and interesting detail about orchestral music and the inner workings of orchestras. Are you an instrumentalist? Do you have orchestral experience?
Alexia: I’m a music lover and patron but I am not an instrumentalist. I took the requisite music lessons as a child but quit after I graduated from high school because I could and because music was not where my talents lay. I don’t agree with the philosophy of writing what you know. Too restrictive. I believe in—I can’t remember who said it originally—writing what you’re willing to learn. God invented Google for writers. I did lots of homework.
MB: In the same vein, Death in D Minor takes us into the world of art, with particular emphasis on textiles and embroidery. How did you come by your knowledge of such an interesting and––to most people, I would guess––hidden world?
Alexia: I adore textiles and needlework, especially embroidery. I own a decent fabric stash—nothing compared to my mother’s but enough to fill a couple of trunks—and enough embroidery supplies and books to open my own shop (and to exponentially increase the weight of my household goods I laughed as I handed the check to the movers). I learned quilting, needlework, and sewing as a kid, both from my mother and from the innumerable classes she let me enroll in. I didn’t know much about the antique textile market, however. The only “antique” textiles I own are the quilts and tablecloth I inherited from my grandmother (a perk to being one of the few girls in the family and a family history buff). As I did for Murder in G Major, I turned to the interweb. I studied information from dealers such as M. Finkel and Daughter, organizations such as The Embroidery Guild of America and the Royal School of Needlework, museums such as Winterthur, too many others to name. I also visited Colonial Williamsburg and spoke with some of the interpreters and with a professor at William and Mary. Then I bought some more embroidery supplies. All in the name of research.
MB: We read about Gethsemane’s family in Murder in G Major, and then we actually meet a member of her family––her brother-in-law, Jackson––in Death in D Minor. What are the chances you will introduce us to other family members in future volumes?
MB: Can you tell us what sort of circumstances we’ll find Gethsemane in next?
Alexia: Opera, revenge, and ancient Hungarian curses. That’s all I’m saying.
MB: There’s an undercurrent of romantic tension between Gethsemane and a few of the men she encounters in and around Dunmullach. How long are you going to keep us in suspense?
Alexia: To quote Sherlock Holmes (the American TV series, “Elementary” version), “It’s all about the puzzle.” I’ve nothing against romantic suspense or some romance in non-romance genres but I’m not a romance writer or reader. I turn to mysteries to find out whodunnit, to see if the sleuth discovers whodunnit before the body count rises, to try to figure out whodunnit before the sleuth does, and to see justice prevail and order restored. I’m not especially interested in the romantic angle. My favorite sleuths are bachelors—Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, Father Brown. I often find romance in mysteries distracting. No, you really don’t have time to worry for two pages about which shoes to wear on your date while a serial poisoner is on the loose. Unless your date is the poisoner or there’s arsenic in your tiramisu, I don’t care. I’m also wary of the “Moonlighting” effect. “Moonlighting” was an awesome series before Maddie and David got together. Not as awesome after they became a couple. Romantic undercurrent in my novels will likely remain an undercurrent.
MB: Do you think Gethsemane will ever move back to the States?
Alexia: Visit, yes. Return forever, no. I’d hate to leave Frankie, Niall, Father Keating, and the boys behind in Dunmullach. Eamon could go the States, I suppose, but he’d miss home.
Murder in G Major and Death in D Minor, from Henery Press, are available wherever books are sold. You can learn more about Alexia Gordon and her books at her website www.alexiagordon.net. Alexia also co-writes the Miss Demeanors blog along with several other talented mystery and thriller writers.
Alexia Gordon was interview for Murder Books by Roger Johns.