The Hummingbird Dagger
By: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
From the author of Suitors and Sabotage comes a suspenseful and enthralling new Regency novel, perfect for readers who like their Jane Austen classics with a side of mystery and murder.
1833. A near-fatal carriage accident has deposited an unconscious young woman on the doorstep of Hardwick Manor and into the care of young Lord James Ellerby. But when she finally awakens, it is with no memory of who she is or where she came from.
Beth, as she calls herself, has no identity; the only clue to her circumstances is a recurring nightmare of a hummingbird, blood dripping from its steel beak.
With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth tries to solve the mystery of her own identity and the appalling events that brought her to their door. But nothing could prepare her for the escalating dangers that threaten her and the Ellerby clan. From the hazardous cliffs of Dorset to the hostile streets of London, Beth will fight to reclaim her past, hunted by a secretive foe with murderous intentions.
Fans of Cindy Anstey’s previous novels won’t want to miss The Hummingbird Dagger, a dark and twisty new offering that blends romance, danger and mystery.
1) This is your fifth book! So first, congratulations! Second, what is different about writing your fifth book compared to your first and what is the same? Is there anything that hasn’t changed no matter what book you are working on?
Thank you! It’s all quite exciting. It’s hard to compare the writing process between my books as THE HUMMINGBIRD DAGGER (THD) was actually written first. I made the typical mistakes of a beginner—too much story, too many complications and buckets of description. As you can imagine, THD was much longer in its original form. Fortunately, I learned a thing or two between Love, Lies and Spies and Carols and Chaos and could return to THD with fresh ideas and oodles of red ink. No matter which book I’m working on, I try to instil a touch of humour and try (to the best of my ability) to have my characters remain true to the times.
2) I can imagine that having a character like Beth, who doesn’t remember anything about herself, could be a difficult character to write. I can see it being hard to keep all her secrets from slipping out too early. How did you manage to balance what you know about Beth with what the audience and Beth are supposed to be aware of and still keep Beth a well rounded character?
Balancing the reveal would have been difficult without the help of two generous readers who were with me from the beginning. As I slogged my way through the first draft of THD, I would send them the complete chapters and ask what they thought was going on. If they guessed a part of the mystery before I was ready to reveal it, I would revise the plot. (But I didn’t revise the manuscript, building, instead, from what was already written.) In fact, there is a major plot twist in the end that would not exist if I were not trying to surprise my readers. It made the ending more dramatic and emotional.
3) Your books are all historical fiction (specifically Victorian era England, I believe?). What has drawn you to this era of history and what continues to inspire you to write about it?
My historical fiction has been predominately Regency (1811-1820) thus far, while The Hummingbird Dagger takes place in 1833, just before the Victorian era. That being said, I am fascinated by the entire 19th century. It is an age that begins with a largely rural society (terrible roads and abysmal sanitation, horse drawn carriages and large estates with many servants) and is transformed into a technological era of inventions and fast paced living. (steam-engines, locomotives, telephones, electricity etc. etc.) The changes were seismic. I’m not entirely sure why I am fascinated with British 19th century history. Perhaps my heritage has something to do with it, growing up with stories about my ancestors from England.
4) What was your inspiration for THE HUMMINGBIRD DAGGER? Did you stumble across anything during research, have a late night thought, or simply a very persistent plot bunny?
I have always loved history, not of kings and queens, battles and politics, but social history—how people dressed, what they ate, who they married, what medicines were available, did they brush their teeth, how far could a horse travel in the course of a day…etc. So, I would have to cite a persistent plot bunny or mere curiosity about life in another century, as my source of inspiration. (Meaning, of course, that I have absolutely no idea where my fascination came from.)
5) A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
The Hummingbird Dagger was a whooping 140K words when it was first complete. A lot had to be deleted—particularly the superfluous descriptions. Perhaps one of the biggest changes was deleting the romance between Caroline and Dr. Brant. Lady Ellerby, James’ mother, was brought back from the dead. And Sophia Thompson was given a smaller role—and then a book of her own.
6) Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble? If you could ask a character of your choice from THE HUMMINGBIRD DAGGER one question what would it be?
Walter Ellerby was one of my favourite characters to write; he was endowed with a personality of deep contrasts—generous and kind while being selfish and self-important at the same time. Still young at fourteen, he had much to learn but was cocksure and entitled. He had a good heart but he saw the world through privileged glasses. If I could ask one of my characters a question it would be directed at Beth; why do you allow nightmares to terrify you to such an extent?
7) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)? Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?
I greatly enjoyed writing the invasion of the Metropolitan Police scene, when the Peelers swarm the London townhouse. Emotions are running high and the situation devolves into a round of witty banter and snippy remarks… yes, it was great fun.
I was rather emotional when I felt compelled to kill off one of my characters. He was a person that I admired and who was trying to help my main characters and yet it was this association that led to his death.
8) What is next for you? What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a book that takes place in the fictional town of West Ravenwood. The main character is Sophia Thompson, who was introduced in The Hummingbird Dagger. She is a young lady full of curiosity who becomes involves in the murder of a cousin. Her desire to become a Bow Street Detective takes her down many a treacherous path as she searches for clues assisting the Investigator sent to solve the mystery.
Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.
She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.
Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.
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