ABOUT THE BOOKWorld War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford goes to dangerous lengths to investigate a wounded soldier’s background—and uncover his true loyalties—in this thrilling and atmospheric entry in the bestselling “vivid period mystery series” (New York Times Book Review).
At the foot of a tree shattered by shelling and gunfire, stretcher-bearers find an exhausted officer, shivering with cold and a loss of blood from several wounds. The soldier is brought to battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s aid station, where she stabilizes him and treats his injuries before he is sent to a rear hospital. The odd thing is, the officer isn’t British—he’s French. But in a moment of anger and stress, he shouts at Bess in German.
When Bess reports the incident to Matron, her superior offers a ready explanation. The soldier is from Alsace-Lorraine, a province in the west where the tenuous border between France and Germany has continually shifted through history, most recently in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, won by the Germans. But is the wounded man Alsatian? And if he is, on which side of the war do his sympathies really lie?
Of course, Matron could be right, but Bess remains uneasy—and unconvinced. If he was a French soldier, what was he doing so far from his own lines . . . and so close to where the Germans are putting up a fierce, last-ditch fight?
When the French officer disappears in Paris, it’s up to Bess—a soldier’s daughter as well as a nurse—to find out why, even at the risk of her own life.
INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES & CAROLINE TODD
How did you get started writing?
Caroline: I don’t think it ever occurred to either of us. It happened that Charles loved many of the same things I did—movies, books, history, mysteries. My daughter was more like her engineer Dad, and grew up to be a financial advisor. She has a gift for languages, like her Mom and is a talented musician, like her aunt. Charles loves working with his hands like his Dad, and all three are good golfers. Charles and I enjoy painting. He loves the sea as much as he loves battlefields, and I’m sea sick in a bathtub. It wasn’t until Charles was an adult that his interest in words and writing showed up. If you’d asked me what the future held when he was ten, I’d have said he’d become a lawyer.
Charles: I never intended to work with my mother. What I wound up doing was working with someone I knew well and respected, and someone who found history as intriguing as I did. I think the main thing that has come of this collaboration is getting to know each other as adults. We can argue, we can discuss the books, we can even yell at each other and it isn’t personal, it’s professional. What’s helpful is that our minds work a lot alike. But it could just as easily have been my sister who inherited that sort of mind. Since she didn’t and I did, I’m here working a 12-hour day, and she’s having a great time telling people how to invest their money.
Caroline: I think I brought it up first, after a visit to a battlefield where we had fun reconstructing the action and talking about what ifs. Charles wasn’t particularly interested just then, and I was busy with other things. But then he found himself on the road with his day job, and that meant time on his hands. Even so, nothing would have happened if we hadn’t both had computers. That made long-distance collaboration possible.
Charles: I was busy with my own life, so another project seemed to be out of the question. But once I was on the road as a corporate troubleshooter, I was glad of something to do in the evenings beside watching TV or running up the phone bills calling home. I think the biggest problem we have is that we can’t work in the same room. I don’t know whether this is because we didn’t start out that way or because we get more done when we are not together. When I’m at home, or Caroline is visiting me, we work in different rooms on the computer or the phone.
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
Caroline: We enjoy our real strength that comes from having so much in common—trips to England, reading the same books, seeing the same films, liking suspense so much. That matters, because we can see eye to eye even when we disagree. I’d have thought that being male and female might have made a difference that I’d see women better and Charles would see men more clearly. But when it comes to characters, we both seem to visualize them equally well. I expected Charles to write action scenes for the books while I’d work on motives. As it turned out, we both had an equally good grip on action and motive. I do spell better than Charles, while he’s far more computer savvy.
Charles: I think the main gift of our process is the way we sort of spur each other on. I think the main weakness may be that we’re so much alike. So it’s what we do when we aren’t collaborating that is important in keeping a fresh eye. Caroline loves to travel. She and my Dad have enjoyed seeing the world together. I like the beach, sitting there watching the waves and an occasional skimmer passing by. The list goes on, and from these differences come threads for storylines that expand a plot or characters we might not have created otherwise. Caroline and I both have a sense of humor, which is important. But we also have a sense of the ridiculous and that keeps us on an even keel. And we’ve always argued over Trivia. I love it when I’m write and she’s wrong.
Do you have a writing routine?
We never had a manual to help us learn how to collaborate. We sort of worked it out along the way. And what made the most sense was, of all things, consensus. We talk out the first chapter, who’s in it, what it has to say, where it will take us. And we write that down. Next we face the second chapter, who’s going to be there, what it has to say, and where it’s going. It’s the way we began, and we discovered that it worked, so we have used that as our method ever since. Remember, we both do research and share it, we both go to England and explore, and we both know our characters well, so it isn’t so surprising that consensus works better than outlining or swapping chapters.
You could say we don’t have a routine per se.
Do you write every day?
We never stop writing no matter where we are and what we are doing. You come up with new ideas everywhere from laying in a CAT scan machine to a train ride to a conference. With each new revelation we can’t wait to tell the other what we thought. The only drawback is staying focused on the work at hand!
What do you wish you’d done differently when you first started the publishing process?
Nothing! Any author is so surprised when an editor calls to ask if a manuscript is for sale. Any prepared reaction goes out the window and you only hope you are coherent. Our main hope is that Rutledge and Bess continue to thrive and we are able to explore opportunities in our stand alone books and short stories. We hope we learned from our mistakes and are always thrilled to be a part of the Harper/Morrow family.
What do you think is hardest aspect of writing a book?
Staying focused and seeing the manuscript through to the end is a challenge. We both love research and spending time “on location.” At a certain point we have to get down to work. But, the hardest part is putting the “pen” down and sending the manuscript to the editor. We have come to know and care about our characters and don’t want to say good bye. Often we will bring a character back in another work to visit and catch up on things. In The Shattered Tree we do that with Captain Barkley.
What’s more important—characters or plot?
The characters make the plot. We start out with the first chapter and then let the characters guide us through the possibilities that create the solution to the plot.
How often do you read?
Not enough! We read often for a variety of reasons. The sheer pleasure of reading the work of our friends/authors give us hours of pleasure and insight in their thought process. Writing is a craft that we have learned as apprentices through reading! We also read for research and travel guides that help us understand the “lay of the land” and the history of each location.
What is your writing style?
In the case of Bess and Ian we intentionally chose a time before sophisticated forensics. Both characters in their own way must solve the puzzle through wit, determination, and an understanding of people’s personalities and interactions. We love the suspense of the chase to resolve the plot often in the nick of time.
What do you think makes a good story?
A bit of everything. Primarily characters the reader (us included) care about. They don’t always have to be good or bad. When we write we often ask ourselves; is this person relevant to the story and what do they contribute. Whether as a writer or a reader the question must be do I want to spend my time hearing or seeing who this person is and why should I care. Characters are also a part of the scene. A clothing designer is fascinating in Paris and not so much a fishing village in Cornwall.
Is this an interesting location or does the author make the place interesting for me? I may not care about the seedy side of town in some city. But, if the story is such that is the only real place it can be told I become interested.
Finally, whether a mystery or some other genre, is the book satisfying in the end? By that we don’t mean does it end happily ever after. Does this book move me? It may be disturbing, tragic; often times it is simply a good story that made me feel various emotions resulting in a final feeling of “well done.”
What books do you currently have published?
Our latest Bess Crawford novel is The Shattered Tree (August 2016 Harper Collins/Morrow) and the eight in the series.
No Shred of Evidence (January 2016 Harper Collins/Morrow) is the eighteenth in the Inspector Rutledge series.
We also have some standalone titles and many short stories that have been published as well.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Keep trying. Finish a book and start another published or not. We knew that then and always tell future authors the same. We are both stubborn which is good and bad as collaborators. It is an excellent quality along with patience for us,
Is writing your dream job?
We love what we do. In the back of our minds there are always plot ideas we keep filed away if either of us decide to do something different. Writers have an incurable infection with their trade.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What did it teach you?
When you think you have the worst job in the world you get another one that makes you long for the past. No matter how trivial or degrading a task may be there is always the satisfaction in doing a job well and finishing. We never think that something is beneath us to do.
Do you have any marketing tips you could pass on to indie authors?
Get out there. Join writing organizations, get involved in your local library. Visit and get to know your area bookstore owners and staff. Do not be unwilling to volunteer your time and talent! No one ever became an author or attained success by waiting for the phone to ring. No matter what all the electronic/digital media may do to help you face to face time and word of mouth is the best advertising there is!
If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
Public Television without hesitation.
How often do you tweet?
We do not tweet yet. We are thinking about it.
How do you feel about Facebook?
Daily! It is a means of keeping up with friends and fans. We enjoy hearing the stories and sharing the life experiences of our many Facebook friends.
For what would you like to be remembered?
Inspiring other authors and being good at what we do.
What scares you the most?
Time. There never seems to be enough of it. Yet, we never have time to be bored!
Would either of you make a good character in a book?
That would be a strange book for both of us!
What five things would you never want to live without?
Books and more books. Well, books too, along with books and books especially!
What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
Pen and paper.
What do you love about where you live?
Caroline: I love the rolling hills and horse country along with major cities nearby to visit!
Charles: The ocean!
What’s your favorite thing to do on date night?
Libraries, art shows, travel family, and friends and many more.
What's your favorite treat for movie night?
Caroline: Popcorn and chocolate milkshakes.
Charles: Soft pretzels.
What’s your favorite fast food?
Wendy’s for Caroline, Dairy Queen for Charles.
What’s your favorite beverage?
Chocolate Milk for Caroline, Tonic water and pink grapefruit juice for Charles.
What drives you crazy?
What is your superpower?
Our memory even though we don’t always agree!
Name one thing you’re really good at and one thing you’re really bad at.
Caroline: Memory, understanding people, and motives. Cannot/will not do outlining.
Charles: Cooking, visual memory, and people. Horrible working on cars.
What do you wish you could do?
Have more time.
What is one of your happiest moments?
Being with family and friends.
Where is your favorite place to visit?
What would you name your autobiography?
Are you Kidding Me!
What’s your least favorite chore?
Caroline: Pulling weeds, they grow back!
Charles: Both of us hate changing litter boxes, it smells!
Would you rather be a movie star, sports star, or rock star?
Movie star for both.
Do you procrastinate?
What’s one thing that drives you crazy?
Waiting, wasting time!
What’s your favorite Internet site?
What’s in your refrigerator right now?
The usual. Fruit and fresh veggies and a few southern delicacies.
What is the most daring thing you've done?
Caroline: Visiting the far reaching corners of the globe.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
Being on stage talking about our books and losing our train of thought!
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
"There but for the grace of God go I."
What would your main character say about you?
That is a new one. We have never really thought about that. Complicated and yet realistic?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
At the end of A Fine Summers Day sending Rutledge off to war. We knew what lay instore for him in A Test of Wills.
Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
Our first library is always a favorite even though we love many of the grand libraries we have visited. We love the smell of books, the way they feel in our hands, turning pages gently in an old and well-read book!
Who is your favorite fictional character?
Caroline: Miss Marple as an example of my many favorite characters.
Charles: Hercule Poriot as an example of my many favorite characters.
If you had a talk show who would your dream guests be?
That would be a very long list. As readers and history students the list would be endless. We just hope we could be as good as Charlie Rose with a bit of Lipton thrown in.
What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
We like silly movies like the Lavender Hill Mob and The Pink Panther!
You have a personal chef for the night. What would you ask him to prepare?
Caroline: Charles is a trained professional chef from his prior career so I get that every time we visit!
Charles: I don’t care as long as I don’t have to do the dishes!
How do you like your pizza?
Caroline: We both like pepperoni and mushroom with traditional hand tossed crust or whatever Charles is making!
What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
Charles: The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel .
Do you have any hidden talents?
We both love to paint and draw. Our ability to express things in doodles is important in our communication!
What’s your favorite type of music?
We both have varied tastes from classical to modern. Caroline enjoys Celtic music, and I love bluegrass.
What’s your biggest pet peeve about writing?
Spelling and grammar.
What would you do for a Klondike bar?
Kill a character.
What is your favorite movie?
Caroline: Of the many Lawrence of Arabia.
Charles: One would be Rogue Male.
Do you have a favorite book?
That is not really fair to ask:
Caroline: Day of the Jackel.
Charles: A Prayer for the Dying.
If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
It beats the alternative.
What are you working on now?
Bess Crawford number nine A Causality of War.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.
Charles learned the rich history of Britain, including the legends of King Arthur, William Wallace, and other heroes, as a child. Books on Nelson and by Winston Churchill were always at hand. Their many trips to England gave them the opportunity to spend time in villages and the countryside, where there’a different viewpoint from that of the large cities. Their travels are at the heart of the series they began ten years ago.
Charles’s love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. He enjoys all things nautical, has an international collection of seashells, and has sailed most of his life. Golf is still a hobby that can be both friend and foe. And sports in general are enthusiasms. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge’s reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.
Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are WWI, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling the world, gardening, or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events, and she’s also a sports fan, an enthusiastic follower of her favorite teams in baseball and pro football. She loves the sea, but is a poor sailor. (Charles inherited his iron stomach from his father.) Still, she has never met a beach she didn’t like.
Both Caroline and Charles share a love of animals, and family pets have always been rescues. There was once a lizard named Schnickelfritz. Don’t ask.
Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline’s computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.
Connect with Charles and Caroline:
Website | Facebook | Goodreads
Buy the book:
HarperCollins | Amazon | B&N