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Connection by Sam Bond!! One lucky
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Me: What led you
to begin your writing career?
Sam: I started writing about ten years ago
on finding a lack of diversity in children’s books. I wanted my two girls (both adopted from China) to have
characters that not only resembled
them, but who were representative of their reality. There were plenty of books about adoption, but there didn’t seem
to be too many books about regular American kids who happened to be adopted. This led me to write the CIA (Cousins in
Action) books, an award-winning adventure
series for readers aged eight to twelve set in various countries around the world.
Me: Why did you
want to write The Puccini Connection?
Sam: I’ve always loved murder mysteries,
especially English murder mysteries, but it wasn’t until a cozy murder mystery writer cornered me at a tailgate
party about three years ago that I gave
any serious consideration to writing this genre. Once my friend had suggested a change in direction I honestly wondered
why I hadn’t thought of it before. It was almost as if I’d been preparing my entire life to write cozy murder
mysteries. There is barely a British
cozy crime show that I haven’t binge watched (Midsomer Murders, Rosemary & Thyme, Grantchester and Agatha Raisin to
name just a few), plus I grew up immersed in Agatha
Christie, PD James, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter. It seemed inevitable that I would finally turn my hand to English
Me: I assume you
have a background in classical music?
Are you a music teacher like Josie in the Puccini Connection? Was this theme important in writing this
book? Will classical music continue to be an element in future books?
Sam: I have
been playing the piano since the age of five — so almost fifty years and play
daily. My father was a self-taught
pianist and organist and also had a fine voice —
he sang for Queen
Alexandra when he was a young choir boy. Therefore classical music was always part of my life. By sixteen I played not
only the piano, but the clarinet, the violin and in my spare time I sang in local amateur dramatic performances and
then later Gilbert & Sullivan
productions, playing several leading roles including Yum Yum in the Mikado. Most of my favorite music is classical,
therefore it seemed natural to have Josie be a musician
— albeit a better one than me. They say write what you know, and so I did. I’m also on a bit of a crusade to
introduce people to classical music, as it saddens me when people dismiss it as being too boring.
Try listening to Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and then tell me classical music is dull. As for the
continuance of a theme, Josie’s love of classical
music and her job as a piano teacher will definitely continue, and if I can
make some classical music converts
along the way — all the better!
Me: What are some
other things that you have in common with Josie? What are some differences?
Sam: When a friend
first read an early version of The Puccini Connection she called to tell me that
she loved it, but had one main issue. “In my head Josie is you,” she said, “but
she’s just not as funny.” I took that as
a great compliment both for Josie and myself. I didn’t set out to make Josie like me, but a lot of
my voice is in The Puccini Connection and therefore
I think it’s easy for readers who know me to see the similarities. So, other
than being a musician, Josie is also
terrified of blood and does not like egg whites — those traits are totally me and, of course, we are both
English. Our differences are more subtle. I
set out to try and make Josie something of a loner. Other than her summers with
Aunt Rose her childhood was not
particularly happy, and therefore Josie definitely has some trust issues that rise to the surface —
I am incredibly open and trusting, so that’s not like me at all.
Me: Is Milkwood a
Sam: It is
based on a real place,
one that I actually mention within the book — Shere.
My mother, my girls and
I have been visiting for years, playing Pooh Sticks over the Tillingbourne (yes the river is real)
and eating at The White Horse, which is the inspiration
for The Dirty Duck. If you look at the map at the front of The Puccini Connection you will see that the compass is
upside down! This is because whenever I drive
into Shere I approach from the North and so when I drew the map I accidentally drew it upside down, because that’s
how I see it in my head! Instead of going to the trouble of changing the entire map I decided to go for
whimsy and turn the compass upside
Me: You have a
talent for creating immersive, richly-detailed settings as well as the nuances of
colloquial speech patterns. Why do you
think this is?
thank you. That’s
a very kind compliment. My friend’s father and the man who the book is dedicated to, said he could tell I
was extremely homesick after reading the book, so
maybe that has something to do with it. As for the colloquial speech patterns,
this turned into a bit of an
issue with my editor. She’s American and therefore would often insert extra words to make it sound
correct to her. To be honest, until I moved to the States I hadn’t realized how often the British leave out words —
for instance Americans would say
they are going to the hospital. British people say they are going to hospital.
It was one of the reasons I made
Josie an expat as she, like me, straddles this divide of language, sometimes using American
English sometimes using British, I’ve been in the US so long that quite often I can’t remember which is which any
more — and don’t even ask me to say the
Me: I understand
that you also grew up in England like Josie – do you still have a British accent? Do you visit often? Do you plan to return one day? How is Texas different, and what do you enjoy about both
Sam: I was
born in Surrey, where fictional
Milkwood is located, and I do still have a British accent, although my mother would beg to differ, due to me
using way more American terminology
than she’s comfortable with. Up until two years ago my two daughters and I would spend each summer in London and
I would return again during January (getting relief
from the Cedar season here in Austin) to spend another month together. My mum and I were extremely close and it was important
for me to spend time with her. My mum died
in 2018 and the girls and I have been back a couple of times since, but have no
plan to go back any time soon (especially
with Covid). I’m so happy that my American girls have been so immersed in English culture over their
lifetimes, and I love that the last dish my
oldest requested before going off to college was roast lamb and roast potatoes!
As for the differences between London
and Texas, there are too many to mention, fish ‘n’ chips versus brisket, sun versus rain, but there
are enjoyable things about both. While in England
you will find me visiting stately homes and taking photos of the flowers (photography is my other occupation) and
tramping across the glorious
countryside. In Texas I am
more likely to be indoors because of the extreme heat for most of the year, but I do still love to hike when weather
permits and we have a beautiful greenbelt here in Austin as well as some excellent state parks that I enjoy
Me: Are you
planning future books in this series?
Will they take place in Milkwood or in Texas? (or both)?
Sam: I’m currently knee-deep in edits on
The Unread Prophecy which is the second book in the Milkwood Murder series, and have started writing the third.
I also have ideas for at least another
three books — so yes, there will definitely be more books coming and they will be predominantly set in Milkwood.
Me: Will Josie &
Adam continue to be a couple? Will
readers see their romance develop, or will
there be some complications along the way?
Sam: I’m not going to give anything away,
so unfortunately you’re going to have to keep reading
to find out. However I will say there are definitely some complications, as
well as a bit of a surprise around book five or six that will come out of the blue, but in reality it’s something I’ve been planning since book
Me: Will we see
other characters featured in this book resurface in subsequent novels? (ie. Lady Belle, Daisy, Finolla, etc.).
Will we learn more about Josie’s family history?
Sam: I think
they will all come back at some
point, and more information about Josie’s past will
be unveiled. Finolla is one of my favorite characters so she will definitely
have to make future appearances —
maybe with her latest Argentinian husband.
Me: What are some
of your favorite books and authors? What
is the current book on your nightstand?
Sam: If I had to pick just one book I
would say My Family and Other Animals
by Gerald Durrell, which is the
only reason I managed to pass ‘O’ Level English. I will also read anything by the prolific Alexander McCall Smith
as well as Elizabeth Peters and Kate Atkinson.
I run three book clubs and I’m in four, so I read a lot of books. My favorite book from the last couple of years is the
sublime A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor
Towles. As for my nightstand, the books
are literally piled high, as well as having several that I am listening to on audio — I’m normally reading at
least eight books at one time. I just
reread James Herriott’s All Creatures
Great and Small which is a total delight, but the book I’m currently enjoying most is Deanna Raybourne’s A Dangerous Collaboration
featuring her Victorian heroine, Veronica Speedwell, who is an utter joy.
Photo of Sam Bond by Dave Wilson