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6 Questions with Janice Law

The Francis Bacon Mysteries author talks writing rituals, favorite books, and the inspiration behind her successful trilogy.


This story was first published on the blog Unabridged Chick on December 11, 2013, and it’s republished here with her permission.

Janice Law wrote one of my top ten reads of 2012, Fires of London, and I was delighted by the sequel, The Prisoner of the Riviera. I’m thrilled to share this interview with Ms. Law, who talks about her writing, why she chose Francis Bacon as her protagonist, and what she’s been reading lately.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

The plot of my first novel was, believe it or not, based on the then-ongoing Watergate hearings. I kept thinking that some underpaid secretary must know what was going on. My underpaid secretary became Anna Peters and I moved the plot and cover-up to a big-oil firm — not the smartest move because I had to keep researching the petroleum industry, about which I knew nothing.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

When I am writing I try to write every morning except Sunday when I go to play duets with an old friend. To save my voice, frazzled from many years of teaching in large classrooms, I have High Quality Bruce on the Apple voice-synthesizer read my work. For many years Bruce had a faintly Swedish accent and now in my inner ear, I hear all my work in his tone. Rather odd!

What inspired you to write mysteries featuring Francis Bacon?

I happened to read Michael Peppiatt’s fine biography of Francis Bacon and the idea just came to me, although in general I do not like the idea of making detectives out of the famous. But Bacon stuck in my mind, perhaps because I am a quite serious painter myself. The vast differences between his life and mine and between our personalities deterred me for a while, until I learned that he lived with his old nanny. That fact decided it, because I grew up downstairs on a big estate and that was a relationship I figured I understood.

Was The Prisoner of the Riviera the original title of your book?

I think The Prisoner of the Riviera was my initial idea. Often I get either a plot or a good title but not both, but this time the muse smiled on me. I think I have a good title for the conclusion of the trilogy, too, as a matter of fact.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I paint a great deal and do a lot of drawings. I garden, play the violin (badly), and go birding.

Read any good books recently?

I love almost everything by Kate Atkinson and enjoyed her Life After Life — also the new Fred Vargas, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec. Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers was good, and I really was impressed by Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, about the American eights that won gold in the Berlin Olympics. Also Douglas Smith’s grim but enlightening Former People about the destruction of the Russian aristocracy (and middle class).