Author Interview: Phyllis Irene Radford

Phyllis Irene Radford

a.k.a. Irene Radford

Interviewed by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Q.) Writers worrying about their sell-through and afraid the last book in their series will be “killed” often threaten to write the next book under a pseudonym. As far as I know, you have at least five nom de plumes. Why?

A.) Changing or keeping a pen name is a numbers game. Can the publisher get better publicity and orders from a new name or an old one? More often than not the marketing department makes the decision rather than the author. With my first book contract I knew I’d have to have a pen name because there was another fantasy author with my first name and my husband’s last name—the same weird spelling. At the time the Romance Writers of America were having a kerfuffle about pen names and who owned and controlled them. So, I went with my middle name and my maiden name, which I owned, for something like fifteen books.

The Tess Noncoiré books are very different from the high fantasy of the Dragon Nimbus (includes the Stargods) or the historical fantasy of Merlin’s Descendants. Harmony, Enigma and Mourner are different again. I have a lot of YA readers of the dragon books. The marketing department didn’t want young readers exposed to the high sensuality and violence of modern life in the Tess books. Harmony and the sequels are a spiritual journey with a literary twist in a space opera landscape, unlike anything I have ever written before, or since. Thus, a new name for it as well.

As for The Whistling River Lodge Mysteries, now available here on BVC I had the freedom to return to my favored pen name: Irene Radford. It’s also a cozy mystery without paranormal elements. Different again.

Q.) Is Irene Radford still writing Dragon Nimbus and books as well as Merlin’s Descendants books?

A.) The Children of the Dragon Nimbus Book I The Silent Dragon came out from DAW Books in February 2013, The Broken Dragon and The Wandering Dragon followed in 2014 and 2015. The series seems to have ended there.

As for Merlin’s Descendants, they are out of print through the original publisher but are now out in e-book and print at Book View Café as well as other outlets.

C.F. Bentley—Harmony, Enigma, and Mourner

Q.) Who decided that you needed a new name for Harmony—you, your agent, your editor?

A.) Mentioned above, this came from my editor and the marketing department, but I knew it had to have a different author as I wrote it. It is just too far outside the norm. As time passed and the rights to those books reverted to me, I realized that the Irene Radford pen name has more value. I have released them through BVC along with the conclusion to the story Mourner. The byline now reads Irene Radford writing as C.F. Bentley. I’ll probably do something similar as other books revert to my control.

Lacing Up For Murder, now titled Whistling Down the Wind.

Q.) I’ve read the first chapter of your Lacing Up For Murder, now retitled and available on BVC, and am looking forward to reading the entire thing! Your heroine has staff troubles, a huge mortgage over her inn, and the willingness to harbor someone who faked his death. And the inn may be haunted. And her Ex has shown up rolling in dough and with a group of people. AND—So…

A.) Not your usual cozy mystery. The Whistling River Inn came first. It is as much a character in the books as Glenna McClain and Craig Knudsen, Joy Dancer and Pete Beumain. I have a number of hobbies, so does my husband. Bringing small conventions of those hobbies to Glenna’s inn gives me the opportunity to play. I started with Lace because I am a lacemaker and using silk thread as a garrote seemed the thing to do. For the sequel I’ve written about an antique tractor pull to clear some land for an extension of the golf course. Guess what they find under one of those stumps! Then there are highland games in the third book. In all three books I reference a ghost hunting club that wants to chase Glenna’s pet ghost. That story evolved into Ghostly Whistles. It came out from BVC in October 2021. I have plans for ballet, fencing, glass blowing… I could take this series forever.

I even set up a crossover to the Artistic Demon Series  in Ghostly Whistles. Confessions of a Ballroom Diva, starts that series and it grew.

Q.) This is not the first time you’ve slipped tatting into a book. What brought you to tatting, and what made you want to use it both for magic and for murder?

A.) I’ve always done needlework, knit and crochet as well as sewing. Many years ago, at a county fair my older sister looked at a doily and said, “That’s a really weird crochet pattern.” Mom explained that it wasn’t crochet, but tatting. Two weeks later my community school offered classes. I had to learn something my sister couldn’t do. So I took the class and got addicted. Tatting is both magic and murder. To create a lovely piece of lace out of air and thread is amazing. But it’s murder to learn the peculiar flip of the knot that makes tatting well tatting. By the way, no matter what crossword puzzle designers say, not all lace making is tatting. There’s also, bobbin, needle, netted, knitted, and crocheted lace. I can do them all, but tatting is my first love.

P.R. Frost–Tess Noncoiré Adventures.

Q.) Tell us about Tess Noncoiré. Where did she come from, and where is she heading? She’s lost a man she loved, is carrying an unusual secret about her disappearance, and has an imp following her around and occasionally helping out. The imp is young, smokes cigars, and is flatulent, but he’s useful—sometimes. Which came first, Tess or the Sisterhood of the Celestial Blade Warriors?

A.) This started with a painting in an art show at a con. I wrote a short story. It got longer and longer and died. Then I tried making it a post apocalypse book and it went nowhere faster. The simple shift to modern times opened all kinds of new possibilities—four books worth Hounding the Moon, Moon in the Mirror, Faery Moon, and Forest Moon Rising. Tess moved from being a bounty hunter with an imp that becomes her weapon of choice to a modern SF/F writer. I always knew her name was Tess and that she was a widow who still considered herself married. I wanted a woman who could wear lace and knock back beer with the guys. Scrap, the imp, is himself. He dictated his story from the other side of the computer screen.

Q.) Rumor has it that a fairy got in bad with the higher-ups, was stripped of her wings and dropped naked into Memorial Fountain in the middle of rush hour on a hot August morning. And a fairy without her wings is…what? Who is she, when will readers meet her, and who wrote her tale?

A.) Actually that’s a Pixie not a fairy. Her name is Thistle Down, and the book and its sequel Chicory Up are in print and e-book from Book View Cafe. Coming this autumn is Dandelion Twist. The series could go on and on, as people in a small town discover the Pixies who keep their gardens lush. Pixies don’t play tricks on other Pixies. That’s what humans are for. Except Thistle got mad and broke this one prime rule. Now she has to live as a human to learn some things, like the value of love and friendship, loyalty, and when to curb her instincts to invoke mayhem.

Q.) Anything new on the horizon?

A.) Recently from DAW Books, Rachel Atwood has helped me return to historical fantasy. Walk the Wild with Me is a rather different look at the Robin Hood mythology, invoking ancient folklore. Outcasts of the Wildwood just came out in January 2022. I want to play in that world for a long time.

And there are other stories and worlds swirling in my head. You never know what I’ll come up with when left alone with my laptop.

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