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The London Forgery

A Fabiola Bennett Mystery by Heidi Eljarbo

There is a special place in my heart for historical art mysteries, so I jumped at the chance to host author Heidi Eljarbo today as she celebrates the release of The London Forgery, the first book in her Fabiola Bennett cozy art mystery series, set in the 1970s and the mid-18th century. Read on for an interview with the author, and discover the inspirations behind this exciting new series.

 About the book:

1973. Art historian Fabiola Bennett sees herself as a prudently observant deer who becomes a daring and even mischievous lioness if the situation calls for it. And that’s exactly what’s required when greedy criminals steal, forge, and tamper with treasured artwork. When the crooks add murder to their list of crimes, the chaos is complete.

A mysterious note is delivered anonymously at the door of the National Gallery in London, and the director immediately calls Fabiola’s office in Oslo and pleads with her to come without delay. The message is confusing, but it seems one of her favorite eighteenth-century portraits is in trouble.

Fabiola hops on the first plane and meets up with her vibrant side-kick Pippa Yates and the ever-loyal Detective Inspector Cary Green from New Scotland Yard. But she is not naïve enough to think untangling the purpose and meaning of the mysterious note will be as simple as a walk in Hyde Park. These things never are.

1750. Newly married Robert and Frances Andrews, members of the landed gentry of Suffolk, England, hire young and talented Thomas Gainsborough to paint their wedding portrait. Their desire is a lovely conversation piece showing their wealth and class, an artwork to remember them by for generations to come.

Little do they know the gifted artist portrays their personalities exactly how he perceives them, and the artistic symbolism is not as flattering as they’d hoped for. Even the looming clouds in the distance promise a troublesome future.

This is the first book in a new dual timeline series by Heidi Eljarbo—an intriguing spin-off from the much-loved Soli Hansen Mysteries.

Fans of Lucinda Riley, Rhys Bowen, Kathleen McGurl, Kate Morton, and Katherine Neville will love this cozy historical art mystery, which takes the readers back to the nostalgia of the groovy seventies and the classical Georgian era of the eighteenth century.

Interview with the author:

AM: What’s the tagline or ‘elevator pitch’ for your book?

HE: A mysterious note about a famous painting starts Fabiola on a chase through the streets of London, but can she rescue the artwork before someone finishes her off?

AM: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

HE: I wanted to write a spin-off from my series Soli Hansen Mysteries.

AM: What inspired you to write about that particular era or character?

HE: 1973 is such a fun time to write about—kind of a newer period, but still a time without cell phones and many things we are depended on today. Also, writing about an art historian and taking the book a step further by going back to the time a certain painting was created, gave me twice the pleasure as I created the dual timeline.

AM: How did you create a realistic setting for your story?

HE: The main story takes place in London in 1973. I can remember much from that time; clothes music, and how we lived. I was a young teenager in Oslo then, but I visited London for a week in 1975. My first of many trips to that wonderful city. I’ve also studied art history and spent much time in the National Gallery. Other than that, it’s research, research, research.

AM: What surprised you in the course of your research?

HE: When I studied about the painter Thomas Gainsborough, I was happy to learn how much he loved his wife, Margaret. She was also a great support to him and helped him in his business. Unusual for a woman of her time.

Gainsborough, Thomas; Mrs Gainsborough; The Courtauld Gallery;

AM: Do your research findings guide the plot, or do you plan out the plot first and flesh it out with research? (Or perhaps both?)

HE: I’d say it’s a little of both. A simple plot sits in my head, and much is added to the story as I research and find interesting things that need to be in the story.

AM: Name three historical facts or events that helped bring your main character to life.

HE: Thomas Gainsborough painted Mr. and Mrs. Andrews in 1750. The 1970s with its easy outlook on life, colorful clothing, and simplicity compared to today.The National Gallery in London is a great backdrop to the story.

AM: As historical novelists, we are often left wondering about tantalizing mysteries that can’t quite be solved with our research. If you could invite your main character(s) to dinner, what questions would you ask them, and what lingering mysteries would you hope to solve?

HE: The London Forgery is the first book in a new series—a spin-off from the Soli Hansen Mysteries. Fabiola is Soli’s daughter and like her mother, she jumps in with both feet and takes great risks to rescue artwork. I’d like to know what happens in her mind when she forgets common sense and safety rules and goes after the bad guy? 

AM: Do you completely plan out your cast of characters before writing, or do you sometimes add new characters as you go along? What are some of the reasons you’ve added new characters to a story?

HE: The most important characters are usually planned ahead. They’ll have a name, a certain look, personality, strengths and weaknesses, and a goal that drives them forward. But sometimes my protagonist ends up in a place where new characters pop up, and I have fun following her and adding new people to the story.

AM: Do you have any tips for other writers about keeping track of your historical fiction research?

HE: I like having folders with printed articles, handwritten notes, and ideas. I feel it’s fast and easy for me, and I can quickly add new things as I go along. I make my own timelines and use colored markers for different characters and ideas.

AM: Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? If music, what kind and why?

HE: Often, it’s music from the seventies, classic crooner songs, tenors, or violins. Nothing too energetic when I write.

AM: What do you have planned for your next writing project?

HE: My next book is a historical romance and will be part of my series “Heartwarming Christmas”. I add one every year. This year’s book is hauntingly romantic and set in Sweden in 1810. I’ve also started on the second book in the Fabiola Bennett series.

AM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

HE: I like being outdoors, walking the dog, hiking with my husband, spending time with our family, and just enjoy nature. But I have some special interests like studying art history, genealogy, and watercolor painting. Many might not agree with me on this, but I really like doing the laundry.

To buy the book:

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited

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About the author:

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.

Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have fifteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

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  1. Cathie Dunn says:

    Thank you so much for hosting Heidi Eljarbo today with such an interesting interview.

    Cathie xo
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      It was my pleasure, Cathie!

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