When it comes to creating phenomenal, intriguing and, yes bestselling stories, Kelly Oliver, hits the mark each and every time, with her books consistently topping the bestseller list. “High Treason at the Grand Hotel: A Fiona Figg Mystery” is destined to also hit the bestseller list with its release this week.
“High Treason at the Grand Hotel: A Fiona Figg Mystery” is the second book in this series, and follows Fiona Figg, her dynamic, and one of a kind protagonist, who just so happens to also be a spy, as she goes deep to unravel a mystery. This book’s fascinating cast of characters, along with the captivating storyline, keeps readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. We recently sat down with Oliver to find out more about this new book, and what’s next for this brilliant author.
Fiona Figg, your protagonist, is a very dynamic character, who just so happens to be a spy, what was it like for you to create Fiona?
I imagine Fiona as a spirited, but proper, English woman, who bridles at some of the restrictions and prejudices against the “fair sex” at the turn of the twentieth century. She has an adventurous—even fearless—nature, which of course gets her into all kinds of trouble. She’s also a no-nonsense kind of character who also appreciates fine hats and enjoys a good fake mustache.
All that to say, she is a blast to write. She’s not really a spy. She’s a file clerk with a photographic memory who falls into espionage in order to escape her unfaithful husband. But she takes to it like an appliqued rose on a blue satin hat.
“High Treason at the Grand Hotel: A Fiona Figg Mystery” is the second book in the series, what was the inspiration for Fiona’s adventures in this new book?
The first book, Betrayal at Ravenswick, takes place in London and environs, but I wanted to take Fiona further out of her comfort zone. And Paris during the war is an interesting place.
In spite of the war, it was an exciting time in Paris. Theaters were still operating, giving birth to the matinee to avoid nighttime blackouts, and the saying, “the show must go on.” The art scene was booming, with greats such as Cocteau, Picasso, Colette, and Proust. Several American writers ended up in Paris, including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, e.e. cummings, and Walt Disney.
One figure captured my imagination. Margarethe Zelle, also known as Mata Hari. I read a great biography of Mata Hari by Pat Shipman called Femme Fatale. The fate of Mata Hari was determined in large part by the position of women in society in 1917, and that spoke to me. In all of my work, fiction and nonfiction, I have been concerned with women’s issues. And Mata Hari appears to be a victim rather than a perpetrator.
In spite of her disapproval of Mata Hari’s lifestyle, Fiona has a soft spot for her too.
In “High Treason at the Grand Hotel: A Fiona Figg Mystery”, is chock full of interesting compelling characters, which one besides Fiona, is your favorite character, and why?
I love Fredrick Fredricks, Fiona’s antagonist. It was fun to develop him as a character after his appearance in Betrayal at Ravenswick. Fredrick Fredricks is also based on a real person, Fritz Duquesne, who was a fascinating character in real life. He was a spy for the Germans in both world wars. He used various aliases, including Fredrick Fredricks. And, like a chameleon, he changed his looks, personality, and professions to evade capture. He is definitely a worthy adversary for Fiona.
I know you have a lot of fans. What was the most interesting feedback or question you have received from a reader about this series?
My favorite is a reader who said, “This book is like a glass of nice prosecco.” You can’t hope for better than that!
You used to write non-fiction, and then made a jump to fiction, which is awesome because your books are so amazing. What inspired you to make that jump, and what was it like for you?
It was terrifying. It still is. Every time I start writing a novel, I think “I can’t do this.” Then I remind myself that I have done it before… several times now.
As a philosophy professor (my day job), I’ve written hundreds of scholarly articles and sixteen non-fiction books on various topics ranging from animal ethics to images of girls and women in Hollywood blockbusters. But, until six years ago, I’d never written a word of fiction.
My first book, WOLF, A Jessica James Mystery, was inspired by my own experience in graduate school. A lot of what I went through as one of the only women in the philosophy PhD program was truly beyond belief. What’s funny is that a couple of readers have said parts of that novel aren’t really believable—but those are the parts based on my actual experience. Writing that novel, and having fun with it, was a sort of therapy for me.
But now I’m hooked! I only want to write fiction.
I hear you have a new book in the works, can you tell us about your new project?
I just finished the first draft of the sixth Jessica James Mystery. It’s called Cottonmouth. I’m excited about it because I introduced a new character, a federal marshal named Lexington Colt, a sort of cross between Raylan Givens and V.I Warshawski. I’m thinking she might get her own spin-off series.
And next on my plate, of course, is the third Fiona Figg novel, which takes her to Vienna. That will be fun!
To find out more about Kelly Oliver and her work, head on over to the website.