with Kate Kingsbury
Why did you choose PennyFoot for the hotel's name?
Many years ago, before I decided to turn my love of writing
into a career, I made stuffed animals that I sold at craft
fairs and bazaars. Among my various designs were a series
of felt mice, all dressed in period costume from Edwardian
England. Their legs were rather spindly, and in
order to make them stand up I inserted a penny in each foot.
Hence... the Pennyfoot Mice. When searching for
a name for my Edwardian hotel, the name jumped right out at
me. I had once remarked that one day, the Pennyfoot
Mice would be famous. Little did I imagine that
the name would eventually end up on a series of books.
I understand you managed your family seaside hotel in England.
Was any of the staff, visitors or towns people as colorful
as your characters?
Most of them! The British are well known for being
eccentric, and I'm happy to say that in that respect, time
hasn't changed them all that much. The majority
of my characters are based on aspects of people I've
met. My characters are very real to me, and it
was hard for me to say goodbye at the end of the series.
Are there any comparisons you can tell us about?
Not without getting into trouble.
What sort of things happened at your family hotel?
I'm happy to say that no murders occurred at our hotel, though
we did have two deaths, unfortunately. As you
can imagine, both caused quite an uproar, even though they
were natural causes. The hotel was well over a
hundred years old and one of the rooms was haunted.
Several people asked to be moved to another room, after being
awaked in the middle of the night by the sound of rustling
skirts and soft moaning. An uncle, who was a staunch
disbeliever, spent one night in the room and vowed never to
set foot in it again. We had to swear the haunted
guests to secrecy and compensate them, so they wouldn't
panic the entire hotel. We had our share of summer
romances and broken hearts. Some of the guests returned
again and again, sharing their lives with us as they married
and brought their growing families back with them each year.
It was wonderful time in my life, and gave me a wonderful
source from which to draw my characters.
Your descriptions of PennyFoot, Badgers End and Putney Downs,
are so realistic. I'm thinking now of the Esplanade,
the garden and the church, etc. Where are they
They are a composite, taken from every seaside resort in England
I've ever visited... and there are many... as well as the
one where I lived.
You had a variety of British accents along with historical
slang, clothing, moments and places in your series.
How did you do your research?
Books, mostly... and from having grown up there.
I also printed up copies of the local newspaper from that
time. Much of England, especially outside the cities,
remains pretty much as it was a hundred or more years ago.
It's easy to walk the tiny streets and alleys among the Victorian,
Georgian and Edwardian architecture and imagine the kind of
people who walked those streets before me.
Would you please recommend any books to read or any web sites
to visit with these historical details?
Since the Edwardian period was very short, just ten years,
books on the period are somewhat limited. My absolute
bibles were two wonderful books: VICTORIAN AND EDWARDIAN
FASHION, by Alison Gernsheim, and TO MARRY AN ENGLISH
LORD, by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace.
The latter has marvelous descriptions of architecture, fashions,
food and manners, both upstairs and down, and some truly wonderful
anecdotes of the time. A great book. Among others,
I read an interesting book by Valerie Pakenham, entitled
OUT IN THE NOONDAY SUN, about Edwardians in the tropics...
and a wonderful pictorial account by Gail Buckland called
THE GOLDEN SUMMER, using the marvelous photographs by Horace
Walter Nicholls, who was London's most noted photo journalist
at the turn of the century. Last, but certainly not
least, I hunted down a series of children's books by
artist, John S. Goodall. There is no text in these books,
just fabulous illustrations.. and they truly invoke the times
with their intricate detail. EDWARDIAN SUMMER
and EDWARDIAN SEASON are particularly enlightening, but all
of Mr. Goodall's works are a delight and an inspiration.
The cover art for your series is wonderful. Please tell
me how they came about and who did them.
I have the wonderful art department at Berkley to thank for
the covers. Although I had some discussion with my editor
as to which scenes we might use, the covers were always a
delightful surprise for me. I loved each one,
and am deeply grateful to the talented and imaginative artist
who created them.
What kind of mysteries do you like to read?
All kinds. I enjoy the cozies, but I also tend
to read the hard-edged, hard-boiled thrillers for a change
Who is your favorite author?
Oh, my, that's hard. In mystery I have so many...
P.D. James, J.A. Jance, Dick Francis, and of course,
Dame Agatha. I also read a great deal of
women's fiction, and enjoy Rosemunde Pilcher, Eileen Goudge
and Tami Hoag... as well as Mary Higgins Clark. I grew
up reading the queens of romantic suspense... Mary Stewart,
Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney.
Now that PennyFoot Mysteries has concluded, what mystery ideas
are in the works for the future?
Ah, well... this is supposed to be a secret for now... but
I'm hoping to sell the sequel to the Pennyfoot Series.
Badger's End revisited thirty years later, during World
War II. The research should be easier.. since
I was there.
What made you decide to write romances?
I'd always loved romantic suspense... but had never considered
writing it. One day I attended a seminar put on
by Silhouette in my home town. After listening
to the authors and editors, I was impressed by their enthusiasm
for the genre. I went right out and bought armfuls
of Silhouette books and soon after began my first manuscript.
I wrote four full length novels before I was happy enough
with one to submit it. It was bought by
Silhouette nine days after I sent in the full manuscript.
Do you think you will break away from category romance and
write an independent romance like some of your other Silhouette
Definitely. In fact, I have a mainstream proposal
circulating the publishers right now.
What new things under your real name as romance author Doreen
Roberts can you tell your fans about?
I'm currently working on a special project for Silhouette
for one of their continuity series, a new 36 HOURS,
and am waiting word on a proposal for a new Intimate
like to thank Ms. Kingsbury (Doreen Roberts Hight) for this
interview. Please visit her Web
Site and learn more about her. Kate Kingbury at