June 15, 2021

Connie Berry

Connie Berry

Linda Hengerer talks with Connie Berry about her latest book The Art of Betrayal, eating haggis (or not), writing, Scotland and the British Isles, and her Shih Tzu Emmie.

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Pandora podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

In this episode, Linda Hengerer is talking with Connie Berry. Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare's College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.

Visit Connie's website for information about her books: connieberry.com
Buy her new book, The Art of Betrayal, and sign up for her newsletter.

Get to know Connie - The Tart Words Baker's Dozen:

1.   Plotter or Pantser? Combo?

I’m a Plotser. I know where I’m going but not always how I’ll get there.

2.   Tea or Coffee?

COFFEE FIRST! (Sorry--I was shouting). Then a nice cup of tea.

3.   Beer, Wine, or Cocktails?

Wine--cabernet or pinot noir. Sometimes a pretty cocktail, although they’re full of calories. I’m trying to shed the COVID Ten.

4.   Snacks: Sweet or Savory?

Savory. Salty.

5.   Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid?

Traditionally published.

6.   Strict Writing Schedule: Yes or No

I wish! That’s something I’d like to develop one day when I have time to think about it.

7.    Strictly Computer or Mix It Up?

Mostly computer, although I write scene ideas in pencil first.

8.    Daily Goal: Yes or No

Not really. I write in scenes and try to stop for the day at the end of a scene. Doesn’t always work out.

9.    Formal Track Progress: Yes or no

Yes! I’ve developed a complicated chart with columns for chapter, scene, date, location, characters involved, a brief synopsis, pages in scene, and pages in the whole chapter. I’m not sure I could keep track of my plot without it.

10.  Special Writing Spot?

I love to write while looking out over water, which usually means our cottage in northern Wisconsin. At home I write looking at a wall. I should hang one of those photo displayers on the water with photographs of water.

11.   Writer’s Block?

No, but I often have Writer’s Procrastination. Writer’s Block goes away when you start writing.

12.   File of Ideas: Yes or No

Not really, although when I begin a new book, I jot down all my ideas and then look for connections between them.

13.   Favorite Author(s)?

I’ll name the ones that come to mind: Elly Griffiths, Tana French, Charles Todd, Laurie R. King, Anthony Horowitz, Jodi Taylor, Christopher Fowler, Susan Hill, all the Golden Agers--especially Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Cyril Hare. As you can see, I read mostly mysteries set in the UK, which is also what I write. As Agatha said, “There’s something about an English village.”

Like this episode? Leave a review or rating! 


Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos or grammar errors J

Episode 228 - Connie Berry



Linda 00:00

Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words. In this episode, Linda Hengerer is talking with Connie Berry.


Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare's College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.


Visit her at ConnieBerry.com where you can sign up for her monthly newsletter The Plot Thickens. Find her on social media on Facebook and Instagram at Connie Berry Author, Twitter @ConnieCBerry, Pinterest at Connie Campbell Berry and Goodreads at Connie Berry. Her latest book, The Art of Betrayal, is available through her website or wherever you buy your books in person or online.


Welcome to the podcast. Connie. I'm really excited to talk to you today.


Connie 01:47

Hi, Linda. Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm delighted.



You're quite welcome. Tell me about your latest book.


Connie 01:52

My latest book comes out June 8 [2021]. It is called The Art of Betrayal. It takes place in a village, a fictional village called Long Barston in Suffolk. The main character is an American antiques dealer and she has a little bit of help from a good looking Detective Inspector in the Suffolk Constabulary.



Oh, how nice. And this is part of a series.



Yes, this is going to be the third book in the series. It's called the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. All of the books take place in the UK where Kate is eventually going to probably end up – we’ll see. And I'm currently working on the fourth one that won't come out until 2022.


And you're American, but you said your character is in the UK. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?



Yes, I'm an Anglophile. I had Scottish grandparents. So that's where I first kind of became interested because my grandparents came over as young adults, but they pretty much acted like they'd never left Scotland. They all have their friends in Buffalo, New York. And everything they did was like a little island, a little Scottish Island in New York State. And so I just learned to appreciate the customs and listening to the Language and Hearing about the history. And during college I was able to study at St. Clare's College at Oxford. And that's when I really fell in love with the British Isles. And my husband and I have traveled there frequently at once a year, sometimes twice a year for a long time, not during COVID. Now, I just love the British Isles. And when I was young, and I went down to our library in the town I grew up in, in Illinois, and I would just kind of wander through the stacks and I discovered Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse. And I felt like they were my secret discoveries, that no one else knew about them but me, and I started to read them. And I just thought this is so clever. I love reading about the villages. I love the wit, I love the language. And so in this interest in the British Isles has come at me from a lot of different directions. And when you write they, they tell you to write well, there are two pieces of advice. Usually one is write what you know. And I grew up in the antiques trade. My parents were high-end antiques dealers. And so that was kind of my life. So that's what I know. But then people also tell you right what you love, and I love the British Isles, so I put the two together.


Linda 04:24

Very nice. And tell me this. Did you learn to appreciate haggis or has that eluded you?


Connie 04:32

Well, I will tell you a secret. The last time we traveled actually we spent some time in Scotland and we stayed up in the Highlands, and there was a local restaurant that we went to and it was really interesting. It had long tables and people would just sit all together. There weren't any separate tables and they only had a very short menu and it was very dark. They had candles on the tables and I didn't have my glasses with me and so I read something about chicken with something and I got this chicken and it was so good. And it had this kind of a thing on top of it and I ate the whole thing. And I absolutely loved it. And then I asked the waitress, I said, this was the best thing I've had in Scotland. And she said, Oh, that's haggis. So I actually had it and I loved it. But if I'd known it was haggis, I probably wouldn't have eaten it.


Linda 05:24

Yeah, I've never tried it. I went to Scotland with my mother and my sister a number of years ago, and the guide is like, oh, you'll try some haggis. I'm like, Oh, I don't think so.


Connie 05:33

But it's actually really good. At least it was at this restaurant. It's kind of like sausage.


Linda 05:38

Yes. Sometimes it's better not to know what's in it.



Very true.



When we were on our trip with my mother and my sister we did a tour of Edinburgh Castle and the local guide, you know, the tour guide for the castle was a man wearing a kilt. And, you know, the whole Scottish kilt outfit. And my mother said to him, we were there the week before Easter. So it was typical Scottish weather and it was quite chilly. And my mother said to him, oh, your knees are gonna get cold. And he said, it's not my knees I'm worried about.



Yeah, I get it.



That was fun. It was a fun trip and absolutely loved our trip to England and Scotland. And I get the appeal of setting a mystery series there. And it's nice that you're able to combine your love and knowledge of the antiques trade with your love and knowledge of the British Isles as well.



Yeah. Now it's been a very fun series to write.



Where did the idea for your latest book come from?


Connie 06:37

This was unusual, because what - Are you talking about what I'm working on right now, because that that was a little different?



Oh, tell me about both.



The one that I'm working on right now, I got the idea from a number of different places, real things that happened. And one of them was an NPR broadcast, This American Life. And I heard it in 2002. And it just fascinated me and was about several young boys, I think in New Hampshire, who – they’re camping with their parents or something. But anyway, there was an abandoned house near them. And they got into the abandoned house and started to look around and kind of try to figure out why the house was abandoned and why things were left like a wallet, eyeglasses – things that people wouldn't normally leave. And that experience stuck with them. And it also stuck with me. For them, the mystery was solved and it wasn't all that interesting in the end. But that was part of the inspiration for the book I'm working on right now. And the other inspiration was Victorian insane asylums. And there were a number of them it in – well, actually in Scotland and in England that were beautiful buildings. And they were constructed on a French theory called distraction cure. And the idea was that if you had enough money, you could afford to go to one of these new Insane Asylums, not the old awful ones, but almost like staying at a five star resort. And they would make life as pleasant for you as possible with beautiful surroundings. They encourage you to bring your pets, they encouraged you to work in the garden or do anything like painting or writing – anything that you love to do. They had bowling alleys, swimming pools, just everything that was designed to take your mind off of the problem that you had, and get it back into a good balanced frame of mind. Several of these now are – were so beautifully constructed that they are now being turned into very expensive deluxe townhouses and flats and people are actually buying flats and living in these former insane asylums. Actually, in the Victorian era, they were called lunatic asylums. So that was one of the other inspirations. So I just kind of put all that together and came up with a plot.


Linda 09:04

And what about the story that's coming out soon? It's coming out in June, right? [June 8, 2021]


Connie 09:08

Yeah, that one is coming out in June. Kate is in this village of Long Barston. She's made a friend, an older man. His name is Ivor Tweedy and he owns an antiquities business and he is having bilateral hip surgery. And so she goes to kind of take over his business while he is recovering. A local reclusive woman brings in this fabulous ancient Chinese pottery jar for consignment to sell it, and she's thrilled because this is going to mean a lot of income for Ivor. But no sooner is that happened than the woman is killed and the jar is stolen. Kate has to figure out what happens because there's no insurance and this could ruin Ivor.


Linda 09:50

Very interesting. I like the ideas for both of those stories.



Thank you.



Do you have a writing routine or a writing schedule?


Connie 09:58

I wish I could tell you that I get up at six o'clock every morning and get busy and write until two, but that wouldn't be the truth. Actually, I would love to be able to do that; I do get up around six. But I usually spend the morning doing things like emails and publicity or marketing other tasks around the house. And it's really around 11 o'clock that I start writing. And I usually end around four o'clock, I can say that I write pretty steadily from about 11 till about four.


Linda 10:29

I think you just need to find your own rhythm, what works for other people clearly doesn't work for you, and vice versa. But I think if you're writing steadily for five hours a day, that's pretty good.



And by four or maybe 4:30, my brain is really tired, and I'm just kind of ready to quit. So then I get ready for the evening.



It's surprising I think for people who don't write, to think about how draining it can be when all you're doing is sitting at a computer and typing. But the mental energy that you expend when you're making stuff up is incredible.


Connie 11:07

Yeah, yes, right, especially writing from scratch. What I love is when I have a first draft, and then I can go back and revise. That takes a different skill and is a different intellectual skill. And I find it really enjoyable. I love to revise, and polish and shape and work with something that's on that page, but actually sit there looking at the blank computer screen and putting words on that page is really challenging and hard for me. And it takes a lot of energy for me.



I think it takes a lot of energy in general. It's not easy to come up with a story that hangs together in logical fashion. And a lot of that does come through when you're going through, you know, the second draft and the third draft and editing and polishing. But there's got to be some level of something on the page to work with in the beginning.



Yeah, writing is rewriting and I can't remember who said that – somebody famous.


Linda 12:08

Yeah. I know, what about COVID? How did last year and this year affect your writing?


Connie 12:15

The main thing that affected my writing was the fact that I couldn't go there. We had plans to go last October, no last March, which we cancelled. I mean, a year ago, March, right. And then we had – we would have gone again in October, we cancelled that. And then we would have been there probably now. And we had to cancel that as well. And I had a location this time on the Suffolk coast. Even though I've been there, I haven't spent a lot of time there. And there really is nothing like actually being there. I mean, I can get a lot of facts. And you can see images and you can even get on Google Earth and look at things and that's all very helpful. But there's something about being there. I always feel like I kind of need to top up my English well – hearing the language and…



Smelling the smells…



Smelling the smell and looking at the sea. And so I really miss that what has saved me is the fact that over the several years I've been writing this series, I've developed some contacts in the UK and I have a Detective Inspector in the Suffolk Constabulary that I consult with. There's a coroner's court in Ipswich and Suffolk and I have a contact there that I can ask questions about procedures. And there's a solicitor and then there's a very dear man who is the assistant priest at the Holy Trinity Church in Long Melford, which is in Suffolk, he always is willing to answer my question if I have something that I don't understand. And so they have kind of saved my bacon, really.


Linda 13:53

It's nice because you get a feel for the language, not just how they say it, but the phrases that they use. And they're all four in different professions, although the coroner's court and the police are probably most closely aligned, but just to get the feel from different people and get a feel for the local area. Even if you can't be there, at least talking to them is helpful. So I'm glad for that for you.



I can't wait till we can travel again.



Yeah. Can't wait till they'll let us back in Americans.






Do you outline?


Connie 14:28

I do partially, I do you rough outlining. I usually know where I want to go, I'm just not sure how I'm going to get there, always. This time it has been a little challenging because I have had to go back and kind of rethink things a couple of times, but I think I'm on the right track now. One of the things that is interesting is that when something unexpected happens, for example, in the second book that I wrote, I was having an interview scene. Kate was talking to a person about a suspect and he said - so I'm just typing along, typing in the words – and he says, Well, he couldn't have done it. And she said, Why is that? How can you be so sure? And he said, because he's dead. And I actually sat back and thought he is? And why didn't I know that before? But then I realized that was – and I had to go back and change things. But it was the perfect thing. Right? It was one of those creative moments. And I wish I could tell you that I have them every day, but I don't. But when you rough outline, you do leave room for those kinds of experiences, which are very fun. Yes.


Linda 15:39

Yes. I also outline – I like to start with the title, I usually start with the killer. I start with a rough outline of the big things that are going to happen throughout the story. But as I'm writing it, it's like getting from here to there. There's a lot of ways I can do that. As long as I hit the highlights, I'm good. But every now and again, I'll sit back and think, Wow, where did that come from?



Yeah, exactly. It sounds like you have had that very same experience.



Yeah. And it's terrific when it happens. And it would be terrific if I knew how to make it happen more often.


Connie 16:10

Yeah. So there are times when I wish it would happen and it doesn't seem right.


Linda 16:15

You're left to struggle on your own. Yeah. Is there a creative outlet that you have that keeps you fresh for your writing? You had mentioned antiques, do you like to go antiquing?


Connie 16:25

No, I don't do that at all anymore. I have inherited a lot so I'm pretty good in terms of antiques. I actually love to walk my husband and I walk a lot actually, this one of things that I miss a lot about going to Europe is that we spend a lot of time walking, but we are walking in our neighborhood and we have a new puppy, we – so we have our COVID puppy now, eight months old and she is a huge blessing. Just she's so fun. So funny. So adorable. She just really gives me a lot of joy.



What kind of puppy?



Her name is Emmie and she is a Shih Tzu, a little black and white Shih Tzu. She's only about 10 pounds. I'm not sure she's gonna get a lot bigger. And she has one blue eye and one brown eye.



Oh, that's interesting. Is that common for the breed?



No, it is very rare. It's not unknown in that breed. I think there are several breeds, I think Australian sheep dogs are another breed that does happen to but it is very rare. We had already picked her out, out of the litter of the breeder, and she called me one day and she said, Well, this is, you know, because dog’s eyes don’t open for some weeks, and she said, Well, this is unexpected. I needed to tell you in case you want to pull out because it's a fault, right? If you were gonna show her right would be a fault. We have no intention of ever showing her. I just said I've already named her looking at pictures of her. And I just think that makes her more interesting.


Linda 17:56

Right. She's already yours. You're not giving her up.






That's sweet. Is she going to be a character in any of your stories?


Connie 18:03

I don't think so. But I do have a dog. He's a pug and his name is Fergus.


Linda 18:08

Oh, well, this has been a lot of fun and I look forward to reading your stories. Thank you, Connie, for coming on the podcast.


Connie 18:15

Thank you, Linda. Thank you for inviting me. I had a great time.


Linda 18:19

Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit tartwords.com/tart228. Before you go, Follow or Subscribe for free to the podcast to receive new episodes when they're released. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for Bakers, Readers, and/or Writers at tartwords.com/about. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.


Connie BerryProfile Photo

Connie Berry


Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare's College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.