PW: Lord of the Silent is the 13th Amelia Peabody mystery. How has the series changed over the years?
EP: Well, I think it's changed quite a bit. It started out being a rather giddy, frivolous send-up of various forms of genre fiction: the detective story, the gothic novel, just about everything you could think of. I had a very jolly time with it. Then, as time went on, not only did the characters change, but I thought I should introduce a new viewpoint. And then Amelia had a baby, Ramses.
PW: Ramses the terror!
EP: Ramses the terror—he was described by someone as the most awful child in mystery fiction, which I thought was a huge compliment! I put him in for comic relief, because I found him quite hilarious, and a little pathetic in a way, when you consider his parents and what a terrible time he had trying to win their respect and keep up with them. So as Ramses approached 16, I thought, oh my goodness, I'm going to have to make some changes here. And that was when I introduced this second point of view, which I thought was necessary. In the first place, I'd been giving his mother's view of him all these years, which is a little unfair. I thought it'd be fun to show what he thought of her, and what he was doing on the side.
PW: In the previous book, He Shall Thunder in the Sky, you tied up a lot of plot threads. Did you have people worrying that perhaps there wouldn't be another book?
EP: I did get a number of letters saying, "Oh my God, don't tell me this is the last, you've finished it off!" It wasn't the last, it was the culmination of the last four books, which I call "The Eternal Quartet," à la more distinguished writers like Durrell and people like that. But I had seen the events in it coming since Seeing a Large Cat. And so I did want to wind up a lot of the stuff I'd left hanging—some of which I hadn't figured out until I actually had to do so. But I cannot abandon my dear Amelia; I'll go on as long as she can.
PW: In this new one, it seems as though you're concentrating on bringing the younger Emersons, Ramses and Nefret, in as almost equal characters to the elders—is that your plan?
EP: I don't know that I set out to do it deliberately, but it's been working out that way. The younger ones are going out and doing all kinds of different things.
PW: Like espionage.
EP: Well, as I said, when Ramses became a young man I suddenly realized, here we are on the eve of World War I, and I'm going to have to do something with it, I can't ignore it. And to my absolute delight and pleasure, I found when I was researching the subject, that there was an attack on the Suez Canal in January of 1915, and I thought, "whoopee!" And without even realizing it, I had built up this kid who looked like an Egyptian, thought like an Egyptian, talked like an Egyptian, was a linguist, and so forth. I hadn't done that deliberately, intending to turn him into a foreign agent, but it was obvious that he was going to be one. So that was fun, and that gave me a few extraordinary openings for new plot devices.
PW: You write another series featuring art historian Vicky Bliss. Is there going to be another Vicky Bliss novel anytime soon?
EP: I actually have the beginnings of a plot for one, but the next two books will be Amelia Peabodys.