C.C. Benison, a Canadian journalist and associate editor of Canada’s History magazine, begins a new cozy series featuring Father Tom Christmas with Twelve Drummers Drumming.
Where did the idea for your first series, Her Majesty Investigates, featuring Elizabeth II, come from?
My sister and I were once going through a bout of reading Nero Wolfe mysteries, and speculated on other detective pairings where one figure is limited in his movements, and the other plays the dogsbody who gathers the information necessary to successful detection. One of the imagined pairings was of the queen and, originally, a footman, who became a housemaid once I actually started writing.
And for this new series?
The idea came mostly from noting its absence. Many decent ideas seem strangely obvious in retrospect. One Christmas, about a decade ago, I was having fun with the owners of Whodunit, a bookstore in Winnipeg dedicated to mystery fiction, looking on their computer at all the different series ideas wrapped around such things as letters, numbers, colors, food, dogs, cats, royal palaces, you name it, when it occurred to me that no one had thought to frame a series around the popular carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” My mind went all yeasty over this, and I started to think about how it might play out.
Why did you, as a Canadian, set this new series in England?
England seemed the natural setting for this series. In practical terms, it would be difficult to hinge a Canadian-based story on the title Ten Lords a-Leaping. Canada has no peerage. Too, the comedy around the name “Father Christmas” wouldn’t work well in a North American setting. I think, as well, England’s smaller scale (as opposed to Canada or the U.S.) is attractive. I can find almost everything I need—stately homes, dairy farms, pipe bands, pubs, churches, etc.—all within a very tight geography. I think my priest would have to do a lot more traveling to find the same things in Canada.
How does your experience as an editor affect your own writing?
It helps me better understand what editors want and like to see. As an editor, I am much more likely to smile on a manuscript that shows polish and professionalism and strong focus on a readership’s needs. I’ve tried to replicate those qualities in my own writing. The experience also gave me a greater respect for the editor’s role in the finished work. I’m not sure many readers understand how instrumental an editor can be in turning a good manuscript into a great publication. Editors are much unsung, though perhaps we/they like it that way.