PorterGirl’s secrets revealed!
Today is the day that one of my oldest and bestest blog buddies, Lucy Brazier, publishes the second book in her PorterGirl series, so I invited her along to answer some tough, penetrating questions that I think will help us to get deep inside her weird and wonderful mind. But first, a little about the books…
In real life, when Lucy became the first female Deputy Head Porter at one of Britain’s most ancient and prestigious colleges, she began writing about her experiences, which gradually turned into a humorous, fictionalised blog, and ultimately into what has become the PorterGirl series of novels. Being a huge lover of crime fiction, it’s not surprising Lucy decided to write in that genre, while anyone who has followed her blog will be equally unsurprised to know the emphasis is firmly on fairly rumbustious humour.
First Lady of the Keys
(originally published as Secret Diary of Portergirl – here’s my review)
The Blurb says: ‘Porters are not the carriers of bags, they are the keepers of keys!’
As one of the most ancient and esteemed establishments of the academic elite, Old College is in for something of a shock when it appoints its very first female Deputy Head Porter. She struggles to get to grips with this eccentric world, far removed from everyday life. PorterGirl, the proverbial square peg in the round hole, begins to wonder quite what she is doing here.
First Lady Of The Keys is a touching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, glimpse into a world that is usually reserved for the upper echelons of society. Whether she is chasing after naked students, drinking copious amounts of tea or getting embroiled in quaint, polite murders, Deputy Head Porter is never far from adventure.
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The Vanishing Lord
The Blurb says: There’s nothing quite so annoying as having the police arrive when you are trying to cover up a crime that may or may not have happened. Lord Bernard has died unexpectedly. Is Deputy Head Porter being framed? Head Porter just wants to be kept out of the picture.
In this fast-paced whimsical British romp, a priceless work of art – the portrait of Old College founding father Lord Arthur Layton – has gone missing and with the death of Lord Bernard, the Master of arch rivals Hawkins College, there is nothing for it but for our heroine to don her trusty bowler hat and embark upon another eccentric investigation.
In this sequel to the début PorterGirl novel, First Lady of The Keys, Old College’s first and only female Porter must find the portrait or it will be her that is flat on the canvas and framed like a kipper. Tenacious detectives, ill-advised disguises, saucy medieval literature and Russian spies conspire to confuse matters further in this entertaining escapade.
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Interview with Lucy
FF: I understand you were a police officer before becoming Deputy Head Porter. Is the rumour true that you changed jobs because the porters get better hats?
Lucy: The hats are actually very similar, although for style and comfort, the Porters’ hats have the edge. They aren’t reinforced so don’t offer quite so much protection from marauding murders, which are apparently much more prevalent in Old College than the mean streets outside the walls.
FF: What was the first hat you remember wearing?
Lucy: My mum has a photograph of me wearing my grandad’s flat cap when I was about two! And very pleased I look about it, too! Before you ask, this photograph no longer exists, anywhere, ever, at all. And mum if you are reading this – don’t you dare say any different!
(FF: Lucy’s mum, if you’re reading, there could be a month’s supply of chocolate for you in this…)
FF: Who are your major writing influences?
Lucy: Oscar Wilde is my absolute literary idol. A mere mortal such as myself cannot hope to scale those kinds of heights, but he did inspire my love of ‘purple prose’ and my predilection for using ten words where one will do. Terry Pratchett is also a big influence. I’ve never much liked fantasy, but his wry observations of life – from the smallest details to the big, ponderous questions – really struck a chord with me and his use of humour is always very clever. Agatha Christie’s beautiful renditions of quintessential British characters and settings have been a huge influence and I have to put a good word in for the mighty Anthony Horowitz, although when I read his work I feel I should chuck in my pen and stop embarrassing myself!
FF: Deputy Head Porter is reputed to make a jolly good cuppa. Please share your tea-making secrets…
Lucy: Never let the water boil completely, you want to bathe those lovely little tea leaves – not cook them! A teapot is always best, but perfectly acceptable tea can be made directly in the mug. I suggest a large mug, so the bag can stretch itself out and relax a bit. Let it sit for a few minutes then squeeze gently with a spoon against the side – two squeezes should be plenty. It doesn’t matter whether milk goes in first or last, my personal preference is last.
(FF: Ooh, controversial! Hordes of milk-firsters will be sharpening their pitchforks…)
FF: A second book suggests a series. Are you planning on more?
Lucy: Oh yes, there are plans for seven books. I have outlines for them all and a big, dramatic finale for the end. Also a very surprising ending for Deputy Head Porter that will have been obvious from the start, for those reading closely enough.
(FF: Intriguing!! Hmm…perhaps…)
FF: Your deep love for the delectable Captain Hastings is well known. So that begs the question… if Captain Hastings and Head Porter were captured by a tribe of cannibals and you could save only one, who should prepare himself to go in the cooking pot?
Lucy: Oooh – tough one! What a fiendish question. I’m afraid it will have to be Hastings – I need Head Porter for the next five books. Also Captain Hastings will probably taste a lot better.
(FF: I’m shocked! Save me a leg…)
FF: Sausage sandwiches figure highly in Deputy Head Porter’s life. To me, as a Scot, sausage sandwiches are normally made with square sausages, but which is Deputy Head Porter’s sausage of choice? Brown sauce, ketchup or mustard? Or do you prefer your sausages bare?
Lucy: I’m not averse to a nice bit of Lorne sausage myself! Deputy Head Porter is indeed quite fanatical about sausages. A nice cumberland with a bit of brown sauce is ideal for breakfast, but mustard is preferred for a lunchtime sausage.
FF: Tell us a secret you’ve never before revealed about…
Deputy Head Porter – she has a phobia of nuns.
(FF: Like this one?)
The Dean – his real name is revealed in the new book!
The Master’s Cat – the cat really exists and is even more vicious in real life.
Head Porter – he has secret ambitions to become a rock star… this is explored in the third book. (FF: The mind boggles!!)
Lucy Brazier – Eeek! Okay, this is embarrassing, so don’t tell anyone. I genuinely get Morgan Freeman and Martin Freeman mixed up. I know they look nothing alike, I just struggle to remember which one is which. Also, the little toe on my right foot is shaped like a triangle!
(FF: Yes, one can see why that would be an easy mistake to make… *shakes head sadly*)
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Thanks, Lucy! Very revealing – it’ll be a while before I can chat to you without the toe image floating into my mind. My copy of The Vanishing Lord arrived on my Kindle this morning – can’t wait to find out the Dean’s name!