Meet M.C. Beaton, author of the much-loved Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth crime fiction books published in the UK by Constable & Robinson.
Marion Chesney is known primarily for the more than 100 historical romance novels she has published under her own name and under several pseudonyms: Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, and Charlotte Ward. But M.C. Beaton is the pseudonym she reserves for her crime fiction and mystery novels.
M.C.Beaton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936 and started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department in John Smith & Sons Ltd. While bookselling, by chance, she got an offer from the Scottish Daily Mail to review variety shows and quickly rose to be their theatre critic. She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead. She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter.
After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles, Marion went to the United States where Harry had been offered the job of editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian. When that didn’t work out, they went to Virginia and Marion worked as a waitress in a greasy spoon on the Jefferson Davies in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes. Both then got jobs on Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York. Anxious to spend more time at home with her small son, Marion, urged by her husband, started to write Regency romances. After she had written over 100 of them under her maiden name of Marion Chesney and getting fed up with 1811 to 1820, she began to write detectives stories. On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Hamish Macbeth story. They returned to Britain and bought a croft house and croft in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep. But Charles was at school, in London so when he finished and both tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds where Agatha Raisin was created.
What is your morning routine?
My morning routine. I crawl out of bed at nine o'clock - well, maybe ten - and write for two hours fortified with a cup of black coffee.
Where do you write?
I write in a small room at the top of this Cotswold cottage.
A lot of people count your books among their favourites but what is your favourite book?
Easy. The Light of Day by Eric Ambler.
And your favourite film?
My favourite film is Wag The Dog.
You like to travel around. What's your favourite place?
My favourite place is Istanbul.
And what is your favourite meal?
My favourite meal if roast pheasant with roast parsnips and red currant jelly - oh, and chestnut stuffing - oh, and roast potatoes!
What is your worst habit?
A phrase you use far too often?
"Maybe I'll think about it."
What is the best gift you've ever received?
My best gift ever was in the eighties - a word processor. I used to type out my books which was back-breaking work involving sore shoulders and Tippex. When I got my first Amstrad, I felt like an overworked Victorian seamstress who had just been handed a sewing machine.
Your best friend?
My husband, Harry. We've been through a lot together; we share the same views and like the same books.
Can you think of an object you'll never throwaway?
My wedding ring.
What do you collect?
Dust. I'm a lousy housekeeper.
What was your last purchase?
A plaid jacket from a thrift shop.
And finally, in a nutshell, can you tell us your philosophy?Stop projecting. Tomorrow's a mystery. This is not a rehearsal. I'm on stage now.
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