Interview with mystery author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Mystery author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro joins me
today and we’re chatting about the newest novel in her historical mystery series,
Living Spectres.
A professional writer for 49 years, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has sold over ninety
books, more than eighty works of short fiction, and more than three dozen
essays, introductions, and reviews. She also composes serious music. Her first
professional writing – in 1961-1962 – was as a playwright for a now
long-defunct children’s theater company. By the mid-60s she had switched to
writing stories and hasn’t stopped yet.

After leaving college in 1963 and until she
became a full-time writer in 1970, she worked as a demographic cartographer,
and still often drafts maps for her books, and occasionally for the books of
other writers.

She has a large reference library with books on
a wide range of subjects, everything from food and fashion to weapons and trade
routes to religion and law. She is constantly adding to it as part of her
on-going fascination with history and culture; she reads incessantly, searching
for interesting people and places that might provide fodder for stories.

In 1997 the Transylvanian Society of Dracula
bestowed a literary knighthood on Yarbro, and in 2003 the World Horror
Association presented her with a Grand Master award. In 2006 the International
Horror Guild enrolled her among their Living Legends, the first woman to be so
honored; the Horror Writers Association gave her a Life Achievement Award in
2009. In 2014 she won a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy

A skeptical occultist for forty years, she has
studied everything from alchemy to zoomancy, and in the late 1970s worked
occasionally as a professional tarot card reader and palmist at the Magic
Cellar in San Francisco.

She has two domestic accomplishments: she is a
good cook and an experienced seamstress. The rest is catch-as-catch-can.

Divorced, she lives in the San Francisco Bay
Area – with two cats: the irrepressible Butterscotch and Crumpet, the Gang of
Two. When not busy writing, she enjoys the symphony or opera.

Photo: Attached.
If used, please give photo credit to Charles L. Lucke
Welcome, Chelsea. Please tell us about your current
is the second novel in my Chesterton Holte series. It takes
place in Philadelphia in early September, 1924; Poppea Millicent
“Poppy” Thornton is still covering the crime desk at the 
Philadelphia Clarion, following up her investigation of the
murders of Madison Moncrief and Percy Knott, which revealed a smuggling and
Customs fraud ring with ties to Poppy’s cousin Stacy, now on the run from the
authorities. With help from Chesterton Holte, the ghost of a Canadian
history teacher who spied for England in Europe during WWI, and was
inadvertently responsible for Poppy’s father’s death, Poppy is able to pursue
leads among the ghosts of the various victims of the case she is investigating.
In addition to the smuggling and Customs fraud case, Poppy is called upon to
help in locating GAD Pearse, the heir to the Pearse fortune, who is missing in
eastern Europe. Holte uses his contacts in the dimension of ghosts to track GAD
Pearse, and Poppy is able to assist Inspector J. B. Loring in finding him, as
well as supplying information regarding her continuing case.
What inspired you to write this book?
I liked the characters, and it’s what I do for a living.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve turned in Chesterton Holte #3, Shining Phantoms, and am about to start
work on #4, 
Chasing Ghosts, my 96th sold
book. In addition, I’ve been working on some short fiction as well as the
next Saint-Germain novel, 
Orphans of Memory.
photo credit to Charles L. Lucke
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote my first story when I was six, and knew then I wanted
to be a writer. When I sold my first short story in 1968, I felt I had earned
the name as a professional.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
I get up around 7:30, feed my two cats,
Butterscotch and Crumpet, take a bath, and around 8 or 
8:30 go into my office and devote an hour to email and
similar sorts of business matters. Then I get down to my writing
work. I
stop for lunch between noon and 2pm, and go back to
work around an hour after lunch. I stop work around 4 and watch the news and
feed the cats. Toward the end of a book, I go back to work from about 8 until
10, and try to be in bed by 11. I do this 6 days a week except when I’m
traveling or have house guests.
What do you do other than write?
These days I concentrate on my writing, but I do like attending the
opera and symphony, and seeing an occasional movie. I read a lot, and
often watch TV in the evening. And I spend time with my friends — I have the
best friends in the world.
Before arthritis caught up with me, I rode horseback regularly; I still
compose music occasionally and recently I’ve attended occasional rehearsals of
a couple plays I’ve written for a Holmesian group in Jackson, CA.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Probably my love of semi-colons.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer. This is one of those “beware of you
desires for surely you shall achieve them” situations.
Anything additional you want to share with the
I’ve been in the business for 49 years and I have not seen the
print-and-paper publishing industry as difficult as it has been for almost a
decade; so do not lose faith in your own work — but realize that right now,
it’s hard for almost all writers, and this is not likely to change any time
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thank you for chatting with me today, Chelsea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *