Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book Tour: Murder on the Cliffs by Joanna Challis

One of my favorite bloggers, Sandy of You've GOTTA Read This, hosted a discussion earlier this year of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. While I wasn't able to participate, I loved following along. That discussion was one of the things that first interested me in Murder on the Cliffs. I loved the idea of a mystery surrounding du Maruier.

Please help me welcome Joanna Challis, and enjoy her guest post!


Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley.

The storm led me to Padthaway.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is my all-time favorite book. I also love the black & white movie with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, chillingly transcribed to screen by Alfred Hitchcock. So when my agent first came up with the idea of using Daphne as a fictional heroine, I blinked not once but twice.

I never thought of writing as a real person. The first thing that flashed through my mind was ‘restricted.’ Unlike fictional protagonists, real people and more so real ‘famous’ people left behind a wealth of information.

Daphne du Maurier did more than that. She wrote her own biography “Myself When Young” charting her early years up to the publication of her first novel and marriage. Daphne is quoted as saying “an autobiography is self-indulgent” and when asked if she planned a sequel to Myself When Young, she replied: “No. I believe one can become too introspective writing this type of thing. I intend to look to the future rather than the past and all I can say is that I had a very happy married life, have a delightful family, and I don’t like books which are full of name dropping.”

Myself When Young – the Shaping of a Writer formed the basis for my fictional Daphne. Although many biographers have stitched together other versions of the real Daphne, none can compare to the horse’s own mouth. In her autobiography, she paints a painfully honest picture of herself, her relationship with her parents and her sisters, her education in Paris, her love for Cornwall and abhorrence for London life, her unrelenting interest in history and her ambition to succeed as a writer. As I devoured Myself When Young, I realized I had a kindred spirit in Daphne. She loved the same things I did: travel, ruins, history, and writing. She often felt socially inept, drawn more to observe people than participate. She loved adventure and intrigue and there were no limits to her imagination.

Of course, I knew when embarking upon a new mystery series featuring Daphne du Maurier, particular criticism would be leveled at me. In creating a fictional Daphne, a heroine starring in her own fictional novel, one providing inspiration for her future works, I had to distance myself from the magnitude of biographers out there who all had a pre-conceived idea of who Daphne was. At the end of the day, nobody knows the real Daphne but Daphne herself and she is no longer here to speak for herself. The legacy of family, friends and her writings are left behind to give us clues and they all paint a fascinating, complex personality, not unlike writers today. Daphne lived in her own world and loved to create worlds. Reading her words, my fictional Daphne-the-heroine leapt off the page and I’m sure if she were alive today, to some extent she would be amused by the thought of becoming an amateur sleuth in the great houses of England.

Sharing Daphne’s deep love of Cornwall, I set MURDER ON THE CLIFFS, out this month by St Martin’s Minotaur, on the Cornish coast. Above the waves and the cliffs, a great mansion looms called Padthaway, the home of the aristocratic Hartley family. As Daphne is on holidays, she is drawn to the house and the mystery of the young bride found dead on the beach. She won’t rest until she has unearthed all the secrets of the eerie Elizabethan mansion, even if it places her in danger.

MURDER ON THE CLIFFS was written with a large nod to REBECCA, du Maurier’s all-time classic. Padthaway forms the inspiration for Manderley and the young dead bride Victoria to Rebecca. Other than that, MURDER ON THE CLIFFS has its own mystery to solve and Daphne is just the one to do it. She’s trusted by the family and this provides the perfect basis for her to subtly begin her inquiries. MURDER ON THE CLIFFS (published by St Martin’s Minotaur) is out 1st December, 2009.

Following on with Daphne’s deep love of Cornwall, PERIL AT SOMNER HOUSE is next, a Winter manor-house mystery set on the Isles of Scilly (to be published 2010).

For more information, please visit

Writing as
Joanna and Lisa Challis

And now for the giveaway...Joanna Challis is giving away a signed copy of her book, Murder on the Cliffs, to one lucky tour visitor. Go to her book tour page,, enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 4920, for your chance to win. Entries from Shhh I'm Reading will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on their book tour page next week.

A special thank you to Joanna Challis for stopping by today, and Good Luck with the giveaway!


Sandy Nawrot said...

Thanks for the mention, Melissa! I am so excited about this book! I have to say that it takes a very large set of cojones to write a fictitious novel about du Maurier, but I love it. I'm headed over there right now to sign up for this giveaway. If I dont' win, I am totally going to buy this book!

itsamystery said...

I am very intrigued - - Thanks for sharing. I'll have to go pick up Murder on the Cliffs!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Thanks for the post on this one! It sounds like it's right up my alley.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

The cover is terrific and the story sounds good too.

Molly said...

I am so enjoying this book tour and learning more about this author! I love the premise of Daphne DuMaurier as a young sleuth. I plan to check out this book soon (if I don't win the giveaway) and to also add DuMaurier's autobiography to my TBR list.

Lisa said...

Love "Rebeca," love du Maurier! I'm going to pick this up!

Zibilee said...

Great interview! I am really interested in the book and think it looks great. I am going to try and grab a copy when I can. Thanks for posting this!

Zibilee said...

Great interview! I am really interested in the book and think it looks great. I am going to try and grab a copy when I can. Thanks for posting this!

Zibilee said...

Great interview! I am really interested in the book and think it looks great. I am going to try and grab a copy when I can. Thanks for posting this!