Posted by Literary Titan
Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries follows an elderly amateur sleuth as she sets out to solve the various mysteries plaguing her retirement home. What was your inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
Thanks for the kind words. My inspiration came while I was hanging about in a Vancouver care home, preparing to help move an enormous television set into an elderly acquaintance’s bedroom. I wondered, what if I lived here? What on earth would I do with myself? How do you wake up every day knowing that people are responsible for you, but you are responsible for nothing (there seemed to be some possibilities for rebellion here.) We all need a good reason for getting out of bed in the morning. What would that be? Watching television? Complaining about the food? I thought Stella Ryman might come up with an intriguing Third Option.
Stella is a senior with a tenacity that I enjoyed reading about. What were some themes you wanted to explore while creating her character?
I love exploring these:
- Old or young, we need to serve the world somehow.
- Almost everything is funny from some angle, and nothing is ever quite what it seems.
- No life is over until the final breath passes (and maybe not even then, see Mad Cassandra Browning.)
- Even in dire circumstances, there are always new chances at happiness.
- Without connection to others, we’re all just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
I enjoyed the logical mysteries portrayed in the novel, they were always intriguing yet intuitive. What was the process like in developing the different mysteries in the book?
I’m glad you enjoyed them—they were fun to write. I wanted to explore ways Stella struggles to regain the symbols of power that she discarded from her world when she checked herself into Fairmount Manor Care Home: a handbag on her wrist, a best friend, freedom to walk outside if she likes, or fix herself a cup of tea, or enjoy solitude, and above all the power to help others and right wrongs. All the mysteries turn on these.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Extra: A Monument Studios Mystery, is next, in second edition on Amazon in April 2018 and, writing as Melanie Archer, Younger Men. a comedy, also on Amazon in April 2018. The second Fairmount Manor Mystery novel, Stella Ryman and the Mystery of the Mah-jongg Box, comes out this fall from Pulp Literature Press, along with the seventh of the Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries, published in Pulp Literature’s literary quarterly.
On this particular sun-and-shade April morning at Fairmount Manor, Stella Ryman no more entertained the idea of becoming an amateur sleuth than she did of entering next spring’s Boston Marathon. For not only was Stella eighty-two years old, but she had lately sold her home and a lifetime of gathered possessions and washed up at Fairmount Manor Care Home in such a state that she would have bet her remaining seven pairs of socks that she’d be dead in half a year.
But when money goes missing and an innocent woman stands to lose her job at Fairmount; when malicious poison pen letters find their way into the hands of staff and residents; and when a resident vanishes without a trace, Stella takes matters into her own hands. To hell with being elderly — Stella will break every one of the Director’s rules and slash all the institutional red tape in the place in her struggle to solve mysteries and protect the innocent. Over the course of the first five mystery adventures, Mrs Stella Ryman transforms from a woman on her deathbed to a force of nature and intellect. She’s a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land, and an amateur sleuth trapped in a down-at-the-heels care home.
You’d be cranky, too.
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, by Mel Anastasiou, is a series of dramatic detective mysteries. The novel contains four different detective stories, each of which are interconnected yet independent. In addition to the stories, the opening of the book contains an interesting philosophical and logical argument. It also gives a hint to some of the content of the book. Anastasiou does an excellent job of providing depth to not only the characters and their actions and motivations, but also in the general style of her writing.
The novel practically seems to drip with British style. So much so, that without careful reading and generous knowledge of Canadian and American culture and institutions, most readers will probably assume that it is set somewhere in Britain instead of actually being set in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Having read her, Stella Ryman engenders the same feelings as most Dorothy Sayers detective stories. However, there are some subtle differences between the style of Stella Ryman and the British detective novels of the 19th and early 20th century. Those old stories tended to deal with a static, aristocratic society, police forces that were not corrupt, but were certainly not in any position to solve the case, and a lack of emotion among the affected cast of characters. Stella Ryman is similar and brings in other classic mystery themes: a senior care home provides a rather static environment (even though the residents may invariably change from time to time), the managers of the care home are bumbling but not corrupt, there are no supernatural causes in the story, there is a secret passageway, and Stella has a tendency to honestly declare her thoughts, intuitions, and deductions.
There are also significant tie-ins to American pulp detective novels as well, primarily in the commonality of the characters (there are almost no aristocrats and most people are average and middle-class) and the feeling of inevitability—that truth will out and that justice will be done. Overall, Stella Ryman seems to fit roughly a quarter of the way between British and American writing styles—perfect for Canada.
Stella Ryman, as a character, is quintessentially heroic — in the classic sense. At points throughout the book, it appears that Anastasiou is reading Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces as she is writing her own book. In the beginning, Stella refuses the call to adventure (being a detective), is completely content with her own mortality, and is merely waiting to die. Eventually, she realizes that there is a third option—something besides life and death. As a side note, herein lies a common theme within the novel, the breaking of logical fallacies—ad hominem, false dichotomies, circular arguments, causal fallacies, and hasty generalizations being the most common. Stella, after making her third choice, is confronted with supernatural assistance (Mad Cassandra, whom is herself rife with mythological allusions). Stella runs across a few other mentors along the way, makes a deep, personal transformation, and returns with a gift for her fellow residents: the ability to make life worth living again.
Overall, this book is an excellent read, full of colorful characters. Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, is appropriate for teenage and adult readers. Although younger demographics may have difficulty with some of the allusions and references that are peppered throughout the book. Younger readers may also have difficulty relating to an octogenarian, but Stella’s tenacity is something certainly worth emulating. There is no obvious sexual content (there are hints, however) or illicit drug use, there is some personal violence, and a lot of discussion of heavy, emotional and existential topics.
Pages: 151 | ASIN: B06XTG2GWJ
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