Between the lines with Rhys Bowen (Q&A)

Today, I’m honored to be cyber courting Rhys Bowen.

Rhys is the New York Times bestselling author of the standalone thriller, In Farleigh Field (Lake Union Publishing)—which debuted at #1 on Amazon (Kindle). She currently writes two historical series—The Royal Spyness and Molly Murphy Mysteries; she previously wrote the ten-book Constable Evans saga. Rhys’s books have won fourteen honors to date, including multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards; they have also been translated into multiple languages around the world. Rhys was born in Bath, England, visited Wales often as a child, and now splits her time between California and Arizona.

Rhys Bowen

Praise for In Fairleigh Field:

“Instantly absorbing, suspenseful, romantic, and stylish—like binge-watching a great British drama on Masterpiece Theater.”—Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author

In Farleigh Field is brilliant. The plotting is razor sharp and ingenious, the setting in World War Two Britain is so tangible it’s eerie. The depth and breadth of character is astonishing. They’re likeable and repulsive and warm and stand-offish. And oh, so human. And so relatable. All this would be enough to propel In Farleigh Field to the top of your favourites list, but what truly distinguishes this book, indeed all her books, is the quality of writing. Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart, and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries. This is magnificently written and a must read.”—Louise Penny, New York Times bestselling author

“[A] well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining thriller … The gripping action shifts among Farleigh Place (the Sutton family’s stately home in Kent), London, and various hush-hush locations. Soon it’s a game of spy versus spy, and with every twist and turn, the reader is unsure whom to trust.”—Publishers Weekly

From the publisher:

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.


Now, Rhys reveals a few pages from the book of her life …

John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?

Rhys Bowen: I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. I was definitely the outdoor type. We lived in a big house with a huge orchard, and I spent any free moment playing games of pretend out among the trees. Later I went to a highly academic school, and we had so much compulsory reading to do that I only read at home when I was sick or it was raining. And then a miracle happened. One of the books we were assigned was Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I found myself laughing out loud, not wanting to put it down. And a light dawned that books could be wonderful. Jane Austen is still one of my favorites.

JV:  What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?

RB: When I was young it was always the Famous Five books. They were the British Nancy Drew—a group of kids who go on adventures and solve mysteries. I loved the fact that they were so free and able to do brave and dangerous things. Who wouldn’t want to go camping on a forbidden island with no grown-ups?

Then in my mid-teens I found my mother’s Agatha Christies and Dorothy Sayers. Devoured all of those.

JV: What are you reading currently and what is your initial impression?

RB: I’ve just finished Woman in the Shadows by Jane Thynne. Since I’ve just written a thriller set in World War II, I am naturally interested in other books set in the period. This one captures the feeling and flavor of what it was like to live in Nazi Germany so perfectly. Extremely well written.

JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?

RB: Hard to pin it down to one book. Anything by Louise Penny or Deborah Crombie.

JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers and why?

RB: I think it would have to be the new thriller In Farleigh Field. I’ve written three mystery series and am happy with all those books, but this one was on a bigger canvas and I thought that I blended the story of one aristocratic family with the bigger picture of a country at war and maintained the suspense throughout quite well!

JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked? 

RB: I never read Fifty Shades of Grey so I can’t say that! I don’t read horror or too much violence. I loved all the Harry Potter books. I love Sophie Kinsella, but I think I read pretty much across the spectrum anyway.

JV: Who is the one author who would (or did) make you weak in the knees upon meeting?

RB: That is easy to answer: Tony Hillerman, who was the author who inspired me to write mysteries in the first place. I had grown up with the ladies of the Golden Age and enjoyed all their books, but they didn’t blow me away. Then I picked up a Tony Hillerman at the library, and I was hooked. Not only does he write great mysteries, he takes the reader somewhere, lets the reader experience a different culture and landscape. I wanted to write books that transported the reader to a different place, not just tell them about it.

So when I found myself sitting next to Tony Hillerman at a book signing I became a complete fan girl! I glanced across at him and grinned and eventually blurted out “I love your books.”

JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career that really stands out?

RB: Several, but one stands out. I came home and my husband said, “Your agent has just been on the phone and said something about some list.” It took a minute for the penny to drop.

“She said I’d made the list?” I hardly dared to say the words.

“Yes, maybe she said that, I didn’t know what she was talking about. What list?”

“The New York Times,” I yelled. “She said I’d made the New York Times bestseller list!”

JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?

RB: I think I’m realistic enough to know that I’ll never be a literary figure, never write the Great American Novel. But I write books that people like, characters they identify with, and I get letters that say, “Your book help me through chemotherapy or the death of my mother or living in a homeless shelter.”  I don’t think one can ask for more than that!


With thanks to Rhys Bowen for her generosity of time and thought and to Claire McLaughlin of Little Bird Publicity for making this interview opportunity possible.


  1. Thanks for the fantastic interview, John and Rhys. The questions and answers were quite interesting. Rhys, wishing you continuing success. I hope we’ll see you at Malice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Grace! I enjoy doing these “between the lines” features because they allow different insights than the more straightforward Q&As (which I do a lot of). Appreciate you writing in.


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