It is with immense pride we feature an exclusive interview with famous author and screenwriter Maureen Jennings, whose successes across the genre have brought a great deal of pleasure to people throughout the world, in her books and the Murdoch Mysteries TV series.
It was my privilege to put ten questions to Maureen and I think her answers give us an insight into the fun within her personality, which she also brings, most deftly here and there, to her writings, albeit within the setting of crime as it relates to her most successful Murdoch Books and TV Series.
It also infers that she is most at ease with her life, despite the fact it must be a hectic one, as Maureen is obviously finding fulfillment in utilising her literary and film skills at every opportunity.
Hazel Speed: Given the huge (and well deserved international success) of your Murdoch Mysteries, whether book and/or film, can you recall the day you created the character and what the inspiration was?
Maureen Jennings: Yes. I had written two mystery plays which were professionally produced. I set them in Victorian Toronto and really liked doing the research. I decided I wanted to write a police procedural which is a genre that I love. It seemed natural to go to the same period. Murdoch sort of appeared as they are wont to do. The first book, Except The Dying came out in 1997 but I had been working on it for a couple of years. I went to a Catholic university and I am sure some of that influence got into the book. I met some wonderful priests. (In a way, Murdoch is sort of priest like).
HS: Is there any specific question you wish someone would ask you about Murdoch but never has, and if there is, can you share what that might be?
MJ: Not really. Sometimes people ask me if I am rich and I have to say, No. Not in Canada. I wish people in the arts, (not just me) made a bit more money, especially the actors.
HS: To what do you attribute the overall feel of the TV series that makes it work so well? Costumes are impeccable, set dressing, direction, film and panning techniques, and wonderful mini exterior linking scenes. Sound direction and easy portrayal of actors who know their craft. Is there one facet key to this or a combination of all elements?
MJ: It’s sort of mystifying and awe inspiring how it has happened. What? A Victorian detective series set in Toronto! Never work. (I did hear this). We have one of the best production teams around. As you say, costumes, Rob Carli‘s music, set dressers, make up, not to mention the front line folks who do a great job; all the elements seem to work.
HS: Being English, do you write in some of the unscripted/ad libs of the Inspector which are a source of humour in the UK particularly.
MJ: No, that’s almost entirely Tom Craig. He’s from Yorkshire and he loves to throw in his own expressions. It drives the writers mad.
HS: If and when you ever have time to relax, do you have any particular hobby or are you always writing?
MJ: We have two dogs who keep me busy. We had a border collie and I did agility with him which was one of the most exciting sports I’ve ever participated in.
I seem to be busier than ever now and don’t have a lot of time for dog training past the basics. However, believe it or not, a sort of hobby is doing the research for whatever book I am working on. I have the best time with that. It is relaxing in its way.
HS: Please use this question to say anything you wish.
MJ: I do mean it when I say I am humbled by the affection which the TV series has engendered. Many doors have opened for me because of this including a private BBQ at the then Prime Minister’s, Stephen Harper, country property. A bit surreal that one. I never thought I’d be sharing a picnic bench with the PM of Canada. Both of us in shorts pressing elbows. Yikes.
I’m glad people still like to watch a show where the lead character is a man of principles. One of my all time favourite series is Foyle’s War.
HS: Does music influence your creativity in any way especially when you are writing or do you prefer working in silence? If music does inspire you then who is your preferred composer and what is your favourite composition?
MJ: I love to work to music. No doubt about it, if I have a knotty problem of plot to solve I listen to Bach. If it’s more emotional I’ll put on Mozart or Welsh Male Voice choirs, or tenors which I love.
Favourite composition…a Schubert piece which I’ve forgotten the number of. Piano music.
HS: Can you share with our readers what your next projects may be, given that you are such a prodigious writer and are successful across various genres – will the Murdoch Series continue, exploring further even more boundaries regardless of other projects?
MJ: I am currently immersed in another Murdoch book but I have moved it forward in time to WW1. Murdoch is now 56 and has a son, Jack who is returning from the Front, gassed, wounded and traumatized. I am learning to so much. So far I’m having a great time. I am trying something new with that format but will keep that to myself for now.
HS: Is there one particular area of creativity you wish to pursue which, as yet, remains unexplored?
MJ: I don’t think so. I’ve always been a word person so I’m deeply satisfied to be messing around with words and language. If I had more time, I’d certainly like to do more with theatre.
HS: If you were not a writer what other profession do you think would have been of interest as ‘the road not taken’ so to speak? Politics or Medicine? Though given the detail within the Murdoch Mysteries, perhaps Private Investigator or Criminologist?
MJ: Perhaps a linguist. My auntie gave me an etymological dictionary for Christmas when I was about 15 and I read it cover to cover. Word origins are like mystery stories. I like discovering how languages are put together and would have been happy to learn more. If not that then a criminologist.
Thank you so much Maureen for honouring us with your time in this way, and we know that the readers of Tuck Magazine will enjoy your remarks herein.
We wish you continued successes with all your endeavours.
Maureen Jennings is a writer who was born in Birmingham, England. She spent her formative years there until emigrating to Canada at the age of seventeen with her mother.
She is best known as the author of the Detective Murdoch series, which has been turned into a television series, Murdoch Mysteries.
Photo (c) Hazel Speed – used by kind permision to Tuck Magazine