Trixie Belden Questionnaire
Swanson is the author of the "Scumble River" mystery series
which features Skye Denison, school psychologist and amateur sleuth.
The most recent title is Murder of a Barbie and Ken. Murder of a Pink
Elephant is forthcoming in July, 2004. Of particular interest to Trixie
Belden fans, is the fact that Skye Denison's best friend is named Trixie
Frayne. Visit Denise online at www.deniseswanson.com.
FIRST THINGS FIRST, TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER, TRIXIE FRAYNE.
DS: Trixie came in my second book (Murder of a Sweet Old Lady). Part
of the reason was Skye needed a friend. She didn't have many in her
home town and as I created the character I kept seeing a grown up Trixie
Belden. As I was typing the description and the first conversation the
character kept telling me, "My name is Trixie." And, Trixie
can be pretty persistent, as you know!
I'm a romantic at heart, I married her off to Jim in my mind. I was
a little careful - so I named my character Owen. Owen is a form of Jim
that the English use. I was searching for something that was Jim, but
was far enough away they couldn't sue me.
been sort of a background character in my series but in almost every
book I learn something new about her. I didn't realize she'd be so popular
with the kids but she really grew. I have a book in mind in the future
where Trixie and her husband will maybe try and turn the farm into a
dude ranch and she'll be more in the foreground of that book. But I
like her as Skye's friend because she's so positive. I needed a character
who could say some of the more acerbic things that my editor won't let
have had many people recognize that reference to Trixie. I thought this
was my sly joke and one or two people would get it. Then I did a signing
in Ohio and a whole group of Trixie-fans showed up. It was wonderful.
It's wonderful just because they're readers for me and that there are
still so many people that are enamored with Trixie. It was amazing and
I was thrilled.
TRIXIE CAN BE PRETTY "ACERBIC." IN THE FIRST BOOK OF THE SERIES,
SHE REFERS TO OLD MAN FRAYNE AS A "GREEDY OLD MISER." WHY
DO WE STILL LIKE HER?
DS: We forgive her and the story forgives her because we know she has
such a generous heart. My editor is pretty focused on not letting me
have Skye say those things, but a lot of those things that need to be
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT TRIXIE, THE HEROINE?
DS: The thing that really set her apart for me was she was the first
heroine that I read about that I could identify with. I had read Nancy
Drew, Cherry Ames, the Bobbsey Twins and The Box Car Children. But this
was a girl a little bit older than me. She lived on a farm like I did
and she said things she shouldn't like I did. She was very observant
and interested in the adult world. I could really, really identify with
Trixie. I'm an only child, so I envied her her brothers. I was always
trying to create a clubhouse and a club, but I lived on a farm and had
NEARLY EVERYONE LISTS AS AN ADVANTAGE THAT TRIXIE IS IMPERFECT AND "REAL"
AS OPPOSED TO, SAY, NANCY DREW. HOW DIFFERENT WAS THAT TO YOU AS A CHILD
AND HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT?
DS: I think it was really different. Up to then in the books I was reading,
the people were pretty perfect. Trixie struck me as unique and different.
I thought it was important. I felt very imperfect as a child. I felt
like an oddball because I'd rather sit and read and write than play
baseball. So I really identified with a character who was different.
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES, AS A SERIES?
DS: The fact that it was a series was a big thing to me. I didn't come
from a reading family and so there was not a lot of guidance as to read
this or read that. I loved to read but I found it hard to find things
I'd like. We lived in a small town of 3000 people and the library was
one room above the police station. I found Trixie Belden and a series
was like nirvana. For every holiday and birthday, I'd ask for these
BEYOND WHAT YOU LIKED OR DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES,
WHAT MADE THE SERIES MEMORABLE TO YOU?
DS: You know I can't put my finger on it. Part of it may be because
there are some really good mysteries. Even re-reading the ones now,
I can't always pick out who did what and can't figure out the ending.
They were well-written and engaging. They were believable. It wasn't
some chick in a foreign sports car.
think as a child I was just thrilled that they kept coming. I wasn't
a real sophisticated kid. I just liked the people and the development
of the characters. They were changing.
IN GENERAL, HOW DID YOUR CHILDHOOD READING INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING (OR
DS: Well, I read a lot of mysteries not realizing that they were mysteries
and then when I finally got into the more adult sections of the library,
they steered me towards Victoria Holt & Mary Stewart which are romantic
suspense and that formed my taste in what I like to read. I'm not a
big one for literature. I tried to read some of the Oprah choices and
am almost always disappointed because of the ending. They're well-written.
But I like a sense of elation when I read. Those books were missing
a chapter. I wanted an ending. Because I have a taste for mysteries
and romances and that made me want to write that kind of book.
SPECIFICALLY, HOW DID READING TRIXIE BELDEN INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING (OR
IS THERE ANY DISCERNIBLE INFLUENCE)?
DS: I do think there's a lot of influence actually. Because of those
books, I wanted to write more of everyday mundane kinds of things, rather
than rich people. Of course, there is Honey and the Wheelers, but she
doesn't flaunt her money. I wanted to write about everyday people. When
I get a letter from a reader, I want it to say, 'I know that, I've experienced
that' (what you've written in the book). Trixie was living an everyday
life. Even when solving a mystery, she had to babysit Bobby.
AS AN ADULT AND AN AUTHOR, LOOKING BACK ON THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES,
WHAT DO YOU ADMIRE ABOUT THE BOOKS?
DS: There's some good character development throughout the books. Some
hints of what's going to come in the future. I think that's probably
why I wanted Trixie and Jim to get married - that's very much foreshadowed.
I read for character and these characters were fascinating. There were
very different people in these books.
PICK ONE OF THE FIRST SIX BOOKS AND COMMENT SPECIFICALLY ON WHAT YOU
THINK IS WELL-DONE AND THAT MIGHT HAVE INFLUENCED YOU.
DS: I decided to take one at random. I just finished reading the Mystery
Off Glen Road. When they lost their club house in that book - that was
one of those situations where even though I'd read the book before,
I was thinking, 'they'll get there and the tree won't have hit it.'
I was sort of surprised that the author let that clubhouse be destroyed
because it was so important to those children. You don't see that kind
of thing in children's writing. When I got to that part - that was a
twist. Maybe that's sort of the writer's life. You finally think you
have career on path and then something happens. It's for everybody.
It's a lesson in life. But think about this: You've got Jim and Honey
who have beaucoup money and the Wheelers would be glad to fix up the
clubhouse. And even the Belden's - I'm sure they could have helped,
but the kids never even think of asking.
the books teach good values, but they never go into that preachy territory
that kids just hate.
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES TO YOUR OTHER CHILDHOOD
READING, E.G., STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, ETC.
DS: They were my favorite ones by so far. I read other things to fill
in the gaps.
JULIE CAMPBELL CREATED THE SERIES AND WROTE THE FIRST SIX BOOKS. VARIOUS
WRITERS USING THE PEN NAME, KATHRYN KENNY, WROTE ALL OF THE OTHER VOLUMES.
DID YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE AS A CHILD? DID IT MATTER TO YOU? IF YOU
DIDN'T NOTICE AS A CHILD, DO YOU NOTICE NOW, EITHER IN RE-READING OR
DS: I'm ashamed to say, I didn't even know. I found out when I started
collecting the Trixies. When I went to college my mom cleaned out my
room of all the books and all my Barbie dolls. She gave to my cousins.
I came home from college and said, 'omigod i've been robbed!' I was
broken hearted to have lost the Trixies. It bugged me for years. With
the advent of computers, I stumbled onto eBay and could recollect my
Trixies. That's when I noticed that there were different authors. Now
I have all the Trixie books and have them in all the covers. My husband
thinks I'm obsessed.
CONSIDER THIS STATEMENT: IN SOME RESPECTS, THE MYSTERIES ARE NOT THE
STRONGEST PART OF THE FIRST SIX BOOKS (THOSE THAT CAMPBELL WROTE). DO
YOU AGREE? DISAGREE? ARE THERE SOME MEMORABLE CLUES OR TECHNIQUES IN
THESE BOOKS THAT, AS A MYSTERY WRITER, YOU ADMIRE?
DS: I think the mysteries are pretty strong. They're not mysteries that
we as adult mystery readers are used to thinking of as mysteries. I
guess maybe secrets would be a more apt way of putting it. I thought
the Mystery Off Glen Road was really strong. I was definitely reading
to find out who was poaching the animals. Or, in The Red Trailer Mystery,
who had stolen the trailer.
site was last updated on February 16, 2004.
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