TThe Trixie Belden Questionnaire
Lora Roberts is the author of the Liz Sullivan mystery series (Murder Crops Up, Murder Follows Money) and the Bridget Montrose mystery series (A Revolting Development, Another Fine Mess.) The first volume in her new series set in Sussex, England in 1903, is The Affair of the Incognito Tenant: A Mystery With Sherlock Holmes and will be published in March, 2004. Visit her online at www.nmomysteries.com/main.htm.
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES, AS A SERIES?
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT TRIXIE, THE HEROINE?
As a kid, you can see that Trixie gets herself into trouble. She was believable. You can identify with her.
BEYOND WHAT YOU LIKED OR DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES,
WHAT MADE THE SERIES MEMORABLE TO YOU?
In the Julie Campbell books all of those characters had such a sense of themselves. Trixie's voice was consistent - Honey was always Honey; if she did something out of the ordinary - if she didn't faint at the sight of blood - it was noted. The characters grew in ways that were logical for that age group. Trixie learns to concentrate and be a better student. I had a great deal of sympathy with that predicament. It was clever of Campbell to make her bad at math and English. Writers typically don't make their heroines bad at English.
The plotting isn't that great, when you read them as an adult. The genre required the author to end on cliff hangers in the chapters and screw up the suspense even if it turns out that it wasn't that suspenseful. But she did a great job of characterizing. The characters are real and natural.
AS AN ADULT AND AN AUTHOR, LOOKING BACK ON THE TRIXIE BELDEN
I just admire the way she managed to get in her own little agenda, that it's good to help other people and good to work hard and have fun while you do these things. She didn't do anything preachy, but the books give a very wholesome model for children which is not always the case.
IN GENERAL, HOW DID YOUR CHILDHOOD READING INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING (OR
You have to work really, really hard and nobody must know you did that. Like at a really good party, it's not so fun if you see the hostess sweating away. It has to look easy, but have to be crafted so carefully.
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES TO YOUR OTHER CHILDHOOD
READING, E.G., STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, ETC.
Then I read the Janet Lambert books, the ones I could find. So I read some of those and somebody else who was writing in the same vein of high school doings, Rosamund Du Jardin. She was interesting. She was one of the arms-length authors, everything seemed to be narrated, nothing seemed to be happening in a fresh way that the reader could participate in.
Certainly Trixie holds up as being fun to read and involving and the characters seem real and fresh. All the books I loved were books that would take me to a different place, whether it was England in 1842 or Sleepyside in 1948.
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
When I was writing my Liz Sullivan books, I thought of her as a dark Trixie. She lives in her VW bus in the first book. She's very poor and hiding from things and she's a writer, which is why she's poor. She changes and grows in six books but had that same kind of a 'let's go out and find out what's happening' quality that Trixie had. I was not consciously channeling Trixie - but the character Trixie and the Trixie Belden series was the first to open my eyes to the difference an author can make. Books aren't hatched, they have to be wrought.
WOULD YOU COMPARE TRIXIE BELDEN AND NANCY DREW?
They were so bland I just could not understand it. If Nancy knows everything, where is the suspense? The good thing about Trixie is she doesn't know it all, but she does figure this mystery out.
Trixie embodies the word plucky. She's the plucky little sleuth. Nancy Drew was described by the narrator.
And that stupid roadster! What's the deal? They never even said what kind of car. That was one of the other things about Nancy - they were capable of being updated. If you can take the person in the books and stick them in a different era and nothing changes - she's still wearing shirtwaists and driving a roadster but now it's 1988, not 1948, well, something's wrong. That's not a real character.
LOOKING BACK AS AN ADULT AND AN AUTHOR, HOW DID CAMPBELL KEEP TRIXIE
LOVABLE, EVEN ADMIRABLE, WHEN SHE WAS SO CLEARLY FLAWED?
NANCY DREW'S RIVER HEIGHTS SEEMS TO BE LOCATED IN ANYWHERE, MIDDLE-AMERICA,
BUT TRIXIE BELDEN CLEARLY LIVES IN A SPECIFIC PLACE, THE HUDSON RIVER
VALLEY. CAN YOU COMMENT ON HOW THE USE OF A SPECIFIC LOCALE HELPS TO
ENRICH THE BOOKS?
YOU'RE WRITING (OR HAVE WRITTEN) A SERIES. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF
SERIES WRITING? HOW DOES THE TRIXIE BELDEN SUCCEED OR FAIL IN THESE?
CAN YOU COMMENT SPECIFICALLY ON ONE OF THE BOOKS THAT YOU THINK IS WELL
mansion itself embodies all the elements of that book. It has the grandeur,
the mystery and suspense which is what Trixie is looking for. It has
dangers and secrets and at the end it's all explained. Campbell took
a lot of care with that book. The Red Trailer Mystery has that picaresque
quality where the hero goes off searching for the good deed. I love
the part at the end where everybody turns up at Mrs. Smith's farm.
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