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Marion Chesney speaks on Serenity, big knickers, grudgingly getting old, and what it was like moving from romance to mystery.

A Talk with Marion Chesney


Okay I don't really like most of Marion Chesney's books. Then again I'm one of those freakish people who aren't very fond of Georgette Heyer either! But when I heard that M.C. Beaton (otherwise known as Marion Chesney) was speaking in NYC for the first time in nearly a decade I decided that driving three hours, braving the traffic, and paying FAR too much money to park was well worth the effort…luckily I wasn't proven wrong!

I am sure you have run across at least one of Marion's books. I mean with over 100 published how could you not? Marion Chesney was one of the pioneers of the Regency genre. She strove for historical accuracy, intriguing plots, and insisted on good writing. Her books are often on the "hard to find list," and I know women who have spent years tracking down her romances. Although I am not a huge fan, I do have 7 on my keeper shelf, and I have always enjoyed how she melds history with romance.

Having had difficulty finding parking we walked into the B&N only a few minutes before she was scheduled to speak. As Nils and I took our seats she was announced, and a woman wearing the most wonderful smile breezed into the room. As soon as she reached the podium she took charge of the crowd by sating that she wasn't going to do something as boring as read from her book, but that she wanted to tell everyone a bit about how she got into writing, and then take questions.

Marion, being an obviously smart, articulate, and outgoing woman spent about 30 minutes regaling us with stories about the time she spent trying to become a writer in NY. How she learned to lie on her resume to get her first few jobs. And how living on a sheep farm in the wilds of Scotland had given her the idea to write mystery novels. When she was done speaking, and most of the audience was worn out from laughing so hard at some of her anecdotes she started taking questions.

Question: How did you end up on a sheep farm writing romance novels?

Marion Chesney: My husband studied agriculture. So he had this brilliant idea to get away from the city. (she pauses and then looks at the audience very seriously) You understand that love isn't real? Not the kind of love [we] read in books? You spend two weeks thinking that you have met a man that has everything in common with you, and you love all his quirks. But then you discover that you haven't that much in common at all, hate that his feet smell, and the next thing you know you're raising sheep in Scotland. It was hard because I'm a city girl. I have pavement for bones, but there I was in a small rural town. My husband quickly learned that I would work inside, but the outside labor was all his own doing!

Q: So why did you write romance novels?

MC: Well mainly because I wished that love existed, and it also allowed me the luxury of being with my children.

Q: Why did you stop?

MC: The novels I wrote had so much research, and in the end only had a shelf life of maybe 6 months. I was also tired of seeing inaccurate books, and after more than 100 novels I hadn't much left to say. There is nothing worse than re-writing the same story over and over again. Q: So are you happy with writing mystery? Was it hard to move from Romance?

MC: Mystery and romance are nearly the same. At least I go about it the same way! The only real difference is that my books target a wider audience, and stay on the shelves. I loved writing romance. I love writing mystery. I love writing.

Q: In your mystery books one of your characters is getting old and hates it –

MC: (cutting in) Don't we all! Bullocks on women getting old gracefully! If I had a choice I wouldn't. To put my face on in the morning I need a magnifying mirror, my eyes have gotten bad, but I can still see all the lines and wrinkles that I have to cover up! So either my eyes aren't as bad as I think, or the wrinkles are worse than I would like!

Q: What was it like living in Scotland?

MC: Strange. I loved a lot of it, hated a good deal of it, but I did according to my Pilates instructor find Serenity. I don't know if she was joking or not, but I was in my Pilates class…it's kind of yoga and tai chi, I needed it to help keep my gracefully aging joints from getting too tight! …Well she sat us down in class and told us that she was going to tell us the secret to serenity. We all listened very attentively because we all wanted to know the secret. "Big knickers," she said. We all kind of stared. "If you wear big Knickers you will be happy and free. Look at women who have those small, string up the butt, tight little legged knickers. They are always uptight and unhappy." Look at my face. Do I seem serene???

Happy in the knowledge that I was wearing big knickers I let the rest of the Q&A roll over me as Marion discussed characters from her mystery series. Suddenly I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. I turned to the woman next to me. She had a pile of hardcover M.C. Beaton books in her lap.

"You read her romance novels?" she asked in a little hushed voice.

"Yes," and I held up the two I had in my lap.

"She's magnificent. Do you think I would like her romance novels?" People were beginning to get in line for Marion to sign books, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to convert a reader to romance…especially Regency romance! So I wrote down information on Marion Chesney on one of my business cards, and hoped that I had found a convert.

I stood in line like a good little girl, a little scared to bring up my two romance novels when no one else seemed to be a romance reader, but Marion was wonderful! She thanked me for supporting her other novels, and congratulated me on being brave enough to bring the books in. She posed with me for a picture, and then shook my hand.

As I got back into my car I looked at the inscription and had to smile, "To Sybil and her Rakehell endeavors." I turned to Nils, "She spelled my name wrong, but she's heard of Rakehell…" Nils smiled back and we drove home in silence.

Cybil Solyn

Mary AnnLying on resumes2001-12-22
...so in order to improve my life, I now need to know Marion Chesney's wisdom on optimal lying on resumes!
Cybil SolynLying on her resume2002-01-08
Sorry this took so long to post back to you, BUT I had to hunt down my original notes - not an easy task.

Marion on telling fibs: "I learned that lying on my resume was the best way to get a job. After pounding the pavement for 3 weeks and not getting any jobs I just started telling people that I HAD worked at such and such a company, and that of course I had experience. Most didn't have time to check up on all my (cleverly obscure) references. And you must remember that it wasn't as easy to get information back then. No computers and internet you know!"
it was wonderful to hear that some1 out there has gone & heard marion chesney speak!!!! i was just a teenager when at our local library my sister borrowed a book called "regency romance", after that i had to read all the books i could get my hands on at the local libraries in cardiff (wales united kingdom)! i'm 35 now & she is still my all time favourite author, don't get me wrong im not a romanc fan, my other authors are stephen king, patricia cornwell....... terry broooks..... etc etc.... but i will always hold a very special place for marion chesneys regency romances. i have ended up working for the library service for the last 7yrs & i know that the libraries don't stock her books on our shelves anymore & it is a great shame, but i will look up some of her mystery books now that i know she writes them, so its been a pleasure finding other ppl out in the world who think of marion chesney as a wonderful writer! thanks khaldah
EileenM. C. Beaton2002-07-07
I would love to hear her speak, if anyone has any knowledge about upcoming speaking engagements, please let me know. I have a complete data base of all her mystery novels, I'd love to put a M. C. Beaton companion on the market. Regards, Eileen
Hope DellonMarion Chesney2002-09-18
Hi. I'm one of Marion Chesney's publishers, and I hope it is not a breach of protocol to post to this site. I thought some of you might like to know that Marion, who has been writing (quite wonderful) contemporary mysteries as M. C. Beaton, has started writing a new series that combines mystery and historical romance--this time set in Edwardian England. The books will be published under Marion's real name, and the first one--SNOBBERY WITH VIOLENCE: An Edwardian Murder Mystery--should be available in Spring 2003.
Elizabeth ThomsonMarion Chesney2002-10-19
I really LOVE Marion Chesney's Regency romances & have sent all over the world to collect all of them. I am delighted to hear that she will be writing Historical,Mystery Romances. By the way, what is her real name? I assume from Hope Dellon's message that it is Marion Chesney?
barbara tahirStill miss her romances2003-01-20
I have been looking for a new Marion Chesney romance for sooooo long. It is sad to know finally that she is not writing any further romances but what a thrill to know that she is still writing under M. C. Beaton. I can't wait to get to the bookstore to find her mysteries.
Rory KirschMarion Chesney2003-02-15
I adore Marion Chesney, she is the wittiest & best of the Regency writers, and I simply cannot wait for her Edwardian series. What a great idea to combine 2 genres. I'm a running to the bookstore!
Xena RosePhoto of Marion Chesney2003-11-11
I've read every one of Marion Chesney's mysteries by M.C. Beaton and I would dearly love to see a photo of her. Cybil, you mentioned you had one taken at the B&N book signing in New York. Can you scan and send or is there one that you know of posted on the internet? Also, I hope there is someone at work on a proper biography of Marion Chesney. Her romance & mystery fans would cherish that.

Joyce SmithI have enjoyed anything I ever read by Marion Chesney.2004-07-14

During the early to mid 1980's, I discovered Marion Chesney's romantic novels and found them witty and real. Then came Hamish MacBeth in the mystery novels, and I really like those! Agatha Raisin is just a teensy bit tooreal for me; I frequently don't like her very much, but she makes me laugh and the books are still entertaining--amazing, a heroine I'm not too keen on, and I always go back for more! Only Chesney could achieve that.

Maureen VicsikMarion Chesney/M.C. Beaton2004-09-04
I have loved every Agatha Raisin, and Hamish mysteries that I have read so far, I keep buying every new one that comes out, I have just discovered the Edwardian series, and can't wait to get the next one, I just wish I could e-mail her and tell her how much I enjoy her books!!!
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