A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Dear Robin, I thought that Cream Buns and Crime was really interesting because there was lots of facts in it that I didn’t know, I liked finding out about Agatha Christie, Mata Hari, Marthe Cnockaert and Sidney Riley. I loved all of the code breaking and the recipes. I do prefer to read the longer stories, because they take you through the whole crime and what happened in between as well, but I really enjoyed this as it was something different and special. Thank you for letting me read it.
Dear Maisie, thank you so much for reading Cream Buns and Crime, and I’m so pleased you enjoyed it! You’re right, it is different from my full-length books, and I think I enjoy getting into a big mystery story best too, but this was a lot of fun to write. I especially loved writing in all of the different voices I use for the different sections – it’s so nice to be able to show you more of the Detective Society’s world in this book!
I have some questions for you: Do you find it hard to come up with different murders every time?
Not really! Maybe it’s just that I have a really vivid and awful imagination, or maybe it’s that I read a lot, so I’m always getting ideas from other places. As you see in Cream Buns and Crime, I get inspiration from mystery novels, but also from real historical cases. I do find it challenging to keep coming up with plots that will really puzzle my readers though. You’re all so smart, and I think you’re getting better at knowing how my brain works!
Do you come up with new ideas while you are writing the books?
I always know who did it and why before I start writing, but as I am typing out my idea I always come up with twists that surprise and excite me. When I write my books, I am telling myself a story, and so I have to make sure that I keep myself interested as I do it – creating new characters and surprising challenges for Daisy and Hazel is how I make sure that I’m never bored while I write!
Do you like writing long stories or short stories better?
Good question! I think they’re quite different. For Cream Buns and Crime I wrote two totally new short stories, in Alexander and Beanie’s voices, and it was wonderful to jump into their heads for a while. I think it’s hard to create a totally new world in a short story, because you only get to spend a short time there. I can write a short story in just a few days, whereas it takes me months and months to write one of my novels, so I can live in that story for much longer and understand more about it. But I love writing down the little adventures that I know my characters have had, that wouldn’t fit in a big murder mystery plot. And the mystery can be much tighter and more snappy.
Are Hazel and Daisy based on real people?
Sort of! They’re a bit based on me and my friends at school. I had lots of friends who came from Hong Kong, like Hazel, and lots who lived in big English country houses like Daisy. But no one I know is exactly like either of them – they’re just themselves!
Did you enjoy writing as Hazel or Daisy, more?
I love writing from Hazel’s voice. She’s so thoughtful and kind. But I also love writing Daisy’s dialogue. She is so witty, and she always has the perfect answer to everything. She makes me laugh as I write!
Which is more like you, Hazel or Daisy?
I was quite like Hazel when I was thirteen – I loved books and writing, but was shy and unsure of myself. I always looked at people like Daisy, who seem so outwardly perfect, and thought that they must have no troubles at all. Of course, I was totally wrong!
Is it hard writing in the perspective of lots of different people?
Yes, it is – I try to give all of my characters clearly different voices. That means different ways of speaking, different favourite words and even different sentence structures! But I’m lucky that I know them all so well now that it’s easier than it would be if I was making them up from scratch. They all feel familiar. My favourite story to write was Beanie’s – she is such a sweet character, but someone who is usually sidelined. It was lovely to finally give her a proper voice, and let her take control of a story and a detective plot!
My favourite part of Cream Buns and Crime was the code breaking, what was yours?
Ooh, I think either my essay about 1930s detection (I am a bit obsessed with that) or the recipes. But I love the codebreaking too. Did you manage to crack the code of the letter from Hazel to Daisy? If you did, you’ll know that I put in a clue to the plot of Book 6 …
Have you used all of the recipes in the book?
I have! My favourite is the mince pies recipe. I think it’s the nicest one I’ve ever found. Now that the book is out, though, I think I’m going to be baking them all again to celebrate. I can’t wait!
Who do you like better, the Detective Society, or the Junior Pinkertons?
This is very difficult. I made up the Detective Society first, and Daisy and Hazel feel like a part of me by now! But I also adore the Junior Pinkertons, and I love that they’re such a big part of Cream Buns and Crime. I think now that they exist too, I want to keep writing books about them!
Who is your favourite detective?
Of all time? Probably Hercule Poirot. He’s Agatha Christie’s most famous detective, and the one who has influenced me the most. When I made up Hazel, I was thinking a little of him!
I saw that you went to Cheltenham Ladies College, does Deepdean Girls Boarding School have similarities to Cheltenham Ladies College?
Absolutely! None of the people I knew there made their way into the books, but the school layout, and my memories of it absolutely did. I really liked boarding school in the end, and made friends there who I am still friends with today, but it was a very odd and isolated place where I didn’t feel like I fit in at first. I put all of those good and bad memories into my books.
Did you ever have to solve a mystery? Because you have written these books, do you think you could solve a murder mystery just as easily as Hazel and Daisy?
I solve small mysteries all the time – like who ate the ice cream, and who sent that unmarked letter. I’ve put a lot of my tips into Cream Buns and Crime is perfect. It gives you all the clues you need to set up your own Detective Society and start solving cases!
I’m also pretty good at solving murder mystery games. But I’m lucky that I’ve never been asked to solve a real murder. I know it would be a lot harder and more confusing than a made-up case – and a lot more upsetting too. I’m happy to keep murder to my stories!
Love from Maisie (aged 11)
Thank you, Maisie, that was a great interview!
Robin Stevens was born in California and grew up in an Oxford college, across the road from the house where Alice in Wonderland lived. She has been making up stories all her life.
When she was twelve, her father handed her a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and she realised that she wanted to be either Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie when she grew up. When it occurred to her that she was never going to be able to grow her own spectacular walrus moustache, she decided that Agatha Christie was the more achieveable option.
She spent her teenage years at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, reading a lot of murder mysteries and hoping that she’d get the chance to do some detecting herself (she didn’t). She then went to university, where she studied crime fiction, and then worked at a children’s publisher.
Robin now lives in London with her pet bearded dragon, Watson. She writes full time.