A Clean Canvas by Elizabeth Munday #Author Guest Post #Giveaway

I am delighted to welcome Elizabeth Munday to the blog today, to talk about how she creates a strong female heroine. A Clean Canvas is the second in the Lena Szarka Mysteries Series and was published in January 2019. There is also a great Giveaway for you to enter. Details on how to do this are at the foot of this post.

Welcome to the blog, Elizabeth and over to you!  

Creating a strong female heroine

Before I even started writing my first murder mystery novel, I knew I wanted a strong woman as my heroine. I was sick of female victims suffering and femmes fatales seducing. I wanted a modern woman solving crimes. 

I decided to make my heroine a Hungarian cleaner in London who turns detective when her friend goes missing.  She needed to be hard working, direct and brave. But also realistic and rounded. 

Ironically, Lena, my very modern heroine, was inspired by my great grandmother, Magdaléna. I’ve never even met her; she died long before I was born. But I’ve heard the stories. 

In 1912, the year the Titantic sank, she left Hungary and took a boat to America. She was the first of her family to leave her region, let alone the country and the continent. She took her husband and six children with her. By the time they reached New York after eighteen days of terrible sea sickness in steerage, she’d had enough. ‘Curse you Christopher Columbus,’ she said, shaking her fist at the Statue of Liberty. She wished the country had never been discovered. 

Lena, working in London in 2016 has a very different experience to that of my grandmother in Indiana in 1912. But the will to uproot everything in the hope of discovering a better life – that’s the same.

IN STRANGERS’ HOUSES is the first in a series, and I want Lena to be likeable enough for readers to want to join her in future books. That’s why she doesn’t share another of great grandma Magdaléna’s qualities: meanness. You can’t blame her: Magdaléna had been told the streets in America were paved with gold but she ended up raising her six children in a house with a dirt floor in Indiana. Money was tight, living was tough and Magdaléna began squirreling money when she could. She took the wages from all her children (working despite being underage) and according to family legend, buried the money in a jar in the garden. When she suffered from illness in later life she could be seen digging holes outside the house. The jar was never found. 

In fact, I made Lena the opposite. She’s generous: not with money, she doesn’t have much of that to give. But with her energy. When she sees a stranger get mugged, she is the only one who leaps to her defence, chasing down the culprit and getting a fist in her face as a result. When her friend (also a cleaner) goes missing, she temporarily takes on all her clients – partly to investigate as she’s suspicious one of them is involved, but also so her friend does not get fired from the agency. Even cleaning her regular clients’ houses she does with gusto: helping people by making things clean gives her great job satisfaction. 

But she’s not perfect. Lena has a terrible temper. In earlier drafts, Lena was slapping someone around the face almost every chapter. I’ve toned this down a bit so now she sometimes manages to resist the urge. She’s strong and independent, but she knows she can go from zero to a hundred too quickly. Working as a cleaner in rich people’s houses, she has to stop herself getting visibly angry at every inconsiderate thing they do.

Lena is someone who doesn’t make friends easily, but when she does she’s a friend for life and would do anything for them. Interacting with the people she cares about allows Lena to show her softer side. There’s her childhood friend whose disappearance drives the plot, but then there are others she has picked up along the way. Like Mrs Kingston, a retired journalist who lives alone with her pet rabbit.  She’s earned Lena’s friendship by being kind, clever and lonely, and it gives Lena a friend to discuss the case with.

Just because Lena is strong and independent doesn’t mean she needs to be single. But choosing the right man for her is tricky. She wouldn’t be attracted to someone weak, but she can never be dominated. I chose men for her whose qualities complement, rather than compete with, her own. In the first book, she’s in a relationship with a Polish taxi driver: comfortable, lazy even, but kind and funny. Without giving too much away, she also has an attraction for a policeman: cerebral, well-mannered and totally in awe of her. Her romance develops in the second book in the series, A CLEAN CANVAS, as she investigates a painting that has been stolen from a gallery she cleans. 

Thanks so much, Elizabetn! What an insight into the character of Lena! 

About the Author

Elizabeth Mundy’s grandmother was a Hungarian immigrant to America who raised five children on a chicken farm in Indiana. An English Literature graduate from Edinburgh University, Elizabeth is a marketing director for an investment firm and lives in London with her messy husband and two young children. A Clean Canvas is the second book in the Lena Szarka mystery series about a Hungarian cleaner who turns detective.

You can follow Elizabeth here: 

TwitterFacebook | Instagram @ElizabethEMundy

Book link:   Amazon UK

Thanks to Elizabeth Munday and Rachel of Rachel's Random Resources   for a place on the tour. 

Check out the rest of the tour!

Giveaway (UK only)

 To win a Winsor & Newton pocket sized Watercolour set and a signed copy of A Clean Canvas, just follow the link below and good luck! UK Only

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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