Some faithful readers of Becky’s Mick Chandra mysteries may be unaware that she died unexpectedly only weeks before the publication of The Mirror of Naples, her seventh book in the series. I had the privilege of being married to her for 41 years and serving as her first reader. Far from being fictitious, Mick Chandra and company are real to me. I miss them as I mourn their creator.
Who is Rebecca Yount? I frequently ask myself that question. This much I know for certain: I hail from a literary family. My mother’s cousin, Julia Peterkin, was author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Scarlet Sister Mary. Another cousin, Nella Braddy, edited most of Helen Keller’s books. Nella also wrote the first definitive biography of Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen’s beloved teacher.
For many years, my father was an editor/journalist for UPI, as well as a writer for the Columbus Dispatch. One of his first assignments with the Dispatch was to review burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee’s act at the Gaiety Theater. Mother was not amused.
With such a literary heritage, my parents would no more allow me to write sloppy prose than walk blindfolded into heavy traffic. So I suppose you could say that writing is in my blood.
Even though I studied music from the age of eight until twenty-one at the Capital University Conservatory of Music in Columbus with the intent of becoming a concert pianist, I never shook the writing bug. From an early age, I wrote stories, poetry, and even a novel about my beloved Springer Spaniel, Mac. When I wasn’t actively writing, I was making up stories in my brain, which rarely shut down.
After graduate school, I worked for a research center as associate editor for The Political Handbook of the World, a compendium of the world’s political systems. Afterwards, I moved to Washington D.C., where I found myself working at a series of grant-funded projects that included everything from advising members of Congress on education policy to working with the Inuits and Athabasca Indians in Alaska and the Blackfoot tribe in Montana to improve communication between state education agencies and their far-flung tribal villages. I wrote legislative language for Title V (Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act), and through a series of private grants, worked to reduce the dropout rate of children at risk of failure in schools.
Along the way there was a bad marriage, divorce, then a good marriage, plus three loving stepdaughters. And what became of my music and writing? Sadly, they both fell by the wayside while my husband, David, and I concentrated on our Washington careers and raised our three children.
Then came early retirement: me first, followed closely by David. Unlike many retirees who haven’t a clue what to do with all that free time, we both knew we would return to the thing we both loved the most: writing. And so we write, in separate home offices in our little Hobbit house just outside of Washington, D.C. While I hammer away at my crime novels, David continues to write and publish his books on religious faith and practice.
Finally came that fateful day in Essex, England, when I sat under a solitary tree in a fallow field and developed the plot for A Death in C Minor. After a highly diverse and scattered career, that late summer afternoon marked my true beginning.