Researching a Novel by Helena Dixon

I’m pleased to welcome Helena Dixon back to my blog. She’s been busy since the last time she appeared on my blog on 16 December 2019 to introduce us to the first book in her Miss Underhay Investigates series Murder at the Dolphin Hotel  – you can read that blog post here.

dolphin final cover

Today she’s here to tell us about the next book in her cosy mystery series Murder at Enderley Hall and to share some tips on researching a novel, which give quite a few insights into her new mystery series.

Five top tips for researching your book by Helena Dixon:-

  1. Define your search – If your question is too wide you increase the risk of becoming side-tracked or failing to find the information you need. So be specific, for example, I wanted to know where the police station was sited in Torquay in 1933 and what the front entrance looked like. So, the research question had to cover the location, time period and image.
  2. Set boundaries – Research can be fascinating, and you can easily lose hours reading and looking at things that you don’t need but which seem interesting. Bookmark those sites for later and look at them once you’ve acquired the material you’re searching for.
  3. Use a variety of sources – online is great but don’t forget printed materials, audio recordings and film and photographic archives. If possible, go yourself to  interviews or to see locations – depending on what you need to know of course. For example, I recreated a trip taken by my heroine, Miss Kitty Underhay by taking a steam train from Paignton to Kingswear, crossing the Dart on a passenger ferry, taking a water taxi to Dartmouth Castle and having tea in the tearoom before walking back down into Dartmouth. This added a huge amount to the authenticity of the story.
  4. People like to help – Don’t be frightened to ask questions or to seem nosy. By and large many people are happy to answer questions from people who are genuinely showing an interest in something. For my third novel, Murder on the Eleventh Tee, I approached Churston Golf Club who took me out in a buggy to the tee and answered all kinds of questions for me. Remember to make a note of their names so you can thank them in your acknowledgements and to let them know when your book or story is published.
  5. You don’t need to include everything – If you’re writing a fictional story you don’t need to include everything you’ve discovered during your research – no matter how fascinating you think it might be. The research should anchor your story in reality and help enrich the picture so there are no glaring errors, but putting in everything will kill your story dead and you will lose your reader. For example, when I researched Torquay police station, in my story I simply needed to know that there were some steps leading to the front door. I didn’t need to say how many or what they were made of or how long they had been there.


Thank you, Helena. I found that fascinating and I hope that my readers do too. Mx


About Murder at Enderley Hall


Set in 1930’s Dartmouth, the Miss Underhay Investigates series is the perfect Golden Age escape.

An escape to the country… ends in death.

Summer 1933.

Fresh from the discovery that she has family living nearby, Kitty Underhay has packed her carpet bag, commandeered a chambermaid and set off on a visit to stately Enderley Hall. She’s looking forward to getting to know her relatives, as well as the assembled group of house guests. But when elderly Nanny Thoms is found dead at the bottom of the stairs after papers of national importance are stolen, Kitty quickly learns that Muffy the dog’s muddy paws on her hemline are the least of her problems.

Calling on ex-army captain Matthew Bryant for assistance, Kitty begins to puzzle out the mystery. And when more shocking murders follow, the stakes are raised for the daring duo as never before. Which of the guests stand to gain from the theft of the documents? And which, as the week progresses, stand to lose their lives?

Endearing, engaging characters; and a fast-moving plot line filled with unexpected twists and turns. This is a whodunit that you will not want to put down till it’s done!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

I loved this cosy mystery. There were many twists and turns and I couldn’t wait to find out the identity of the perpetrator behind the crimes. I look forward to reading more in this series.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Gripping from the very first page. It was quite difficult to put the book down… Very deserving of 5 stars and more.’ NetGalley reviewer, 5 stars

Released on 19th March 2020 from Bookouture in ebook, audiobook and paperback. Murder at Enderley Hall is the second in the Miss Underhay Investigates series. The first book in the series, Murder at The Dolphin Hotel was an Amazon bestseller. Book 3 in the series, Murder at The Playhouse is available for preorder and will release in June.


About Helena Dixon


Helena Dixon splits her time between the Black Country and Devon. Married to the same man for over thirty five years she has three daughters, a cactus called Spike, a crazy cockapoo and a tank of tropical fish. She is allergic to adhesives, apples, tinsel and housework. Her addictions of choice are coffee and reality TV. She was winner of The Romance Prize in 2007 and Love Story of the Year 2010 as Nell Dixon. She now writes historical 1930’s set cozy crime. Nell enjoys hearing from readers and you can read her news and contact her via her website at visit her blog at find her on Twitter @NellDixon and friend her on Facebook


Thank you for visiting my blog – Morton S. Gray – Author. I hope you enjoyed this post. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Christmas at Borteen Bay is available now as both an eBook and audio download – Amazon Kindle, Audio, Apple iBooks, Kobo and Choc Lit for other buying options.

The Truth Lies Buried is available now from all eBook platforms – Choc LitAmazon KindleKobo, Apple iBooks. This will be available as a paperback and audiobook.

The Girl on the Beach published by Choc Lit is available as a paperback and from all eBook platforms – Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Google Play.



By Morton S. Gray

Author of romantic suspense novels.


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