Alyssa Maxwell
February 15, 2024

Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She has worked in publishing as a reference book editor, ghost writer, and fiction editor, but knew from an early age that she wanted to be a novelist. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain and Ireland fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband have make their home in South Florida. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Novelists Inc.

Interview by Elise Cooper

Q: Your book was adapted into a Hallmark movie. Could you share how that came about?

Alyssa: One of the executive producers, James Walsh, toured the Breakers. He thought of making a historical mystery set in Newport. As he walked through the bookshop, he saw my book. After reading it he contacted my agent. It met a need he had been looking for.


Q: How do you feel about the changes made in the adaptation from book to movie?

Alyssa: Yes. Emma’s romantic interest was different. Katie the maid was not in it. Jack Parsons, a person of interest was not in it. Once the filming rights were sold, typical for most deals like this, the writer is no longer a part of the project. My creative input was writing the book, while the production company can interpret it however, they may see fit. It is a big project of the book to be condensed to a 1.5-hour movie.

I think Nanny was a combination of Nanny and Katie, the maid. Nanny is not Irish in the book but was in the movie. In the book she married someone named O’Neal, but she was not Irish herself.

Obviously, Emma was not romantically involved with the Detective Jesse. Maybe they felt bringing the romance in earlier it would be more appealing. They also made Jesse younger.


Q: Were you satisfied with the character portrayals in the film adaptation?

Alyssa: Yes, if more movies are made the characters will settle into their roles. I thought that Emma’s personality was captured as being determined, strong-willed. Derrick captured the teasing quality, and Jesse the steady, concerned detective who respects her insight into the crime. Brady was portrayed as the rash brother.


Q: Is there any talk of turning more of your books into movies?

Alyssa: I do not think that decision has been made yet.


Q: What inspired the story for your book?

Alyssa: I am married to someone born and raised in Newport. I fell in love with this place because it is so atmospheric and historical. I knew in my mind I would set it here. Then I decided on the period of the Gilded Age because it is so visible in Newport, especially the mansions. The Breakers Mansion is the biggest and most ornate, owned by the Vanderbilts. I chose that date because the first Breakers burnt down, and this was the night honoring it being re-built. I put in the murder from my research with the rivalries in the railroad industry.


Q: Why did you specifically choose the Vanderbilts as the focus for your book?

Alyssa: The Breakers is one of the very biggest mansions. It is like the crown jewel in the preservation society of Newport’s County treasure chest of houses. Plus, there is the familiarity that so many people have with the Vanderbilt family, with their connection to the railroad industry. This was their vacation home that they went to every summer.


Q: Can you describe your protagonist, Emma?

Alyssa: Protective, independent, stubborn, determined, and spirited. She is focused, grounded, loyal, and head strong. She does belong to different worlds and sometimes that feels like she is being pulled in two different directions. On one side she is an ordinary Newporter and on the other side a distant cousin of the Vanderbilt family. She leans to the ordinary Newport side which she sees as the ‘real people.’ She is a champion of the ordinary people of Newport.


Q: Do you feel Emma was abandoned by her parents?

Alyssa: In a way yes. Being in the art world they are oblivious. They went to Paris to pursue their dream. The did know they left Emma with her nanny who is more like a grandmother to her. She also has her stepbrother, Brady.


Q: How would you characterize Brady?

Alyssa: He is irresponsible, rash, reckless, and loyal. He means well but is not disciplined.


Q: And what about Derrick? How do you see him?

Alyssa: Charming, curious, and confident.


Q: What dynamics define the relationship between Emma and Derrick?

Alyssa: He enjoys teasing her, which flusters her. She finds him impertinent at times. At times he toys with her emotions because he is attracted to her. He sees that independent side and does not want to push it down.


Q: It seems the younger characters in your story have a lot of freedom. Could you elaborate on that?

Alyssa: The young aristocratic men are cavalier, arrogant, self-absorbed, and do not deal with life’s challenges. Being the sons of millionaires, they are spoiled and feel invincible as well as entitled.


Q: Can you give us a sneak peek into your next book?

Alyssa: It will be out in August and is titled Murder in Vinland. There will be a member of the Vanderbilt family, Florence Vanderbilt Twombly involved. Emma will be the sleuth and will still have the cast of characters surrounding her.

Review by Elise Cooper

Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell is now a Hallmark movie on the Hallmark Mystery Channel. It has just been released last week.  As with most books that have been made into movies there were changes made but the overall arc of the plot was still intact.

In 1895 a society page writer, Emma Vanderbilt Cross, witnesses a murder while attending a ball at a Vanderbilt mansion in Newport Rhode Island. She soon gets drawn into the investigation after her brother is arrested.

Whether watching the movie or reading the book readers will be enthralled with the characters and the riveting plot.

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