Deanna Raybourn has two accents: one she speaks with, one she writes with.
The spoken accent is Texan, with some of the edges softened by years of living further north (although still in the South) in Virginia.
But you won't find any of that languid, silky drawl in her books, where the accent is clipped, the pronunication received and the English very much that of the Queen. Victoria, that is, rather than the current incumbent of the throne, as Silent in the Grave is a murder mystery set in aristocratic London towards the end of the reign of England's longest-serving monarch.
I made my way about half way through Raybourn's wonderful first book - Silent in the Grave, which is published in the UK this month, while the second Silent in the Sanctuary was published in her native US this week - before I discovered that the author was American. One senior executive at her UK publisher only discovered the nationality of his talent after finishing the book.
"That's the biggest compliment I could have had," she says.
It is well deserved. There is not the merest hint in the book that this novel was not the work of an English woman, nor indeed a modern author, so well observed is the serious business of Victorian society and manners and so authentically drawn are the characters.
But then few writers, even here, are perhaps as immersed in English culture than Raybourn, who spent about six weeks in the UK in the course of researching her books and spends even more time in the company of British writers and BBC America.
"It's saturation. The more British fiction I read, the more television I watch, the more I pick up, although I am sure there are mistakes," she says.
As her work is about to be published in the UK for the first time, Raybourn says she is far more nervous than she was before publication in the US (where her books were well received critically).
"There's a huge responsibility when you take on another country's culture and vernacular and sensibilities. You have to do it justice, " she says.
But although Texas, and even Virginia, may seem distant from these shores, Raybourn believes there are historical ties and cultural similarities with the South that have contributed to her anglophilia and helped to inform her writing in a book, which at least in part, is something of a comedy of Victorian manners and social mores.
"The South is where the culture of the gentlemen and the plantations was carried out, much more so than the North where there is more diversity of immigration. The South was mostly British, and it did not divide up in the same way. So there are attachments there, and there is a peculiar sense of humour and eccentricity," she says. "If find the odd can be extremely entertaining."
The opening of Silent in the Grave finds Raybourn's heroine, Lady Julia Grey, an unexpected widow, when her husband dies during a dinner party, exposing her to the extraordinary eccentricity of VIctorian mourning procedure.
"This was really due to Victoria and her mourning of Albert and the fact that people ran with it, rather than saying we can do this a little more healthily. But I think it was a time when mortality was high and life expectancy relatively low, and people are surrounded by death all the time so they like these rituals," she says.
Indeed, the novel was conceived as a piece of Regency era gaiety, but a few dozen pages in, Raybourn realised that the buttoned-up Victorians offered a canvass with far more potential, and she has certainly managed to find the comedy potential, with the huge social event of the funeral attended by scores of relatives, a scene reflecting her own experience in the South.
"When my grand-mother died when I was 19," she recalls, "people descended on us from all over the South, expecting to be fed and entertained."
But Raybourn exploits the set piece further, creating a wonderful chorus character, the Ghoul, an ancient aunt who follows family the reaper around, arriving for the funeral and only leaving when another relative appears to be close to death's door.
"I really liked the idea of character for comic relief, who takes things one step further and stays forever," she says.
The author's sense of humour radiates through the book, and will be familiar to readers in the UK.
"I think the British are the funniest people on the face of the earth. There is a subtlety to the humour that is brilliant and engaging. The US is more slapstick and farce. And if there was a great line I wanted to hear delivered, I would awlays choose John Cleese over Steve Martin or Eddie Murphy to do it," she says.
But it was Britain's mystery writers who ultimately proved influential in Raybourn's literary career, not our comics: Dorothy L Sayers, Agatha Christie, Sarah Caudwell, Beverley Nichols.
Raybourn spent a year almost as a full-time reader, in the company of the cream of the golden age of British crime fiction - almost entirely British authors - trying to find her own voice, after a previous 14 years in which she tried and failed to become a romance novelist.
Her story offers hope to all those who harbour an ambition to becoming a published novelist and who have foundered on the cold, jagged rocks of the rejection letter.
"I wrote for 14 years without being published. My agent packed them up and sent them off. But I was not writing mystery but romance, which I did not read. And so my agent said, 'I want you to stop writing. Take a year off and read.' So I did, and I only read things that I really wanted to read," she says.
"And in those books I found the British sensibilities, the sense of humour and the history which was a blueprint for the book I wanted to write."
And then her ninth novel became her first to be published and so enamoured with the advrentures of Lady Julia Grey were her US publishers Mira, that suddenly Raybourn was confronting an unexpected problem: a three book deal with an option for three more.
"I had been adamant that I would never sign a multi-book contract, but when they say you can have one, and they show you the money, you say, 'well of course I can', but it's terrifying," she says.
And terrifying it might well be, but it seems to be working out OK. Silent in the Grave sold well in the US, and should do well elsewhere. (And given the current obsession in the UK for historical drama on the television it is surely only a matter of time before we see Lady Julia on the BBC - the book is perfect for it.) Those who have read it say that Silent in the Sanctuary is better, while the manuscript for the third in the series has just been completed.
Deanna Raybourn, it seems, is set to become a fixture on the scene as is Lady Julia, a feisty, independently-minded woman from an era when independent thinking was not encouraged in women. And while Raybourn might not have stuck close to the primary school essay-writing guidelines of "go with what you know" in terms of era and location, in terms of characterisation, she says she has stayed close to home.
"She's hugely autobiographical, not in the detail obviously, nor in the sense that I am neither high-born nor wealthy. But her perspective on the world is very similar to my own, the idea that it is pointless and stupid simply to do things because people tell you you have to. I want her to be a woman of independence, to have adventures and to be happy and comfortable within her own skin. That's all you can really ask for in a life."
Books like Silent in the Grave stand or fall by the strength of their central protagonists: if a reader is going to spend 300 pages in the company of one person they need to like them or sympathise with them or at the very least understand them.
Lady Julia is witty, charming and eminently likable. I think I know where she gets it from.