Jeri Westerson is a fairly newly published author whose first book, “Veil of Lies”, was first published October 27, 2008. The paperback will be available next month (October 15). The big news this week is the release of the sequel, “Serpent in the Thorns” (in hardback) on September 29.
I reviewed “Veil of Lies” in July (see here) and am looking forward to getting my copy of “Serpent in the Thorns”. In the meantime, Jeri was kind enough to give me an interview. Here goes…
What is “medieval noir” and what led you to write this style?
Medieval Noir is my own take on the medieval mystery. It’s darker and grittier than, say, one with a monk or a nun protagonist. It’s in the style of the pulp detective novels of the ‘30s and ‘40s but not anachronistic as one might think. Instead, I just use some of the tropes—the dishy blonde, the femme fatale, the goons, shadows, pithy patter—while still keeping it in the tone of the fourteenth century. My ex-knight protagonist is the medieval equivalent of a private eye when there were no such animals in that period. So it’s rather a “what if?” What if a man with his skills and character found himself destitute? What might he do to satisfy his deep sense of honor while atoning for what put him on the mean streets in the first place?
His stubborn sense of honor. Honor above all things, even at the expense of the heart. “Traitor” is the last thing he’d ever associate with himself but it’s exactly what he is. And the worst thing about it is that he knows that it’s true. He never would have committed treason under other circumstances, but since he was pledged to his mentor the duke of Lancaster and he thought the duke was planning on taking the throne from his ten-year-old nephew, Crispin believed he was justified by preserving the crown of England. How was he to know that there was no real plot? So he beats himself up for it. The fact that he can’t change who he is even under these different and special circumstances makes him a challenge to put down on paper. He can’t overcome his persistent code of honor and his unflagging sense of his proper place in the world. “It’s in the blood,” he insists, even under his present circumstances. He hates that he lives on the Shambles, the stinky butcher’s district. He hates that he has to deal with the lower classes. He hates that there is no way for him to ever improve his lot. And he hates himself for being solely responsible for it all. And so he reinvents himself as the “Tracker”, this private eye, fulfilling his knightly code to protect the weak, to put things right, if not for himself, then for others. It’s his saving grace and his bane. How could that not be fun to write?
Did anything funny happen while writing either “Veil of Lies” or the sequel, “Serpent in the Thorns”?
I don’t know if I’d call it funny, but I went back and forth as to when the books would be set. Originally I had it set in 1383, but, trying my darnedest to make sure the history was correct, I noticed that King Richard wasn’t in London at that time, so I pushed it up to 1384 and it changed a lot of other things I didn’t anticipate. I also have a bit of trouble with math, so instead of Crispin’s disgrace happening seven years ago as it should have been, I said it was eight years ago. Which means that Veil of Lies is a collector’s item. So go run out and get it! J The paperback will be out on October 15th, by the way, with a brand new cover. Very sexy. You can see it on my blog or my website. And in case you were wondering, my math problem is corrected in the second installment of the Crispin Guest series, Serpent in the Thorns.
Do you have more books planned in this series? If not, what projects are you working on now?
Oh, definitely have more planned. I just signed a two-book deal for books three and four—both of which are already written. I’m working on book five now and hope that they sell well enough that St. Martin’s wants to continue the series for as long as I wish to write them, which is a very long time indeed, if I have my way. It’s all about sales of new (not used) books that count, so if you find an author you like, do buy the books. It’s too easy these days to buy used books but that does nothing for the marketing figures that publishers rely on to plan out their next offerings. It’s a business, after all, and it really is all about numbers.
After book five, I’m going to take a little break from Crispin to develop my second medieval mystery series which should also be a bit unconventional for the genre. I hope that anyone who is a fan of Crispin will also find this new series intriguing. My plan is to continue Crispin’s series and also write this new one, alternating their release every other year. I can’t see trying to write two historical novels a year. There’s just too much research.
Who has been your most memorable fan so far?
I’m blown away by fan emails I get from all over the world, which is pretty interesting since my books are only available in English in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. But it will soon be available in Russian! How cool is that! And I hope for a few more foreign sales as well. England would be nice, though it is available on amazon uk. The amazon.com market is big so it has reached into places like the Netherlands, Egypt, Turkey, and India. It’s still a pretty weird experience to realize that people all over the world are reading and loving my words and my characters. Writing is such a solitary pursuit and I was doing it for so long before I got published that it’s still a surprise when I hear of other people—strangers–who’ve read my book. Many thousands by now, I guess. Crazy!
Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers?
I appreciate each and every one of you! Thank you! St. Martin’s releases my books one a year so you can look for them in the fall…just in time for Christmas gifts. J But in the meantime, you can go to Crispin’s blog to keep up with him. I usually post once a month…er…that is…Crispin does. Go to www.CrispinGuest.com. There’s also an original Crispin short story there.
How can people find you on the internet?
Easily. As I mentioned above, you can go to Crispin’s blog or my own blog, which has all sorts of things from articles on history, interviews with authors, and other items of interest by going to www.Getting-Medieval.com. Don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter. You can do that from the blog or my website. The website (www.JeriWesterson.com) has an appearance page so you can see if I’ll be in your area (I give a wicked presentation on medieval weaponry). Crispin is on Myspace and Facebook (www.myspace.com/crispinguest and www.Facebook.com/crispin.guest) and I am on Twitter (www.twitter.com/jeriwesterson)