Please welcome Jeri Westerson, who writes a medieval mystery series with lots of British myth, characters and landscapes.
BLOOD LANCE is the fifth book in the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir mysteries where our hero/detective Crispin Guest—a slave to his personal honor—gets talked into finding a lost relic that an old friend in distress is looking for, must investigate a murder that everyone else wants to call a suicide, gets involved with a beautiful woman who means trouble, runs into Spanish spies, court intrigue, and Geoffrey Chaucer, that all culminates in a deadly joust on London Bridge.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Because Crispin Guest is a disgraced knight turned detective, he holds his personal honor dear. He lost his title, status, wealth and place in the world because he committed treason…for a good cause. (He lost all but his life) He hasn’t been a knight for ten years, but I still wanted to bring knightly attitudes and fighting into the book. And because Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been in the news lately, I thought I’d research it to see if PTSD is a modern phenomenon or has been with us since war began. There is some information on knights fleeing battles and talk about “cowardice” which was their only explanation at the time. So I decided to make one of Crispin’s old friends a knight with PTSD, desperate to get his hands on this missing relic that he believes will help him. All of Crispin’s chivalric training comes to bear here. Including London Bridge (which many readers were surely unaware contained houses and shops) just added another interesting element. The joust that happens on London Bridge has its precedence in the time period. Maybe not this particular joust but at least one did happen on the bridge.
I get up and try to take care of necessary business at 7 am: emails, blogging, Facebooking, and Twitter first thing. Promotion is a necessary evil and it seems to drag more and more of my energy away from writing time. Keeping a balance between that business of writing and actual writing is tough these days.
But when that’s finally out of the way, I can sit down and get to my manuscript. I read over what I wrote the day before, editing as I go, and then plunge into the new work of the day. I make myself do a minimum of ten pages a day. They don’t have to be a good ten pages but they have to be at least ten. Theoretically, by the end of a month, I should have a finished first draft. It never ends up that way, because I may have to stop and do some research, or do a promotional event that day, or any number of other distractions. I’m usually done with a first draft these days in three months, and that includes the first month of writing the outline and doing some initial research (because although I have a pretty good handle on the day to day life and history of fourteenth century London, there are always real people, real history, and a new relic to research for each story). So I start writing around 9 am and am usually done or mentally spent by about 3 pm. Though sometimes I skip a lot of time in the middle and work later at night. I quit my day job a few years ago (which might have been premature, but I didn’t think it was going to be possible for me to produce three books in three different genres a year, short stories, and do all my promo while also stuck at a job that was just a job. But money is nice to pay bills with, too.) so I can write all day. Once I have a first draft I do a lot more editing and rewriting. Then it goes to my husband to read and more editing; then to my critique group for more of the same; then to my agent for yet more fine tuning; and finally to my editor for even more tweaking.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Crispin is complex. He’s noble to the core. And he defined himself by his nobility. He knew his place in the world because he was born to it. When he lost it all he was truly set adrift. Knowing he was guilty, knowing what he did was right at the time, doesn’t help him now. He had to make his own way in the world, stripped of all that he knew. He reinvents himself as the “Tracker,” a man who is hired to find things. When he stumbles upon murder he feels obliged by his knightly upbringing to see justice done.
He still has a hard time reconciling his current status living on the Shambles, the butcher’s district in London, to the courtly life and lands he once enjoyed, and he is naturally bitter, especially because he knows it’s his own fault.
Some years earlier, he reluctantly took in an orphaned street urchin, a young cutpurse named Jack Tucker, who insinuated himself into Crispin’s life as his servant and now serves as an “apprentice Tracker.” Their relationship is like a father and son, two people from two different worlds, but cleaving together for emotional and financial support. They get into trouble and adventures together, with sometimes the apprentice teaching the master a thing or two.
What advice do you have for writers who have not yet been published?
Do your homework. Learn about your industry and the genre you write. Join professional organizations so you can network with authors in your genre so you don’t make amateur mistakes. Do a lot of listening and heeding advice. Believe me, you do not know it all and you will waste precious time and money if you don’t learn the ropes and pay your dues first.
Realize that this is not a money-making career. Less than one tenth of one percent of authors ever make a decent living at this, or any kind of living at all. Don’t quit your day job!
What are you working on right now?
The next Crispin adventure will be released October 15 of this year, SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST; Perenelle, the wife of infamous alchemist Nicholas Flamel, has been kidnapped and the culprit wants his most prized creation, the Philosopher’s Stone. Flamel’s assistant is murdered and ancient symbols turn up on walls and carved on stones throughout London. Crispin must decipher them in a strange treasure hunt to find the man responsible. What follows is a chase down the shadowy streets of London, between men who know the secrets of poisons and purges, sorcery and forbidden sciences. With the help of Flamel’s deaf mute servant Avelyn and the indomitable Jack Tucker, Crispin races against time to save Perenelle from disaster, and the Philosopher’s Stone from falling into the wrong hands.
I’m also working on a Young Adult series with Jack Tucker. And right now I’m working an entirely new contemporary paranormal series with humor and adventure when a feisty female protagonist in a small New England village is forced to hunt down and capture creatures who have escaped out of an ancient book, with the help of a dark and sexy demon, the local coven of Wiccans, and the handsome sheriff.
In the meantime, people can read about my Crispin books, see the series book trailer, and read Crispin’s own blog and book discussion guides on my website at www.JeriWesterson.com.