Jeri Westerson is the author of the Crispin Guest series, and the newest installment, SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST, is out this month! Please welcome Jeri to the blog!
The 6th novel in your Medieval Noir series, Shadow of the Alchemist, is out this month! Did you ever imagine the series would come this far? Do you remember how you celebrated when you found out the first book, Veil of Lies, would be published?
I planned for a long-lived series so on the one hand, I’m not surprised we’ve gotten this far, and on the other, it never seems to get old, this wonderful anticipation of the next book on my doorstep. It was a long, hard road to get the first one published and there are quite a few more in the series to go. But as always, we pop the bubbly and look forward to a great book launch party…with knights and mead!
What can readers expect from Shadow of the Alchemist?
A treasure hunt of sorts throughout the dark and deadly streets of London, with Crispin pitted against a Moriarity-type villain. There’s a venerated object that the villain wants and a cadre of mysterious alchemists standing in Crispin’s way. 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.
What do you love most about your main character, Crispin Guest, and why do you think readers should root for him?
In a way, he’s now the underdog. Before he was top dog, I suppose, before he lost it all and had to reinvent himself. So though he can sometimes be a bit of a sad sack, he turns it around and acts most heroically. He’s a romantic as well, and a caring mentor to his apprentice, Jack Tucker. He has many good qualities, but I suppose his persistence and his heroism mark him as a cut above the crowd, no matter his status.
What do you enjoy most about being a published author?
Not only seeing the books on bookstore and library shelves, but hearing from readers who were tickled and entertained by the stories. As an author, you spend a lot of time alone creating these worlds and stories and you hope someone else will find them as enthralling as you do. It’s nice when, in fact, readers do.
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I write several different books a year so I don’t have time for writer’s block. Therefore, it’s expeditious to outline my books so I know pretty much what I’m going to write each day. I say “pretty much” because though I do outline, nothing is etched in stone, and if the plot turns in another direction, that’s the rabbit hole I follow. So it’s mostly plotting but with a little bit of pantsing along the way.
What, or who, have been some of the biggest influences on your writing?
Anything and everything. Certainly everything I’ve ever read and enjoyed growing up and into adulthood has influenced me. Shakespeare’s language, Tolkien and Rowling’s world-building, the prose and rhythm of mysteries from Dorothy Sayers to Ellis Peters to Raymond Chandler; the many books of fantasy and science fiction I read, as well as the movies that sparked an interest in this and that, teaching me pacing and how to build to a climax. I was also a journalist for eight years and that taught me to cut to the chase and get the story in there. And then there is the history, the historical novels and history books I grew up with. So many factors go into making the writer.
What are you reading now?
BELIEVING THE LIE by Elizabeth George
Obviously your novels are set in the Middle Ages. What’s something that you find especially fascinating about this time period?
The weapons and warfare. I never stopped playing war. I was quite the tomboy as a kid and steel is very compelling (and yes, I own many sharps and know how to use them!)
I’d love to hear more about your medieval weaponry collection…what made you start collecting? What’s one of your favorite pieces?
I think it might have been a good excuse to start collecting when I started writing historicals. My favorite piece is the sword, because it represents so much about the period; knights, the cross, the crusades, the jousts, honor, strength…it’s all very Freudian.
What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
Well, while we look for another publisher for the continuing Crispin series (and the next one is called THE SILENCE OF STONES, and involves the actual throne of England), I’ve written an urban fantasy series I hope to soon sell to a publisher (for anyone who liked the Sookie Stackhouse or Buffy the Vampire Slayer series—though, ironically, without vampires. Just plenty of other interesting beasties, a small town in Maine, a feisty female protagonist, her helpful Wiccans, a sexy demon, and an old book that causes all the problems in the BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN series). Then I am working on a Jack Tucker young adult series (THE DARK PEACE Jack Tucker Tales) that is more paranormal than mystery, and a medieval caper series that also needs to find a publishing home (OSWALD THE THIEF). So there is no rest for the wicked.
About SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST:
Once a Knight of the Realm, Crispin Guest was stripped of his title and his lands and must now earn his meager living through his wits. With the help of his young apprentice, reformed thief Jack Tucker, Guest is known to certain populations as The Tracker, the man who can find anything—for a price. It is for that reason that Guest is sought out by Nicholas Flamel, an absent-minded alchemist. Both Flamel’s wife and his apprentice are missing, and he wants Guest to find them and bring them home.
Before he can even begin looking, Guest discovers that Flamel’s house has been ransacked. Then Flamel’s assistant turns up—dead, hanging from the rafters with a note pinned to his chest by a dagger. It is a ransom note that promises the safe return of his wife in exchange for the Philosopher’s Stone, which is reputed to turn lead into gold and create the elixir of life. And the kidnappers aren’t the only ones after it. From the highest nobility to Flamel’s fellow alchemists, everyone is seeking the stone for themselves. Guest must rescue the missing wife and find the stone before it falls into unworthy hands, in Jeri Westerson’s Shadow of the Alchemist.