In your own words, please describe your book.
The book is CUP OF BLOOD, set in 1384 London. When a corpse turns up at his favorite tavern, Crispin–a disgraced knight turned medieval detective known as the “Tracker”–begins an inquiry. But the dead man turns out to be a Knight Templar, an order thought to be extinct for 75 years, charged with protecting a certain religious relic which is now missing. Before he can begin to investigate, Crispin is abducted by shadowy men who are said to be the minions of the French anti-pope. Further complicating matters are two women: one from court with an enticing proposition, and another from Crispin’s past, dredging up long-forgotten emotions he would rather have left behind. And as if all that weren’t bad enough, a cunning young cutpurse by the name of Jack Tucker has insinuated himself into Crispin’s already difficult life. The deeper Crispin probes into the murder, the more it looks like the handiwork of an old friend turned adversary. With enemies from all sides, Crispin has his hands full with more than murder.
What genre/genres does your book fall under?
Is this book part of a series?
Yes! There are six books in the series, but this one is a prequel, so you could consider it the first in the series.
What was the inspiration behind your book?
There are a good number of medieval mysteries out there, so what was going to put my books above the crowd? I was reading a lot of hardboiled mysteries, from Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald and it occurred to me that it might be intriguing to create a hardboiled detective in a medieval setting. There were quite a few monk and nun investigators, but what if there was someone who was actually hired to investigate, a medieval PI? What would that look like? So I began developing the character of Crispin Guest, a knight and a lord. But to make this work, he’d have to be down on his luck, as the tropes would have it, with a chip on his shoulder. I put him on the mean streets of London and I took all his money, his lands, and his title away from him. He would be as low as one could go and he would have to make his way in the world by his wits and his fighting skills. A man of intense personal honor, working out his penance on the dark streets, righting wrongs, defending the weak, and solving murders, of course.
What led you into writing? Was it a lifelong ambition, or the result of some type of turning point in your life?
Timing. I had always written from an early age, and always for fun. I completed my first novel when I was sixteen but these were always efforts I did for myself without anyone really knowing about it. So when I semi-retired from a career as a graphic designer to have a baby I discovered after two years that the graphics industry had turned to computers when I didn’t know a darned thing about them and certainly couldn’t afford to learn. So I turned to the other thing I felt I was good at that would still keep me at home, that of being a novelist. How hard could it be, I foolishly thought. I had studied the industry–knew I needed an agent, for instance, and learned how to go about it—and so I sat down and began writing historical novels. But though I did land an agent and had several books under my belt by then, we couldn’t get that book contract. Finally, after parting ways with that first agent and moving on to another, it was suggested that I switch to writing in a better market. Mysteries were everywhere and in every kind of subgenre. If I switched to writing medieval mysteries, it might be easier to get that contract, and so I developed the Crispin Guest series, got my fourth agent by then, and got a contract at last. That process took fourteen years. We published six books with St. Martin’s, one of the Big Four publishers, before they declined to publish any more in the series.
So far, what has been the greatest moment in your writing career?
When a fan told me that her paraplegic husband, felled by a stroke on top of his other problems, responded positively to my books, unlike any other stimulus. She likened his enjoyment of the books as a “Helen Keller moment,” triggering something in his damaged brain that woke him up. I’ll never get another testimonial like that one.
Are you self-published or published through a small-press? Can you tell our readers what led up to that and your publishing experience?
As I said, the first six in the series as published by one of the Big Four publishers, but sadly, midlist authors like me do not get the royal treatment at publishing houses, and so a subgenre like a medieval mystery must sink or swim on its own. Despite the advantages that a large press could bring to promotion that an individual author cannot, there was virtually no budget for promotion and so the series languished. Sales weren’t strong enough for them to continue to publish the series, even though I was far from done telling the tale of my medieval detective. My agent went on the hunt for a new publisher, but because of the sales numbers, we knew we’d be going with a smaller press. I knew this would take time and I didn’t want a year to go by without a Crispin novel on the shelves, and so I dusted off the actual first book in the series that was never published, reworked it, and self-published it as a prequel. That book is CUP OF BLOOD. And now that the book is out there, we did land a publisher for at least the next two books in the series, but it can’t be announced just yet.
What are you working on now?
I write an LGBT mystery series under the name Haley Walsh, and those books, the Skyler Foxe Mysteries, couldn’t be further from the Crispin series. They are sexy, humorous, contemporary mysteries involving the brand new high school English teacher Skyler Foxe, who, along with his cadre of fabulous friends, solves murders. You can find those at http://skylerfoxemysteries.com/. I’m working on the fifth in the series, DESERT FOXE.
I have also written the first of an urban fantasy series called BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN that my agent is currently shopping. It’s about a feisty young woman named Kylie Strange who moves from California to a small town in Maine to open an herb and tea shop, where she finds an ancient book bricked up in a false wall. When she opens it, she unleashes all manner of creatures and demons into the world and it’s now her job to put them all back with the help of a mystical crossbow, a local coven of misfit Wiccans, and a handsome demon, who claims to be helping but might be up to something more diabolical.
In your own words, please tell us about yourself.
I’m an artist, a singer, a wife, a mom, and a cat mom from Los Angeles who has a whole lot of eclectic interests, including beekeeping, wood carving, and watching old movies.
How can readers connect with you?
All sorts of places:
http://www.jeriwesterson.com/ (where you can find my character’s blog)
https://www.facebook.com/crispin.guest (it’s very lively there)
http://www.getting-medieval.com/ (my blog)