Interview: Jeri Westerson

Please welcome Jeri Westerson, author of the Crispin Guest mystery series (and others to come–see below!).

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Being out and about somewhere with my hubby, antiquing or taking a drive through the countryside;  catching a great lunch in an oubloodlancetdoor café when the weather is not too hot, not too cold, and feasting on great food and drinking chilled wine;  then spending the rest of the day poolside and reading a good book. I think I had a few of those days when we went away for my birthday last summer.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Does a sword count? But of course, I don’t take it EVERYWHERE with me.  I love red but don’t really wear it. I just like having it around as an accent color on things, like on rubies.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
I used to be a graphic artist before I started writing novels for publication, and I have to say I was inspired by a college art professor, Professor Patterson, who taught me to look beyond the two-dimensional.  It was other authors who inspired me to write, mostly J.R.R. Tolkien and William Shakespeare, to try to emulate the great depth of detail in the former, and the dramatic poise of the latter.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Often. I think music gets your head into the right frame of mind. I like to listen to medieval music or soundtracks of films set in the medieval era. Ironically, some of the worst films of the genre have the best scores!

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
It would be dark, rich, and with a high percentage of cacao, with just the hint of bitterness. It would leave you satisfied but thinking about it for days after.  (Too bad Europe didn’t have chocolate in the middle ages.) Crispin’s stories are rich and deep and full of life’s bitterness, but he always manages to get something tasty from his experiences.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
In Blood Lance, my latest medieval mystery, I wanted to write about knights jousting (since Crispin Guest, my main character, is a disgraced knight). Each book deals with a religious relic or venerated object and so in this one, Crispin must find the Holy Lance, the spear that pierced the side of Christ on the cross. With such a spear, it seemed like a good idea to incorporate knights and a joust and—since it’s in the news a lot—to look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I wondered if knights of old suffered from it, too and discovered a lot of interesting details about it. Two old friends of Crispin’s show up in this, one being the famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and he also runs into his old mentor’s son, the now grown-up Henry of Bolingbroke (the future King Henry IV).  I like to add many layers to my novels and to the characters in order to keep it interesting for readers and not just turn out your run-of-the-mill mystery.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Honor, friendship, loyalty, family, the classes, what makes a man a man, the corruption of those in power.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
As I said, he is a disgraced knight, who was once a man of property and important to the court. Once he lost it all through an act of treason, he was forced to reinvent himself on the lowly streets of London, using his intelligence and fighting skills as the Tracker, a man who finds things for a fee. Sometimes he must find a murderer. Because he still has a hard time reconciling his current situation to what he once was, he has become a dark and brooding man, who drinks too much and perhaps recklessly puts himself in dangerous situations too readily. He can’t help his sense of honor, which is often a detriment to the situation he finds himself in, and he is always short of funds and sour of mood. He has a lot of personal demons to contend with.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Mr. Darcy meets Robin Hood meets James Bond.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Dorothy Sayers—because her invention of Lord Peter with his layered backstory is perfect; Raymond Chandler—because he always wanted fame as a literary author and really didn’t see it when he was alive; Dorothy Parker—because she’s kick-ass witty; J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling because these two know a thing or two about world-building; Mark Twain because his writing was witty, poignant, and wise—and so was he.

What’s next for you?
Besides the next Crispin Guest book, Shadow of the Alchemist, coming out in the fall of 2013, I’m still peddling my Oswald the Thief series to publishers (it’s my medieval caper series). And then I’m making a left turn and writing a contemporary paranormal series with plucky female protagonist Kylie Strange, in what I call my Booke of the Occult series, the first book being Strange Tales, a sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Grimm. (But there are no vampires in this series. Watch out for some other odd creatures, though). And then I’ll be working on my Jack Tucker Tales, a YA spin-off of the Crispin Guest series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will find publishers for all these series this year.

***

Los Angeles native and award-winning author Jeri Westerson writes the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Noir novels. Her brooding protagonist is Crispin Guest, a disgraced knight turned detective on the mean streets of fourteenth century London, running into thieves, kings, poets, and religious relics. When not writing, Jeri dabbles in gourmet cooking, drinks fine wines, eats cheap chocolate, and swoons over anything British.

For more information, please visit her online:

Website:  www.JeriWesterson.com, (includes Crispin’s personal blog, a series book trailer, book discussion guides, and Jeri’s appearance schedule).
Twitter: @jeriwesterson
Facebook: /crispin.guest or /jeriwesterson

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8 thoughts on “Interview: Jeri Westerson”

  1. Welcome Jeri! I hope you thought long and hard about that mash-up, because you just gave me more insight into Crispin than I expected. Glad to see you’re busy, and here’s hoping you find welcoming homes for your new projects!

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  2. Hi Jeri! Nice to see you here. You and I like the same kind of chocolate, and it informs our protagonists in similar ways. If you return to the Triangle area of North Carolina, I’ll take you to Escazu, a chocolate manufacturer.

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  3. Wow, Jeri, your book sounds right up my ally. Tolkien and Shakespeare. The Holy Lance, which appears in my 21st century mystery as well. PTSD in the olden days. I’ll bet it was there. And your next one has alchemy in the title. Fabulous.

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  4. Good to hear, Theresa and Mary Sutton. They’re all coming out in audio, too. Blood Lance and Troubled Bones are available. Something fun to do when cleaning the house. Almost makes housecleaning pleasant.

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  5. Thanks for the great interview, Jeri! So fun to read (“like on rubies” = ha). Congratulations on all of your success (and your future successes). Must say, I can’t wait to read the Kylie Strange series (you had me at Buffy + Grimm…and if someone in Hollywood were very very smart, they’d buy the movie rights for that immediately).

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