|Suspense Magazine presents
|Everyone get ready for this, mark your calendars for October 28th, 2008
and the release of Veil of Lies, by Jeri Westerson. We have read it and
you better get it, otherwise you are missing a truly fantastic story! Jeri
Westerson is one of the reasons we decided to start this section. Jeri
had us mesmerized by her fantastic book. This is book one of the
Crispin Guest series.
You can read 4 Chapters of this book on her website, click on the book
image to take you there.
|More Sam Spade than Brother Cadfael
Not your average Medieval Mystery,
VEIL OF LIES breathes new life into a
popular genre usually populated by
monks and nuns. And Crispin--an
ex-knight turned criminal
investigator--is certainly no monk.
Exclusive Interview with Jeri Westerson
Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration?
I had many authors inspire me over the years, but I would have to say that my first inspiration was J.R.
R. Tolkein. I was always writing stories when I was a kid, since the first moment I could pick up a
crayon. But in high school when I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy I was truly
inspired by this enveloping sort of writing, of this world-building that took in so many of the myths
and legends that I already enjoyed (having grown up in a household of rabid Anglophiles with a hunger
for history). It was in high school that I wrote my first novel. Four hundred pages...in long hand! And
then for many years after, I wrote Tolkein-esque fantasy novels. Just for fun. It never occurred to me
to cultivate this interest into a career till much later in life. It was just a hobby, just something I did for
What is your all-time favorite book?
This is a real toughy. I don't know that I can point to any one book. How about this list instead?
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (of course!)
The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier
The Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers
Arturo Perez-Reverte, mostly The Seville Communion, The Club Dumas, The Flanders Panel
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Little Prince by Antoine Saint Exupery--I was so obsessed with this little book when I was in high
school I wrote a play based on it.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The complete works of William Shakespeare...by Edward DeVere
But I suppose if I had to pick one, it would have to be The Maltese Falcon. Is there a more readable
book? The voices and action are so clear in your head, and not just because of the remarkable John
Huston movie. I love wonderful prose—as you find in Arturo Perez-Reverte—but Hammett's is spare
without being too Spartan. All that is necessary is included. And I just love the characters.
How long do you normally take to research your book?
I have the advantage of ten years worth of experience writing and researching historical novels before I
switched to writing historical mysteries, so I could pull a lot of facts out of my pocket. But before I
write each book, I like to give myself a solid month of researching some specifics (archery, if the story
has that as a central theme, for example. Perhaps certain people who show up in the novels. They
need special attention and exploration). And, of course, I continue to research as particular questions
come up during the writing.
What is on your Ipod now?
Train, Queen, Cole Porter, Fisher, Moody Blues…I have eclectic tastes. But when I'm writing, I listen to
medieval music or movie soundtracks. My favorites to write to are the Kenneth Branagh Henry V, The
Lion in Winter, and The Mists of Avalon.
Do you have any superstitions when you write, little quirks, etc?
Many, many years ago, I had to write in long hand. With a pencil. On a yellow notepad. I wouldn't
dream of writing in long hand now. Thank goodness these superstitions didn't cross over to the idea
of Writing As A Career.
If you could solve any mystery for yourself, what would it be?
Who wrote Shakespeare's plays!
If you could talk to any person, Alive or Dead, for one hour, who would it be?
Mr. Shakespeare. I want to know what a day in the life of one of the King's Men was like.
I love to hear stories from authors about their first published book, how did you
get it done?
This was a fourteen year journey. How much time have you got? But seriously, I started writing
historical fiction fourteen years ago. But I couldn't get arrested let alone published. Historical fiction is
a very tough market to break into. I didn't want to take the advice of a former agent who told me to
write medieval mysteries. My attitude was: I don't know how to write a medieval mystery, I don't want
to write a medieval mystery, I'm not gonna write a medieval mystery. But after more years of rejection
I bloody well learned to write a medieval mystery. But I didn't take my cue from the original: The
Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters. I think that's why I balked. I couldn't possibly write that kind
of mystery. It seemed too intimidating. But when I sat down to think about what kind of medieval
mystery I did want to write, I began to get the idea that plunking a hard-boiled detective into the
Middle Ages would be a lot of fun. I actually thought about it for about two years. And finally—after
picking apart books like The Maltese Falcon—I came to the conclusion that I could write a medieval
mystery. Just write one my way. And that's when I created my own subgenre: Medieval Noir. It is a
darker, edgier take on the average medieval mystery with a hard-boiled loner detective, a man who had
been stripped of everything that defined him. Crispin Guest is an ex-knight, dispossessed and
degraded, without a title or wealth. And he has to make a living on the mean streets of 14th century
London by his wits alone. And so he reinvents himself as the Tracker, solving crimes for six pence a
Now in The Maltese Falcon, there is the element of the McGuffin, the thing that everyone tries to get
their hands on that propels the story. I put that element in my novels, but in this case, they are
religious relics, different items in each book. They either play a very important role or become just
another red herring and it's awfully fun coming up with them and how exactly they do play in the story.
The first book I wrote in the series had the misfortune to involve the Holy Grail in its plotline...just as
The Da Vinci Code hit the bookstores. Now you'd think this would help me but in fact, it had the
opposite effect. Editors didn't want to appear as if they were jumping on a bandwagon, and so it went
the rounds of the publishers until my agent and I determined that we had to put that one to bed.
Fortunately, as soon as I finish one novel, I tend to just start writing the next, so I already had three
Crispin Guest novels completed when the first was permanently shelved. I was also aware that many
firsts in mystery series don't get sold, so I wrote the second one with the idea that it might become
It so happened that as my agent and I bid farewell to the first book, that an editor at St. Martin's—
who had rejected the first one about 18 months earlier—contacted my agent asking about me. He
"couldn't get the characters out of his head" and did I have another in the series he could read? That
was Veil of Lies. So Veil—only just delivered to my agent's desk—was sent off to St. Martin's, and in
two weeks, I had a contract. So it only took fourteen years and two weeks. J
What future plans can you tell us about?
St. Martin's just bought the second in the series called Serpent in the Thorns. The fourth in the series
is already written and I am currently writing the third. I am very much hoping this series is on its way.
But I am also in the "thinking" stages of a second medieval mystery series that I think readers of the
Crispin Guest series will also like. Haven't written anything in it yet, but it's beginning to make itself
known to me.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do for fun?
I like to travel, particularly camping. I like to go wine tasting, and we live very close to a wine region
here in southern California. And my husband recently bought me a bow and I hope to take up archery
again...after a forty year hiatus.