Jeri Westerson‘s imagination spans worlds – literally, in that this mistress of mystery writes everything from “Medieval Noir” to paranormal werewolves. Of course, in Jeri’s worlds, these wild imaginings make sense, whether she’s got series hero Crispin Guest on the hunt for a religious relic or a surfer dude dealing with a werewolf problem. I confess, I know Jeri through her medieval books – I love a believable, lived-in historical and what could be better than a disgraced knight as a sleuth? But after chatting with her, I’m ready to take on the paranormal, too. And you? What’s your favorite?
How does a book start for you?
Sometimes, a stray idea. A bit of dialogue that appears out of nowhere. For the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir mysteries, it’s often with the murder or the religious relic that I want to use in the story. As I moved on in that series, the relic became less important and the murder and what it meant to the characters became more important.
With my paranormals, it’s the premise. A magical Booke that wreaks havoc by releasing creatures into the world. That was from Booke of the Hidden, and my latest is a spin-off from it, a guy with a werewolf problem who just wants to live his life as a surfer and a bit of a player, but must contend with his new life as a werewolf and forced to solve some murders along the way. That one is Moonrisers.
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
Crispin always surprises me. He’s gone through so many changes in the thirteen books (so far) of his series. I’ve often said that a series is like the longest ever novel, because you can take the time to really bring your characters through some life-changing experiences, where they can either grow or break…or sometimes a little of both.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
My latest is Moonrisers; A Werewolf Mystery, set in modern-day Huntington Beach. The main character, Jeff Chase, is a spin-off character from my first paranormal series, Booke of the Hidden. He was the boyfriend of the main character of THAT series, Kylie Strange, and he went to Maine where she’d moved to to win her back. In the course of the novels he gets bitten by a werewolf and his whole life changes. So in his series, he comes back home to Huntington Beach to resume his life as a surfer and tea and spice shop proprietor. I chose Huntington Beach because it’s a beach area in SoCal, an unlikely place to find supernatural activity, and I am familiar with the beaches in southern California. And since the book is in Jeff’s point-of-view, we get to experience “Surf City” as he does, and perhaps are just as surprised as he is to discover a werewolf pack that lives there, along with a Voodoo coven. So it makes for a lot of fun and situational humor.
What are you working on now?
The penultimate Crispin Guest novel, Spiteful Bones His series will come to an end with the book after this one, The Deadliest Sin. It’s a bittersweet moment for me. Crispin got me published and I have enjoyed his journey, but I always planned a last book just so the stories wouldn’t get stale or repetitive. I know I’ve read other series where I felt the author should have ended them sooner, that they went on a little too long. And I didn’t want that for Crispin. Besides, it’s time to write other things, mostly paranormal, which was a first love of mine way back in college, when I used to devour all manner of science fiction and fantasy. Some will also be mysteries, and there is even a crossover of medieval, mystery, and paranormal in the works.
I also have a steampunk/Neo-Victorian/Gaslamp series I’m working on. I released the first of the Enchanter Chronicles with The Daemon Device last year. My protagonist is a magician of Jewish/Gypsy blood who is ashamed of that heritage but uses his research into the Kabbalah to summon Jewish daemons in order to perform true magic. He gets involved in solving some mysteries for Scotland Yard and stopping villains from opening the gates of Gehenna in this three-book series. In fact, I need to work on and release this year the second in the series, The Clockwork Gypsy, so that will also keep me busy.
What question should I have asked you?
Had you always wanted to be a writer?
Hell no. I wanted to be an actress. But in college I went to some real world auditions and discovered how brutal they were, disparaging your physical attributes right in front of you. I said no to that, and changed majors to…graphic design, and became a successful graphic artist in Los Angeles for fifteen years. It was only later when I semi-retired to have a baby and tried to get back into advertising after a two-year hiatus that I discovered I needed yet ANOTHER career (the whole graphics industry had changed over to computers, and I hadn’t. It would have been too expensive to buy a Mac and take classes). So I opted for the other thing I liked to do that my husband knew nothing about; writing novels. I had written for years without him knowing, and when I told him that I’d like to try my hand at being a historical novelist, he was very supportive. But he did have to ask, “Do you…WRITE novels?”
Los Angeles native JERI WESTERSON is the author of thirteen Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery novels, a series nominated for thirteen national awards from the Agatha to the Shamus. Her fifth novel BLOOD LANCE was named one of the Ten Hot Crime Novels for Colder Days by Kirkus Reviews, and her sixth, SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST, was named Best of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. Library Journal has twice honored her series with starred reviews: “Westerson skillfully lulls her sleuth and the reader into a sense of ‘I know what is going on,’ then zings them with the truth. Absolutely first-class; highly recommended,” while Boston Globe calls her detective “A medieval Sam Spade, a tough guy who operates according to his own moral compass.” The Historical Novel Society has twice made her books Editor’s Choice and thriller author John Lescroart calls her books, “Creative and enthralling… Medieval history combined with modern suspense.” For BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN, her urban fantasy series, Publishers Weekly said, “Readers sad about the ending of Charlaine Harris’s MIDNIGHT, TEXAS trilogy will find some consolation in Moody Bog.” Jeri recently released the first in her historical fantasy/steampunk Enchanter Chronicles trilogy, THE DAEMON DEVICE. She is also awaiting the upcoming release of MOONRISERS, her first in a werewolf mystery series. She also has short stories in several mystery anthologies, including Shaken: Stories for Japan (for the 2011 Earthquake Relief Fund). Jeri was also featured on three local NPR shows, “My Awesome Empire”, “Lifestyles with Lillian Vasquez”, and “KVCR-Arts”. She has served two terms as president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, twice president of the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and one term as vice president and California Crime Writers Conference co-chair for the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. See more about Jeri at JeriWesterson.com