Author Spotlight: Nancy Herriman

Nancy Herriman

Today I’m thrilled to welcome author Nancy Herriman to Reade and Write. Besides being a great singer, Nancy is a fabulous mystery author who pens the “A Mystery of Old San Francisco” series and the Bess Ellyott Mystery series. She’s joining me here today to talk about her upcoming release, No Darkness as like Death, book 4 in the ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’ series.

No Darkness as like Death (A Mystery of Old San Francisco Book 4) by [Nancy Herriman]

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you might remember that Nancy has been here before. She talked about the third book in the San Francisco mysteries, No Quiet Among the Shadows, here. And I highly recommended the first two books in the series, No Comfort for the Lost (here) and No Pity for the Dead (here).

I think it’s obvious that I love Nancy’s books. I’ve preordered No Darkness As Like Death and I’m looking forward to its arrival on my ereader on April 6, 2021.

Welcome, Nancy!

The books in your ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’ series takes place during a specific time period in San Francisco’s history (late 1860s). Why did you choose this particular period? Were there other time periods you considered? Why did you decide not to go with one of those?

The specific year my books are set in—1867—happened by chance. I’d been researching various events during the Victorian era and came upon an article about the beginnings of the anti-Chinese movement. The article gave me the idea for the murder that occurs in Book 1, No Comfort for the Lost, and dictated the year.

Can you give us a quick recap of the first three books in the series?

I’ll try! My main sleuth is Celia Davies, an English nurse who has taken over the care of her orphaned niece. Celia’s husband has left her to find riches elsewhere, and she turns to running a free women’s clinic in the city. She becomes involved in solving murders when one of her Chinese patients is found dead in the bay. She expects the police won’t be interested in discovering who killed the young woman, given her ethnicity. Surprisingly, Detective Nicholas Greaves is keen to see justice done. After that murderer is uncovered, Celia has no plans to continue sleuthing. But when a dead body is found in the basement of a close friend’s business, and the friend is suspected, she insists on getting involved in the case. In the next book, the private investigator she’d hired to locate her husband is killed, an investigation that entangles both her and Nick in the world of spiritualism and seances.

What kinds of resources did you use to research this book?

Fortunately for me, there is a great deal of reference material available online for San Francisco in specific and California in general. I’ve used archived newspapers, digitized books—especially when researching some of the details about the ‘water cure’ and how photography was practiced at this time—online maps and miscellaneous other items. Research has become much simpler in the internet age, that’s for sure.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned while doing the research for the book?

I chose a water cure facility as the location for the crime in No Darkness as like Death and enjoyed learning about them. These institutions touted their ability to cure all manner of ills through cold (or steam) bathing, drinking fresh cold water, massages, and strict diets. Which is not the craziest of treatments for that time period, and to me sounds rather modern and even sensible. These facilities promised greater curative results than they could actually deliver, though.

What are some of the things you learned that didn’t make it into the book?

I’d intended to include some research I’d done on medical batteries. This treatment involves having a ‘practitioner’ give you a series of shocks over different parts of your body, depending on what’s being ‘healed.’ It was quite the rage in the 19th century, but the practice ended up not working for this particular book.

Do you have a special connection with San Francisco that made you decide to write about the city?

Nothing more than a love for a city I’ve often visited and find endlessly fascinating. Besides its great history, San Francisco has always been filled with a host of interesting characters and makes for a great setting.

Do you read a lot of historical mysteries? If so, can you recommend some of your favorites?

My favorites are the Falco series by Lindsey Davis and the late Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books. I’ve recently taken up reading novels by authors who wrote in the 1920s and ‘30s, and currently have a Dorothy L. Sayers mystery on my bedside table.

Do you think your background in engineering helps your writing at all?

At the beginning of my career, I think my background was a bit of a hindrance. I kept imagining I could plan my way into a completed novel. I’ve had to learn to limit my pre-planning and plotting and basically just let the process happen.

Many authors have a character “bible,” or a history/biography of a character’s life that helps the author maintain consistency for that character throughout a series. Most of the things in a character bible never make it into a book because they’re for the author’s use only. Do you use a character bible? Can you tell us something about Celia or Nick that no one else knows?

My character ‘bible’ might be more aptly described as a character notecard. I admit that I’m not the best at keeping track of everyone’s characteristics or back-stories. That said, I did develop a rather thorough background for both Nick and Celia that I’ve only touched upon. I would like to more deeply explore the death of Nick’s sister Meg in a future book. There is a mystery to it I’ve not previously mentioned.

What’s next for Celia and Nick?

I’m presently working on the next book in the series, title not yet decided upon. It is scheduled to be published in the spring of 2022.

To visit Nancy’s website, click here. You can learn more about her, her books, and order them for yourself!

Nancy Herriman’s bio

Nancy Herriman retired from an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. Her work has won the Daphne du Maurier award, and Publishers Weekly has said her ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’ series “…brings 1867 San Francisco to vivid life.” Her most recent release is NO DARKNESS AS LIKE DEATH. She is also the author of the Bess Ellyott Mystery series set in Tudor England. When not writing, she enjoys singing, gabbing about writing, and eating dark chocolate. She currently lives in central Ohio. 

Thanks for being my guest here today, Nancy.

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: September Edition

This was another great month for great books! I’ve got seven to share with you this week, and I’m well into the first book that I’ll share with you at the end of October.

I hope you’ll share your own reads in the comments below!

The first book of the month was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I wish I had read this book when it was first published in 2008. There’s more wisdom and inspiration packed into this this volume than I would have thought possible. Randy Pausch gave his last lecture shortly before he passed away from pancreatic cancer, and this book was his gift to his children. I think it should be required reading for college students—and everyone else. Fair warning: it’s a tear-jerker. Read my review here.

 

Lou's Tattoos: A Comedy of Errors by [Iris Chacon]

I knew I would enjoy Lou’s Tattoos, A Comedy of Errors by Iris Chacon before the first page. I’ve loved every book I’ve read by Iris Chacon. Her characters are well-drawn and quirky, her scenarios are delightfully far-fetched yet plausible, and they are just so much fun to read. I read this in one sitting, as I recall I did with the last book I read by her…it seems to be a habit of mine when I read her books. Read my review here.

 

The Lions of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by [Fiona Davis]

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis is a book that will have library and architecture lovers swooning at the descriptions of the New York Public Library in the early twentieth century. The book slides between 1913 (and a few years afterward) and the late 1990s, and I enjoyed the different points of view. Read my review here.

 

Very British Problems Abroad

You may recall that I read Very British Problems by Rob Temple back in January (you can read the post here). And while Very British Problems Abroad wasn’t quite as funny as the first book, it was still quite an enjoyable read. My review can be found here.

 

The Innocents (The Innocents Mystery Series Book 1) by [C. A. Asbrey]

The Innocents by C.A. Asbrey was the kind of book I’d love to read again because I enjoyed it that much. It was fun, there were some laugh-out-loud moments, it was exciting, and I loved that the main characters were so taken with each other, though on different sides of the law. I highly recommend this one. Read my review here.

 

Florence Adler Swims Forever: A Novel by [Rachel Beanland]

Next up was the book club read you all chose! Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland was a fascinating read, made even more interesting for me and, I suspect, the people in my book club, because we live so close to Atlantic City, where the story takes place in the 1930s. To recap the plot if you don’t recall, it’s the story of a young woman who drowns off the coast of Atlantic City and the decision by her mother to keep her death a secret from the young woman’s sister, who is in the hospital on strict bed rest for a high-risk pregnancy. You all did a great job picking this book! Read my review here

 

Hearth Fires (The Haunted Book 1) by [Bibiana Krall, Veronica Cline Barton]

Hearth Fires, Book 1 in The Haunted series, is a collection of short stories by Bibiana Krall and Veronica Cline Barton. Full disclosure, these are the two terrific ladies with whom I share the BookEm show on YouTube. I love their writing styles, which are very different from each other, and this book was a fun way to get into the spirit of Halloween. With their Ouija board themes, these stories are spooky, dark, and atmospheric. Read my review here

So what have you been reading?

Until next time,

Amy

The Cape May Historical Mystery Collection

As you may have heard a hundred times by now, my next book is called Cape Menace: A Cape May Historical Mystery. This is the first book in my new Cape May Historical Mysteries Collection.

I thought I’d use my post today to tell you a little more about the collection. As of now, I am planning to include at least seven mysteries in the collection. The books will span the length of Cape May’s history between 1712 and the World War II era. Each book will be a standalone, so there is no need to read them in any particular order. Each book will feature different characters and focus on mysteries that are unrelated.

I am really excited about this project. My husband has been asking me for years to write about the area where we live in New Jersey, and I have found the research fascinating. I’m learning so much—the amount of information I didn’t know about Cape May County could fill volumes!

Here’s a little more about the Cape Menace:

Sarah Hanover and her parents, Ruth and William, left behind their life in England and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the English colonies in 1710, settling in the colony that had only recently been named New Jersey. Until the very early eighteenth century, the area had been known as East Jersey and West Jersey. It was in 1702 that the two provinces were joined.

In December of 1712, Sarah’s mother disappears without a trace. Sarah is convinced that her mother met a violent death when she came upon a wolf in the woods near their home, but as Sarah is to later discover, there were other—more sinister—forces at work at the time of Ruth’s disappearance.

It is just over two years later, in 1714, when Sarah experiences tragedy again, this time one that forces her to take a hard look at the secrets her father kept from her. She is beset by questions about the mysterious stranger with whom her father was doing business, the whispers she keeps hearing about her mother’s disappearance, and her own safety as she starts asking questions about what happened to Ruth.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Cape Menace and if you do, I hope you enjoy it. The ebook is available for preorder now (link to Google Play TBA), and the paperback version will be available very soon. I will keep you posted. If you’re interested, click this link to be directed to preorder at your favorite online retailer.

Thank you!

Until next time,

Amy

Susan Whitfield Interview

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This week I would like to welcome Susan Whitfield, the prolific author of the Logan Hunter Mystery series, Slightly Cracked (women’s fiction) and Killer Recipes (cookbook). She’s here today to talk about her writing and her new book, a work of historical fiction called Sprig of Broom. Nice to have you here on Reade and Write, Susan!

Tell me about your new book.

Sprig of Broom is historical fiction.

Sprig of Broom is a coming-of-age novel about Geoffrey Plantagenet, a count, who at the age of 15 marries King Henry’s daughter, Empress Matilda, and fathers the dynasty of Plantagenet kings. The story begins with the count on his journey to Rouen in Normandy to be knighted, thus becoming a Knight of the Bath. From Rouen, he and the king’s entourage travel to LeMans where Geoffrey is wed to Matilda. And the loathing begins . . .

Sir Geoffrey Plantagenet has much to learn, and over the course of his life’s journey he develops a better understanding of himself, fathers a long line of kings, endures adversaries—especially his own wife—and boldly faces the world of chaos around him.

Who is the audience for the book?

Since I’m a multi-genre author, I hope my readership will follow but I expect historical fiction buffs will be the primary audience.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I discovered that I have an ancestor who was a Knight of the Bath in the 12th century. Geoffrey V Plantagenet, a count from Anjou in the duchy of Normandy married King Henry’s daughter, Matilda, and fathered Henry II, beginning the long line of Plantagenet kings of England. He was 15 and Matilda was 26 and previously married. They despised each other but vowed to give the king male heirs. This opened an intriguing door for my imagination. I read over thirty books from that time period and several that focused on the Plantagenets themselves.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

What a challenge! I have written five mysteries and a women’s fiction and made it all up. This was the first time that I felt I had to know as much accurate history about these characters as I could find and about the time period, how they talked, where they travelled, the clothing, food, etc. Once I had established the true history I went back and let my imagination fill in the unknown gaps. Believability was important to me. Writing scenes of conflict between Geoffrey and Matilda was my favorite part of the process.

Have you written any other books?

I wrote five novels in the Logan Hunter Mystery series, women’s fiction, Slightly Cracked, and authored a unique cookbook, Killer Recipes.

Do you write every day? 

In one way or another. If I’m not literally writing, I’m working something out in my head.

When you read a book, what authors do you like best? What genres do you like best?

I read a wide variety of genres and authors.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Don’t let anyone talk you out of writing what you feel. Become the character. Work through the hurdles and focus on each character, the setting and the plot at different times.

What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Don’t wait until you’re in your fifties to start writing seriously!

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to? 

I live in North Carolina and set all my books here except Sprig of Broom, of course.

Where can readers connect with you?

www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com

www.susanwhitfieldonline.com

Where can readers find your books?

They can find hard copies at www.Amazon.com and all e-reader formats at www.smashwords.com. Books can also be purchased with credit card or PayPal on my site.

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Until next week,

Amy

Book Recommendation: No Comfort for the Lost

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This week I’m highlighting a book I’ve waited a long time to read.

No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman is a beautifully written, historically fascinating look at the underside of 1867 San Francisco. It is the captivating story of Celia Davies, an English-born nurse living in the city and caring for its most unwanted residents–in many cases, the Chinese women and girls forced to work as prostitutes in the seedier parts of town. The reader is introduced to San Francisco as it existed 150 years ago–expanding, dirty, bustling, beautiful.

Celia is the guardian of her half-Chinese cousin Barbara, whose father passed away leaving them a home and leaving Celia a bit of money she uses to run her free health clinic. Barbara, besides being a member of a hated ethnic group in San Francisco, has health problems which prevent her from moving quickly or deftly. She occasionally helps Celia with her patients, but is sometimes not able to help as she would like.

When a former Chinese prostitute, a friend of Celia and Barbara, is found murdered, Celia takes it upon herself to attempt to figure out the culprit because certain members of the San Francisco Police Department have shown reluctance to spend too much time on crimes involving Chinese victims. Luckily, Celia finds a sympathetic detective, Nicholas Greaves, who is interested in the plight of the victim and who, despite the warnings from his overbearing and very unpleasant boss, is willing to invest police time and resources to find the perpetrator. With a past which is only hinted at in the book, Greaves has a soft spot for underdogs and a personal need to do the right thing. And he has a soft spot for Celia, too, despite (or perhaps because of?) her stubborn pig-headedness, which can only be described as both endearing and maddening.

As the story progresses, we find that the list of suspects is growing and that the people Celia and Barbara know and trust are not always what they seem (it wouldn’t be a mystery otherwise, would it?). I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I suspected almost everyone in the book before being completely surprised by the ending.

I loved the book. I loved the descriptions of old San Francisco, the antiquated medical methods described to treat injuries and illness, and the story of Li Sha’s murder and its aftermath. Not only that, but one of the scariest undercurrents running through the book is the bigotry experienced by Chinese immigrants during the 19th century. In many ways, the issue has echoed down the years and still exists today, even in presidential politics in the United States. I was struck while reading the book of the similarities between 1867 San Francisco and the present day worldwide.

Nancy Herriman has a way with language and uses it in a way that evokes an older time and is still immensely readable and enjoyable. The amount of research that must have gone into No Comfort for the Lost is obvious and breathtaking in its depth. But besides all that, there are the backstory mysteries–what happened to Nicholas Greaves’ sister? What happened to Celia’s husband, Patrick?

And the very best part? There’s another Celia Davies book on the way! It’s called No Pity for the Dead and it will be released in August, 2016. I will be in line to pre-order it!

Full disclosure: Nancy Herriman is a friend, but as you know from previous posts, if I hadn’t liked her book I simply wouldn’t have recommended it.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. If you’re interested in visiting Nancy Herriman online, her website is www.nancyherriman.com.

A Review: The Plum Tree

For those of you who have been reading my blog, you may remember that one of the books on my TBR (to-be-read) list was The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman. I’ve finished reading it and I hope you’ll read it, too.

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The Plum Tree is a beautiful story about a young woman, Christine, who lives in Germany during World War II. She is in love with a young Jewish man, the son of her employer, and the horrors of the Third Reich and pre-war Germany begin early in the story. Christine’s journey of love and loss and hope is heart-wrenching; the reader easily forgets that this is a work of historical fiction, not a memoir. The story is filled with characters and events that seem so real and so close that one is sure that there must be a real Christine out there and Ellen Marie Wiseman has somehow read her mind and put Christine’s feelings onto the page, into words that are at once touching and terrifying.

More than once I had to put the book down because I didn’t want to read what came next, like the scene where a little boy is torn from his mother’s arms upon their arrival at Dachau. More than once I gasped out loud because of my revulsion over what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust, making my own children ask what in the world I was reading that was having such an effect on me. More than once I flipped ahead (I know, I know) because I couldn’t stand not knowing who would live and who would die.

But I always went back because I had to read the rest of the story.

And the story didn’t end where I expected it to. It introduced me to the shocking conditions that existed in Germany after the war ended, something I’d never thought much about. It reminded me that innocent Germans suffered, too; many of them paid a steep price simply because they were German.

If you’ve ever read Sarah’s Key, you’ve experienced the haunting feelings that linger after you’ve read the last paragraph of The Plum Tree. It’s a book that will stay with me, as I’m sure it will stay with anyone who reads it. I think it would be an excellent reading selection for a high school history or English class.

Next up from Ellen Marie Wiseman: What She Left Behind. If it’s anywhere near as good as her first book, I’ll love it.