Monday, March 16, 2009
Guest Blogger Jeri Westerson in the Manor!
Everyone please give a warm LIT welcome to today's guest blogger, Jeri Westerson, author of VEIL OF LIES! Jeri's going to talk about making the Middle Ages sexy--YUM! She's also going to be giving away a signed copy of VEIL OF LIES to one randomly selected commenter, so be sure and check back later to see if you've won!
Jeri, take it away.....
The Sexy Middle Ages?
I am very grateful to be a guest blogger today on Lust in Time. Though I do write historicals, they aren’t romance. I write medieval mysteries, and though the primary focus is not on romance per say, there are romantic elements to the book. VEIL OF LIES is my debut, and when I sculpted this series I knew it had to have a really great detective to stand above the crowd of other medieval mysteries. There are nuns and monks aplenty who solve crimes in the Middle Ages, but my detective, Crispin Guest, is definitely no monk.
First and foremost, I wanted Crispin to be a knight, or more accurately, an ex-knight. He lost it all--wealth, status, knighthood--when he committed treason. So you can understand that he might be a wee bit cranky under the circumstances. Left with nothing but the clothes on his back and banished from court, he makes his way on the mean streets of 14th century London as a private eye, earning the hard-won sixpence a day...plus expenses.
He’s a sexy fellow, to be sure, using his fighting skills, his intellect, and the occasional foray into the sack with a lovely femme fatale.. A man’s gotta solve the crime somehow.
The medieval setting is for real and so is the history. John of Gaunt, the venerable duke of Lancaster is Crispin’s mentor and even Geoffrey Chaucer will make an appearance in a future volume. The sensibilities are medieval. And murder is universal. But one of the reasons I settled on writing about this time period is the intriguing, romantic nature of the Middle Ages.
I mean, right off the bat, a girl notices the clothes. Am I right? Flowing gowns, veils, wimples. And despite some anachronistic book covers, there was no low cut décolletage. Not yet. We had to wait around for the Renaissance to get that started. No, we had wonderful cote-hardies and gowns with long sleeves that touched the ground with embroidery and fur and jewels sewn into the bodice. That’s where it starts for most of us.
Then for some of us, it’s men in tights and, let’s face it, cod pieces. But before we get too crude here, we can move directly on to armor. Some women like a man in uniform but I’m the type to like them in armor. From toe to helm. Because a man in armor means business. He’s armed, he’s ready for a fight, and there’s no backing down. Just smell the testosterone! And it’s just plain mythology that he couldn’t move in armor. A knight in full harness, as it’s called, could leap, dance, roll, mount a horse (and in the case of John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur, mount a few other things). In short, he could do anything he needed to do. Except swim. Not really recommended.
A knight is a formidable example of what we might call “masculinity” and is therefore prey to all the symbols and Freudian whatnots we care to scramble together. Plainly, it’s sexy. Throw in a sword or a lance and the Freudians are having their very own hootenanny.
Notice we haven’t even touched on the historical events of the era. I was just getting to that. I was certainly always a history buff. I grew up in a household of rabid Anglophile parents who breathed the Middle Ages. Dinner table conversation consisted on the finer points of the British monarchy. So what else was I gonna write about? The intricacies of history and warfare of the period intrigued. And though war is never sexy, we do have jousts, fake war if you will, with man and beast against another man and beast. The ultimate contest of power. If that ain’t sexy...
But there are also other absorbing aspects of the era (and a long era it was. Usually when discussing the Middle Ages, we are talking about roughly one thousand years, from AD 500 to 1500). Borders changed like the tides. Technology (yes, technology. Eyeglasses, gunpowder, compasses, buttons and button holes, printing press, to name a few) changed and spread. Religion—Islam began around the 7th century—changed the face of Europe and Asia. Court intrigues, murders, machinations, usurping kings; what’s not to like?
Sexy? You bet. With marriages arranged and mistresses on the side, there was more going on in the bedrooms than on the battlefields. And some of those born on the wrong side of the blanket formed dynasties of their own. Yes, there is a lot about the Middle Ages to keep anyone steeped in stories for a long time to come. At least I sure hope so.
Pop on over to my blog www.Getting-Medieval.com for articles on history and mystery and to my website www.JeriWesterson.com for a peek into the first chapter of VEIL OF LIES. And even Crispin has his own blog at www.CrispinGuest.com.
Noir and hard-boiled fiction seem to be in Jeri Westerson’s blood. She was born and bred on the mean streets of Los Angeles, inhaling smog and enduring earthquakes. Newspaper reporter, would-be actress, graphic artist; these are the things she spent her time on before becoming a novelist. She took all that gritty edginess and plunked it into the Middle Ages, creating the newest hard-boiled detective, Crispin Guest; disgraced knight turned PI, solving crimes on the mean streets of 14th century London in her debut Medieval Noir, VEIL OF LIES. Booklist says, “...this authentically detailed medieval mystery has an intriguingly dark edge.” Library Journal gave it a starred review: “...Westerson's mystery debut is a brilliant tale of survival in a hostile environment, where anything can lead to death...Highly recommended.” Historical Novel Society Review made it an Editor’s Choice title: “...To say Veil of Lies is a remarkable novel doesn’t do the book justice. Just when the plot seems set on a fixed course, the author deftly arranges another neat surprise and keeps the pages turning...” Look for the next in the series SERPENT IN THE THORNS this fall.
Jeri, thanks so much for joining us today! I'm so looking forward to reading VEIL OF LIES! It sounds simply wonderful.