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 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 d├ęcolletage. 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 for articles on history and mystery and to my website for a peek into the first chapter of VEIL OF LIES. And even Crispin has his own blog at

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.


Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

Jeri, thanks SO much for joining us today! I'm reading VEIL OF LIES right now, and totally loving it. It's *so* different from anything I've read before--I love the 'noir' tone!

Out of curiosity, who are some of your favorite authors? Who do you read for fun?

ranearia said...

Welcome to the Manor Ms.Westerson

A detective in shining armor! So cool!

How were these men (and women?) hired in the middle ages? And what were some well known middle ages detecives?

Charlotte Featherstone said...

First a warning. I'm just waking up from three hours of sleep after working 12hr nights~typos will abound in this post! lol!

jeri, what a unique premise you've come up with (and am VERY glad there are going to be future installments) Normally, I don't venture out of romance in my reading experience, but I've ordered Veil of Lies and am very eager to dive in. Cripin (love the name!) is really rather intriguing! I also love what you've done with your website.

Now, just wondering how you went about researching this. I know you mentioned that talk of the middle ages were ingrained in your family life, but did you do anything specific for this book and series?

Also, what was your favorite part of writing Veil of Lies!

Incidently, I JUST picked up mail and Veil was there waiting for me. I leave for a few days vacation tomorrow and am bringing it bringing ti with me!

Thanks for visiting.

Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

And, ohhhhh, you mentioned the movie Excalibur! I LOVE that movie. So visually stunning, so sexy, and the music!

Now I think I might have to go order it on DVD. It's been too long since I've seen it.

Jeri Westerson said...

Hi Kristina and thanks for having me.

Many of my fav authors--in mystery--are those of the past, like Chandler, Hammett, and Dorothy Hughes. Those are the hardboiled/noir influence. As far as other mystery, Ellis Peters with her Brother Cadfael series which introduced me to medieval mystery and Dorothy Sayers because Lord Peter is all about character.

I was raised on many historical fiction authors, like Thomas B. Costain, Nora Lofts, Anja Seton, and Roberta Gellis who is still going strong and writing romances and all sorts of things!

Jeri Westerson said...

Hi Ranearia,

It must be said that there were no private detectives in the middle ages. This was simply my conceit of "what if." What if such a man had lost everything? What might he do to make his way in the world and satisfy his deep sense of honor?

When crime happened in London, there were two sheriffs appointed to keep the peace. And if the crime were not solved quickly it was likely it never would be.

Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

I love Roberta Gellis...such a grand lady!

And since my last comment, I've gone and downloaded "O Fortuna" from the Excalibur soundtrack to my iTunes, LOL!

I bet it'll make a good 'soundtrack' to read Veil of Lies to!

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Excalibur was one of my FAV movies growing up! My hubby bought me my DVD just a few months ago. I've watched it so many times since I got it. Just love it. I remember sitting on the couch just being in awe of the visuals. I mean, who doesn't love a man in armor! Grrrr

Amanda McIntyre said...

when Kristi mentioned you coming for a visit, I hopped over to your website and form the moment I started reading the excerpt was sucked in. What a fascinating premise! I love it!
I share your passion for the medieval time period, early middle ages to be exact, when the Celts, Romans, Scots, Picts and a bevy of others were all roaming Britannia, looking to weld their power. This was the time that legends were forged!

I envy your family dinner table! LOL True what else would you write about! You mentioned Excalibur (wonderful flick!) another good one for spies, lies and treachery is The Name of the Rose w/ Sean Connery!

It is lovely to have you here!

Amanda McIntyre

Jeri Westerson said...

Hi Charlotte,

I went about researching this novel like any other: carefully. I had a lot of info under my belt, but there are always details to suss out and people in particular to research. I like to use real people as periphery characters and focus on the fictional. In historical fiction, the focus is mostly on the real people and hardly any stories on fictional people placed in a certain time (which is probably why I didn't find any success in my historical novels before I switched to mystery). But I've always been more interested in the everyday Joe, how he coped and what his life was like. I get to do that with Crispin. It's not all ermine and fine clothes.

Research involves a lot of time in libraries, usually my local university library which has the books I need. I also communicate with archivists in England by email and these folks are most generous with their time. There is also an email list of historians, scholars, and professors of medieval history that I have belonged to for well over a decade and every now and then I pose a question to the list.

My favorite part of writing Veil is dialogue. Mostly between Crispin and Lancaster...and any kind of villain dialogue. You never get to talk that way in real life. Or, at least if you did, someone would lock you up!

Jeri Westerson said...

Thanks Amanda,

Excalibur is a wild film! Nicol Williamson really chews the scenery, doesn't he? And Helen Mirrin as Morgaine! The fellow who plays Arthur is also the actor who played Prince John in the Lion in Winter, my all time favorite medieval flick.

Jeri Westerson said...

Speaking of soundtracks, I do listen to a variety. Some of the best soundtracks come from some of the worst medieval movies, unfortunately. I like the soundtrack to Kingdom of Heaven, Mists of Avalon, and for a good movie, Henry V (Kenneth Brannagh). I do listen occasionally to the Karmina Burana (in which O Fortuna is one song/movement). And the Medeaval Baebes is my favorite group (one of their songs is what plays on Crispin's blog)!

Charlotte Featherstone said...

I'll confess to loving the Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack! lol! I wrote some of Addicted to it.

Barbara said...

Hi, Jeri & the ladies of LIT!! Great post! Although I am a bit of a romance fanatic, your story does sound very good!! A scorned, sexy kinda guy ;)

Genella deGrey said...

What a great post, Jeri!

I fell in love with a man in full armor once . . . And yes, it was in this life time. ;)


Sophie Renwick said...

Genella, give us the deets, girl! You cannot leave hanging with that cryptic line! lol!

anne said...

Hi Jeri,
What a fascinating and captivating novel. It is intriguing and interests me greatly. I enjoyed learning abotu your writing and this story.

Amanda McIntyre said...

I love Helen Miran and I just watched Lion in Winter (which version?) for researching my Dark Ages, erotic historical, Tortured, so your research of movies and music is wonderful!
I have discovered in the process of my research that there are not as many as I thought there might be! Another fabulous soundtrack for medieval is "King Arthur" very haunting strains.
Im heading over to find that book right now! I'm liking this Crispin fellow more and more. Are you going to share a bit of an excerpt perhaps??

Genella, your comment needs explanation, seriously;)


Genella deGrey said...

I'd rather show you pix - and since I'm not sure if the pix will post here, if you really want to see him, email me at genella _ degrey @ hotmail . com
no spaces.

It was one of those moments you hear about - the world goes into slow motion, your soul is wrenched from your body and soars into the universe.

I'm positive we met and knew each other in a different life, but our Karma in this life had other plans. To this day, I consider him one of my dearest friends.


Jeri Westerson said...

Amanda, you can read the first chapter on my website

RachieG said...

Yea Jeri! A detective who is an ex-knight? How hot is that? seriously!!

The book sounds great and is so different from what I normally read. :)

Amanda McIntyre said...

Then I'll have to wait until my book arrives, for I have already read what is on your website. But, I highly recommend to others to do the same.

Congratulations on a delightful trip into this era!


diane said...

I am completely captivated with your amazing post today. What an idea and your unique book. Thanks for this chance to get to know such a wonderful character and novel.

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