Interview & Giveaway with Kate Forsyth for Beauty in Thorns!

I am so incredibly excited to welcome Kate Forsyth, award winning author and incredible speaker. I had the lovely opportunity to meet and speak with Kate on a panel at the Historical Novel Society Conference in 2017 and I was so excited to learn she was publishing another Victorian novel and I just had to have her on the blog. 

Kate lives and writes in Australia. While the majority of Kate's work is also published in the US and the UK, Kate's publisher has not yet released Beauty in Thorns in other countries and Amazon currently reports that it cannot be delivered to the US. Likewise attempts to get it via ebook and audio seem to be just as difficult. 

Let's share this interview and get her some US and UK attention so her publisher will reconsider! ;)

And Because it's hard to come by outside of Australia, Kate is generous enough to be giving away one copy to a lucky winner! Visit Facebook to enter! 

Competition runs 3/10/18-3/17/18. If you missed the giveaway, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on FacebookInstagram Twitter so you always know when to enter.


About Kate Forsyth


Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and has since sold more than a million copies around the world. 
Her books include Bitter Greens, a retelling of Rapunzel which won the 2015 American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction; The Wild Girl, the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm Brothers' famous fairy tales, which was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013; and The Beast's Garden, a retelling of 'The Singing, Springing Lark' set in the underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany. 

Recently voted one of Australia's Favorite 15 Novelists, Kate Forsyth has been called 'one of the finest writers of this generation'. She has a BA in literature, a MA in creative writing and a doctorate in fairy tale studies, and is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers. Read more about her at www.kateforsyth.com.au  


About Beauty in Thorns

The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention. 

Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald - the daughter of a Methodist minister - understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum.

William Morris fell head-over-heels for a 'stunner' from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy.

Margot Burne-Jones had become her father's muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love.

Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era's most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.



The Interview


Fairy Tales & Magic

A unifying element in your work is the fairy tale – can you tell us how that came to be such a defining aspect of your work?
I always loved fairy-tales and fairy-tale retellings as a child, and grew even more fascinated by them when I studied their history and meaning in my undergraduate degree. In time, this led me to do a doctorate of creative arts in fairy tales studies. I was interested in exploring the ways in which stories survive and adapt over long periods of time, helping to shape the human psyche. The more I studied myth and fairy-tales, and the more they worked their way into my writing, the more I loved them.

How do fairy tales, magic and or fantasy play a role in Beauty in Thorns in particular?
Beauty in Thorns tells the story of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones’obsession with the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ fairytale, which he drew or painted many times over his long career. The story is told from the point of view of the women in his life, in particular his wife and daughter who were both, at various times, models for the sleeping princess. So the novel is not a fairy-tale retelling, as we normally define them. It is rather a novel about art and love and death and rebirth, and about the way that myths and fairy-tales express and release some of the deepest human fears and longings.


How do you create that magical atmosphere, not only in your work but in your public speaking? (I had the pleasure of hearing Kate speak at HNS 2017, and hearing her talk was quite magical in of itself!)
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

When I am writing a story, or telling a story, I want to create an atmosphere of intense focus and intimacy, so that the reader (or listener) is drawn so deeply into the tale that, for a space of time, they forget who they are. The real world fades away, and the world of the story takes its place, alive and true. The audience must be entranced, spellbound, amazed. They must care so deeply for what is happening in the story that their breath comes short, their pulse quickens, their mind’s eye and ear are totally engaged. To create this feeling – an almost out-of-body experience – I need to establish a strong empathetic connection between me and my audience and my characters. And I do that by making them feel something. Fear, hope, anger, amusement, sorrow, joy.

The Victorian Period
Your books are all historical but not all Victorian, what do you focus on in your research and what do you incorporate into your writing to specifically evoke the time period in which each story is set?

It is always a delicate balance between creating a strong sense of time and space, and not weighing down the prose with too much detail. I try and find what I call ‘the telling detail’ – one small detail that really helps bring the world of the story to life.

In regards to research, I like to read as much as I can – both fiction and non-fiction, memoir and biography, books written now and books written then. I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much research as long as you are not tempted to laden the story with too many facts.

How did you tackle the issue of Victorian language and dialogue?
I always spend quite a long time thinking about my various characters and how they might have spoken, and build what I call an ‘idiom dictionary’ i.e. a list of terms and phrases and swear words that each individual character might have used.

For example, in Beauty in Thorns my character Lizzie’s family comes from Sheffield and so she uses a few Yorkshire phrases such as ‘nowt for owt’. My character Janey, however, lives in Oxford and so I used old Cotswolds dialect for her –wonderful words such as ‘slosheting’ which means to walk through snow, or ‘maundering’ which means to daydream.

I want my reader to understand every word my characters speak, however, and so I use the slang of the time sparingly and only when the meaning is clear.

Any resources in particular you found the most helpful for Victorian atmospheric details?
Reading the work of Victorian writers such as George Eliot or Charles Dickens is always a help. Newspapers of the day. Historical non-fiction, biographies and memoirs. Books about social history (I love these! Some examples: The Victorian House by Judith Flanders, Victorian London by Liza Piccard, How to Be A Victorian by Ruth Goodman, and What Jane Austen Ate & Charles Dickens Knew: Fascinating facts About Life in the Nineteenth Century by Daniel Pool.

Beauty in Thorns
Tell us a little bit about the artists and poets known as Pre-Raphaelite and what made them bohemian.

In September 1848, a group of rebellious young artists created a secret brotherhood that aimed to shake up and challenge convention-bound Victorian England. They believed in free love and feminine beauty, and created an aesthetic that still influences our world close on 170 years later. They called themselves the Pre-Raphaelites, because they were inspired by the art of the late medieval and early Renaissance period (i.e. before the time of the Italian painter Raphael). The key artists in the Pre-Raphaelite circle were William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who then inspired and mentored such artists and designers as Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.

The women who inspired them included the delicate red-haired Lizzie Siddal who posed as the drowning Ophelia for John Everett Millais, the sultry dark-haired Jane Morris who gazed out of so many canvases painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, strong-willed Effie Gray, who charged her husband with incurable impotence and left him in a storm of scandal, and Maria Zambaco, the fiery Greek sculptress who shocked Victorian society by posing nude for her lover.

My novel is told mostly through the point-of-view of Georgie Burne-Jones, the shy daughter of a Methodist minister who married Edward Burne-Jones, and their daughter Margaret.

Tell us about the Sleeping Beauty paintings and how they are connected to the fairy tale we all know.
The ‘Sleeping Beauty’ fairy tale haunted the imagination of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones. He drew or painted it many times over the course of thirty years. For him, it was a story of resurrection and triumph over death – his mother had died when he was just six days old and his father never recovered from his grief, forcing the little boy to pray on his mother’s grave every Sunday.

When his daughter Margot was fifteen, Burne-Jones began to paint her obsessively as the Sleeping Princess. She fell in love with a poet but dared not tell her father for fear of his reaction. Eventually, in 1890, his quartet of paintings, ‘The Legend of Briar Rose’, was exhibited in London. It was greeted by the public with ‘enthusiasm amounting to ecstasy’, was sold for 15,000 guineas, the largest amount ever paid for an artwork in Britain, and consequently Burne-Jones was knighted.

How did this lead to your story?
I have always been fascinated by the Sleeping Beauty story as well, perhaps because I was savaged by a dog when I was a toddler and spent more than six weeks in a coma. I have also always loved the art of the Pre-Raphaelites and shared their interest in myth, fairy tale and poetry. I am interested in why certain fairy-tales can have such a powerful shaping experience on the psyche, and Edward Burne-Jones’s long obsession with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ – and the extraordinary art it produced – connected with my own preoccupations.

Why did you decide to tell the story of multiple women involved with this bohemian circle instead of just the one involved with Ned Burne-Jones?
I wanted to tell the story of more of the women of the Pre-Raphaelite sisterhood, but then my book would have been far too long! Their lives were just so fascinating, filled with desire, scandal, thwarted ambition and tragedy. Also, these women had been for so long the object of the male gaze, I wanted a chance to let them speak in their own voices (or at least, in what I imagined as their voices.)

In addition, it was their lives which inspired Edward Burne-Jones. Without telling their stories, I could not have told the full tale.

How did you overcome the challenge of having multiple central characters?
I tried to make each of the four women have a strong individual voice, and I tried to make sure that each of their stories was as vivid, compelling and intriguing as possible.

Did you incorporate any other historical events into the story?
The action in Beauty in Thorns takes place over several decades, so it was impossible not to draw on what was happening in the wider world. I was most interested in the early suffragette movement and Georgie Burne-Jones’s political awakening, but other events include the Crimean War and the Indian mutiny, for example.

The Writing Life
In one or two sentences each, tell us about your creative process.

Brainstorming story ideas: I like to play with lots of ideas in the early stages of a novel – I find mind mapping a really useful tool, plus asking and answering all kinds of questions about character, plot, setting etc. I work longhand in a notebook, so that I record my creative processes.

Research: I do a great deal of research. I like to immerse myself as deeply as possible in the period, and have a strong sense of place and time. I read everything from letters, diaries, memoirs, newspapers and novels written at the time, to historical non-fiction and novels written in later years.

Outlining & Plotting: I like to outline my novel and plan its key scenes before I start. The story grows and changes as I write, but the underlying architecture rarely alters once I’ve planned it.

Character Development: Character is very important to me and so I spend a long time thinking about their motivation, their hopes and fears and desires, their goals, the journey of transformation they must travel. Once I have their voice speaking in my mind’s ear and their face clear in my eye’s mind, I can start writing their story.

Writing First Drafts: I call my first draft my ‘discovery draft’ – its when the shape of the story becomes clear to me and new ideas and inspirations push the novel to places I had not imagined. It’s my favourite part of the creative process.

Editing: I always cut and edit hard. I try and remove a minimum of one-third of my first draft, and everything is rewritten and rewritten until I am happy with the rhythm and pace.

Fine Tune Editing: The final stage of the novel is probably my least favourite part. This is realizing I’ve over-used a word or phrase, checking every single fact, examining every single sentence and trying to make it better. It has absoluelyc rucial, however. I would never stint on it.

How long does it take you to produce a book and how have you become so prolific?
It really depends on the length of the book I am writing, and how many problems it throws my way. I try to be very focused and disciplined with my writing, but there is always so much else to be done. 

Usually I have one big project that takes me a year or so to research and write, and then another year or so to edit and publish. I will always have a few other smaller projects bubbling away in the background, however. It might be a collection of short stories, essays or retold fairytales, or a picture book, or something else entirely. I tend to work on those projects when I am seizing a free moment in my day, or on the weekends. Or if I’m stuck in the novel!

Your Career as an Author
How has the following changed throughout your career:
Kate teaching at her Cotswolds Writer's Retreat 

Finding time to write while supporting yourself and having a life:
My first novels were written when I was in my late twenties, and I worked as a freelance journalist to support myself. I also got married and began having babies around that time. So right from the very beginning, I was juggling family, freelance work and creative work. As my novels began to find a market, I was able to cut back on the freelance writing, though to tell the truth I still do a great deal of it by writing blogs, book reviews, interviewing writers and other related activities. It was hardest when all my children were small. Once all three were at school I was able to write virtually full-time, as I could then afford to get some help in the house and with the boring administrative tasks. Keeping work and life in balance is always a challenge, however. I need to make time to spend with my friends and family, to work in my garden, and cook, and go to art galleries and the ballet and theatre, else I feel as the writing is taking up too much time and energy, and I’m missing out on other things that bring me pleasure. The closer I get to deadline, the less of these things I do!

Marketing efforts:
As a former journalist and magazine editor, I have a good understanding of how marketing and publicity works, which I think has been a great help to me. I tend to write a handful of feature articles for newspapers and magazines when a new book comes out, and do quite a lot of press and radio interviews. I blog about my creative processes, as well as about the books I am reading, and I write reviews for several Australian media outlets. I’m also fairly active on social media, though mainly I just post about books, and food, and gardens, and my puppy.

Your perspective of the art of writing:
To me, good writing is subtle and lyrical and almost indiscernible. I want my readers to forget that they are reading, but to be swept away by the story. So I’m constantly reining myself in, subduing any authorial flourishes, and seeking clarity, harmony and rhythm.

Your perspective of the professional side of authorship: 
Be professional. Work hard, meet your deadlines, listen to your publishers and editors, be prepared to make cuts and changes if needed. Build bridges, don’t burn them.

In one or two sentences, what advice (artistic & professional) do you have for writers who:
Are just starting out? Be brave, and take risks.
Have just broken in? Be kind and respectful to everyone.
Are starting to gain some success? Keep going!



Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and appear on my blog. It is a real honor to have you!

Interview & Giveaway: Jennifer Kincheloe & The Woman in the Camphor Trunk


I'm so excited to welcome Jennifer Kincheloe back for a second interview on her second installment to the Anna Blanc mystery series: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk (Amazon). (Audible)

Read my review of The Woman in the Camphor Trunk.

Read the behind the scenes interview: Why'd the Writer Do That? Ever wonder if the author meant to convey a certain mood or if a scene was based on historical fact? Find out all the secrets behind The Woman in the Camphor Trunk.

Read her interview on the first book in this installment The Secret Life of Anna Blanc.

Read my book review of The Secret life of Anna Blanc.

Jennifer is also giving away a copy of the audio book! Enter via Facebook! Competition runs 3/10/18-3/17/18. If you missed the giveaway, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on FacebookInstagram Twitter so you always know when to enter.


About Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. Her novels take place in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD and combine, mystery, history, humor, and romance. THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK was released in November, 2017. Her debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a finalist in the Lefty Awards for Best Historical Mystery, The Colorado Author's League Award for Best Genre Fiction, the Macavity Sue Feder Award for Historical Mystery, and is the WINNER of the Mystery & Mayhem Award for Historical Mystery and the Colorado Gold for Best Mystery.

Jennifer grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She's been a block layer, a nurse's aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. Jennifer currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers, two dogs, and a cat. There she conducts research on the jails.
Visit Jennifer at www.jenniferkincheloe.com or on Twitter - Pinterest or Facebook

About The Woman in the Camphor Trunk


In early-1900s Los Angeles-- an era of courting, ragtime, suffragettes, and widespread corruption-- a socialite turned police matron tracks down the murderer of a white woman in Chinatown, while trying to prevent the outbreak of a bloody tong war.

Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. If news about the murder gets out, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna work to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret, reluctantly helped by the good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent local leader.

Meanwhile, the kidnapping of two slave girls fuels existing tensions, leaving Chinatown poised on the verge of a bloody tong war. Joe orders Anna to stay away, but Anna is determined to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.


The Interview


Set in 1908, how did you tackle this “inbetween” time period, which bridges the Victorian Era and the 1920s? Did you only use research from 1908ish, or did you use info from the larger Victorian period and or 1920s to recreate historical LA?

The setting definitely demands research, and people don’t know a lot about the era. It’s fun surprising them. There are a ton of primary sources available from the period. Most of my storylines come straight from the newspapers from 1908 (plus or minus two years).

I also read marriage manuals, coroner’s textbooks, popular fiction, cookbooks, humorists, books on how to do laundry, court transcripts, police department annual reports, etiquette books, books on grooming, memoirs, diaries, eye-witness accounts all from the 1900s. If I could find it, I read it. I learned about the art and politics, studied photographs. I consulted with experts, read dissertations. I had an LA historian review the book for accuracy. In the process, I became an expert. So I didn’t need to borrow at all. 

In the process, I harvested period language from primary sources wherever I could. Jupiter, that was fun. I now know that women Anna’s age would refer to a dress as a “frock,” though an older woman might call it a gown. Some slang was the same. I have Anna say “killer” meaning excellent. Some slang has changed meaning, like “dude,” which used to mean a man from the upper crust. I have an enormous, two-volume Historical Dictionary of American Slang, that I can refer to when I’m unsure when a term came into use, and how it changed over time.

What drew you to Chinatown crime?
In 1909, in New York’s Chinatown, a 19 year-old missionary was found murdered and stuffed in a trunk in Chinatown. I stole the storyline down to the details. I won’t tell you more about what really happen, because it’s really mirrored in the book and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Any other history behind the story?

Yes. Two Chinese slave girls were stolen and it almost started a tong war in LA. The LAPD were hunting the girls to return them to their owner and collect a $1,000 reward. I thought that was so shocking, I had to write about it. Slavery was alive and well in LA in 1908.

You based Anna Blanc on a real historical figure (link to first interview), but in the author’s note of the Woman in the Camphor Trunk, you mentioned that after the first book released, you learned that there was another historical figure similar to Anna Blanc. Can you tell us about this other woman and how you learned about her?

I was inspired to write the book by Alice Stebbins Wells, who became the first female cop in LA in 1910. But Anna Blanc wrote herself, and she didn’t resemble Alice Stebbins Wells at all. Anna’s single, young, beautiful, and the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in California. Alice was 37, average-looking, married, and middleclass. I felt like I was taking liberties with history, which I try not to do. Then I learned about Fanny Bixby, who in 1908 became a cop in Long Beach, very near LA. She was single, young, beautiful, and the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in California. The storyline for my third novel, which isn’t out yet, is inspired by events in Fanny’s life.

How are the Anna Blanc mysteries unique in the genre of crime mystery/female sleuth?

Did you try to stick close to genre conventions or stand out?
I’ve heard many readers say that THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a book that “had never been written before.” It’s not really like any other series. The first book was my “practice book.” I didn’t think anyone would ever read it, so I just wrote what I would like to read.

What new challenges did you face when writing the second book in comparison to the first?

The sophomore novel is notoriously difficult. I agonized over the story. You fear you can’t repeat your success. But THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK was just nominated for a Lefty Award for historical mystery, and some people like it better than book one.

You acquired your agent and publisher with the first Anna Blanc book The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, what was it like to write the second book on contract?

Luckily, I didn’t have a contract for book two when I was struggling with it. Because the series is unusual, I think my publisher wanted to see how book one did first. I sold book two after I’d finished and got a two-book deal. I’m writing book three on contract, and it adds additional pressure.

How were your agent/editor involved with the creation process if at all?
My agent’s assistant read it and gave me the thumbs up—no changes. But I had a lot of beta readers.

How have you approached the marketing process the second time around?
I have less time for marketing because I’ve been conducting research on the jails in Denver. But I still tweet on weekends, post on Facebook, and do readings in the region. For book one, I did a three week book tour, but I just don’t have the time now.

In one or two sentences, what advice (artistic & professional) do you have for writers who:

Are just starting out?
Get in your 10,000 hours of writing, because that’s what it takes. Even though THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was my first novel, I rewrote it 100 times. Also, read books on craft.

Have just broken in?
Write for yourself. Publishing is a brutal business. Keep your eye on the prize—not sales, not awards, but writing for the joy of it.


Book Review: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe

'm so excited to welcome Jennifer Kincheloe back for a second interview on her second installment to the Anna Blanc mystery series: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk (Amazon). (Audible)


Also read my book review of The Secret life of Anna Blanc.


About Jennifer Kincheloe


Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. Her novels take place in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD and combine, mystery, history, humor, and romance. THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK was released in November, 2017. Her debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a finalist in the Lefty Awards for Best Historical Mystery, The Colorado Author's League Award for Best Genre Fiction, the Macavity Sue Feder Award for Historical Mystery, and is the WINNER of the Mystery & Mayhem Award for Historical Mystery and the Colorado Gold for Best Mystery.

Jennifer grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She's been a block layer, a nurse's aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. Jennifer currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers, two dogs, and a cat. There she conducts research on the jails.
Visit Jennifer at www.jenniferkincheloe.com or on Twitter - Pinterest or Facebook

About The Woman in the Camphor Trunk


In early-1900s Los Angeles-- an era of courting, ragtime, suffragettes, and widespread corruption-- a socialite turned police matron tracks down the murderer of a white woman in Chinatown, while trying to prevent the outbreak of a bloody tong war.

Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. If news about the murder gets out, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna work to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret, reluctantly helped by the good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent local leader.

Meanwhile, the kidnapping of two slave girls fuels existing tensions, leaving Chinatown poised on the verge of a bloody tong war. Joe orders Anna to stay away, but Anna is determined to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.

The Book Review

Just like The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, I loved The Woman in the Camphor Trunk. Jennifer's ability to capture that charming spoiled rich girl character is inspiring. Her cheeky humor had me laughing out loud and and her twisting mysteries had me guessing to the very end!
Characters
Once again Anna Blanc charms us with her witty banter and fresh sayings that Jennifer has termed as "Anna-isms." I liked that in this installment, Anna is paying for her outlandish actions from the first book. She's trying to make it on her own without her daddy's help, and she's not managing to pull it off easily either. That really brought a realistic and dynamic aspect to her character's journey.

We also got to experience the fun back-and-forths between Anna Blanc and Joe Singer again because they have broken up after a disagreement regarding marriage. Once again, Joe leaves us wondering, cheering, and awing all the way through. We also got to see more of several fun characters from the first novel, and we got to meet some really intriguing new characters, including missionaries, China-men mobsters and Sing-Song Girls. 

Story & Mystery
The story was brilliant and funny. Jennifer knows exactly when we need a break from the mystery and a little bit of the love story or a little bit of historical background. Very well paced, and there was a great twist at the end I never saw coming.

Historical Detail and Setting
I was very impressed with the amount of historical research and detail work Jennifer put into this book. Her descriptions of turn of the century Chinatown in LA were incredibly well done as was her ability to capture a little known slice of history regarding the tensions between Chinatown and the rest of the city at this time.

Central Station, LA 1910
Then of course we cannot forget the fantastic details Jennifer puts into all the fashion from shoes to jewelry. There's nothing better than Victorian designer-wear! 

There's more historical detail than I can possibly allude to, from the inner workings of newspaper boys to religious tolerance and intolerance. Part of what makes these books so enjoyable is the rich historical backgrounds that we don't usually get to read about in other historical mysteries. This is the first book and first series I've ever heard of taking place in Gilded Age LA let alone Gilded Age Chinatown! 

Audible Perofrmance
This is the second Anna Blanc book that I have listened to rather than read, and I have to say the voice actress, Moira Quirk, who does the audio version of Anna Blanc is fantastic. She gets that character down and she isn't difficult to accept as other characters either. When listening to her, you can picture Anna, Joe, and everyone else without pause. 

Once again, I can't wait for what comes next for this spunky female sleuth and this rising historical novelist!

Buy The Woman in the Camphor Trunk on Amazon or Audible.
Buy The Secret Life of Anna Blanc on Amazon or Audible.

Why Did the Writer Do That? A Behind the Scenes Interview with Jennifer Kincheloe

After You Read (SPOILER ALERT!!! Come back after you read the book!)
I'm so excited to be doing this unique interview with Jennifer Kencheloe on her new book  The Woman in the Camphor Trunk (Amazon). (Audible), the second installment of the Anna Blanc Series.

Most interviews are careful not to divulge anything before the reader actually reads the book but this interview is different. I wanted to really get behind the scenes and find out the knitty-gritty writing decisions behind this fun mystery. These are the questions I wanted answers to while reading the book and I hope some of them line up with your own. Enjoy!

Read my book review of The Secret life of Anna Blanc.

How did you go about researching and describing details for things like Anna Blanc’s expensive furniture and clothing and that first Chinatown scene, which was filled with impeccable sensory details? 

 I rely heavily on photographs from the time and have collected thousands of them on Pinterest. One of my pages has over 4,000 pictures of dresses from the 1900s. I’ve got one of purses, one of furniture, one of hair. I’ve got street scenes from Los Angeles, and a board dedicated just to Chinatown. That first Chinatown scene, in the market, it’s straight from a photograph.

I read lots of newspaper articles about LA’s Chinatown in the Los Angeles Herald, articles about the Chinese New Year celebration and also ones about the problems in Chinatown—the mud, the rats, the lack of sewers.

The various crimes and crime scenes? Are they all based on historical crimes or are they fictional?

The crime scene was historical. I managed to find a picture of the apartment where the trunk was found. I had to fill in the blanks and imagine some of the details – like the state of the corpse. But the trunk, the multiple pictures of her lover with white women, all historical.

The police matron bloomers Anna designed, were those based on something real?

I based them on a women’s magazine article from 1908 about camping. The 1900s was considered “the golden age of hiking.” The article recommended pants like the ones I described, to be worn under a slit skirt. So, I just modeled Anna’s pants after the picture, using some of the actual description from the article, them embellished them with frills. And of course, Paul Poiret introduced his harem pants shortly thereafter, though Arab women had been rocking them for years.

Dialogue/Word Choices

Both Anna Blanc books are filled with awesome period dialogue – what’s your secret?

I read things written during the period, like novels, eyewitness accounts, magazines, short stories, cartoons, books by humorists, and of course the newspapers. I harvested slang. Then I made a pass through the book and stuck it in wherever I could. Also, the Historical Dictionary of American Slang is great for checking when words first appeared in print.

Wear did you uncover the word “Frillies” which was used to describe both jewelry and underwear. Did I spell that right? I listened to the audiobook, lol!

I got it from a history book dedicated exclusively to underwear 😊

What has reader response to Jupiter! And other exclamations?

Anna’s slang has been warmly received.

Let’s Start the Interrogation & Get into the Author’s Mind
We start out with Anna’s father having kicked her out, but he sent her all of her extremely expensive belongings – dresses, shoes, a piano, etc. He could have kicked her out with nothing, so what was behind that decision as the author?

Anna’s father loves her, in his way. He gives her most of her dead mother’s heirlooms. But he doesn’t love her enough to give her the expensive jewelry. Plus, he needs the money.

It’s revealed early on that Anna has turned down Joe Singer’s proposal, which leads to a rift in their relationship – why did you decide to split them up again?

Before Anna took control of her life, marriage seemed her best option. The liberated Anna wants to remain in control of her life. It seemed natural that she would be hesitant to marry. Women really did become their husband’s property.

Why not show the scene in the church when Anna and Joe almost kiss? It was only revealed through Anna’s reflection of it – why was that?

Because I liked the last sentence of that scene. I thought showing the priest storming in would destroy the romance of it.

Anna has some of the most unique tastes for a historical character: whiskey, kippers, cracker jacks? What led to this?

She likes whiskey because she used to raid her father’s decanters. Kippers are a traditional English breakfast food, and Anna’s mother was English. The other fine foods she ate, prepared by her father’s cook, she no longer has access to. She has no culinary skills, and Cracker Jacks are easy and delicious.

During the infamous honey scene, there is a sudden perspective change from Anna to Joe Singer – POV changes can be hard to detect especially when listening to the audio as I was, but it seems like that was the one and only time you did that … is that the case and if so, why?

I broke the rules. I did it in book one also. Joe got one POV scene. I like him to make an appearance in that way.

Religious tolerance is an interesting facet of this book. For example, in one scene Anna prays to Chinese gods for the people in Chinatown, and at another point she burns a Chinese gambling charm. Yet, as a Catholic, she also criticizes Protestantism: for example when they save one of the Sing-Song girls, she says: “Well she isn’t really free, is she? Now she has to be a Presbyterian.” As a Protestant myself, I have to say I love that line. This theme is handled with grace and fantastic comic effect, but can you speak a little on the significant of this thread in the second Anna Blanc installment?

I was raised Presbyterian, so I think I can get away with lovingly, and hopefully with humor, shining a light on not-so-great aspects of the faith. There was a real Presbyterian missionary, Donaldina Cameron, who risked her life again and again to rescue sing song girls from the tongs. Reportedly, my great aunt Betty helped her. Donaldina educated the Chinese girls, taught them English, and when they were grown (many of them were just children) matched them with Christian Chinese men. But I imagine it was a dilemma for those girls who were forced to give up their culture and their own belief systems.

My father was Catholic, so I went to Catholic schools. I studied spiritual direction with the Benedictine nuns. Religion really interests me. If you look at Anna’s spirituality, it’s shallow, legalistic, fear based. She tries to manipulate God and the saints and see what she can get away with. It’s a commentary on the worst of American spirituality today. Also, Anna is straining against this understanding of faith. She challenges conventional thought. Her praying to the Chinese Gods was an attempt to show that—it demonstrates respect for the Chinese, and an openness.

How Did You Get Away with It?

How did you keep the audience from figuring out who dunnit?

I don’t know. I just go by the feel of it.

How do you keep Anna’s antics balanced with the time period and women of the period so that it’s still believable?

Women of the period were exactly like women today, only more oppressed. They were sexual, rebellious, intelligent, driven, and ambitious. They were scientists, inventors, detectives, artists, and especially activists. The politics of the Progressive Era were largely shaped by the agenda of women. They fought for the eight hours workday, ended child labor, reformed prisons and jails, got the vote, and (for better or for worse) got Prohibition passed. The famous temperance crusader, Carrie Nation, used to bring her ax into saloons and chop up the furniture. True, women are largely left out of history books, which favor white men, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t achieving amazing things.

LA 1910
What’s with the naughty missionaries? From promiscuity to outright murder - did you come up with that because they are less likely to be suspected by the audience or is it based in truth?

The two-timing missionary is 100 percent historical. Her name was Elisie Sigel, age 19. She ministered in New York’s Chinatown and had two Chinese lovers at once. Big mistake. She ended up dead in a trunk in the apartment of one of her lovers. He disappeared, launching an international and unsuccessful man hunt. Technically, the police never solved the case.

But if you look at crime and sin, there really isn’t a group of people immune from it. This is also a commentary on religious leaders today, who sorely try my patience. Not because they sin, but because they pretend that they sin less than the rest of us. I work for the Sheriff Department, and ministers are one of the biggest sources of contraband in the jails. They can make a lot of money smuggling in drugs or tobacco. And they do.

No doubt, plenty of missionaries have struggled with jealousy. It’s Miss Robins daring pragmatism that is her downfall—the very qualities that allowed her to work in Chinatown in the first place.

What are you working on now? What’s next for Anna Blanc?


I’ve got a contract for book three in the Anna Blanc mystery series, which I’ve tentatively entitled Griffith Park. It’s also based on real Los Angeles History and will be in stores in Spring, 2019. It’s about a mysterious man who shows up in Anna’s life, the murder of a young man, and a “white slavery” ring. While prostitution was legal, it wasn’t legal to exploit under age girls IF you corrupted them. If they previously had a bad reputation, exploit away. This exploitation was called white slavery.

About Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. Her novels take place in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD and combine, mystery, history, humor, and romance. THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK was released in November, 2017. Her debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a finalist in the Lefty Awards for Best Historical Mystery, The Colorado Author's League Award for Best Genre Fiction, the Macavity Sue Feder Award for Historical Mystery, and is the WINNER of the Mystery & Mayhem Award for Historical Mystery and the Colorado Gold for Best Mystery.

Jennifer grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She's been a block layer, a nurse's aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. Jennifer currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers, two dogs, and a cat. There she conducts research on the jails.
Visit Jennifer at www.jenniferkincheloe.com or on Twitter - Pinterest or Facebook

About The Woman in the Camphor Trunk


In early-1900s Los Angeles-- an era of courting, ragtime, suffragettes, and widespread corruption-- a socialite turned police matron tracks down the murderer of a white woman in Chinatown, while trying to prevent the outbreak of a bloody tong war.

Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. If news about the murder gets out, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna work to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret, reluctantly helped by the good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent local leader.

Meanwhile, the kidnapping of two slave girls fuels existing tensions, leaving Chinatown poised on the verge of a bloody tong war. Joe orders Anna to stay away, but Anna is determined to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.

Whose Tombstone Is Featured on This Short Story Cover?

As some of you may remember, in 2015 I had a short story called Forget Me Not featured in Legacy: An Anthology. Well in 2017, I got the copyrights back and figured why not publish the short story as an ebook sold on it's own for $0.99. So I did! 

ABOUT FORGET ME NOT
Originally published in LEGACY: AN ANTHOLOGY, "Forget Me Not" is set just after the turn of the century in Colma, California, a city where the dead outnumber the living. It follows Lauraline Rosland, a young woman who knows on the day after her 30th birthday, she is going to die. She has three days left and is determined to do something - anything - worth remembering.

Read an Excerpt of Forget Met Not!



THE ANGEL OF GRIEF
I expected to be able to see her from afar but truth be told,
she is one of the smaller monuments in this particular necropolis.
The Angel of Grief is a common funerary statue replicated from the original carved by the American sculptor William Wetmore Story, which serves as his and his wife's headstone in a Protestant Church in Rome. The statue in Colma's Cypress Lawn Memorial Park is for Jennie Roosevelt Pool, Theodore Roosevelt's cousin.

I absolutely adore this statue and really wanted to see it, but the cemetery was so big (with a major street running through it) that it took my husband and I over an hour to find it. Really, it just took us over an hour to realize that the cemetery continued on other side of the like 6 or 8-laned street.

The statue is gorgeous but sadly missing several of its fingers and surprisingly quaint in comparison to the giant statues, pyramids, mausoleums, columned sculptures and headstones throughout.

Read more about Colma on my post 10 Creepy Facts About this Real World Necropolis

DESIGNING THE COVER

What's really awesome is that my cover designer Jenny Q of Historical Editorial was able to incorporate an image of my favorite headstone from Colma, CA the setting of Forget Me Not. Learn more about Colma by reading my post 10 Creepy Facts About this Real World Necropolis.




If You Own Legacy: An Anthology, and Enjoyed My Story In It - Show Your Support for Forget Me Not by posting a review on Amazon!!! 

Here's How:
1. Sign Into or Create Your Amazon Account

2. Find A White Room Using My Link Below or By Searching.

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