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 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.


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