With hew new novel, Cup of Blood, Jeri Westerson has added to her Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series but this time with an excellent twist.
The series is focused on Crispin Guest, a detective of sorts during the medieval era, a man who was previously a knight. He has an apprentice,Jack, who used to be a thief
This novel IS that requested prequel. It is quite enjoyable not just to get our wish and see how they met but there is, as always, a good mystery to boot. And you can see clues of the things these two will say and do in the later books. As explained in the interview this book was a challenge of sorts as Jeri had trouble getting a traditional publishing house to publish this one.And now let's get to the interview, which was done by email.
Scott: I usually start by asking how this story developed but this time you beat me to the punch with your introductory note. If I read it correctly it says that THIS was going to be the first book but due to publishing whims it got delayed and rewritten. Is that correct? If not please correct me.
Jeri: That’s right. Something about it—whether it was the Templar/Grail thing at the time, or I hadn’t gotten the handle on the mystery part—prevented it from taking hold. When I took a second look at it after all these years, I did see a few issues here and there with the writing, so I cleaned it up, gave Jack some chapters of his own to flesh him out and to give readers something different, and felt it was ready to go.
Scott: How did this published version differ from the manuscript you wrote back in 2003?
Jeri: As I said, Jack didn’t have his own chapters and as much “screen time.” Since I didn’t plan to have him in future books it didn’t matter to me. But when Jack became a favorite of my editor, agent, and readers, Jack needed to have more prominence in the book. Jack turned out to be a gift, offering a way to temper Crispin, mellow him and give him another focus. We see him change for the better because of Jack, and Jack gets to grow up, affording readers a glimpse into the medieval world through his eyes as well. So there were no major changes except for those added chapters. The opening was the same except this time it was in Jack’s point of view instead of Crispin’s. If it really had been the first book, it never would have started with Jack’s point of view.
Scott: Are you planning other prequels? I'd be curious, as would other readers I bet, to read one focused directly on what exactly happened to Crispin Guest that left him disgraced and banished from court. It's been oft alluded to, of course.
Jeri: SERPENT IN THE THORNS, the second book, covered scenes of that pretty well. I actually like the idea that we only see the result rather than the lead up. But if I do revisit it, it will likely be a short story or novella.
Scott: You allude to the DaVinci Code. How did that book help or hurt your publishing of this series? Here's my own Dan Brown story fwiw http://sbutki.newsvine.com/_news/2007/03/22/627861-dan-brown-and-me-our-dysfunctional-relationship-unveiled
Jeri: When Dan Brown’s book came out and just went wild, I thought its Templar/Grail theme would only help me. I was done with my book, after all, so it wasn’t as if I was following a trend. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. In my rejection letters, editors mentioned that the Templar thing discouraged them from publishing the book. They felt that because of The Da Vinci Code’s success, the market was saturated with Templars. Of course that was ridiculous because my book is nothing like it. But because I had heard from other writers that often the first book in a series isn’t the one publishers buy, I wrote the second one with the idea in mind that it might become the first, and that is what happened. VEIL OF LIES was the first one published.
Scott: What good and bad things have you learned about publishing since you started your first book in 2003?
Jeri: I knew I would have to do my own promotion but I had no idea how time-consuming it would turn out to be. I also learned how very little an author actually makes. Very few of us can make a living at this. I don’t, and so diversifying is important. I’ve written an urban fantasy that my agent is shopping around. And other things in the pot that will need seeing to.
Scott: What's next for you and Crispin and Jack? Is a YA book about Jack still on the horizon?
Jeri: I had put if off for a bit. I wasn’t happy with the way the story was developing, but I’ve taken it up again after a year on the shelf and we’ll see what becomes of that. Also, I’m in the process of writing Crispin #8 as a new publisher will be announced soon. Can’t say anything yet about that.
Scott: Did you self-publish this new book or does it have a "real" publisher?
Yes, I self-published CUP OF BLOOD. Funny, it’s the same author, same series, same writing style, it just doesn’t have a traditional publisher. So what is different to the reader? Nothing, really. So the idea that all self-published books are rubbish is definitely in decline. Many authors are becoming hybrid authors, that is, publishing traditionally as well as self-publishing. Once you’ve got a series traditionally published, you have a little bit of a following so it’s much easier selling your indie book. I wouldn’t have dared try if I hadn’t already published. Where would I have found the readers?
That being said, there is still an issue with quality with many self-published books. A bad cover is your first clue. I don’t think it will ever get over that tarnished reputation. There is something to be said for the “gatekeeper” paradigm.
When St. Martin’s declined to publish any more Crispin books I didn’t want a year to go by without a Crispin novel out there, and a prequel seemed the perfect transition between traditional and indie. Amazon made it simple and saved me a lot of money on this and that. It was convincing bookstores and libraries to carry it. CreateSpace offered distribution through Baker and Taylor, one of two major distribution channels for bookstores and libraries to get books. But bookstores are naturally in conflict with Amazon, their major competitor. I didn’t concentrate on Barnes and Noble. They carry very few of my books anyway. My focus was on indie bookstores, particularly mystery bookstores, and especially those with which I had a relationship through past book tours. I also focused on libraries. A library is a permanent sale (unlike bookstores, which can send books back if they don’t sell. But unlike traditionally published books, you can’t return indies. So bookstores are naturally more cautious about ordering books they can’t return). My marketing emphasized my past published books, and de-emphsized that the current book was self-published. It was the same with sending ARCs out for review. I have a relationship with some reviewers (like you, Scott), some bookstore owners, and librarians, and so I knew some reviews would be forthcoming. For the big four industry magazines (Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Review, and Publisher’s Weekly) it was more of a crapshoot. Reviews do help sell books, especially in markets where a review shows up (big city newspapers, for instance).
Authors say they like the control they get from self-publishing, being in charge of all aspects of it. Feh! I can take it or leave it. I don’t think it’s fun getting an editor and proofreader myself. Those are expenses I can do without. And even though I was a graphic artist and art director, I don’t need to take the time to design a cover. (Having said that, here is a story on how we did the cover photo shoot: http://www.getting-medieval.com/my_weblog/2014/04/crispin-photoshoot.html)
Scott: Please tell me about this book cover. Is this supposed to be how Crispin would look?
Jeri: It’s close but I don’t expect any model to ever look just like the idea I have in my head.
Scott: Please tell me about this other book you wrote, Booke of The Hidden? What's it about and what is its publication status?
It’s a whole new direction. A contemporary setting and an urban fantasy (paranormal). This time I have a heroine in charge of this six book series, a sort of cross between Sookie and Buffy.
Kylie Strange leaves an ex-boyfriend and L.A. behind to open an herb and tea shop—Strange Herbs & Teas—in Moody Bog, a small town in Maine, and discovers an old book stashed behind a false wall. On the cover it says “Booke of the Hidden.” Inside, the pages are blank. But as soon as she opens the book, a door to another plane has been breached and deadly creatures have been released to wreak havoc…and kill. It slowly dawns on her that it’s now her job to put them back where they belong. With the help of a local coven of misfit Wiccans she just might be able to do it. But along with the creatures comes Erasmus Dark; handsome, sexy…and definitely not from around here. He’s a demon and he’s here to help…or is he? Baphomet-worshiping bikers from the next town, a murdering succubus, the handsome sheriff suspecting Kylie of murder -- all those and more bring mystery and menace, love and death, through the doors of Strange Herbs and Teas.
Right now, it’s making the rounds of publishers. Cross your fingers, everyone!
Scott Butki has written at least 25 author interviews a year for more than ten years. They are indexed here: http://sbutki.newsvine.com/_news/2012/01/01/9876524-will-you-take-my-2012-newsvine-reading-challenge