Welcome to a new feature I plan on having for awhile! I’ve got several authors lined up, and will be posting interviews once a week!
The first guest I have lined up is G.W. Renshaw. Renshaw has penned five books, four of which are a series.
What made you want to write about Veronica’s life as a PI? Did it have to do anything with how social media and Hollywood’s portrayal of women and their value?
A friend of mine, Randy McCharles, was writing mysteries and it sounded like an interesting thing to try. Of course that meant I needed an interesting investigator. Not a 50ish year old, male, ex-cop with a drinking problem living hand-to-mouth in a major U.S. city. Or a sexless, anti-social intellectual drug addict. Or a highly-powered magician or psychic. Or a talented amateur.
Alberta is the only place I’ve found where a determined person can be licensed as a PI at the age of 18, so a teenaged Canadian woman trained as a chef who rarely drinks and has an investment portfolio seemed like a good start.
The more research I did, the more interesting Veronica became. Canadian PIs can’t carry a firearm, but can be licensed to carry a tactical baton. We have laws against calling up a police buddy to run a license plate for her. It gives her fewer simple solutions. She has martial arts skills, but rarely encounters a problem that must be solved by beating it into submission. I made her father a chef and her mother a homicide detective. She’s a voracious reader, so she has a lot of book knowledge that sometimes gets ahead of her practical knowledge. Like all teens she has to figure out her sexuality, which in her case is complicated. Another difference between her and most investigators is that she ages as the series progresses.
As far as Veronica being a feminist icon, that was never my explicit intention. I write her, first and foremost, as a person. She’s a private investigator who happens to be a woman, not a woman who happens to be a PI.
Sadly, Hollywood assumes that a “strong female character” must mean a hot woman who can kick butt, but the strength of a character is not in their appearance or their skills. A strong character is one who is a real person–well-rounded and possessing depth. A ten-year old girl can be a strong female character if she’s battling cancer and is not completely defined by that. She must have interests, goals, dreams, and relationships. She must have opinions. THAT is what makes her a strong character.
That’s why we need more “strong female characters.” We need girls and women who actively participate in the story as much as the men do, and not just act as background decoration.
Veronica’s best friend is Wiccan. What made you write that into the story? What’s the difference between the magic in the book and magic in real life?
Liliana Marina Herndández Rojas is from Colombia, and her name is a bit of a mouthful. In many Wiccan traditions initiates take a new name. In Liliana’s case she says her goddess gave her the name Kali, which is what everybody but her parents calls her.
There are paranormal elements to the series, so her being Wiccan and owning an occult shop also gives Veronica the traditional research buddy who Knows Things.
It’s also a religion that most people aren’t familiar with, and after a lot of research it seemed very plausible to me that when Kali’s life turned to complete crap she would move away from her family’s Catholicism to something that was more personal. Veronica tried it for a while, but she doesn’t believe in magic so she drifted away from it. She does admit that there may be something to it in non-magical terms after a memorial ritual for characters who have died.
As for the story magic versus real life magic, I don’t know. You’ll have to read it and see.
How did you ever come up with the plot of the first book, The Stable Vices Affair?
The first book is about Veronica’s first two cases, and introduces some of how strange her life will get. As I wrote it, I realised that it didn’t make sense without her origin story as well, so the two are intertwined in the first book. As a character in a 70s sitcom said, “how are you doing to know where I’m at if you don’t know where I’ve been? You get where I’m coming from?”
How did you come up with the demonic dwarf character? Was that character easy to write?
Believe it or not, the dwarf (in the sense of a person with dwarfism, not in the sense of Gimli) was intended to be a one-shot character. That changed when I dug deeper into Beleth’s background and discovered–well, you’ll see.
Beleth is a demon mentioned in a 16th century grimoire, and is said to show up as a great king astride a horse who tries to intimidate the magician. If you don’t show fear, Beleth will answer your questions.
Yeah, great, whatever. But then I found a text that said if the magician really impresses Beleth he’ll show his true form as a “doe-eyed young girl.” Ah, now that’s more interesting!
I find Beleth easy to write because she’s so much fun. She’s a whimsical psychopath with an agenda we don’t see yet. She seems to have a certain fondness for Veronica, but we are still unclear as to why. All will be revealed.
Is Beleth an actual demon, as she (and/or he) claims? Is Beleth one person or two? Or are they a con artist who is putting something over on their victims? We shall see.
What genre would you consider the Chandler book series? Would you categorize this as New Adult, or is this strictly for adults?
The first two novels, The Stable Vices Affair and The Prince and the Puppet Affair, are paranormal mysteries. The second two, The Kalevala Affair and The True Love Affair are paranormal thrillers.
As to the audience, I’d say that it’s aimed at people old enough to read it. Unlike Nancy Drew who was 16 for a very long time, Veronica ages I’ve asked actual teenagers to rate the books for me and the consensus is 14 and older because of mature themes. The oldest reader I’m aware of is 85. Recently I had a ten-year-old girl state that she’d like to read the books when she’s a bit older and knows more words.
Genre is a difficult thing to assign for the whole series. There are elements of mystery, thriller, urban fantasy, romance, and science fiction.
Because you live in Calgary, are there any specific buildings that non-Canadians may know? Any tourist attractions? Do you plan on inserting in any?
There are one or two. While in London Veronica compares the British Museum with Calgary’s Glenbow Museum because that’s what she’s familiar with. It’s important to remember that Veronica isn’t a tourist in Calgary. Mentioning places of interest wouldn’t be something she does unless she needs to go there for some reason.
Almost all the places that are mentioned are real. They may not be famous but they are definitely places you could visit.
What is the take you have on the importance of a book cover and title?
There are two kinds of readers in book stores: Those who are looking for a specific book, and those who are browsing for something that catches their eye. The cover and title are the only way to do that.
My experience is that people are more interested in the cover than in the title. That’s why every book store employee has stories about people who come saying, “do you have that book, I can’t remember the title or who wrote it, but the cover is green.” Seriously.
Eventually people do look at the title and it must be intriguing without giving too much away.
Did you design your book cover? If no, who? What was the creative process like?
I helped design the cover, and it was a lot of fun.
We’d found a great winter image of down town Calgary at night with steam rising from various buildings that would work well for the cover of book one. The problem was that the photographer was Russian with no contact information. It would have cost a lot of money to find him and get copyright clearance to use the photo.
I looked at it for a while and figured out exactly where he’d been standing to take it, so one night in February my lovely wife and I trudged down to the river and set up our new camera. It was so new I didn’t realize it had a panorama feature, so I took several, overlapping shots of the buildings. That turned out to be good thing, because the lens was short enough that there was distortion from shot to shot–the buildings leaned a bit toward the centre of each.
That meant that the pictures couldn’t just be put together–they had to be tilted so the buildings would match. That’s why the river is straight across the front cover and then curves slightly to go off into the distance on the back cover. It worked perfectly because I didn’t know how to use my camera.
Are there any elements that you wish to add to the series? Have you taken out major plot lines for the sake of continuity and plot?
That would be telling. I will say that there are some even more curious places to visit. And curious people to meet. For some definition of “people.”
Everything is unfolding according to my diabolical plan, so to speak.
What is it that you want the readers to gain from this series? Does it carry a message?
The main thing is that it should be worth reading. There are plenty of books out there that have An Important Message that completely runs over any entertainment value with big spiky boots. It’s much better to have people say, “I enjoyed that, and later it made me think” than for them to say, “this book deals with important themes, but I didn’t actually have fun reading it and can’t stand the characters.”
Any message is one of Veronica leading by example rather than me trying to tell you what the moral of the story is. She’s a very young woman in a field dominated by older men. The important thing is that she’s an intelligent, tenacious, caring, and competent person, not that she’s a short, cute, girl. Yes, being female can be an advantage for her, as can her youth, but they don’t determine her ability to do her job.
Veronica’s exploration of her sexuality is a critical part of her journey apart from her career. Her libido sometimes rages out of control. She makes mistakes. She has her heart broken. She goes after revenge. She has fun. She feels guilty. She wonders if she’s normal. In other words, she feels like every other girl and woman. I’ve actually had women tell me Veronica’s problems gave them insight in to what they were going through in their own lives. That’s pretty humbling for a male author to hear.
What was the entire publishing experience like for you?
Exhilarating, frustrating, and tiring. Seeing my idea as a tangible book that I can hold in my hand is, of course, exhilarating.
All the little details can be frustrating. Book design, formatting, all the technical details, things that have to be done a certain way or they won’t print correctly. The list is just about endless until one day it isn’t.
Marketing one’s books is something that every author must face, no matter who their publisher is. Marketing is exhausting, because not only is it something you don’t want to do, it takes time away from writing the next book. One of the best moves I made was hiring a publicist who knows all the people I would otherwise have to learn about, contact, and argue with myself.
What is one question that you have yet to be asked, but would love to answer?
What is Veronica’s favourite cocktail?
The Yoko Geri, which she and Kali invented one night while watching her kitten murder a squeaky toy.
One can of Coke (355 ml), 1 oz of white Sambuca, with a wedge of lime muddled in. Ice or not as your prefer. It has less alcohol than an American beer.
Many authors listen to music to help with getting inside their characters heads. What is it that you listen to? And does the type of music change for each character.
I don’t need help getting inside my characters’ heads, which I suppose is a troubling thing for me to say.
I usually listen to Venice Classic Radio Italia (an internet radio station, veniceclassicradio.eu) while writing at home. When I’m at a writing retreat there usually isn’t reliable Wi-fi so I have a variety of albums on my computer: Abba, Disturbed, Smetana, Lycia (Kali’s favourite!), Nightwish, The Nylons, Sibelius, Spice Girls, and a variety of indie music put together by my Young Padawan, who is the inspiration for Veronica and also my cover model.
What would be your soundtrack for the series?
I would love to have Nightwish do the soundtrack for TV or a movie. The fact that the band has copies of The Kalevala Affair is completely coincidental.
Thank you so much for taking the time and discussing everything with me! I really enjoyed learning more about your series and your writing!
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.