Some of you may be acquainted with Angela, or have heard me gush over her awesome feedback to my novel Snake. But did you know that Angela’s first novel, Jewel of the Thames, has just been released (I’ve already got it on my Kindle)? When I heard about it, I was so excited for her, and I got the chance to interview her before JotT came out.

Angela was born in London, England, but currently she lives in Toronto, Canada with her family. She has been writing for a number of years, most notably for CBC Radio as a journalist. She also does freelance and digital projects on the side, but currently she’s been devoting her time to the Portia Adams books she’s been writing (last I checked she’s got around eight or nine casebooks in the series).  She is a fan of mysteries, Doctor Who, and most stuff Sherlock Holmes (but not Elementary).

RU: Hello Angela, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Give us an idea about what Jewel of the Thames is about.

AM: Sure Rami: Jewel of the Thames is the first book in a series of stories about aspiring detective Portia Adams. It is also an homage to my favourite detective novels – the Sherlock Holmes books, the Nancy Drews, the Hercule Poirots. All of the books I read from childhood till now, and all the great authors who inspired me to create this character. So far in this series, I have written ten casebooks – cases that Portia has taken on – and the first three make up Jewel of the Thames.

There is a lot that had to happen in the first book – Portia needs to find out what her link is to the property she has inherited in London, and she needs to start standing on her own. The whole book is three casebooks wrapped in a mystery driving towards a big reveal at the end. You’re gonna have to read it to find out what the heck I’m talking about.
RU: Considering my level of confusion and intrigue, I will. Now tell us a little about your protagonist, Portia Adams. Who is she exactly?

AM: Hmm, what can I tell you without spoiling it? She’s a 19 year old Canadian who at the very beginning of the books loses her mom, leaving her a poor orphan in 1930s Toronto. It is at the reading of her mother’s will that she discovers she has been left a mysterious property in London and that she has a guardian – Mrs. jones from New York.

Portia is an intelligent introvert who has always preferred books and quiet to social situations, she loves school, hates fashion, often forgets to eat and has no friends. This is partially because she’s viewed as odd and anti-social despite her mother’s best efforts. Her overwhelming curiosity leads her to what interests her rather than what others are focused on, and gives her a focus most don’t understand.
She’s tall and slim, with dark brown hair which she wears unfashionably long and usually in a bun, with startling blue eyes. Feel like you know her a little better?
RU: Maybe just a bit. What do you say your writing process is?
AM:  write long-hand in Moleskin notebooks, so for Jewel, my writing time was my commute back and forth to my full-time job in downtown Toronto. So for 30 minutes in each direction on transit twice a day I would write about Portia Adams, ignoring the smells, sounds and closeness of the Toronto Transit crowd. As a result, I have about 30 Moleskin notebooks filled with my handwriting in lots of colours detailing Portia’s adventures.

Angela and her moleskin notebooks

RU: Wow, that kind of writing schedule requires tenacity. What do you think will draw people to Jewel and to Portia?

AM: Hmm… I guess the same things that drew me to her – a young female protagonist who is learning to stand on her own – I find that premise compelling. Her relationships are part of what make her the woman she is, and as those develop I think she will become an unforgettable character, as will the recurring characters around her like Brian, Sergeant Michaels and Mrs. Jones. That’s how I feel about her at least, I find that even when I’m not writing about Portia, I’m thinking about her. I’ve got a bit of a WWPD mentality in my own life, so that when things happen, I often think What Would Portia Do?

It doesn’t hurt that the setting is London in the 1930s, a really interesting time in history between the two great wars and smack in the middle of the great depression. I hope that people come to care for Portia, because I know from my own experience as a reader that a connection with the characters is key. I guess I will be looking for that kind of feedback from book 1 as I get into the editing phase of books 2 and 3.
RU: Speaking of Books 2 and 3, are you going to continue writing and editing on the bus to and from work, or have things changed since you found out Jewel of the Thames was going to be published?

AM: Things have indeed changed, but actually before I got my contract for Jewel. Last June, after I finished writing the third book in the series, I decide it was time to concentrate my time on this part of my life. I’ve spent the past 14 years working as journalist for the CBC, I think it’s fair to try ‘something else’ for a while.

So I work from home now as a freelance journalist and so far I’m loving it. I try to write a few hours every morning (in the series on book 4, blogging, research) and then spend the afternoons working my freelance contracts. I think I’ve hit a rhythm that works for me, so we’ll see how it goes.
RU: I’m glad it’s working out for you. And you know, I feel kind of bad, because I forgot you were also a journalist for the CBC. How did you get into writing and journalism in the first place? What inspired you to go down that path?

AM: (Laughs)  Don’t feel bad about that! But to answer that question, I’m going to steal from the bio I wrote for my publishers last week:

“Everything changed for young Angela Misri one spring day in 1992 at an assembly in the gym where, as per usual, she was giggling and whispering with her friends in the audience. Suddenly her name was called by the Principal of the school and she was jostled out from the safety of the herd and to the front of the room. Having not really listened to the preceding speech, she was shocked to learn that a poem she had written as part of a school assignment had been published in an anthology of like-quality poems by Canadian children. The Principal smiled the biggest smile she had ever seen on a teacher, and handed her a copy of the coil-bound anthology, turning the young poet towards the audience of her schoolmates and starting the applause that followed her back to her safe haven between her best friends.
That was the moment when Angela discovered that despite being of Indian descent, there were in fact other options for your life’s work than medicine or engineering.”
So there you are! That was the moment for me, and I’ve been writing ever since. I wrote my first book when I was your age, Rami. It’s a historical fiction called ‘Savitri’ and it’s sitting upstairs in a binder. The only other copy is on a floppy disk (no, I’m not kidding, that’s how long ago it was since I was your age ; ) . I haven’t read it in about 15 years and I will admit, that I am scared to. I’m worried that the vision of the story (which I still think is the best I ever wrote) will not live up to reality.
RU: That’s a problem that a lot of authors face when they think of their early stories. So how did you come up with the Portia Adams stories?

AM: It was after reading the Stephen King short story called ‘The Doctor’s Case’ that the idea for Portia came to me. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do, it’s one of my favourites. As the title suggests, its an original Holmes-Watson story with a twist – Watson solves the case before the great detective. I loved that idea, and Portia started to form in my mind as a kind of homage to King and Conan Doyle.

The first case I wrote jumped straight into the jewel thefts and was over in less than 12 thousand words. I read it over a few times and realized that if this was going to be more than a short-story, I need to write some backstory for my detective. So I went back, created a beginning for Portia, and did a whole bunch more research into the time period, the whole family tree of Holmes, Watson and many others from the original canon. Once I had expanded Portia’s world to about 20 thousand words, I had the idea for the third case in the book – the one that happens on the train. I wrote that in two days and then, rereading it, decided I needed another case between the jewel thief and the train story because she was moving around too much. I felt she needed more time to get to know London and to get comfortable with her new College, so I wrote the casebook I called “A Case of Darkness.”
RU: What’s next for you?
AM: Wonderful, an easy question! I have written books 2 and 3 of this series already, so my next steps are to edit the heck out of them for my publishers and get them into production! I have also started a new dystopic novel that I’d like to carve out some time to write.
RU: Ooh, that sounds interesting. Now just a couple more questions. First, how have your family and friends reacted to the news about Jewel?

AM: They’re very excited but not really surprised. I guess it’s normal for me to be the most nervous about putting my work out there (since it’s mine) but most of my friends and family told me it was just a matter of time before I would get published. I don’t know if they were just saying that to be supportive, but I was no where near as confident. Now that it is really happening and there is a date when a physical book will be available in stores, their excitement has doubled. Seriously, I have the most supportive network – and that includes this blog and you Rami!

RU: I’m happy to be a part of that network, and I’m glad you’re a part of mine. Now here’s a fun question: if some big Hollywood producer came up to you and said they wanted to make a movie or TV show about Portia, who would you want to play the characters?

AM: I LOVE this question as you well know, because I’ve spent too much time thinking about it.

So I would love Katie McGrath (of BBC’s Merlin) to play Portia. I think she has the right balance of beauty and bark that my detective needs. I believe Jensen Ackles (of the CW’s Supernatural) would make a kick-ass Brian. And I think Irene Jones would benefit from the beauty and wit of someone like Lynda Carter (original Wonder Woman).
RU: Since I don’t know who those people are, I’ll take your word for it that they’re perfect for the roles. Final question: If you were stuck on a desert island and could only take three books with you, what would those books be?
AM: Hmm.. I guess Stephen King’s The Stand, Tolkein’s The Two Towers, and Conan Doyle’s Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. If I had a fourth option I’d have to take an Ann Rice. Can I please take my iPad instead Rami? I’m going to need more books than the average human.
I’d say yes, but there’s the question of charging it when the battery gets low. And the lack of a Wi-Fi network. Anyway, thanks for joining us, Angela.
If you would like to find out more about Angela, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, as well as on her blog a Portia Adams adventure.
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Comments
  1. karmicangel says:

    Reblogged this on a Portia Adams adventure and commented:
    My feature interview with Rami Ungar the Writer!

  2. […] Review March 27 Miss Page Turner — Review March 28 Miss Page Turner — Q&A March 31 Rami Ungar The Writer — Q&A April 2 L.S. Engler — Q&A April 3 So Here’s Us — Guest Post April 3 A […]

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