Posts Tagged ‘London’

Last year Angela released her first book, Jewel of the Thames, about a young woman named Portia Adams who moves into 221B Baker Street and begins solving mysteries happening in London (see our first interview and my review of JotT). Now she’s back, and she’s here to discuss her new book, the sequel to JotT, Thrice Burned and the growing fanbase around her character Portia.

RU: Welcome back to the program, Angela. Now, in Jewel of the Thames, Portia moves into 221 Baker Street, establishes a reputation for herself, and learns some very interesting things about her family history. What can we expect in Thrice Burned?

AM: Portia spends most of Thrice Burned struggling with the idea of becoming a real detective. Up until now, her cases have been small potatoes, brought to her by Brian, or friends or in the case of the missing child on a train, just the luck of being in the right place at the right time. With the full knowledge of her heritage just weeks old in her mind, Portia is truly at a juncture in her young life. Should she follow the easy route and take her law degree, fading into relative obscurity as one of the many barristers walking the streets of London? Or should she step up and take the road-less-travelled and take up the shingle to Baker Street, becoming the latest consulting detective in London? At the same time, other choices are being thrown her way when she meets Gavin Whitaker, a man who stimulates her brain in a way no one else ever has. Annie Coleson inserts herself into Portia’s life and suddenly, she has a persistent new friend (whether she wants one or not). So, in addition to the usual mysteries to solve, Thrice Burned focuses on decisions that need to be made for your young heroine to become the detective we all know she will be.

RU: Has Portia’s character changed at all between the books?

AM: Wow. Yes, it has, dramatically so. Where in Toronto she was essentially an introverted shut-in who did her best to fade into the background, since arriving in London Portia has made friends and developed a rather dramatic habit of getting into trouble. She’s still a very focused girl with introverted tendencies, but she’s starting to recognize when those tendencies move her towards depression and is trying to get a handle on it. She’s started documenting her moods, trying to avoid the extremes that her grandfather Sherlock Holmes experienced and while she doesn’t exactly embrace the lifestyle Mrs. Jones is determined to introduce her to, she does start to see its value and the value of the new friends in her life.

“Thrice Burned” by Angela Misri. Available March 24th

 

RU:  How do you come up with the cases for your books?

AM: This hasn’t changed through three books of writing about Portia. For me, it always starts with the crime – I have an idea for a crime and work outwards from there. In the case of Thrice Burned, I had a cool idea about some unexplained fires in London that could be linked back to a firefighter. In the case of my latest casebook that I’m working on for book four, I had an idea about unexploded mines from the first world war being set off at London train stations. I have a video from my series that explains my methodology (such as it is).

[Editor’s note: Angela has a series of web videos on YouTube called One Fictitious Moment about writing fiction. You can watch the particular video she’s referring to here.]

RU: Portia’s been gaining quite a fan base. She’s gotten some fan art and even appeared in a Wikipedia entry. How does that make you feel?

AM: Incredibly blessed. I still find it surreal to meet fans who know all about my characters and talk about them like they’re real people (which in my head, they are of course!).

RU: How many more volumes of Portia’s adventures can we expect? And what’s next for you personally?

AM: Well, I have at least one more book with Fierce Ink Press (coming out March 2016) but I am well into writing book 4 in the series. I don’t know to be honest. I think as long as I enjoy writing them, I will continue to do that and hopefully find someone who will publish them! In my head I really want to make it to the Second World War in the books, because Brian is going to go off to fight, and Portia is going to have to get involved with the war as well (though I’m not positive as to how yet). What do you think? Keep going or wrap it up at three books?

RU:  I’d like to see some more of Portia. And speaking of which, you were in London recently. Was that mostly research or pleasure?

A little of both to be honest! I haven’t been in London since I started writing this series, so I really wanted to put my eyes on some of the locations I describe in Jewel and Thrice Burned. I visited Trafalgar Square, Old Scotland Yard, Regents Park, Kings Cross station and of course Baker Street. It was kind of a dream come true to take a picture of my first book at 221B Baker Street!

RU: Jealous! Finally, what are you reading right now that you’d recommend to others?

AM: I just started Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz and on the recommendation of a friend I’m also reading The Grammar Devotional by Mignon Fogarty.

Thrice-Burned comes out March 24th, and will be available from Amazon and Indigo.com. Angela will also be attending 221B Con in Atlanta this April as a special guest speaker. And make sure to check out her blog, A Portia Adams Adventure.

And if you’re an author interested in getting interviewed for an upcoming release, head over to my interview page and leave me a comment. We’ll arrange for something to happen soon.

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As a Jew, Christmas isn’t really my thing. In fact, I’ve been referring to it in a half-joking manner as my month-long headache. But sometimes Christmas surprises me, as it did last night.

After watching The Interview on Christmas Eve and sleeping in much later than I had meant to, I’d pretty much been a couch potato all day, catching up on the shows I’d missed out on this semester. Since I was planning on watching the Doctor Who Christmas special, I went out for a walk and stretch my legs. And what a walk it was! The air was actually much warmer than last year, there wasn’t any rain or snow, and there was hardly any traffic! Hardly any at all! You could walk right into the middle of what would normally be a very busy street and just dance! Which I did, by the way. Several times! And nobody gave me a weird look at all…not that there was anyone really around to look. And I probably wouldn’t care what anyone thought if there was someone there, anyway.

After stopping off at the local donut shop for an after-dinner snack (and for what became this morning’s breakfast), I decided to go for a walk on campus. And it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Everything was so quiet, so empty, and there was a slight mist in the air. It gave everything a strange, magical air, and I kept expecting to see something magical pop out at me (more than usual anyway). With my earbuds popped in, I ended up dancing on the Oval to some of my favorite uplifting party songs, just because I could. I then stopped by Mirror Lake, which at this time of year is lit up with Christmas lights. I don’t normally care for all the lights, but tonight it was enchanting and I really enjoyed myself.

It was at that point that I decided to head home, especially if I wanted to take a shower before the Christmas special began. And it was also at that point that something that I’d been waiting for finally happened: if you recall back in May during my study abroad trip, I began a short story called The Murderer’s Legacy that was inspired by some of the things I’d seen and read about while in London. The story was about a nobleman living in a version of Victorian England where magic is commonplace. The nobleman is being sentenced to death (or at least a very horrific version of it) for the murder of his wife, whom he did not murder. At the end of the story it’s revealed who actually murdered her and why, but by then it’s too late for the nobleman.

Something like I saw last night. You can see how inspiring it is, can’t you?

 

I thought at the time that it was a pretty good story, and that it had a lot of potential. I still do. But I felt that the version I had in the first draft wasn’t sufficient, and I had to do some major editing and rewriting in order to make the story work. This became more apparent to me as time went on, especially as some of the lessons from all the creative writing I did this last semester began to sink in, namely don’t plunge the reader into a fantastic world with a million different parts and pieces to it if you have only ten-thousand words to do it and tell a story set in that world. My first draft felt like starting Harry Potter in Book 4 or 5 and being plunged into this great big established universe, rather than being slowly introduced to that world in Book 1.

The problem was, I didn’t know how to fix this story so that it was not only simpler, but flowed better and actually told a story rather than introducing the reader to a complicated world they couldn’t take in slowly. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to approach this story and edit it. Until last night, that is, when standing by Mirror Lake, something just clicked and inspiration flowed. I finally figured out how to make this story work, how to tell it in a creepy way while keeping the basic idea behind it alive. Not only that, but I had all the research materials I needed at home, so looking up what I needed for this story would be a cinch.

You can imagine the size of the smile on my face as I walked home that evening. I had all the inspiration I needed to rewrite The Murderer’s Legacy into a good story. Then I realized I have no time to work on it, with a thesis and classes to deal with. Oy vey, the life of a writer in college. It’s never easy.

Well, who knows? There may be a chance for me to still work on this story before May. I’ll have an easier workload this coming semester and that means more time for homework and writing. Maybe I’ll be able to finish Rose early and work on this and all my other projects. We can hope, right?

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got plenty of work ahead of me, so I’m going to try and get that done. Have a good weekend and (if I don’t post again before December 31st) Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear.

If you live in the English-speaking world and you pay any attention to scary stories, serial killers, or England, you’ve probably heard of Jack the Ripper, whose legend has become so great that sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s fact and what is fiction (and it blends more often than you think). If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quick overview of Jack the Ripper (even if you’re familiar with the Ripper legends, you might want to read this for a little refresher):

Jack the Ripper was the name given to a supposed killer who operated in the impoverished neighborhoods of Whitechapel and the surrounding areas in 1888 London. It is believed he killed and severely mutilated the abdomens of five women, all prostitutes, as well as possibly killing several more women. The killer gained his now-famous name when a letter, now called the “Dear Boss” letter, was sent to the Central News Agency of London, signed “Jack the Ripper” (whether the actual killer sent this letter and others is up for debate). The press  sensationalized the murders and anything even remotely linked to hte murders, and hundreds of people sent in letters claiming to be the killer (some people are really hungry for fame and attention). However, Jack the Ripper was never caught, and his identity has become one of the greatest mysteries of our modern era.

Almost immediately after the murders, Jack the Ripper became a household name and legend, appearing in numerous works of fiction over the years and becoming a sort of boogeyman for the masses. For numerous years, anything having to do with the Ripper would terrify Londoners and call out the police to investigate. And even today, authors (and more than one or two killers) have been inspired by the Ripper murders. In fact, it seems that at least one book a year is released offering a new story or fresh insight into the identity of Jack. People who dedicate themselves to trying to solve the Ripper mystery are known colloquially as Ripperologists.

One such Ripperologist, businessman and “armchair historian” Russell Edwards, claims in his book Naming Jack the Ripper to have finally figured out the killer’s identity through…DNA evidence?

Mr. Edwards book, claiming to have “definitively” identified the Ripper through DNA evidence

Apparently Edwards owns a piece of evidence from the original murders: the bloodstained shawl of Catherine Eddowes, one of the “canonical” Ripper victims, which he bought at auction a couple of years ago. According to his book, he was able to extract usable DNA from the shawl and have it analyzed by a professor in molecular biology at Liverpool John Mores University. Said professor managed to extract not just blood, but semen from the shawl and isolate DNA from his samples. The blood was eventually matched to Eddowes through a descendant of hers, while the semen was matched to Aaron Kosminski, a man suspected at the time of possibly being the Ripper, through one of his direct descendants.

On the surface, this could be credible. Kosminski, a married Plish Jew who emigrated to London with his family to escape the pogroms in Tsarist Russia. He lived in the area where the murders took place, and he was committed to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in 1891 for paranoid schizophrenia, later transferring to another asylum where he died in 1899. However, there is good reason to suspect he might not have been the killer.

Aaron Kosminski, one of the main suspects of the Jack the Ripper murders.

Setting aside how amazing it is to get any workable DNA off a 130-year-old shawl and that the DNA results still haven’t been peer-reviewed by any scientific journal, Catherine Eddowes was a prostitute, so it wouldn’t have been unusual for her to have some semen on her, especially if it was from a man who happened to live in the neighborhood she worked in. And there’s also no evidence to suggest that Kominski killed her or anyone else. We lack a working timeline or any forensic evidence to possibly implicate Kominski or anyone else.  And Kominski himself, although mentally disturbed, was mostly harmless: except for two incidents while incarcerated in the asylums he lived in, Kosminski was mostly harmless. Indeed, some believe he may have been confused for Nathan Kaminsky, also known as David Cohen, another Polish Jew who was himself sent to Colney Hatch in 1888 a month after the last Ripper victim and was said to be violent and antisocial during his short stay in the asylum (he died in 1889).

The truth is, while this DNA evidence may tell us that Kosminski availed himself of Eddowes’ services prior to her death (as did  probably several other men who could all possibly be the killer), we are no closer to identifying Jack the Ripper than we were 130 years ago. Such is the case with famous serial killers who, due to time or design, have left little or no evidence behind of their murders. And that’s even if there is a killer to begin with (some have argued that some of the “canonical” Ripper victims may have actually been the work of other killers, and that maybe only three of the murders, if any, are related).

But you know what? Maybe that’s okay. A good chunk of the appeal from Jack the Ripper is that he’s unknown, that he could be a polish Jew, a surgeon, or even a member of the Royal House. And that means that there’s room for many more generations of Ripperologists and fans to come up with their own theories and stories about who Jack the Ripper is, why he killed, whom he killed at all, and where he ended up. And maybe someday someone will truly, beyond the shadow of a doubt, solve the identity of the Ripper.

Until that day, he’ll stay among the many famous serial killers whose identities are unknown, such as the Zodiac Killer, the Alphabet murderer, the killer of the Black Dahlia, the Servant Girl Murderer, the Axeman of New Orleans–God, how messed up is it that I know all this?

[Thanks to the Huffington Post for most of the information for this article as well as quick references on Wikipedia.]