Holly WestThe winners of the Amazon gift cards are: Stephen J., Pop Culture Nerd, and John B. Thanks for playing, everyone. And more importantly, thank you for your wonderful comments.

Today is February 3, 2014.

Today I am a published author.

I started writing Mistress of Fortune (then titled Diary of Bedlam) in June 2008, but the dream of writing and publishing a novel started much earlier, borne from the reading I did as a child. I wanted to write novels too, to inspire others with stories the way I’d been inspired. And now, I’ve finally done it.

I’m nervous, of course. Now that Mistress of Fortune is out in the world, there are so many things to worry about: Will it sell? Will people like it? I’d like to say that just for today, I’ll put those concerns aside and enjoy this moment. That’s not likely to happen, but I’ll do my best.Mistress of Fortune Cover

There will be other stories that capture my imagination and compel me to put them to paper. I’ll spend more long hours alone at my computer, attempting to bring new characters to life and trying to figure out what drives them. But there will never be another first novel for me. And so, today, I celebrate.

Did you know you can buy eBooks from many independently-owned bookstores? It’s true! By partnering with Kobo, independent booksellers everywhere are selling eBooks, just like the larger eRetailers. If you don’t have a kobo reader, just download the app for your computer, tablet, or smartphone and start reading.

Easy-peasy.

Here are a few of the wonderful independent bookstores where you can buy Mistress of Fortune:

Mysterious Galaxy (Redondo Beach, CA, my local indie)
Murder by the Book (Houston, TX)
Book People (Austin, TX)
Book Passage (Bay Area, CA)
Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookstore (Harrisburg, PA)
Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore (Forest Park, IL)
Raven Bookstore (Lawrence, KS)
Fountain Bookstore (Richmond, VA)
Mysteries on Main Street (Johnstown, NY)

I’ll be adding to this list as I find indies that sell eBooks. But if you don’t see your local indie here, check and see if they sell eBooks. I’d love it if you’d purchase Mistress of Fortune through them.

Mistress of Lies is the second book in the Mistress of Fortune series, set in 17th century London and featuring Isabel Wilde, a mistress to King Charles II who secretly makes her living as a fortuneteller. Coming from Carina Press in Fall 2014.

About the book:

For the past six years, Isabel Wilde, a mistress to England’s King Charles II, has made a good living disguised as a fortuneteller counseling London’s nobility. But lately, she’s suffered a downturn in visits to the room in Coal Yard Alley where she conducts her business and she’s worried about her future. So when the king invites her to move into Whitehall Palace, she’s tempted to do it, despite their tumultuous past.

Whitehall Palace circa 1675
The Palace of Whitehall by Hendrick Danckerts, c. 1675.

Isabel’s plans are interrupted when a beggar girl named Susanna shows up at her home claiming to be the daughter of Isabel’s older brother, Adam Barber. Isabel’s always believed that Adam died alone, without wife or child, in plague-ravaged England whilst she was in Amsterdam at the behest of the king. But when Susanna reveals that Adam was actually murdered, Isabel feels she has no choice but to take up a seemingly impossible task: discover the truth about her brother’s death, twelve years after it happened.

Isabel’s investigation leads her through the gamut of London society, from bear baiting matches and brothels to the secretive world of wealthy goldsmith bankers. As she uncovers the truth about her brother’s dark past—in the process revealing the misdeeds of one of London’s most powerful citizens—she’s left to wonder whether the past is better left buried, especially when crossing the wrong person just might lead to her own burial.

I’ll be moderating a panel at the upcoming Bouchercon in Albany next week (September 19-22). It’s called “I’ve Loved These Days” and boy, that topic couldn’t be more appropriate for me. But even more exciting are my panelists: International Guest of Honor Anne Perry, Caroline Todd, Susanna Calkins, Anna Loan-Wilsey and Susanne Alleyn.

This is gonna be fun.

But let’s get back to that topic for a moment. “I’ve Loved These Days.” My debut novel, Mistress of Fortune, takes place in late 17th century London, during the latter part of King Charles II’s reign. I’ve known since I was a teenager that I would someday write a novel set in Restoration London featuring King Charles himself as a character. After all, I’ve had a crush on him since I was fifteen. It’s pretty much the only thing I knew when I first sat down to write Mistress of Fortune. Everything else–my protagonist, Isabel Wilde, a mistress to the king who secretly makes her living as a fortune teller and the plot itself–was born out of my desire to write about this time and place.

I’ve walked the streets of London from the Tower to Primrose Hill, searching for the 17th century London I’d created. But a big part of that walk was imagining that my characters were traveling right along side me.

During the writing of it, I soon discovered that the novel was about so much more than the setting I’d loved for so many years. For a novel to truly come to life, the setting becomes a backdrop and the characters take over. At least that’s what happened to me. I’ve walked the streets of London from the Tower to Primrose Hill, searching for the 17th century London I’d created. But a big part of that walk was imagining that my characters were traveling right along side me.

Susanna Calkins, one of my panelists who also writes during the Restoration period, recently wrote a great piece for Writer’s Digest: How to Write Historical Fiction. I’ve been giving the issue of research quite a bit of thought lately, not only because I’m preparing for the Bouchercon panel but because I’m currently writing book two in the Mistress of Fortune series. One of the questions I plan to ask my panelists is: “How important is authenticity in historical fiction? Is authenticity more important for historical fiction writers than authors of other types of fiction?”

As Susanna wrote in the WD post: “When I was first dreaming about my story, even before I had worked out the plot or characters, I knew one thing for sure: By gum, this novel would be accurate. Every detail, every word, would be accurate. Historians everywhere would use my book in their classes and would revel in my accurate tale. That idea lasted about two seconds.”

I don’t know any historical fiction author (or really, any author at all) who doesn’t go into it with the best of intentions. The drive for truth and authenticity is obsessive and unrelenting. But at some point, a writer must accept that a detail or two might be fudged, or in some cases, made up entirely. I’ll give you an example. Mistress of Fortune is based upon the real-life, unsolved murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey. Though it’s not the most famous of unsolved murders, quite a bit has been written about it over the years and I had access to a great deal of reference material. In the first draft of the novel, I kept meticulously to the time line of the murder and its investigation. What I ended up with was a confusing and boring manuscript that bore little resemblance to either a proper non fiction account of the killing or an engaging historical mystery. In order to achieve my goal–to write a publishable historical mystery–I had to throw the real time line and many of the true life players out the window. What I ended up with was a fast paced and readable fictional account of Sir Edmund’s murder.

I don’t know any historical fiction author (or really, any author at all) who doesn’t go into it with the best of intentions. The drive for truth and authenticity is obsessive and unrelenting.

Of course, I explained what I’d done and offered up references for those readers who want the real story. As Susanna says, “that’s what the ‘historical note’ at the end of your novel is for.” Or, as Harlan Coben once said in one of the first Bouchercon panels I attended: “I make shit up.”

Regardless, to write historical fiction, one must have a deep and abiding love of the days of which they write. I can’t wait to explore this topic with some of the best historical crime fiction writers in the field.

Panel:
“I’ve Loved These Days”
Friday, 9/19 3:10pm
Featuring: Anne Perry, Caroline Todd, Susanna Calkins, Anna Loan-Wilsey, & Susanne Alleyn (Holly West, moderator)