What is this series about?
When I decided to start writing a mystery [before that I had written science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively], I wanted to write about murders that were a bit different from the norm. The idea was to set up situations and cases that other detectives didn’t necessarily want to deal with, either because of their sensitive nature or because of their perceived complexity.
So, the case would fall to one detective in particular: Allison Newberry, a junior detective who is given the case in the first novel because no one else wanted it. And rather than just a standard investigation into a case, finding clues, piecing together clues, and then making an arrest, I wanted to have the investigation uncover something even more sinister and dangerous than the original murder.
Who is Allison Newberry?
My two biggest inspirations for writing in the mystery genre are Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Having said that, I don’t really consider Allison to fit in the mold of the neurotic detective who notices little details or makes connections that no one else notices. She’s also not an action hero who goes in with two guns blazing. I wanted to build a character who isn’t necessarily the greatest detective in the world, but makes up for a lack of experience with a deep-seated tenacity that makes her willing to see any case through to its end, regardless of how dangerous her situation becomes.
With all my characters, I’ve striven to keep them gray, rather than strictly black and white. There are no great heroes, there are no happy endings with all the loose ends neatly tied up into a bow. I’ve always kind of disliked the ending where all the good guys win and all the bad guys lose, everyone goes home happy. That thinking permeates my writing. So, to tie back into Allison Newberry, she’s not a hero who returns from her cases to bask in glory, but rather someone who strongly believes those who perpetrate the crime of murder should be brought in to answer for their actions.
What’s the world like?
Having been inspired by Poirot and Holmes, I wanted to use a similar setting [late-Victorian England]. However, as I mentioned earlier, I come from a background of fantasy and science fiction, so I decided to build my stories around a custom-made world.
Using a “fantasy” world, however, is a double-edge sword. On the one hand, I’m not constricted by reality, I can build my world however I want to and do whatever I want with it. On the other hand, it loses that connection to the real world and some people might be put off by that. Nevertheless, this is how I’d like to write my stories, since I can do things that a historical setting wouldn’t allow me to do.
The world is heavily inspired by Victorian England, all the way down to many of the terms used. The level of technology is roughly somewhere between late-19 century and early-20th century, with the industrial revolution kicking into full swing, the prevalence of flint-lock weapons, and a continued reliance on horses that is slowly giving way to steam-powered transportation. It does contain a few elements of steampunk, but they’re definitely not steampunk stories. I’ve drawn a few ideas from that subgenre and used them in my stories, but they’re not about cramming in every steampunk element I could find and then hoping that it somehow results in an interesting story. I’ve tried to use them judiciously and in ways that make sense for each story.