Today’s an exciting day for me, because not only does this post mark my very first participation in a Blog Tour, it’s also a blog tour for one of my friends and for a book that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. The book is Jewel of the Thames (A Portia Adams Adventure) and the author is Angela Misri, and I’m delighted to feature her on my blog. We got together for a little interview to discuss her fascinating heroine and the process of bringing 1930s London to life in this new series. So grab yourself a cup of tea and maybe even a pipe, and let’s have it!
Better yet, we’re doing a GIVEAWAY for a free eBook copy of Jewel of the Thames. It’s my first time playing with Rafflecopter, too, so throw in a few entries and potentially get something pretty sweet. Unfortunately, it seems my site doesn’t support the Java to post the giveaway here, but just follow this handy link, and you should be golden: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now, to the interview.
L: Okay, before we get to the book, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Angela Misri?
A: Let’s see, she’s a journalist, comic-book nerd, gamer, and mom. She thinks it’s weird to talk about herself in the third person though so she is switching now. I spent fourteen years working for the best public broadcaster in the world, and in my last few, I wrote the first two books in this series. Deciding that 14 years was a long time to dedicate to one career (journalism) and that this passion of mine deserved at least a little full-time attention, I left the CBC in June 2013. I spent July and August in glorious full-time writing mode, finishing book three, and sending out submissions for book one. What else can I tell you about myself? I’m a nerd in every definition of the word – I code, play World of Warcraft, collect comic books, have transformers and read Star Wars novels. I also love to read, so my house has more books than my local library (admittedly, my local library is tiny ; ). And I have an eleven year old son who was so inspired by my career change that he has started writing dystopic fiction stories.
L: I promise we’ll get to your book soon, but I’ve started delving into the Star Wars novels recently, so now I have to ask: which one would you recommend the most? Also, favorite comic book hero. These are the really important questions.
A: You don’t have to tell me! Favorite Star Wars series is the Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi and favorite comic book hero is the Batman (obviously – he’s the greatest detective in the DC Universe).
L: Detective, huh? Now there’s a clever segue if I ever heard one. Okay, so onto this book you’ve got coming out, then, Jewel of the Thames. What is it and why should we look forward to reading it?
A: Jewel is the first casebook of my aspiring detective Portia Adams. It follows 19-year-old Portia out of the graveyard where she has just buried her darling mother, and into her new life as the ward of a complete stranger named Mrs. Jones. It is in Toronto, in her lawyer’s office that she gets her first clue – her mother Marie has not only made Mrs. Jones her guardian, but bequeathed her a house London, England – a townhouse Marie herself inherited from her grandfather.
Now Portia has always wondered about her extended family, she has only ever known the love of her mother, having lost her father in the Great War when she was a toddler and never having known her grandparents or any cousins. Her mother’s mother was very secretive about her ex-husband, and now to find out he had left Marie a property in London?
This adventure, The Jewel of the Thames, follows Portia and her new guardian out of Toronto and to Baker Street, where she will sift through decades of long-buried clues to discover the truth about her inheritance and finally shake loose her family tree.
L: Would it be safe to say that there will be some interesting surprises along the way?
A: I sincerely hope people find the surprises interesting! At its root, this is the story of a young detective who takes on her first three cases and learns a lot about herself, her family and the new place she calls home. There are a few clues, a lot of new experiences and more than a few surprises. I think this time in history (sandwiched between the two great wars) and this time in Portia’s life as she grows into the woman and detective she will be are incredibly compelling (but I’m a little biased 😉
L: I love how it’s clear that we’ll be getting much more of Portia in the future, too. What would say was the most challenging part of bringing her to life with Jewel of the Thames?
A: Getting to know 1930s London — in other words, the research for the time. It’s easy to put myself back into a 19-year-old mindset and Portia has a lot of qualities from myself, my sister and my other close friends growing up. But getting to know the city of London, the state of women’s rights and such for the time and even the class cultures and prejudice were all much harder. I am far more worried about getting a detail wrong than the weeks it takes to research something, so I am more than willing to ‘do the time.’ My favourite piece of a research is a gorgeous hard-cover book I treated myself to (on sale!) called ‘Lost London’ by Philip Davies. I like opening it and flipping through the photos just to set the scene in my head when I’m really stuck.
L: What was one of the strangest things about 1930s London that you unearthed during your research?
A: Let’s see… I guess trying to find out how immigrants (from countries other than the European neighbours) were treated and regarded. The research was laborious and my findings disturbing, as it was all over the world in the 30s. Poverty and famine don’t tend to bring out the best in people, and world wars make everyone just a little less trusting.
L: I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, so I guess I’m particularly interested in seeing those elements weaved in through the story. Do you feel that the time period is a very strong presence in Jewel of the Thames? What drew you to that time period in particular?
A: I’m a huge fan as well of historical fiction, and this was a combination of luck and interest that took me into this specific time. Firstly, since I knew I wanted to create a character who was the granddaughter of Dr. John Watson, that gave me a range of dates depending on some details like when Watson was having children and with which of his wives (one after the other, not several wives at once ;). Once I had that range I realized that I could place Portia right in that incredible period between the two great wars – a time when the Great Depression had taken hold of the world, and when women were making moves through society that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years before. I am very interested in that period between World Wars I and II. I’m actually now a bit worried (as I write book 4 in the series) what I will do as we get closer to the second world war, and how Portia will react (as she must).
L: Oooh, I love it when a Spoiler Alert just makes me more interested to read the book! And I love that you’ve got my attention with at least four books, especially since World War II is such a fascinating area for myself. Other than Portia herself, what other characters do we have to look forward to meeting in Jewel of the Thames?
A: Well, there is of course her partner in anti-crime: Constable Brian Dawes. Brian lives downstairs at 221 Baker St. with his parents and becomes a Constable at Scotland Yard within weeks of Portia’s arrival in London. People ask me all the time if he is Portia’s Watson, and my answer is no, he is Portia’s foil, and since Portia is not Holmes, he would not be the ‘Watson.’ He is quite fabulous though.
You will also get to know (as much as she allows it) the mysterious Mrs. Jones, newly appointed guardian of Portia Adams. She is an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an ermine coat if you get my meaning, and will serve as both clue and solution to many of our young detectives problems.
It is in the NEXT book that you meet some more of Portia’s friend group, though some of the clients she helps in Jewel of the Thames become exactly that.
And, if that wasn’t enough to spark your interest, enjoy this blurb on Jewel of the Thames:
“Classy and clever. Portia Adams is equal parts toughness and charm.” — Tim Wynne-Jones, two-time winner of the Arthur Award from the Crime Writers of Canada
There’s a new detective at 221 Baker Street
Set against the background of 1930s England, Jewel of the Thames introduces Portia Adams, a budding detective with an interesting — and somewhat mysterious — heritage.
Nineteen-year-old Portia Adams has always been inquisitive. There’s nothing she likes better than working her way through a mystery. When her mother dies, Portia is left puzzling over why she was she left in the guardianship of the extravagant Mrs. Jones? Portia is promptly whisked from Toronto to London by her guardian, where she discovers that she has inherited 221 Baker Street — the former offices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Portia settles into her new home and gets to know her downstairs tenants, including the handsome and charming Brian Dawes. She also finds herself entangled in three cases: the first one involving stolen jewelry, the second one a sick judge and the final case revolving around a kidnapped child. But the greatest mystery of all is her own. How did she come to inherit this townhouse? And why did her mother keep her heritage from her? Portia has a feeling Mrs. Jones knows more than she is letting on. In fact, she thinks her new guardian may be the biggest clue of all.”
Many, many thanks to Angela Misri for including me on her Blog Tour! Please check out her website for the other stops along the way. I hope you’ve enjoyed having her as much as I did, and go out there and dig into Jewel of the Thames already!