Who: Holly West
What: Author of 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 fortune teller. Her debut, MISTRESS OF FORTUNE, was nominated for the Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award for Best First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in NEEDLE Magazine, Shotgun Honey, and numerous anthologies, including the upcoming PROTECTORS 2 anthology.
Where: Northern California
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
I must admit that MISTRESS OF FORTUNE was probably the first historical mystery I have read (does “Name of the Rose” count?). What drew you to this genre as a writer?
Let me congratulate you on reading your first historical mystery. That wasn’t so hard, was it? And if you’re gonna read a historical at all, MISTRESS OF FORTUNE was probably a good place to start. I’ve been told that its paced like a “modern thriller.” That makes me happy because it was kind of my goal.
Sometimes I think my decision to write a historical—as my first novel, at least—was misguided. Explaining the politics of the time without being pedantic, building an authentic world without resorting to info dump—that shit ain’t easy. But in a lot of ways, writing a historical novel is no different than writing anything else. You’re trying to capture the zeitgeist of the time and place. In the case of 17th century London, much of that zeitgeist rests in our collective imaginations, based mostly on other films and books, because none of us were alive back then. That makes it easier to write in some way.
What? You’ve never imagined 17th century London? Well, have I got a book for you.
But that doesn’t answer the question, does it? I wasn’t drawn to the genre so much as I was drawn to 17th century London. When I was a kid I read and loved a book called FOREVER AMBER and decided if I ever wrote a book it would be set in that time period.