Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I’m Chris Asbrey and I’m the 57 year old author of The Innocents.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Ha, not always an easy question to answer. I was born in the Far East lived most of my formative years in Scotland and have worked all over the world. I now live in England. I’m in the process of moving to York.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My birth in Hon Kong was a portent for a life lived like a gypsy. My father had been an actor. Like most actors he did a myriad of other jobs but acting was the thing he loved most. I studied psychology and biochemistry at Edinburgh, the Open University, and Bath. I gained some qualifications in civil law to work with a department connected to the Home Office in London. I use my psychological knowledge in building characters, layering realistic personalities with both strengths and weaknesses. My grasp on the methodologies used law enforcement and how they apply the law in day to day enquiries came from my time in the police. I’ve worked hard to grasp who people worked in the days before technology was available, as well as historic weaknesses and blind spots in the both the legal and court systems, to make for an authentic backdrop to my work.
I was always a voracious reader. My mother taught me with flashcards at the age of two, and graduating to the adult section of the library about the age of ten. I easily finished three books a week for years. Mysteries were a real love and I consumed the works of writers old and new constantly. The one thing I always wanted to do was to write but never had the confidence or time to do more than dream about it.
As a young child I loved to run lines with my father when he rehearsed and enjoyed creative people singing, dancing, telling jokes, performing and discussing the issues of the day. My childhood taught her that creativity was something you do, not something you passively watch. That carried over to a love of singing, professionally and with choirs, as well as playing some dodgy fiddle music alongside far better musicians who either made me sound okay or drowned me out entirely. Either way I managed to carry it off for a bit and even bagged a musician husband.
I first became interested in the female pioneers in law enforcement when I joined the police. History has always held a draw and the colourful stories of the older officers piqued MY interest, making me look even further back.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My first book, The Innocents, is now out. It’s the first in a series about a female Pinkerton in the 19th century and the clever charismatic criminal she crosses swords with. Link to book
Link to book
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have always wanted to write, but life got in the way, as it does for so many women. I was laid up with an injury and was on enforced bed-rest while they bolted my leg back together. I missed playing music and felt the need to do something else creative when my old ambition came creeping back.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose when people wanted to read my work and enjoyed it. Getting a publisher was a challenge. Many told me that they didn’t take Westerns, others that it wasn’t Western enough. The books are hard to fit into any distinct category. They are historical mysteries set everywhere the Pinkertons actually worked. They are 19th century American Mysteries. I was lucky to find a home for the stories at Prairie Rose Publications.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
History has always held a draw and the colourful stories of the older female officers piqued my interest, making me look even further back.
The very first women in law enforcement had been in France, working for the Sûreté in the early 19th century. They were, however, no more than a network of spies and prostitutes, the most infamous being the notorious ‘Violette’.
The first truly professional women in law enforcement worked for the Pinkerton Agency, and they were trained by the first female agent Kate Warne, an ex-actress and an expert in working undercover. Kate Warne was an expert at disguise, adopting roles, and accents. She was said to be daring and able to pass her characters off, even in close quarters. In the only known photograph of her she is dressed as a man. This was a skill set my childhood had prepared me to understand.
These women were fully-fledged agents, with their skills being held in high regard by Alan Pinkerton who once said, “In my service you will serve your country better than on the field. I have several female operatives. If you agree to come aboard you will go in training with the head of my female detectives, Kate Warne. She has never let me down.” I started to wonder why one of the female agents couldn’t be a Scottish Immigrant. After all, Alan Pinkerton was one. He came from Glasgow. Being a Scot in another land is something I know well and they say you should write what you know.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Innocents were a real gang of outlaws from Montana in the 1860s. They were given that name as they were polite to members of the public as the gang in the book are. They are not directly based upon them. I thought the name was too good not to use.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’ve been told that my style is descriptive and light. I’m glad that people are responding to my sense of humour. There’s nothing worse than a joke which falls flat.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
They are realistic as I research the history very thoroughly, but they are not based on me or anyone I know. I have brought in a few personal experiences. Some of the most sexist comments were actually said to me as a female police officer. I gave her a Scottish name which is routinely mispronounced in the USA, and get humour from the fact that it drives her mad. I made her very dark as many Celtic people look almost Latin in appearance, but the stereotype outside of Scotland or Ireland is of a fair-skinned redhead.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I had travelled extensively before I started writing. It certainly helped to know the area, the people and the culture.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher does that, but I do have input. I didn’t want them to look to’ bodice-rippery’ as they are mysteries.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I suppose the main thing I’ve learned is that there is good and bad in everyone. It can be a mistake to look at absolutes. People’s characters are not black and white and can be a complex mix of their experiences and upbringing.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I’m a sucker for any mystery writers, old or new. I also love biographies as I’m nosey and like to see what makes people tick. I’m constantly reading new books. There are too many to mention by name.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Both Kit Prate and Joanie Chevalier shine out. Kit got me out of the slush pile, and Joanie helped me to grasp publicising my work. I was being far too Scottish; too reticent and unwilling to boast. She really helped me understand the mechanics outside of writing –the publicity, marketing, pointing me to writer groups. Beyond that there are many more. Too many to mention for fear of missing someone out. Writers are very generous and supportive to one another.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
More of a vocation. I love it and feel the need to get thee stories out.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’d set it further East so publishers wouldn’t just dismiss it as a Western. Only kidding. No. Just write what you write and let people know it’s there. If there’ an audience they’ll find it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learn things all the time as I research the history, forensics and science. I can’t give away what I’ve learned as the third in the trilogy is a howdunit. We know the man is a killer but we don’t know how until the end. I can’t give away the ending but it took a lot of very deep research.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I seriously have no idea. I see my on characters as themselves and not as actors modelling the roles. Maybe readers might have a thought.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write. Just do it. Also don’t forget to network, publicise, and promote. Nobody else is going to do that for you.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I have quite a few plots to come yet, so there are still many mysteries for these characters to work through yet.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just bought ‘A Doctor’s Bag’ Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear. It’s written by a real doctor and gives all kinds of details on medicine and science in the 19th century.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. I was only two. I’m sure it was excellent as it made me want more.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I don’t cry easily, but when I do it’s seeing inspirational people beat the odds.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Robert Burns, Scotland’ national poet. He rose up from being a farm labourer to mixing with the highest reaches of society. He was clever, funny and sexy; he’d be a movie star today. He wrote about racism, sexism, and separation of church and state in the 18th century. He was a remarkable man.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Music has taken a backseat, but it’s still there. I sing in a choir.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I have very catholic tastes. I love comedy, anything from the Big Bang Theory, to This Country. I enjoy The Murdoch mysteries, any mysteries, actually. I am currently very fond of a UK series in which they examine old very crimes with the decedents of people hanged for murder and look at whether the convictions were actually sound. Many of them weren’t. It’s a great insight into the 19th century court system and the Victorian social mores.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love Celtic music, both traditional and modern. Most of my favourite musicians are people you’ll never have heard of. Food? Anything but liver. My colour depends on my mood on the day.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Sing. That’s an easy one.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
With my family. That’s what really counts.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
If you can read this you’re standing on my breasts? Only kidding. I’m not going to have one. I want to be cremated and returned to the land.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Here are all my links:
Twitter – https://twitter.com/CAASBREY
“So, you want to pretend you’re a Pinkerton? As a female?” His eyes darkened. “I’ve questioned one before, although he didn’t know who I was. They’re trained real well on being both sides of interrogations. You don’t want to do this. Not as a woman. He had a real hard time. You’ll have it even harder.”
She sat staring ahead once more, her face impassive and stony.
“You’ve nothing to say?”
Her eyes flashed. “Beating the hell out of me won’t change anything but my view of you.”
Nat reached out and entwined a hard fist in her hair and dragged her backward until the chair balanced on the back legs. He brought his face close to hers, his hot breath burning into her cheek. “Think harder, lady. This isn’t a game. Who are you?”
Abigail felt the dragging pain at the back of her head as shards of pain lanced across her scalp. He held her, balanced between his painful grip and a clattering fall to the floor but her stubborn nature wouldn’t let her acquiesce.
“Others will come after you, no matter what you do to me.” She darted her eyes to meet his, unable to move her pinioned head. “I won’t be the last.”
Link to book Link to book https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BMHFXSJ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_dp_wTSSAb8J40Q9H
About The Author
Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety, legal rights, and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office.
In that role she produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and wrote guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She was Media Trained, by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. She has also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.
She lives with her husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. She’s moving to the beautiful medieval city of York.
Blog – C.A Asbrey – all things obscure and strange in the Victorian period http://caasbrey.com/
The Innocents Mystery Series Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/937572179738970/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/CAASBREY
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mysteryscrivener/