Before we get the the interview, there is something important that must be said; HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the moms out there. This will probably be an unusual one for each of us, but not matter what the circumstances, know that you are loved and we are grateful for everything you do for us.
Our writer today is Christine Asbrey.
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 the beautiful ancient city of York.
Chris as given us a sample of her writing, which you can find at the end of the post, after the questions.
In her words… Hi everyone. My name is Christine Anne Asbrey, and I write historical mysteries under the name of C. A. Asbrey. My books are available in Kindle and paperback all over the world. My first book, The Innocents, was published in April 2018, and was first in series of six books. Five are currently available, and the last in the series is published in July 2020.
The series is about a clever female Pinkerton Detective who is sent to work undercover to get intelligence on the most wanted man in the country, Nat Quinn and his gang, The Innocents. They are so called because they hit only large concerns like the railroads and the banks, never steal from ordinary people, and treat members of the public with courtesy. That said, they can be ruthless, and extremely cunning.
The heroine is a young widow, Abigail MacKay, with a deep interests in the new forensics, and the new scientific method of policing. She is also an expert in disguise. Nat and Abigail are instantly drawn to one another, as two sides of the same coin – both using their wits, science, and skills on different sides of the law. However, if they act on the attraction it could destroy both their lives. That will-they-won’t-they forms the backdrop to other mysteries in the series.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I first became interested in the female pioneers in law enforcement when I joined the police in Scotland. History has always held a draw and the colorful stories of the older 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’. Now there’s another story which needs to be told!
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. 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. They do say you should write what you know. My work has taken me all over the world, but working in the USA, and visiting the places where these women worked, deepened my passion for finding out more about how they lived. I also researched the tools and equipment available to them at the time. Connections to police, and Home Office experts, allowed me to research the birth of forensics with people who knew their subject intimately. The topic for ‘The Innocents Mystery Series’ simmered in the background for years, and all the time I was researching more and more deeply into the period. I love the rapid pace of innovation and invention in the 19th century. Nothing pleases me more than finding spy gadgets available at the time which were invented far earlier than most people would think possible. Work and life got in the way of the books being anything more than an idea, until I was suddenly grounded by a serious accident. The enforced leisure time of recuperation focused my mind and the old dream of writing resurfaced. It started as a short story which took on a life of its own when it grew and grew—then grew some more. Eventually, ‘The Innocents Mysteries’ evolved.
Plotter or pantser?
A bit of both. A lot of my mysteries are actually based on genuine historical crimes, but of course I change things up a bit so that lovers of true crime can still enjoy playing along. Some are well known, some less so. The more outrageous the crime seems, the more likely it is to be rooted in reality. That said, I’ll give the characters their head. If they feel like going off-script and doing something a bit mad, I’ll let them. It normally makes for a better story and keeps things fresh. I know everyone does things differently, but the story seems a sterile to me if I over-plan. I generally start with a fair idea of where things are going, but even the murderer can, and has, change as the story forms. I think book three, Innocent Bystander, was the most tightly plotted. That is more of a howdunit than a whodunit. We know who the killer is, we even know the next proposed victim, but we don’t know how he kills. I’m very proud of the scientific research on that one
I do loads of research, and try to make sure everything in the books is either historically possible, or really happened. I hate finding anachronisms in historical books. I have not only researched the forensics and methodologies of the time, but even the makeup used in Abigail’s disguises. I did wonder how all that long Victorian Hair could go under a short wig, but modern cosplay and makeup tutorials online showed me that it can. It’s all down to multiple flat pleats and technique.
All that research can only ever be a backdrop though. I like to try to make my characters vivid and as human as possible. Most of all I like to add humor. I do think one of the sexiest things a man can be is funny, as it means he’s a good listener and quick-witted.
What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part of the writing journey?
Research has to be one of the favorite parts, especially when I discover a wonderful forgotten crime to play with, or spy gadgets invented way earlier than you think. A lot of that stuff goes in my blog. I particularly enjoy the ordinary stuff which is too mundane to be taught. Things like traveling coping a long way with a child in nappies, how did women deal with their periods, or what horrible things did the really poor eat? I love it when a story flows like water, and seems like it’s out there in the universe just waiting to be told. Another thing I really love is the freedom of working when you want. I’m more owl than lark and I’m at my best late at night. I’m terrible in the morning and getting up for a 9am start was as bad as a 4am start for me. I can now fit my body clock.
On the flip side, I hate it when marketing takes me away from that, but it has to be done. There’s no point in writing a book if nobody knows about it. I’m sure that’s something many authors share, but for us all, it’s a big part of our working life as writers. A writer can’t just write. They have to market, network, sell, and promote.
Do you have anything special that you’ll be focusing on this year?
I’m currently writing a book set in the UK in the 19th century in which young female pharmacist is on the run after being wrongly accused of murder. She is pursued by killers, and a dogged detective who is determined to bring her in. I’ve also started another which is set in 19th century Edinburgh, and which stretches over more than a hundred years, with the solution being a result of modern forensics. I’ve taken bodies into the old gothic Victorian mortuary in Edinburgh, and it’s too good a location not to put in a book.
Can you share a snippet that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt?
From Book 1 The Innocents
“Out of bed?” Nat appeared at the door, the light highlighting his tawny hair. “Looking for something?”
She paused, guilty eyes dropping along with the hand trailing along the shelf. “Yes. Something to read.”
“A book?” his eyes scanned the room, checking to see if anything which could be used as a weapon had gone missing. “You should’ve said.”
“All I can find are a few science books. Whose cabin is this? A doctor’s?”
“The owner was a prospector. Those books are mine.”
Her brows arched in surprise, and she turned and picked one up. “’Carl Friederich Peschel’s Textbook of Physics.’” She continued along the spines. “’Ganot’s Elementary Treatise on Experimental And Applied Physics’, ‘Balfour Stewart, An elementary Treatise On Heat.’”
“So?” Nat’s jaw firmed in challenge. “Have you got anything against a man who wants to improve his mind?”
His brow furrowed. “I’m supposed to believe you’re a Pinkerton and you can’t believe I’m interested in science? I like to learn all kinds of things. Get over it.”
“But you?” She stared at him incredulously. “You’re a common criminal.”
His brows met. “How dare you? There’s nothing common about me. I’m particular about being about as uncommon a criminal as you’ll ever meet. I’ve got a Dickens if you want something simpler, but no women’s stuff. I prefer my heaving bosoms to be tangible.”
“Of course. Who wants imaginary bosoms?”
She huffed in exasperation. “Can we forget about the bosoms?”
His dark eyes twinkled with devilment. “I wish I could but men are kinda made that way.”
“Science books?” Abigail changed the subject. “Are you trying to give up crime?”
“Nope, just trying to be more efficient at it. I’m a modern man. You have to move with the times, you know,” Nat’s cheeks dimpled, “but look who I’m talking to. You’re a veritable pioneer for females. You know how it is. I bet you’ve got all kinds of modern detective tricks. I’m looking forward to seeing those. When do they start? Are you doing it now?”
Abigail sighed. “I’m sorry I asked. Never mind. You have a Dickens? Which one?”
Links to connect with Chris and her books:
Blog – C.A Asbrey – all things obscure and strange in the Victorian period Facebook, Twitter , Goodreads , Bookbub
The Innocents Mystery Series Group
Link to whole series , Link to latest book – In All Innocence
A big thank you to Chris (don’t you just love her covers?) I hope you enjoyed the interview. The concept of using the “real” Pinkertons in a fictional book is very interesting, and Chris’s books are now on my TBR list. (You know, the one that never gets any smaller?) Once again HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY weekend!!