TNA: Why did you choose Widdershins for the name of your fictional city?
JLH: I spent weeks wracking my brain trying to come up with something interesting and/or vaguely creepy without result, so in the first couple of chapters I wrote it was [town name], which got really tiresome after a while. Then one day I while I listened to “Escape Artist” by Zoe Keating (http://youtu.be/yYrcXX4nWOA), I not only had the idea for the scene in the graveyard/woods, but the word “widdershins” popped into my head. I immediately realized it was the name of the town.
To go widdershins is to go to the left, or counter-clockwise, in a circle. It used to be considered horribly unlucky to walk widdershins around a church, and to dance widdershins in a ring of toadstools would summon the faeries. It also comes up quite a bit in magical rituals, so it seemed like the sort of thing a sorcerer would name the town he founded.
TNA: Do you think the series would work as well set in modern times? Why or why not?
JLH: It would be very different, that’s for sure! Whyborne would have been out since his teens, and Christine wouldn’t face the same level of opposition for her gender. Universities have mostly replaced museums as centers of research, although poor Whyborne would hate teaching. Maggie Parkhurst would be the grad student with the hopeless crush on her gay professor. And of course, the atmosphere of fog-shrouded streets, hansom cabs, and gas-lit studies would be replaced by taxis, cell phones, and Googling for insane cults. I think it would work, but it would be a very different series of books.
TNA: If Whyborne and Griffin lived in Massachusetts today, would they be planning a wedding?
JLH: Eventually. It would have to be small and low-key, though, because otherwise Whyborne would have a nervous breakdown. Flowers? Cake? Invitations? Griffin would end up doing most of the planning.
Now I’m imagining what sort of bachelor party Christine would throw for Whyborne. That shit would be epic.
TNA: What was the deciding factor in choosing to set the series in this time period?
JLH: I liked the idea of setting a story in Gilded Age America that wasn’t a Western, because you don’t see that very often. I picked the specific year of 1897 because that was the date of the reproduction Sears & Roebuck Catalog I found on Amazon.
TNA: What made you decide to write the series from Whyborne’s POV rather than Griffin’s?
JLH: When we first meet Whyborne, he’s ordered around by the museum director, bullied by his coworkers, and bossed around by his best friend. He hides in his office and doesn’t like talking to people, and probably comes across as colder and more stand-offish than he really is, especially when he first meets Griffin. If we weren’t deep in his head, we’d think he was a doormat and kind of a prick. So I don’t think it would have worked as well from that aspect.
I briefly considered writing alternating POVs, but it just didn’t feel right. Apparently this was Whyborne’s story and he was going to be the one to tell it. I have toyed with the idea of writing a short story from Griffin’s POV, though. I think it would be interesting, because in his own way Griffin is just as neurotic, just better at hiding it.
TNA: How many books do you have the series plotted out to?
JLH: Five so far! I’m currently in the research and planning phase of book four, Necropolis. If all goes according to plan, it will be out in June, and then book five, Bloodline, in December 2014.
TNA: Name 3 things you like most about both Whyborne and Griffin.
JLH: Whyborne: smart, curious, and has a tremendous inner strength
Griffin: easy-going, loyal, brave
Some things should stay buried.
Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.
So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.
As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we arrived in front of Griffin’s house. My stomach roiled as the cab clattered away: I couldn’t quite tell if it was from anticipation or nausea. My mouth felt dry, and my palms sweaty.
Griffin, on the other hand, seemed perfectly at ease as he unlocked the gate and led the way to his porch. Saul awaited us there, sitting tucked back from the snow, his ears flattened grouchily.
“Poor Saul,” Griffin crooned, pausing to pat his head. Saul meowed imperiously and went to the door, pressing his face into the crack until it opened.
“Come in,” Griffin said; perhaps he imagined I needed the encouragement. Perhaps I did need the encouragement. “Do you mind reviving the fire in the study upstairs while I feed Saul?”
“Of course not,” I said, glad to have something familiar to do. While he followed the orange tabby to the kitchen, I went up the stair and into the study.
The fire was well-banked; I knelt down in front of it and stoked the embers, adding a few logs, until the flames snapped and popped cheerfully. Snow built up against the windows; it would be hard for me to get home if it kept up this way.
I could still do the sensible thing and scurry back to my apartment while the weather allowed. But I couldn’t forget the kiss. The way Griffin pressed against me, the way he made my heart pound and my thoughts scatter…
…Was dangerous. I’d spent so many years in control, never yielding, and yet he walked into my life and suddenly I had no will to resist the desire enflaming my skin and stiffening my groin. The high wall I’d built around me had fallen, and I didn’t even know if I wanted it back.
Footsteps sounded on the stair behind me. I climbed to my feet and stood staring at the fire, not quite daring to turn around.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked.
I considered it, but after my disgrace on Sunday, I couldn’t bring myself to risk it. “No. Thank you.”
He came up behind me, pausing only scant inches away. My body trembled from his nearness, and my lips ached with the need to be kissed again. What would he do? Would he touch me?
His breath stirred the small hairs at the nape of my neck. “Have you ever been with a man?”
I wanted to laugh; surely he was being generous. “No. I-I’ve never even been kissed before.” He might as well know what he was getting into.
He drew in a soft sip of breath, and I braced myself for mockery. “Truly?” he murmured, sounding awed. “Am I really the first to look beneath the cold exterior and see the passion seething within?”
I closed my eyes. His description had nothing to do with me; it couldn’t. “I don’t know what you mean.”
He chuckled softly, and a shiver ghosted over my skin, because he still touched me only with his breath. “Don’t you? You blind me, my dear, with your fire. Carefully controlled, directed only into the outlets you allow, but otherwise left to boil beneath the surface. You’re like a bottle of fine champagne, yearning to be opened. Year after year, the pressure building slowly, with no release. And ever since I met you, all I could think was what it would take to make…you…pop.”
Well, that was a fun mini-interview!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED