Interview With Nancy Herriman, Author of "No Comfort For The Lost"

I recently read the first installment of Nancy Herriman’s new San Francisco Mystery series, No Comfort for the Lost. I was very excited when she agreed to do an author interview with me about it. I will share my review of No Comfort for the Lost on Thursday. 

Nancy Herriman retired from an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. When not writing, she enjoys singing with various choral groups and eating dark chocolate. After two decades in Arizona, she now lives in her home state of Ohio with her family.

Tell me a little about your writing background.

Although I’ve always wanted to be a writer and enjoyed writing, I pursued a degree in Engineering and worked as an engineer for nearly 15 years before deciding to stay at home with my children. It was at that point that I decided to begin working on a novel. I took classes and attended workshops. Joined an on-line critique group, all of whom have gone on to become published (some quite successfully). Became a member of Romance Writers of America, which I feel has been the most important contributor to my career by teaching me craft, educating me on the ins-and-outs of the publishing business, and enabling me to gain an agent. And wrote, a lot and for many, many years before I was published.

Tell me how this book/series came about.

After my prior publisher folded their fiction line, leaving me without a new contract, my agent suggested I try my hand at writing a historical mystery, as she was aware of my interest in the genre. I love San Francisco, and since I’d set another book in the city, I felt it was a great location for my new series. Next came the concept of my British nurse sleuth and complete serendipity that provided the background of anti-Chinese furor, which began in 1867. Fortunately, my agent found an editor who loved the concept as much as I did.

You wrote two romance novels before No Comfort for the Lost. How does writing mysteries differ from writing romances?  

I’ve found it to be significantly more difficult. You have the same character arc development, but a great deal more planning and plotting—clues for the mystery and where to place them, deciding upon suspects and what each individual’s motives/means/opportunity, how everyone interacts with regards to the mystery itself (hiding guilt, pointing fingers, protecting others), and the ever important timeline of the crime. So many details to keep track of.

You include a lot of information about Chinatown and Chinese culture in San Francisco in the late 1800s. How much research did you have to do to include this?

I had to do a lot of research and am thankful I discovered a wealth of contemporary writings to draw from. San Francisco was a popular tourist destination, even in the 1860s, and most everyone who made it there went to visit the exotic Chinatown. The primary difficulty in utilizing those reports is that they were written by non-Chinese, and their portrayals of the people living on those streets were colored by their personal opinions/prejudices.

Race is a huge theme in your book, especially with the secondary character of Barbara. Is this a theme you plan to return to throughout the series?

Although I don’t currently plan it to be the central theme in future books, Barbara will continue to be affected by racism. The level of violence against the Chinese waxed and waned, but would increase for many years to come. The organization of the anti-coolie associations in 1867 was only the start, and Barbara will not be able to escape the consequences of her ethnicity.

If people enjoyed your book, what other books or authors would you recommend people read while waiting for your next installment?

There are so many! Sam Thomas’ medieval midwife series is excellent. I adore Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport mysteries, and of course Victoria Thompson’s wonderful books.

What are you working on now/next?

I just handed in Book 2, entitled No Pity for the Dead, and am waiting for edits on that as well as beginning to plot Book 3.

Is there anything else you would like to share that I didn’t ask about?

I’m very proud that No Comfort for the Lost was chosen by Library Journal as its August Pick of the Month!

Thank you so much for talking with me!

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