G W Renshaw is the author of a series of novels, The Chandler Affairs. His main protagonist Veronica sounds like a kickass heroine and the cases she solves are rather unique. If you’re looking to get out of a reading rut or want to push yourself out of your reading comfort zone, The Chandler Affairs could be just want you need!
I’m delighted to be hosting G W Renshaw in my hot seat today with an interesting Q&A. Enjoy!
G W Renshaw has a wide variety of skills picked up during his checkered life. He’s been an artilleryman, a computer programmer, forest ranger, cook, mountain climber, Search and Rescue manager, actor, teacher, martial artist, and author.
He met his best friend and wife at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1980 where he also met Isaac Asimov. Oddly enough, both of his new acquaintances were biochemists. However, one was much prettier so he married her. They’ve been having adventures ever since.
His current project is The Chandler Affairs, about a Canadian PI whose cases turn out to be much weirder and more complicated than she expected.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise The Chandler Affairs in 20 words or less.
It’s a series about a young Canadian private investigator whose cases and life are weirder than she could have imagined.
Please tell us about the characters in your novels.
Veronica Chandler is the main character, and with minor exceptions the whole series is from her point of view. Her father, Quin, is a professional chef who teaches her how to cook. He hopes she’ll take over his restaurant when he retires. Her mother, Janet, is a homicide detective with the Calgary Police Service. She hopes that her daughter will become a cop like her.
Veronica’s not having any of it. As a child she wants to be a private investigator. At the age of 18 she gets her licence, which as far as I know is only possible in her home province of Alberta.
Veronica’s best friend is Kali (real name is Liliana Marina Hernandez Rojas) who is originally from Colombia, runs an occult shop, and is filthy rich.
There are other characters, of course, including several constables from Yorkshire, and demons who aren’t quite your typical denizens of Hell. But you’ll have to read the books to meet them.
How do your characters come into existence Gary? Do they have a bio?
The main characters all have biographies. I find it difficult to tell their stories if I don’t know what those stories are.
Veronica Chandler herself came about because I wanted an investigator as far as possible from the stereotypical American ex-cop in his 50s with a drinking problem living in New York or Los Angeles.
Kali was originally Sarah from Jamaica, but very little drama happens in Jamaica, so she moved to Colombia.
The two constables, Nick Holley and Stan Watkins, are originally from Yorkshire because the Calgary Police Service had a recruiting drive in Yorkshire a few years ago. Although not as detailed as the main characters, they also have biographies. There’s nothing worse than recurring characters with no history or motivation.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your novels were optioned for a movie?
I hope a lot of producers read this!
I’m going to ignore age, because it’s common for an older actor to play a younger character.
Without a doubt, my first pick for Veronica would be the brilliant Canadian actor Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black). Failing that, I’d go for Stella Maeve, who plays Julia Wicker on The Magicians. (ooh I love The Magicians – Julia is an interesting character!)
For Kali, Veronica’s BFF, I think Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Elena “Yo-yo” Rodriguez on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) would be good. If possible, though, I’d like to get an actual mestizo Colombian actor. I would definitely be against any attempt to whitewash Kali, no matter how good the actor’s Spanish is.
Prince Sitri the demon is described as looking like “David Tennant’s hotter brother.” I’m really tempted to say Tom Ellis from Lucifer. I think he could be good, but given what happens in The True Love Affair (book 4 of the series) I’m going to go with Chris Evans. Casting Captain America as a demon prince might seem counter-intuitive, but his ability to be convincingly clueless does it for me.
For Beleth the demon I’d like Hannah John-Kamen (Dutch from Killjoys). Her height doesn’t matter as Beleth is so short that they’d have to use special effects no matter who plays her. Beleth’s ethnicity isn’t described, but she was hanging around the Middle East for a long time and casting a black actor makes perfect sense. Hannah can deliver the sass which is what Beleth is all about, and her Yorkshire accent would be lovely in the role.
Speaking of Yorkshire—Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee) as Constable Stan Watkins. Definitely.
Does your series tackle a social barrier Gary?
Several social issues are mentioned, mostly in passing rather than making them a central problem in the story. That’s not to say that these things don’t cause horrible problems in real life, but in Veronica’s world being bullied as a child leads to her life-long hatred of bullies which makes her something of a warrior. She has several LGBT clients/friends, but they are treated like anyone else rather than being stereotypes. Her best friend, Kali, is non-white and they run into some racism.
The social issue that is dealt with in detail is Veronica’s sexuality. I’ve met a lot of people who still think that women aren’t as sexual as men, and that there’s something wrong with them if they are. As an author, I wanted to explore a girl coming to terms with who she is without it degenerating into an immature fantasy.
Most teenagers feel like their hormones will make them explode, but those are feelings that others could dismiss as “just normal.” To force Veronica (and the reader) to deal with her sexuality she has a real medical issue that gives her a hyperactive libido. Like many people with a chronic medical condition, she has to decide who she is, whether her condition defines her and how she’s going to deal with it. Is this a disability or an advantage? Only she can make that choice.
To date, only two readers have said that they think she’s too sexual, and dozens have said they could relate to her because of things in their own lives. Some have even said they found a direction for themselves in Veronica’s struggle.
Did you do any research for your novels? What resources did you use?
I love research. Even if the story is a fantasy, people expect common things to behave reasonably. If a character is moving ridiculously fast over rough country every serious hiker will call you an idiot. It’s best to avoid angering your readers when you can avoid it.
For the series, I asked police officers about weird details they didn’t expect. What do Calgary police call their cars? (answer: cars) Do the cars have air bags? Is there an interior boot release? I took a 12-week course from the Calgary Police Service covering most aspects of police procedure and operation, and bought the textbook for the Canadian private investigator’s course. Can a Canadian PI carry a gun? No.
My martial arts student was willing to answer questions and gave me invaluable insight into the mind of a teenage girl.
Of course, I also use the internet. Google Maps is wonderful for showing you how to get from A to B and how long it will take, as well as what things look like from satellites and from street level. Travel sites give valuable information on what flights arrive when, as well as hotel and other accommodations. Google Translate is a gem, although I always check translations with native speakers before trusting them. Even if the words are technically correct, they may not be culturally correct. For example, in Colombia you would never tell an adult that you will take care of them. That’s insulting. Instead, you would say, “you will never have anything to worry about.”
The only real lies in my series are Veronica’s address (for the web-savvy, her flat number of 404 might be a clue) and the existence of her father’s restaurant. Everything else is plausible, if not necessarily completely factual.
Panster or a plotter?
I’m a plotser. I create an outline for the series as a whole, as well as for each novel. That way I know where it’s going and everything fits together.
However, there are many ways of getting from point A to point B, and I’m willing to listen to the characters if they want to take a route other than the one I planned for them. It’s much like planning a holiday—you know your general destination but perhaps you see something interesting on the way there and take a side trip.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m writing The Diplomatic Affair, because if I don’t resolve the issue at the end of The True Love Affair I’m going to be mobbed. The poor dear is going to find her life in even more turmoil, I’m afraid.
I’m also working on The Private Investigator’s Cooking Course, which is the textbook for the cooking course Veronica was persuaded to teach by a character in The Prince and the Puppet Affair. It’s an actual cooking course, not just a collection of recipes.
Finally Gary, are there any tips you could share with new writers?
Learn how to write well. That’s the ticket. It’s also the tricky bit.
Writing well is a skill, and as such it can be learned. Write a story. It will be horrid. Figure out what’s horrid, and write another. Continue until you think you are getting somewhere, then join a critique group. These strangers, unlike your family and friends, will tell you what your weaknesses are, as well as your strengths. Keep writing and polishing until more than one person thinks your work is ready for sharing with the world. Put like that, it seems easy. In some ways it is.
I’ve heard that A Wrinkle in Time went to 23 publishers before it was accepted, and Harry Potter went to every publisher in the UK before one took a chance on it. Don’t assume that your writing is rubbish because the first publisher or first half dozen reject it.
The other thing you have to learn is how you, personally, work. By all means try fancy software, or a simple text editor, or a quill pen, or LibreOffice (my favourite), or whatever. Something will work for you. Maybe you have to write in an empty house. Or in a park. Or maybe you can write anywhere. Perhaps you are a plotter (outline the work first), a pantser (just write and hope something good happens), a plotser (a combination of the two), or a quilter (write individual scenes and then stitch them together). Try them all and see what works for you.
Thank you for being my guest today.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects Gary.
Veronica Chandler has worked hard to become a private investigator. At the age of eight she got a baton for Christmas—just like Mummy’s. At 12, she started working at her father’s restaurant so she’d have the money for the investigator’s course. At 16, she became an intern with the Calgary Police Service. And now, at 18, she’s the youngest licensed PI in Alberta.
As her ex-boyfriend can attest, she has the skills. As a psychotic killer discovers, she has the will. Now she’s ready to take on the world: To find the lost and expose the faithless.
None of which prepare her for a house that can’t decide whether it’s empty, one or two perverse dwarfs with a bizarre hold over their victims, a kinky pony show, and a secret global organization. Every clue leads to more questions. Four lives depend on Veronica finding the answers.
And then there’s that pesky losing-your-soul thing.
Alyssa Blakeway is so submissive it’s a miracle she left her house, let alone asked Veronica to find out if her abusive husband is also cheating on her.
When Veronica finds out who Collin Blakeway is actually going to see, things go from bad to worse to deadly. They also challenge Veronica’s most deeply held beliefs as she discovers that demons and magic are real.
It’s no longer a matter of saving a marriage. Now she has to save the lives of Alyssa, her sister Kali, an unknown woman, and herself. All while avoiding being killed by her sister for acting stupidly.
If an arborist, a coven of Witches, the Vatican, the Freemasons, a Native Elder, and an old bicycle can’t save them, who can?
Being shot at and landing in protective custody certainly cramps a PI’s style, so when a group of collectors want Veronica to track down an historical artifact in England, she jumps at the chance. They’ll even handle recovery, so all she has to do is find the item. It’s a piece of cake.
There are a few details that were left out. Everybody is after this thing. Veronica has to dodge bullets meant for another PI, get chased all over Europe by Finnish terrorists, tries not to violate every national park in the world, and has to put up with an English investigator who insists on accompanying her.
Of course, the artifact turns out to be more dangerous than she was led to believe. Veronica has to trust somebody who tried to remove her head, decide the fate of the world, and survive an angry volcano. At least she’s getting paid for it. If she can collect.
Veronica has just gotten home after solving a minor case in Mexico involving kidnapping, betrayal, bank fraud, and a Colombian drug cartel when an old acquaintance shows up to hire her. Somebody has been committing impossible murders all over the world, and Veronica is the only person qualified to stop the killer before the body count soars.
The problems start with her client. Can she trust a demon prince not to send her back to therapy or worse for another year? What, if any, is his hidden agenda? Is anything at all as it seems?
Veronica thought she had a handle on magic and demons, but as soon as she starts investigating it’s obvious that all the rules have changed. She’s playing in the big leagues now, and she’s going to have to move heaven and hell to keep humanity alive. Starting with herself.
Now, if she can only survive dinner with her family, a blind date, a small immigration problem, and working with the federal cabinet, it’s possible that all will be well.
Or at least as well as it can be when you have to deal with insane immortals and a talking cat.