Guest- Nancy Herriman!

Jessie: Enjoying the spring-like sound of birdsong whilst ignoring the snowbanks still blanketing the ground!

I met Nancy Herriman for the first time in real life last year at Malice Domestic. But as such things often go in the mystery community, I felt as though I had already met her ages before. She and I both are members of the Sleuths in Time on Facebook and I have enjoyed getting to know her there. I am absolutely delighted to welcome her back to the Wickeds blog today! She has generously offered a copy of her new book, A Fall of Shadowsl, to one lucky U.S. based commenter!

Congratulations, Ashley Cate! You are the winner of the giveaway! Jessie will contact you to make arrangements to deliver your copy of the book!

Thanks to the Wickeds for having me back! It’s always a pleasure to be here.

Why do I write historical mysteries? I’m crazy? I’m trying to escape from modern life?

I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I can’t seem to drag myself away from setting my stories in the past. I suppose I believe that it’s important to not forget our history. That those people are not so different from us after all, and their tales still offer lessons that resonate today. 

As for the writing itself, here are just a few discoveries I have made along the way:

  • First, good research is key. That may be a rather obvious statement. After all, good research is key for crafting any well-written mystery, contemporary or historical. But the farther into the past you go, the harder it is to find reliable sources, especially primary ones (meaning, written at the time). Even highly respected historians have biases that sway their conclusions. I’ve had to learn to be careful and read a variety of resources when researching.
  • Second, leave preconceived notions behind. We all have ideas of what the Tudor era, for instance, was like. But life in prior centuries was not always as dirty, disgusting, and brutish as it’s been made out to be. And part of the joy of writing historical novels is unearthing facts that challenge our beliefs and offer fresh perspective.
  • Third, don’t get obsessed. With details. I can spend hours searching for historically accurate trivia. HOURS! I strive to be as authentic as possible in order to bring to life the times during which my books take place. But I also have to remember to not get so lost in my pursuit of details that my characters become mere props or the mystery itself turns into a tangled mess. 
  • Fourth, don’t get obsessed!With imagining it’s feasible to completely reproduce the lives of people who lived long ago. Frankly, it’s impossible to get inside the head of someone who lived in the 1800s, let alone someone who lived in the 1500s. I try to breathe life into my characters, but I also have to recognize the limits of my ability to do so.

I’ve made more discoveries, but I’ll leave you all with this question: Do you enjoy reading historical mysteries, and why or why not? If so, what time period do you most like?

“With richly detailed settings and quickly moving dialogue…The second in the Bess Ellyott series mixes suspected witchcraft, actors, intrigue, and gossip aplenty in an involving historical mystery. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Peters and Amanda Quick.”


A Fall of Shadowsreleases April 9, 2019 and is available for pre-sale wherever books are sold!

Nancy Herriman retired from an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. Her work has won the RWA Daphne du Maurier award, and when not writing, she enjoys singing, gabbing about writing, and eating dark chocolate. She currently lives in Central Ohio. For more information visit

40 Thoughts

  1. Yes, I enjoy historical mysteries, especially those set around the era of suffrage. I can see how you could drive yourself crazy with the details though!

  2. Those are all great tips, Nancy – and welcome back to the blog! I like to say I write what was possible in the era, in my case late nineteen century. Whether there ever was a midwife riding a bike and solving crimes in real life, I can’t say, but there might have been. I can’t wait to read the new book!

  3. I do enjoy a historical, if the author has put the time and care into creating (as much as possible) a world I can believe is that time period. I don’t obsess about the details, but obvious anachronisms will pull me right out of the story.

    I like reading early 20th century, but I also like Elizabethan and Victorian-era novels.

  4. I really enjoy historical mysteries from different time periods — Tudor, Victorian, Edwardian and The Gilded Age t name a few — they are just fascinating to me, and like you, I don’t want history to be forgotten or overlooked. A Fall of Shadows sounds wonderful, and I love the cover! Thanks for being on The Wickeds blog — it was very interesting ~

  5. I do enjoy reading historical mysteries. I think as you get older (like me) and can see what drastic changed that have occurred in our lifetime, it gets you to wondering about the past. How did they survive, get things done, live in general. When you read a book with a historical twist, you get a glimpse of that time period be it as the backdrop or the main theme. Add to that the mystery genre and I’m there for sure. How did they solve the mystery with the limited resources of the time makes it very interesting. I don’t know of a time period I don’t enjoy. I like the late 1800’s to early 1900’s because I think of family and friends that I have personally met and known that lived in that era which makes one think of how they lived. Time frames before that let my mind explore all new possibilities.

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of ” A Fall of Shadows”! Absolutely LOVE the cover! It gets my mind to thinking all sorts of directions – all that would be great reads. Can’t wait for the opportunity to read the book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. I have always loved reading (and writing) historical novels. I enjoy learning about how people lived in the past and trying to imagine what it was like.

  6. My mother and grandmother were ardent readers of historical novels, especially those with any sort of royalty. I have’t tried writing one, but somehow I weave the past (and often genealogy) in a book set in the present. Too many people don’t even know what their hometown was like a century ago.

    1. I think it’s so fascinating to look at old photos and see what places that are so familiar to us now looked like in the past.

  7. Welcome back! I used to read a lot of historical fiction then drifted away. But over the past few years have started enjoying them again. It’s a great escape from our current world and a chance to realize that people are people with the same struggles and emotions.

  8. Welcome back to the blog, Nancy! I’ve gotten fascinated lately with the first half of the twentieth century, a time that was alive in the memories of my parents and grandparents, but has since passed into history.

  9. I don’t read many historical mysteries although I did like the Brother Cadfael ones.

  10. I love historical fiction, mystery or not. Period and location accuracy is like another character in the story, or maybe a gang of elves. They resist movement on one side, stir up the challenge on another, open doors to new ideas over here and push the story on its way over there. I can almost see them sitting on your keyboard.

    It’s a joy to read about your new release, every time.

  11. I love all well-written, well-researched historical mysteries of any period. “A Fall of Shadows” sounds fascinating. I appreciate all the work that goes into historical writing.

  12. I love historical mysteries! I’ve always had a love of history (I majored in it as an undergrad in college) and really enjoy a well written historical mystery. I am really looking forward to reading your new book!

  13. I enjoy historical mysteries. While it seems many are set in England, I prefer US settings. They are out there, but they don’t seem as popular as those set in England for whatever reason.

    1. I admit, Mark, I’ve never understood it either! I have a mystery series set in 1860s San Francisco, as well (Book 3 in that series coming out next spring!) It’s been fun to write books set in both England and in California

  14. I can enjoy almost any time period when it’s a well-written historical mystery – like any of yours! You make it look easy, except we all know it’s not.

  15. I grew up reading historical fiction with my parents. Those stories usually had a fictional character to have the happily ever after because things don’t go well with most main historical figures. When I finished reading Sharon Kay Penman’s trilogy about Richard the Lionhearted, I was sad that Richard and his sister died, and they’ve been dead for centuries! Now I read historical romance and mysteries. I favor the U.S. and the United Kingdom since I know them better but I’ve read stories set in China, India, and other countries. I’ve always loved history. It’s just soap operas set in the past.

  16. I love all the details in historical mysteries. I always feel as if I’m right there experiencing everything along with the characters. I enjoy multiple historical time periods, but lately, I’ve really been drawn to the time just before, during, & after WWI.

  17. I love the idea of unearthing facts that challenge your beliefs in regards to history.

    1. I think it’s so important to realize that history is far more nuanced than we might have been taught. I think that makes studying it all the more intriguing. 😉

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