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Interview with A. Wendeberg, author of The Devil’s Grin

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Tell us about The Devil’s Grin.
In Victorian London’s cesspool of crime and disease, a series of murders remains undiscovered until a cholera victim is found floating in the city’s drinking water supply. Dr Anton Kronberg, England’s best bacteriologist, is called upon to investigate and finds evidence of abduction and medical maltreatment. While Scotland Yard has little interest in pursuing the case, Kronberg pushes on and crosses paths with Sherlock Holmes. The detective immediately discovers Kronberg’s secret – a woman masquerading as a man in order to practice medicine – a criminal deed that could land her in prison for years to come. But both must join forces to stop a crime so monstrous, it outshines Jack the Ripper’s deeds in brutality and cold-bloodedness.

What genre is it?

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
People who enjoy dark Victorian crime novels.

Complete this sentence for us: If you like___________ , you’ll love The Devil’s Grin.
The Yard and Tipping the Velvet.

How major a character is Sherlock Holmes in your book? Is Anna Kronberg playing the Watson role or is Holmes her sidekick?
Kronberg is far from being a replacement for Dr Watson. This story is Anna Kronberg’s and how an intelligent and strong woman has to bend backwards to do what she can do best – practice medicine in a time when women were supposed to shut up, sit straight and look pretty. Holmes and Anna are called in by the Yard when a cholera victim is found floating in one of London’s water works. Anna has never heard of Holmes and both have never encountered anyone as brilliant and sharp. So the surprise is quite great when Holmes sees through Anna’s disguise in seconds and she sees through him equally fast. They don’t mix very well at the beginning, but end up working the case together because Holmes needs Anna’s expertise as a bacteriologist.

Were you a little apprehensive taking on such an iconic character, especially one with a reputation for flamboyant genius?
I was reluctant to write Holmes, but his character fit so perfectly well with my heroine’s, that there seemed no way around him. I tried to “write him off” several times, but he wouldn’t leave the scene. As for the genius – Holmes is observant and so is Anna, but in a very different way. It is great fun to write such sharp characters.

Enough about Holmes, tell us about Anna Kronberg. What type of personality is she?
The foremost thing about her is that she doesn’t fit in. She is a bony thing with short hair – the opposite of the Victorian beauty ideal. As an intelligent and observant individual, she is unable to ignore how superficial the rules of society are and how silly people can be. The way she lives, she has no chance to a normal and socially accepted life with husband and children. All these things single her out. But she is still a woman; she can shed tears and is quite defenceless during a mugging. But she has a hell of a strong will. She masquerades as a man and becomes England’s best bacteriologist in a time when epidemiology and the germ theory were born. It also the time when people still remembered the body trafficking scandal: surgeons ordered bodies from body snatchers, knowing perfectly well that these were murder victims, and used them to study anatomy. This is the perfect setting for the crime described in the book.

She’s such a strong, intriguing character; surely you’re not done with her. Is this book the start of a series?
It’s the first of the Kronberg Trilogy.

We hear there are podcasts that go with the book. How do they tie in with the story?
The podcasts are excerpts from the book.

You’ve been very open about your desire to make the New York Times bestseller list with this book. What are you doing towards that end?
The New York Times Bestseller list is a euphemism for reaching for the stars. I want to see how far I get when giving all I can. It’s like a crazy indie author experiment and should encourage writers to self-publish and go for it. I’ll collect all sales data during the experiment, analyze them and post them on my blog later. No revealing of marketing secrets just yet. But everyone can help a great deal by spreading the word.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a professor in microbiology, a mom of two kids and a wife to a lovely husband. I started writing fiction a year ago and totally love it.

Have you got a blog where readers can keep up with your work? How can we follow you on Facebook and/or Twitter? or @sciencezest or search for The Devil’s Grin on Facebook.

What’s next?
I’m writing on the sequel. It’s titled The Fall and will be published in summer 2013.

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Enjoyed this interview? Then check out our conversation with SaraLynn Hoyt.

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