Monday, March 28, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Nancy Herriman

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Nancy Herriman

We are delighted to welcome author Nancy Herriman to Omnimystery News today.

Nancy begins a new historical mystery series set in 1860s San Francisco with No Comfort for the Lost (NAL; August 2015 trade paperback, audiobook and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to spend some time with her talking about her work.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to the lead characters of No Comfort for the Lost. What is it about them that appeals to you as a writer?

Nancy Herriman
Photo provided courtesy of
Nancy Herriman

Nancy Herriman: My mystery series has two main protagonists — Celia Davies and Nick Greaves. Celia is an Englishwoman, a nurse trained in the Crimea and in US Army hospitals during the Civil War. Nick is a San Francisco police detective and veteran of the Civil War.

What appeals to me most about Celia is her strength of character. I am also intrigued by historical medical practices and have made use of nurses as main characters before. I feel the occupation allows me to present women who might have been more independent than their contemporaries. In a mystery setting, Celia's familiarity with wounds and illnesses also offers her insight into suspicious deaths, making her a perfect sleuth.

As for Nick, he is burdened with questions from his past — What precisely was his role in his best friend's death during the war? What caused his youngest sister, left behind with relatives while he served, to end up on the streets then take her own life? The looming question is his relationship with Celia Davies, whose husband is missing and possibly dead — What will happen with them? I enjoy exploring his story arc.

OMN: Into which genre would you place this series?

NH: My books are historical mysteries (in that there is always a murder to solve) and they lean toward cozy. They might not be strictly categorized as such, however, since I do not shy away from descriptions of dead bodies and murder scenes, and also make use of the occasional swear word. Also, I make use of both an amateur sleuth (Celia) and a professional one (Nick).

OMN: What prompted you to write a series set in the mid-1860s?

NH: I approached this book with two things in mind: I wanted a female sleuth who was a nurse, and I wanted to have 19th century San Francisco act as my setting. The serendipitous discovery that the anti-Chinese movement in San Francisco began in 1867 provided me with both a specific date for the novel and the germ of an idea for a storyline: what if one of Celia's patients is a Chinese girl and she has been found murdered?

OMN: Tell us a little more about your writing process.

NH: I might be called a plotter/pantser. I write a fairly detailed outline of my plot and create biographies for all my key characters. When I write, though, I always find my story diverges from my initial plans. Quite often, the killer doesn't end up to be the person I originally intended! My cast of characters usually ends up expanding, as well. Trivial characters sometimes become so interesting to me that they turn into main characters. I have learned to allow the story to develop, trusting my instincts. There's always a surprise when I write, and it's a part of the process I truly love.

OMN: How true are you to the setting of No Comfort for the Lost?

NH: The first book takes place in the spring of 1867 in the areas around the Barbary and downtown San Francisco. I try to be as accurate as possible with the setting, utilizing maps and historical descriptions. For No Comfort for the Lost, the setting of the Chinese quarter of the city is a key element, providing a background for the victim's life. It also shows the world that Celia works in, hopefully offering an insight into just how far she is willing to go to help her patients.

OMN: How did this first book of the series come to be titled?

NH: My working title for the book was A Darkening Shore. My editor, however, felt that the title wasn't unique enough, and together we brainstormed some ideas. She eventually recommended No Comfort for the Lost, playing off all the "lost" individuals in the story — the Chinese victim, who has lost her proper place in the world and was attempting to recover from years of prostitution; Nick, who has lost his sister and his best friend and feels guilt over both deaths; Celia, misplaced from her homeland and stranded somewhere between widow and wife; Celia's ward, her half-Chinese cousin, who becomes entangled in the anti-Chinese violence and struggles to find welcome in society.

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Nancy Herriman retired from an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn't looked back. A multi-published novelist, she is also a former winner of the RWA Daphne du Maurier award for Best Unpublished Mystery/Romantic Suspense. When not writing, she enjoys singing with various choral groups, gabbing about writing with friends, and eating dark chocolate. After two decades in Arizona, she now lives in her home state of Ohio with her family.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman

No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman

A Mystery of Old San Francisco

Publisher: NAL Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

A courageous nurse and a war-scarred police detective in 1860s San Francisco champion the down-trodden and fight for justice …

After serving as a nurse in the Crimea, British-born Celia Davies left her privileged family for an impulsive marriage to a handsome Irishman. Patrick brought her to San Francisco's bustling shores but then disappeared and is now presumed dead. Determined to carry on, Celia partnered with her half-Chinese cousin Barbara and her opinionated housekeeper Addie to open a free medical clinic for women who have nowhere else to turn. But Celia's carefully constructed peace crumbles when one of her Chinese patients is found brutally murdered … and Celia's hotheaded brother-in-law stands accused of the crime.

A veteran of America's civil war, detective Nicholas Greaves is intent on discovering the killer of the girl, whose ethnicity and gender render her as powerless in death as they did in life. Nicholas's efforts are complicated by Celia, who has a knack for walking into dangerous situations that may lead to answers … or get them both killed. For as their inquiries take them from Chinatown's squalid back alleys to the Barbary Coast's violent shipping docks to the city's gilded parlors, Celia and Nicholas begin to suspect that someone very close to them holds the key to a murderous conspiracy …

No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.


  1. I've had the pleasure of reading this book and highly recommend it! The setting is so interesting and the characters are really unique, and Ms. Herriman really brings them to life. She's really good with settings--you can hear and see and smell the places she describes. Really immersive reading, and of course, an intriguing mystery to solve!

  2. Hi, Nancy, I think your books are great. I love the passion that all the characters feel -- Celia's determination to help those whom life has treated unfairly, and Nick's attempts to balance his law-and-order nature with his growing attraction to Celia.
    Plus, historical settings are my favorite thing. I'm an armchair time-traveler, and there's no better way to live in the past than through an exciting story. Can't wait for the next one!


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