With The Undertakers (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer Nicole Glover is continuing the magical adventures of Hetty and Benjy, paranormal investigators during the Reconstruction era who got their start in Glover’s previous historical fantasy novel, The Conductors. In the following email interview, Glover discusses what inspired and influenced this second story.
Photo Credit: © Exposed Moxie Photography
We went in depth on the first book in an earlier interview, but for people morally opposed to clicking, what was The Conductors about?
It’s Philadelphia in 1871 and a pair of former underground railroad conductors decide the best use of their unique skillset is to solve murders and other magical mysteries around their community.
And then what is The Undertakers about, and how does it connect to The Conductors, both narratively and chronologically?
The Undertakers picks up a couple months after The Conductors. Following the events of first book, Hetty and Benjy are adjusting to a slight rise in fortunes, but are still doing what they best: solving mysteries.
When in relation to writing The Conductors did you come up with the idea for The Undertakers and what inspired the idea behind this second book?
A lot that made up the DNA of The Undertakers came from things I cut from The Conductors. I got a two book deal when I sold The Conductors, so I knew I had book two coming. This meant that as I was edited The Conductors I flagged things that could be moved into a second book. Sometimes it was plot points or characters, and sometimes it was research. I remember stumbling across information about tunnels under Philadelphia, and knew right away they would feature in The Undertakers.
The Conductors and The Undertakers are set during the Reconstruction era (1865-1877), and in our previous interview you said that in researching that time, you found, “many parallels to today.” But was the plot of The Undertakers influenced by anything specific you learned in your research?
The Volunteer Fire Companies in Philadelphia had less to do about putting out fires and were more about politics. Most companies were not much better than a gang. They were violently racist, often charged special fees to put out buildings on fire, and sometimes threatened to start fires in the first place.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on The Undertakers but not on The Conductors?
Ghost stories, particularly stories about ghosts and talking skulls recounted in folk tales. A major theme in The Undertakers involves ghosts, and all the meanings ghosts bring about. Stories about ghosts I read helped influence a few scenes.
And how about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games?
Overall not really, but there is a scene in The Undertakers that was sparked by a little internet chatter about A League Of Our Own, primarily about the baseball element that had me wanting to slip a magical spin on the baseball into a small scene. It was a fun little scene and allowed me to showcase Black Philadelphia’s history with the sport.
Now, The Conductors and The Undertakers are the first two books in your Murder & Magic series, but I get the sense that they’re more like stand-alone but connected adventures for Hetty and Benjy than, say, a Lord Of The Rings-esque single story in multiple books. Am I right about this?
The mysteries in both are self-contained, more like episodes or installments in series with light connections. Same cast, same setting, just a new mystery.
Given that, what do you think someone will get out of The Undertakers if they’ve already read The Conductors?
A great deal of fun seeing further adventures of the characters. If you particularly love the dynamic between Hetty and Benjy, you’ll get to see them at their very best.
So, are you planning any more adventures for Hetty and Benjy?
Can’t say anything officially at the moment.
A moment ago I asked if The Undertakers had been influenced by any movies, shows, or games. But to flip things around, has anyone expressed interest in turning it and The Conductors into a movie, show, or game?
Yes, Queen Latifah in partnership with the Jim Henson company have optioned film rights for The Conductors. I’m not deeply involved in it, and I don’t know much other than it’s in the pitching phase, but I’m exciting to see how things go.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Undertakers, and they’ve already read The Conductors, what novel or series of novels about a crime fighting couple would you suggest they read next?
Quite a few married mystery solving pairs can be found in the world of historical mysteries, like Deanna Raybourn’s Julia Gray mysteries, while Mary Robinette Kowal has a magic wielding duo in her Glamourist series.