After a career as an attorney and corporate executive, Carol K. Carr turned to writing. India Black is her first book. She lives in the Missouri Ozarks with her husband and two German Shepherds. You can visit her website at www.carolkcarr.com.
"My name is India Black. I am a whore. If those words make you blush, if your hand fluttered to your cheek.........then you should return this volume to the shelf, cast a cold glance at the proprietor as you leave and hasten home feeling proper and virtuous. You can go to Evensong tonight with a clear conscience."
I suppose some writers start with a story. I started with a character.
India Black, the heroine of my series, popped into my head in her full glory, as it were: a sexy, high-class madam with a sharp tongue and little use for authority, especially of the male variety. She is raven-haired and quick-witted, and can handle a Webley Bulldog revolver as easily as she handles the men who flock to her brothel.
She needs all those attributes and more, if she is going to join forces with the mysterious French and act as a spy for Benjamin Disraeli. India could not be one of the women we typically associate with the Victorian era. She is not demure or ladylike. She does not do needlework, paint or play the piano. She’s a graduate of that school of hard knocks, the London streets, and she’s as tough as old boots.
I must pause here and admit that I owe a debt to George MacDonald Fraser. The inspiration for India was Harry Flashman, Fraser’s drunken reprobate of a hero who defies conventional notions of bravery and heroism. I loved the idea of a female character contravening all the Victorian ideals of proper feminine behavior. And so I stole a page from Fraser’s notebook and created India, a woman with moxie who cares not a whit for conventional society.
Fraser was a huge influence in another way. His ability to create a narrative merging history, comedy and action is unequaled. As in Fraser novels, historical events such as the Great Game between Russia and Britain provide the backdrop for India’s adventures, but I feel free to embellish her role in these affairs. Toss in a bit of gunplay, fisticuffs and swordsmanship and I can check off the “action” box. India’s sardonic observations of Victorian society and political affairs provide a comedic counterpoint to the history stuff. My novels are a poor imitation of Fraser’s formula, but I strive to live up to his standard. I expect I’ll end my days in the attempt.
There was never any question that India’s adventures would occur during Victoria’s reign. For one thing, the scope for action is huge. I could send India to Trincomalee or Cape Town or Baluchistan, and there would always be some British interest at stake, some plausible reason why her services are needed.
The political issues of the Victorian era are surprisingly relevant today. Physical colonialism has given way to cultural invasions, but the West still exerts massive influence around the world. Afghanistan and Pakistan are in turmoil. The Russians still seek to expand their borders. (Yes, Putin, I’m looking at you.) The Americans have invested heavily in nation building, which smacks of the Victorian imperative to civilize their conquests. The Victorian belief in rationalism and science sat cheek by jowl with its religiosity, just as it does to some extent in the United States today. In short, it’s great fun to play around with these themes and let India deliver snarky sound bites about the arrogance of men and the futility of grand schemes.
And I must confess that setting the books in the Victorian age saves me some time and trouble. Characters come ready made. A writer would have to work pretty hard to create Benjamin Disraeli, that wily dandy with the whiff of the Levantine about him. And what about Gladstone, the pompous moralist with a taste for conversing with prostitutes? And the Queen? Oh, the Queen. Dear, plump little Victoria, with her penchant for watercolors and rugged Highlanders. She’s a gift. They are all gifts. And it is a pleasure to let India play among them, if only for a little while.
India Black: A Madam of Espionage ...
Titan 17th April 2014
India Black and the Widow of Windsor
Titan, 17th april 2014