Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
I am beyond thrilled that I had the honor of interviewing Nicole Glover, the author of The Conductors, released earlier this year, and the upcoming The Undertakers, the second installment in the Murder and Magic series. Thank goodness we aren’t going to have to wait very long between the release dates of the first and second books, because they are truly unlike any other novels I have ever read. They blend fantasy and magic-wielding characters with mystery and history, and The Conductors centers around murders that the police force has either covered up, mismanaged, or won’t touch – of course, because of many systemic factors.
The Conductors is blurbed to combine the historical context and complexity of Kindred by Octavia Butler and the propulsion and magic of the Dresden Files by Jim Butler. The story takes place in post Civil War Philadelphia in the 1870s, and during this time, racism and corruption in law enforcement abound. In our interview, Nicole and I talked about the parallels between this historical time period and present day society, and how the main characters and our bonafide sleuths, Hatty and Benjy, a married couple, resolve these issues by creating community and taking matters into their own hands.
Today we have the privilege of having Nicole Glover at the Pond! I am so excited to share the interview that I had with Nicole, because we covered so many topics, including one of my favorites (among many others): how Sailor Moon ties into the magic system and driving forces that underlie the novel. I also got to ask her which sailor scout would be the best to add to the crime-fighting team of Hatty and Benjy and, well… you’ll just have to read it to find out! Without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Nicole!
The Conductors by Nicole Glover
As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.
Author Interview: Nicole Glover
Joce: Hi, Nicole, and a warm welcome to the Pond! I adored reading The Conductors and I think a lot of our friends will as well. Can you please start off by introducing yourself and your book?
Nicole: Hello, I’m Nicole Glover, bookworm, space enthusiast, collector of trivia, and an avid video game player. My novel, The Conductors is about a pair of former Underground Railroad conductors solving murder mysteries with magic in 1870s Philadelphia.
Joce: I loved how Hetty and Benjy are in an established relationship, because a lot of books cover the buildup of the relationship and drop off once the relationship has been established.
Nicole: Me too! I love watching people fall in love, but I love even more watching people take on the world together – who doesn’t love seeing power couples do their thing? I certainly do. I decided early to have Hetty and Benjy in a committed relationship for a number of reasons, mostly because it made sense for their personalities for the slice of the world they were living in, even to solve mysteries together. It also added what I thought was a more compelling dynamic to the releavations that occur throughout the book, that wouldn’t quite be the same otherwise.
Joce: Along these lines, what tips do you think Hetty and Benjy would have to work with your spouse or partner?
Nicole: Their tips would be pretty basic. Talk to your partner when you have a problem instead of stewing over things in silence. Make sure to listen. Put together little surprises of things you know that would delight them. And be supportive of their interests – whether it’s feeding birds by the river or chasing murderers.
Joce: The Quiet Pond is a fantasy-themed book blog, and a lot of our inhabitants have their own individual types of magic. Naturally, one of my favorite parts was learning about the cultural roots and basis of celestial magic. Can you please tell us more about the history, research behind, and derivations of celestial magic?
Nicole: Celestial magic is a system I made up for the story. It was inspired from traditions of using the stars for navigation as well as the prominence of stars in myths, fables, and fairy tales. When I first learned that nearly all the modern constellations known in the West are drawn from Greek myths, I was amazed by the connection . I was also intrigued that other cultures have different constellations and even arranged them differently. I saw it as a way to say that the stars could be whatever you want them to be, whether it’s the souls of those that passed on before you or balls of light from distant galaxies. While I didn’t invent new constellations for the book, I did take the idea that when constellations manifest in the story that they are unique to each person. For example Hetty and Benjy both cast spells using Canis Minor (the small dog) but the dog they envisioned is different despite them both using the same spell.
Joce: How does celestial magic differ from magic that we see in more Eurocentric and Western based fantasy worlds, and why is this particularly important for The Conductors?
Nicole: Overall my view of magic in the world of The Conductors, is that everyone has the ability to do magic, and that it takes different forms based on background and culture, sort of like language. I always disliked the idea that only a small group of people are the only ones able to do magic. Or if there are different types one has to be flagged as bad (ie blood magic).
Celestial magic is a created magic that’s fairly new in its world, formed from the melding of a number of different magical traditions. I took inspiration from the progression of popular music in the US, which is really the history of Black music. Jazz for example was born out of a number of influences to become something no one had ever heard of before, and would later transform into many things. Which is how I view Celestial magic, you’re seeing this magic in its infancy where there are little rules and great deal of variation.
Joce: I hear you are a big Sailor Moon fan! Since Sailor Moon is heavy on astrology, similar to celestial magic, are the two linked at all?
Nicole: Definitely! Sailor Moon got me super into astrology and astronomy when I was younger and it’s fueled a lifelong interest with the stars. A couple of my first stories involved astrology, including a story set in a magical academy where the characters had powers based on their zodiac sign. All the constellations mentioned in The Conductors are not by chance by the way. There are some I picked on purpose for certain moments as little astrology jokes. In fact the constellation that is considered the “cursed” by the characters was inspired by the hoopla over the existence of a possible 13th astrology sign a few years back.
Joce: I’m dying to know, which Sailor scout (or scouts) do you think would be the best on the Hatty and Benjy crime-solving team?
Nicole: Mercury is a good bet, for curiosity of solving a mystery, and probably a good fit personality wise. Manga version of Venus would be a good fit since the Sailor V comics had a heavy mystery/investigation angle.
Joce: Lastly, I truly cannot wait for the next book in your series, THE UNDERTAKERS, coming out in November 2021. What can you tell us about this next installment?
Nicole: I can’t wait to share it! I’ve been calling it my one-two punch for 2021. The Undertakers at its core is another adventure, another mystery, set a couple of months after the events of the first book. The main seed of the book grew from certain particulars of Philadelphia’s history, such as the volunteer fire companies that used to function more or less like gangs in certain parts of the city – plus a few rumors I thought could make an interesting story.
Joce: What are some thematic similarities and differences between THE CONDUCTORS and THE UNDERTAKERS that readers can look forward to?
Nicole: Looking at both the books, I can say The Conductors is focused more on the past, whereas The Undertakers is more about the present moment, with looking to the future. As with the first book, I also explore what magic means in the world and to the characters but in a slightly different fashion.
Joce: One final question: your bio says that you love video games, and also a good cup of tea! What are your video game recommendations, and tea recommendations?
Nicole: As for video games, I am currently loving Hades which is a master class of game design. Some past favorites are Final Fantasy X, Horizon Zero Dawn, Valiant Hearts, and Battle Chef Brigade. As for tea, I really like this turmeric ginger tea I picked up recently to mix things up.
About the Author
According to astrology, I’m a Gemini Sun with a Capricorn Moon, which explains lots of things, but nearly enough. As a lover of obscure trivia, fun facts, and miscellaneous knowledge, I find researching a new book just as fun as writing it. My psychology degree prepared me both for a writing career and work as a UX Researcher. I am forever disappointed that NASA doesn’t think psychology is a hard science.
Find Nicole on: Website