– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Forms of Things Unknown (Backstage Mystery Series #3)’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theater early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theater, she accepted a teaching position in a vibrant performing arts department at a college in northern Illinois. For ten years, she taught, directed and ran front-of-house operations. American Theater History—particularly that of the 19th century—has always been of particular interest to her.
She has been a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Two of her screenplays have been optioned, but remain unproduced. Her nonfiction work, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, was published in 2008. Her work has also been published in a collection of paranormal short stories, Paramourtal: Tales of Undying Love and Loving the Undead. She lives in metro Atlanta with her ever-patient husband, and two quirky dachshunds.
Recently returned to Chicago after a successful tour of Hamlet, Lillian Nolan is awakened in the dead of night by a strange voice. She is shocked to learn that well known and admired actress, Louise Hawthorne, has fallen to her death from the sixth floor of the Tremont House. Was it an accident? Did she jump or was she pushed? Louise’s former lover, and the main suspect, pleads with Lillian to uncover the truth and clear his name.
In the process of learning to trust her intuitive abilities, Lillian attempts to find balance between relying upon her gift and uncovering the truth in her own way. But the menace of death pursues her and soon her own life is at risk. When she finds herself in a trap from which she cannot escape, her only hope of survival is to call upon the metaphysical world.
Forms of Things Unknown is based on an actual event which occurred in June of 1876 in Chicago. It is the third standalone book in the Backstage Mystery Series.
THE BACKSTAGE MYSTERY SERIES
Tagline: Life upon the wicked stage can be deadly.
Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, the Backstage Mystery Series stars Lillian Nolan, an unconventional member of Chicago’s upper class who dreams of a career of fortune and fame in the theater. Talented and ambitious, she possesses a hidden skill which she is extremely reluctant to use—the ability to communicate with those who have died and now live in the world of “The Beyond.”
The series chronicles her adventures in which she continually becomes enmeshed in solving mysteries which often require her accessing the realm of the paranormal. Filled with an incredible cast of characters—factual, fictional, and sometimes non-physical—who either help or hinder her quest for the truth, the stories take place during a period considered to be the golden age of both acting and spiritualism in America.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I got the theatre bug when I was in high school and eventually received undergraduate and graduate degrees in this discipline. Then, I taught for ten years at a college in Northern Illinois. I loved it and my position required that I was in charge of all front of house operations, teaching and directing two plays a year. One of those plays was usually a children’s play and I found out, at the time, there weren’t a lot of great scripts for children. So, I started writing and re-writing them. In my tenth year, I took a sabbatical and discovered screenwriting.
I started a new phase of my life by accepting a position in the Atlanta marketing office of the Disney Channel. It turned out that my new boss had been a theatre major and playwright! We ended up writing three scripts together. I was transferred to California and spent a year in Burbank. On my own time, I continued writing screenplays.
Two of my screenplays were a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting sponsored by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2006, I attended a woman’s retreat with a friend of mine and we ended up writing a nonfiction book together, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, which was published in 2008.
The first of the Backstage Mystery series, originally titled Death Takes Center Stage won the 2012 fiction contest sponsored by Atlanta Publisher BookLogix, which was announced at the Decatur Book Festival, the country’s largest independent book festival.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I read the Bronte sisters’ books. I cry every time I read Jane Eyre when her friend Helen Burns, dies. In grade school I read a lot of books of animal stories including just about every horse book in the library—the whole Black Stallion series, Black Beauty, etc. I remember I even read The Yearling because I thought it was about a horse! I liked it anyway. In high school I discovered Ray Bradbury and Charles Dickens. My mother read mysteries. It was just natural that I wanted to read what she liked, so I ended up reading all the Agatha Christie novels as well as many other mystery writers. I also love Georgian Romance and, of course, have read all of Jane Austin. I also love the Georgette Hyer books as well and love to revisit these old friends and be in that world again. I will read almost anything that is well written, has an engaging story and takes me into another world. Right now I am in the throes of re-reading the Harry Potter books. I will not read anything gruesome, particularly psychological thrillers about serial killers.
Is there any writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I took an online master class on writing thrillers with Dan Brown. I think he did an exceptional job, partly because he had been a teacher at one time. Not all writers are particularly good at explaining their own process in a cohesive way that helps other writers – instead we get a lot of sound bites and quotes (certainly social media is filled with them). That said, I would love to have had a sit down with Agatha Christie because she is the master of puzzles and that is what I find most intriguing in a mystery novel. I like to be surprised and at the same time, look back and see that all the clues were there right in front of me – had I interpreted them the correct way! Because I write in the historical mystery genre, I would love to meet Victoria Thompson, or C.S. Harris or Alan Bradley – all historical mystery writers I enjoy reading. I would also welcome a sit down with Stephen King. His advice and story in On Writing was exceptional.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
That is a tough question because I like all my characters. My first choice would have been to invite Cora L.V. Tappan, the famous medium. She led an amazing life, wrote several books on metaphysical topics, and toured internationally, where she spoke before thousands. She did, what we would call today, “channeling”. However, as she was a real person, my fictional choice would have to be Lillian Nolan’s Grandmother, Eleanor Hampton. She is a force of nature in and of her self and doesn’t brook nonsense from any one. She has such enthusiasm for life and knows everyone and everything that’s going on in the Chicago of the time. She also has a great sense of humor and outlook on life.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I don’t really have a regular ritual. Rather, I would say I have a process which I follow with each book. Depending on where I am in the process of creating a work will dictate what I do. This routine helps me to keep on track. I move the story forward every day. When I’m working on a new book, I think about it all the time and take notes and write them down. Once everything has gelled, I do research to find out what I need to know for that period or year. Then I start to put it all together. Right now I’m working on Book Four and I’m just at the beginning of that process. I know what I want to do, but I haven’t made all the decisions on how that is all going to unfold.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
When I first had the idea for the Backstage Mystery Series, I thought about what I knew. I know about theatre, I love 19th century American Theatre History and I was born in Chicago. That’s how I came up with Lillian Nolan. Since I love mysteries, I knew it had to be a mystery series and I envisioned that Lillian would write her memoir when she was almost 100, looking back over her long life in the theatre. I wanted to make them historical, so I wanted to use something that actual happened as a backdrop. In A Walking Shadow, it’s the Great Chicago Fire and how it affected people’s lives. In Foul Deeds Will Rise, it’s the Panic of 1873, which was very much like the Great Recession we just went through. In Book Three, Forms of Things Unknown, it is the death of Louise Hawthorne, a real actress who fell from the sixth floor of her hotel room in the summer of 1876, supposedly just after the rising star, James O’Neill had ended their affair. So, like so many writers, I take that starting point and spin a story that begins with what if…
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I would have to say I’m both. I plot out and roughly outline what I think should happen because I always have to have a roadmap. I always know the beginning and the end. As I write, I follow the rough outline, but my imagination takes me on side trips that help to illuminate the story and I just go with that flow. That gets me to a first draft. Then it’s all about re-writing, refining and defining the story.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
The most important thing about writing is just to do it—a lot, and often. Then, it is all about making decisions and re-writing. Find a committed group of other writers in the genre that you prefer to write and share, in a positive way, your work. Take constructive criticism that is helpful, and let all the rest go. Then learn the business. Learn to market your books. Regardless of whether you publish independently or traditionally, it is your job to promote your book.
What are your future plans as an author?
I will continue to work on the Backstage Mystery Series. Lillian Nolan, my main character, has a lot of living and learning to do. However, there are two screenplays I wrote sometime ago which I am considering turning into books. The first is based on a famous villa in Herculaneum, after which, the Getty Museum in Malibu, California is modeled. The plot includes lost knowledge, a pair of lovers who are separated by time and space during the eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius, and a mysterious mosaic. The second involves a perennial graduate student who is on spring break in the Yucatan and learns he is the key to an ancient prophecy involving a mysterious Mayan Codex, a shape-shifting Shaman, and the destiny of mankind. Both of these are more in the action-adventure genre but would blend the occult, science fiction and mystery.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
In the summer of 1876, Lillian Nolan becomes ensnared in a trap from which only her connection to the metaphysical world can save her.
Oh my 😮 … Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Elizabeth Ireland.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!