1. You've written several books at this point. Has your writing process changed at all? Has it gotten easier or harder?
Every book is different in minor ways, but the same in major ways; I hope that makes sense. I always do a lot of research and take notes and give a lot of thought to the characters and look for fresh or different ways to tell the story, but things always happen during the creative process to surprise me. My writing process is still the same, I write at night into the wee hours of the morning, and must have music or a familiar movie on in the background so my Tinnitus (ringing ears) doesn’t drive me insane. It’s outside influences that tend to change and make things difficult. I have always written late at night because there are just too many distractions and interruptions during the day. It never fails, every single time I try to write during the day something happens to remind me why this just doesn’t work for me. So anything that seriously disrupts my sleeping and working schedules has a huge impact. The only other major obstacle is my old nemesis Treatment Resistant Depression. I was very lucky while writing The Ripper’s Wife, even though it is a very dark book, I went through a long period of stability, I was doing and feeling better than I had in years, but…let’s just say the demon has reared it’s ugly head again, so there’s another battle to fight. But I keep on.
2. What inspired you to write about Jack the Ripper?
Reading the actual Ripper Diary, it was first published in 1993 in a book by Shirley Harrison and has been controversial ever since. The contents and physical components, like the paper and ink, have been endlessly debated since it came to light, and no one seems to be able to agree if it is authentic or a hoax. But regardless of all that, when I was reading it for the first time, I couldn’t help thinking “this would make a great novel, and I want to be the one to write it.” Besides that, I have been interested in Jack the Ripper most of my life. In 1988, the 100th anniversary of the murders, my mother gave me a paperback book, The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow, and ever since I’ve been hooked.
3.There is still a lot of mystery that surrounds the case of Jack the Ripper. How did you make the decision of what information to use and what not to use in this novel?
I wanted to be true to the story told in the actual Ripper Diary and the known details of the Maybricks' lives. But the actual Ripper Diary is rather terse and fragmented at times, it’s very strong on rage but short on story, and there are a lot of attempts at rhymes and poetry, and trust me, you don’t want me to try my hand at poetry so be very glad I didn’t go there. The way the actual diary is written, without knowing more about the Maybricks and the Ripper murders it doesn’t always make sense to a casual reader, so I wanted to make it more readable, to try to let the reader walk alongside the Ripper and see how the wheels of his mind are turning, not just see the evidence of his rage, but why he’s feeling it. As for other details, I’ve read so many books on Jack the Ripper in my life, I don’t think I really ever stopped and debated what to put in and leave out, I just did it. But it was important to me to make the victims real, to give a glimpse of their personalities, and how they ended up walking the streets of Whitechapel. In the Jack the Ripper saga sometimes it feels like the killer’s identity matters more than the victims, so, even if it is in fiction, I wanted to honor them by showing them as real people.
4.Who was your favorite character in this book?
Now that’s a hard question. One early reviewer said that none of the main characters were particularly likeable, and a part of me has to agree. But these were real people, sometimes placed in difficult situations that people today might not find themselves in, or at least would have had more options to free themselves from if they did. Victorian England was a very different place. I will say writing the Ripper diary portions were the hardest part, his hatred and rage and violence are so far removed from me that I enjoyed the challenge, of pushing myself to do it, to get inside his head and make it real. I did enjoy writing Florie, she really allowed me to do what I intended, to show a marriage that begins as a fairytale turned into one of the worst nightmares you can imagine, I wanted to write a book that begins like a romance novel, so you wonder if you’ve picked up the wrong book because maybe it’s not what you’re expecting, and then turn it into a horror story, like Bluebeard’s wife opening his forbidden chamber and discovering all the evil inside. Florie begins as this beautiful, naïve teenager, people compare her to Henry James’s heroine Daisy Miller, she’s so open and trusting, yet she’s doomed to blindness, and in denial for so much of the story, sometimes she just floats along like a flower thrown in a stream. Her eyes are open yet you keep waiting for her to wake up and take some action, to make things better for herself and her children, but she can’t even leave her husband or fire that awful nanny or order her husband’s ex-fiancée out of the house. She’s trapped by social conventions and herself. So I can fully understand why some modern readers may find her frustrating and want to slap or shake her.
5. If you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
Another hard one. You didn’t tell me how long we have to stay on the island. But ok, I’ll take silent film actor Bobby Harron, because I’m working on a biography of him, and since we have similar shy personalities I don’t think we’d get on each other’s nerves too much, and Mario Lanza, because he has the most beautiful voice I ever heard and I often listen to him while I’m working, and Thomas Andrews, the designer of the Titanic, I’ve always liked him, I think he’d be interesting to talk to, and if you’re stranded on a deserted island it seems sensible to have an experienced shipbuilder along just in case you need him.
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