What was your inspiration for STALKING JACK THE RIPPER?
I was really in the mood to read a dark gothic/forensic-focused book and was having trouble finding exactly what I wanted. I had a call with my agent and we were discussing what I was working on and brainstorming, when I tossed out the idea of a young woman who was interested in having a career in STEM. I loved reading Nancy Drew books as a little kid, and wanted to have my own smart sleuth. When my agent asked how I could up the stakes, I envisioned it as a historical. (What would it have been like to be told I couldn’t do something because I was a girl?) From there I told her I’d like the main character to be sort of like a female Doctor Watson, and the mystery could unfold from there. She loved it, told me to “go write the book we both want to read” and I immediately got to work.
Why did you choose Jack the Ripper?
At first I chose Audrey Rose’s career. Then to amp up the tension, I decided to make it historical so her job wouldn’t be easy. Once I knew that was the direction for setting, there was only one case that was screaming to be retold; the most infamous of unsolved crimes. A crime that also happened to be one of the first cases where forensics were used with gusto. Growing up I was always intrigued by Jack the Ripper and would watch and read everything I could to see if I could solve the mystery, so it seemed only natural to hand that job over to Audrey Rose.
The feminism in SJTR is very modern, did you always plan on including those more 21st century tones?
The feminism in the book is actually based on historical figures like Abigail Adams. She penned a letter to her husband in 1776 asking him to “remember the ladies” when it came to voting rights. And also, arguably, one of the first books written with the building blocks of modern feminism: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft in 1792. Both occurred one hundred+ years before this novel is set. There was a lot going on in the world with women fighting for the vote and women with “modern” views didn’t simply crop up out of nowhere. I imagined Audrey Rose’s mother being inspired by these women and teaching the more “modern” ideas to her daughter.
Audrey Rose is wonderful, but there really weren’t any women doctors in 1888, was there? (Especially since she is 1/4 Indian, right?)
There weren’t many female doctors in 1888, but they did exist. The Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania was founded in 1850. Also there was a British woman named Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first woman in America to receive a medical degree, and that was in 1849. She studied with 150 other male classmates (who had to vote unanimously for her to be allowed to study with them) at Geneva Medical College.
As to there being women of color in the medical field? Of course! There were amazing women of color performing groundbreaking feats in STEM. A few who Audrey Rose would have greatly admired include:
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) who published “A Book of Medical Discourses” in 1883.
Mary Elizabeth Mahoney (1845-1926) who was the first certified black nurse in the U.S.
Alice Ball (1892-1916) who created an injectable cure for leprosy.
I suggest looking all of these incredible women up—they paved the way for so many who’ve come after them.
Audrey Rose goes out searching for the Ripper at night, why would she do that???
As a society, we have become more suspicious/expectant because these kind of crimes and serial killers are not a new thing. (Unfortunately.) Jack the Ripper was the first highly publicized murderer—prior to him, people didn’t ever consider that the same person would commit more than one murder. It was mostly unheard of. Audrey Rose—along with the rest of the world—never expected Jack the Ripper to kill again. And again. And again. His crimes stole not only the lives of the victims, but the sense of innocence from people. As the series goes on, Audrey Rose has a much less sheltered view of the world.
Do you plan on releasing more stories from Thomas’s point of view?
Currently the MEETING THOMAS CRESSWELL novella is included in the mass market paperback edition of STALKING JACK THE RIPPER. I can never say anything definitively with Thomas, since he’s always breaking the rules I set for him, but anything is possible. If you like the idea of more Thomas, definitely shout your love of him to my publisher across social media!
Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Definitely no. I think it would be awkward to show up at family dinners or hang out with friends and have them give me major side eye if they didn’t how I portrayed them. I steer WAY clear of including anyone I know in any way. Though my dad is still convinced he’s in SJTR, no matter how many times I tell him he’s not.
How did you come up with Thomas Cresswell?
Thomas is one of those characters who started out as a simple, sassy side character and just kept expanding his role while I sat down to write. To answer the question in a more writerly way, I wanted to have a male character who was as progressive for the timeframe as Audrey Rose was. I wanted him to be wickedly smart and a little socially awkward, with a story of his own to tell. I enjoyed the idea of having this young Sherlock Holmes-type character and he continued to develop from there.
What made you decide to write Audrey Rose as a forensic student, a stereotypical “man’s job” for that time frame?
My agent and I were talking about what sort of things I enjoyed and how I could incorporate my passion into a book. I tossed around the idea of a forensic student because I hadn’t really seen many books that featured young women in that role. (Not that they aren’t out there, I just hadn’t come across any.) So the profession came first, and then I started thinking of ways to “up the stakes.” That’s when I imagined how hard it would have been to be a young woman in the Victorian Era. What would it be like to be not only a young woman, but a woman born into privilege? There were so many more restrictions placed on them to act properly, that I knew I wanted it to be historical. Then I read about real life women who were in STEM during that time frame and everything took off from there.
Will we get to see Liza again? Will other characters make appearances?
I can never guarantee who will survive from book to book, but I’m sure there are some characters from books past that might pop in from time to time.
Will we ever get a novella or story from Daciana’s point of view?
I think Daciana’s perspective would be really fun to write from, and I’m sure her and Ileana have many adventures of their own that would be entertaining. Never say never!
What’s your favorite part of writing this series?
Aside from the banter between Audrey Rose and Thomas, I really enjoy creating different settings for each book. From the foggy gaslit streets of Victorian London, to the haunted castle deep in the mountains of Romania, to a luxury ocean liner, to the setting for the still untitled book 4, it’s so fun to watch Audrey Rose and Thomas grow.
How many books are going to be in the series?
The STALKING JACK THE RIPPER series will be a complete quartet. I’m currently getting ready to draft SJTR 4 and it’s scheduled for a Fall 2019 release. It will be the final installment in this series.
Are you planning on writing any books outside of this universe?
Definitely! I’ve got a side project that I’ve been tinkering on before SJTR sold, and would love to work on that more. I’ve also got a notebook FILLED with ideas that range from dark fantasy to paranormal to more murder mysteries.
What about writing more from the STALKING JACK THE RIPPER universe from a different character’s POV?
I’m never opposed to that idea, it would just depend on who the character is and what story they would tell. It would have to feel organic and necessary, something that would enhance the SJTR universe.
How do you write dialogue?
Writing dialogue can be really tricky and I always, always, ALWAYS go over it roughly a million times during revisions. I listen to how people talk in real life, then I’ll watch either a movie or tv show and see what works, what doesn’t, what sounds stilted or unnatural. I also read my dialogue out loud to myself. That’s been the best way for me to see if it works or if it’s too clunky/unnatural and revise from there.
Do you have any writing advice for someone starting out?
Never give up and always be kind to others when you can. This is a small business and people often remember when someone’s been nice or mean to them. Work on your craft, take critiques and use the advice that resonates the most, and be open to revisions. No one, no matter how talented, gets it right on the first or second shot. (Of a draft.) Revising and rewriting are all part of the process and really push your writing to new levels. But yeah, I wrote seven or eight books before SJTR sold and every single one of them was a learning experience. Don’t let rejections get you down, and if they do? It’s okay to take a few days to refill your creative well and dust yourself off and try again.
Do you have any similar stories planned for the future?
I enjoy writing dark stories brimming with atmosphere and morally gray characters, so it’s a sure bet that whatever project comes next will feature those elements. Hopefully readers will fall equally in love with the next set of characters.