Book Review: Angel of Highgate

BookReviewLogoReview by Danielle Nielsen

The Angel of Highgate (Titan, 2015) is novelist Vaughn Entwistle’s third historical novel. Following Entwistle’s The Revenant of Thraxton Hall (2015) and The Dead Assassin (2014), both from the The Paranormal Casebooks of Arthur Conan Doyle series, The Angel of Highgate is a precursor to The Revenant of Thraxton Hall but is not part of the Casebooks series.

25430802A gothic novel with touches of crime and the supernatural, The Angel of Highgate follows the love affair of Lord Geoffrey Thraxton, a dishonorable man-about-town, and a mysterious woman he rescues from grave robbers one night in Highgate Cemetery. Set in 1859 London, Thraxton and his best friend and confidant Algernon Hyde-Davies move in and out of British high society. Along the way, they return to Highgate Cemetery, opium dens, brothels, and visit the depths of Victorian rookeries, whose crime syndicates make Dickens’ Fagin and Artful Dodger seem sincere and innocent. Accompanying Thraxton, Hyde-Davies, and the mysterious woman is a cast of colorful characters: embittered literary critic Augustus Skinner, dodgy physician Silas Garrette, Kew Gardens caretaker Mister Greenley, and chief “mobsman” Mordecai Fowler and his “leftenants,” Barnabus Snudge and Walter Crynge.  Continue reading “Book Review: Angel of Highgate”

Fiction Reboot Interview’s Barbara Rogan, Mystery Writer

FictionReboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot!

Today’s Friday Feature interviews Barbara Rogan, mystery writer, agent, and teacher. Rogan has lived a diverse life; from New York City and Santa Fe to Europe and Israel, she has experienced many different places and perspectives that have factored into her writing. A writer with a love of thriller and mystery novels, Rogan also teaches online writing classes on her “Next Level Workshop” site. Her latest book, “A Dangerous Fiction,” combines Rogan’s loves of the publishing industry and of this thriller theme. The book was touted by Diana Gabaldon “a thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.” In an exclusive interview, Rogan discusses how her rich past plays a role in her writing.

bio_2_1949043100Author Bio:

Born in New York City, Barbara Rogan has spent much of her life traveling. In college she took a year off to journey through Europe and Israel. After she graduated from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, she took a publishing job in New York. Six months later, Rogan left for Israel, studied Hebrew and worked as a park ranger, horse wrangler, and editor in Tel Aviv. Two years later, she launched Barbara Rogan Literary Agency, which soon became the largest in the country. After the birth of her son, she sold the agency, moved back to New York, and became a full time writer. She has since published multiple novels and continues to teach online writing courses and revise fiction.

To learn more about Rogan, visit her website at www.barbararogan.com or follow her on Twitter at @RoganBarbara.

Interview with Barbara Rogan:

  1. You have a rich, diverse life. How does this factor into your writing?

It provides material and a wider view of life. I’m not an ivory tower sort of writer. Recently, a young writer asked my advice about going straight from college to grad school to get an MFA. I advised against it. I have nothing against MFA degrees. The degree itself isn’t critical, as writers are judged by what they produce, not how they got there; but the intense focus on writing and critical feedback required to attain that degree can be valuable indeed. The first thing the writer needs, though, is something to write about. I suspicion_1advised the young writer who asked not to go straight to grad school but rather to go out into the world, preferably someplace where he doesn’t feel at home.

  1. How did running such a large publishing agency in Israel shape your perspective as a writer?

It taught me how the industry works. Before I started the agency, I was an editor in a large New York City publishing house; so I’ve seen the publishing world from a lot of different angles. This is both good and bad for me as a writer. On the one hand, I’m not intimidated by any situation and I can speak the lingo without an interpreter. Writers who understand the business get a bit more respect and can help themselves more, or at least avoid hurting themselves. On the other hand, I can see potential problems coming from 50 different directions. Sometimes, it’s better to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

  1. Do you have a specific process that you follow when you write?

I spend months doing prep work before I start writing a book. I do research; I write down setting, character and plot ideas, and wait for them to cross-fertilize; and in the final stage of prep, I start plotting out the novel. In the beginning, it’s a pretty rough outline. I know where I want to start and end up, but not all the stops along the way. As I proceed with the writing, I continue to outline sections in more detail. I write down my goals for each scene, and the incidents that need to happen to get me there. After all that planning, I put my notes aside and just write. The notes have provided parameters for the scene, but writing without reference to them allows for unexpected things to pop up.

  1. Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I like to write naked, hanging upside down from a chandelier. Other than that, no.

  1. What draws you to the genre of suspense and mystery?

hindsight_1__1Well, for one thing I’ve always liked to read them. People should write what they enjoy reading I think. For another, they have a definitive form. Mysteries are to fiction as sonnets are to poetry. They have certain requirements and you can be very creative while playing within those lines; but they give a shape to the book and a solid resolution, which I find very satisfying.

  1. You taught for a long time and still continue to do so through workshops. Why is teaching so important to you?

I never had the opportunity to study writing in college or out of it; like most writers, I’ve learned through practice, good critical feedback, and other writers. Teaching is a way of exploring the art of fiction writing, consolidating what I’ve learned over the course of writing my books. It’s certainly made me a better writer.

I also enjoy working with serious writers, seeing their progress and offering a little help along the way. It’s hugely satisfying when my students go forth and publish, as many have. And I think it’s useful work. Most writers go through identical stages in learning to write, as babies do in learning to walk. You can’t make just anyone into a writer, but for those who have the skill and determination, a good teacher can shorten the path.

  1. How was your move from Israel back to the United States reflected in your writing, if at all?

My first couple of books were set in Israel. After I made the move back to the U. S., the settings moved as well. Part of the reason that I came back was for the language. When I lived in Israel, I read a lot in English but spoke Hebrew most of the time. After a number of years living abroad, I began to feel a certain disconnection to my native language, which is a living and evolving thing. Since I write in English, I wanted to re-immerse myself in that language.

  1. Tell me about your experience writing your latest book, “A Dangerous Fiction”?

DangerousFictionHC_jacket3“A DANGEROUS FICTION” is the story of Jo Donovan, a literary agent who came out of nowhere to become a star in the NYC publishing world. She’s living the life she always dreamed of until it all starts to go south. Jo’s problems begin with a stalker who insists that she represent him, but soon get much, much worse. I had loved the 15 or so years that I spent as an agent, traveling widely and working with brilliant, fascinating people, and writing this book gave me the opportunity to return to that world. It’s always fun to write a book in which the characters need be really clever. I did succeed in entertaining myself, always my first goal.

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?

That’s tough because I read so many different kinds of books. In the suspense genre I like Dennis Lehane, Ron Rash, Gillian Flynn. Literary fiction: Don DeLillo, Edward St. Aubyn, Pat Parker, Barbara Kingsolver, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and the sainted Jane Austen, whose books I’ve read to the point of memorization. I read a lot of short stories, too: favorites include Katherine Mansfield, George Sanders, Amy Bloom, Lori Moore, and Tobias Wolff.

Thanks to Barbara Rogan for taking the time to speak with “Fiction Reboot.”

ABOUT THE BLOGGER
Keri Heath is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. She has written professionally for Austin Fit, Totally Dublin, Austin Woman, and ATX Man magazines. She has also seen her creative work published in NEAT and Straylight magazines, among others. When she isn’t writing, she loves to read, run, and play mandolin. You can view Keri’s work at readkh.wix.com/keri-heath or by following her @HeathKeri.

Fiction Reboot Author Interview: Tessa Harris, Shadow of the Raven

FictionReboot2Introducing our latest Reboot contributor, Sammie Kurty.

Sammie Kurty, signing in! For today’s Fiction Reboot, we have the pleasure of welcoming back author Tessa Harris. Her first novel, The Anatomist’s Apprentice, won The Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Best First Mystery Award in 2012. Since her debut into the publishing world, Ms. Harris has released 5 novels about her ever intriguing anatomist, Dr. Thomas Silkstone. On January 27, 2015, she released the latest installment to the series entitled Shadow of the Raven. The novel investigates one of the most complex and complicated parts of the human anatomy: the mind. Dr. Silkstone and his beloved Lydia experience firsthand the inhumane, poor treatment of the mentally ill and the impact madness made on 18th century England. Today, Ms. Harris discusses Shadow of the Raven, writing, and where history and fiction intertwine.

 

tessaAuthor Bio: Tessa Harris
After studying History at Oxford University, Tessa Harris began a journalistic career in Lincolnshire. She progressed to a London newspaper, and later a feature writer on Best magazine. After two years, she was made editor of a regional arts and listings publication, and later deputy editor on Heritage magazine. In 2005 she was made editor of Berkshire Life magazine. Tessa always had literature aspirations, and in 2000 won a European-wide screenplay writing competition for a work later optioned by a film company. The script was set in 18th century London and subsequent research led Tessa to the invention of Dr Thomas Silkstone, an American anatomist and the world’s first forensic scientist. For more Fiction Reboot interviews with Tessa, see here.

 

Author Interview

  1. If you could interview any author, living or deceased, who would you and why? Who is your favorite author?

As a journalist I’ve been lucky enough to interview some really big authors: Jeffrey Archer, Robert Harris and Barbara Taylor-Bradford to name but three. However, the author I’d most like to interview is Daphne du Maurier. I adore Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel. When I was on holiday at St Ives, in Cornwall, I passed the cottage where du Maurier used to stay and write, so I started reading her novels. I’d love to share a bottle of wine with her while watching the sun go down over the bay by St Nicholas’s Chapel. As for my favourite author? There are so many, but Sarah Dunant (The Birth of Venus, Sacred Hearts) has to be up there, alongside Andrew Miller (Pure) and Patrick Suskind (Perfume).

  1. In regards to your historical fiction, does the history outweigh the fiction, the fiction outweigh the history, or is it an even mix of both?

I’ve said before that writing historical fiction with real-life characters at its core is a bit like negotiating a minefield that’s already been swept. As long as you keep to the tried and tested path, i.e. stick to the facts, you’ll be safe. But if you stray – beware! If you’re not blown to pieces by eagle-eyed critics, then there’ll still be readers out there keen to take pot shots at you.

  1. What made you want to center your most recent novel, Shadow of the Raven, around the notorious Bedlam Mental Hospital and mental illness in general?

There are only two chapters set in Bedlam, but I wanted to touch on the treatment of mentally ill patients at this point in history. There was a debate going on at the time about how sufferers should be handled. Attitudes were changing. Members of the public could no longer pay to gawp at inmates at Bedlam for entertainment from 1770, but Bedlam’s head, John Monro, was convinced that madness could only be cured ‘evacuation by vomiting.’ Thankfully there were others who did not take this approach and gradually the treatment of the insane did improve.

  1. Do you personally identify with Dr. Thomas Silkstone? Do you identify with the medical detectives or play the “Sherlock Holmes” role in your own life?

I’ve lived with Thomas (in my head) for 17 years now. I identify very much with his reasoned approach to things, but he does tend to be a bit too serious. He needs to lighten up a bit, I think. Whether or not Lydia is the right person to help him do that is another story!

  1. Dr. Schillace recently remarked that students have an interesting but conflicted connection to Lydia as she can be hard to pin down. What would you say best symbolizes Lady Lydia Farrell and why? 

A lot of readers are annoyed by Lydia. They think she’s too submissive. She’s certainly not the conventional heroine of contemporary novels of this period. They’re all very independent and feisty. Today’s leading female characters are very often portrayed as ‘breaking the glass ceiling,’ whereas Lydia exists under it. The reality of this period dictated that women had to conform or face being ostracized. Take Mary Shelley, for example, who was , in effect, banished for her affair with a married man. Not every woman had the will or the courage to forsake convention. Lydia is not weak, but up until now she has accepted her lot because she has had no choice. Many women in certain cultures face the same constraints today. Just because they do not openly challenge them does not make them weak.

6. I read that the Silkstone series originated from a screenplay. Would you consider trying screenwriting again?

I’d love to. In fact I’ve started writing the first book as a TV drama.

7. Finally, any advice to the discouraged writers just starting out? Especially those who are interested in genre fiction, mystery, thriller, etc?

Write, read and write again. Never throw anything away – nothing that you write is ever wasted. And never give up. It took me ten years to find a publisher for the Silkstone series, but I’d been trying with other works for the past 30!

Thank you, Tessa, for joining us today! You can find Tessa on Twitter and Facebook. Her latest novel, Shadow of the Raven, is in stores now!

indexShadow of The Raven
American anatomist Dr. Thomas Silkstone hunts for justice amid a maelstrom of madness, murder, and social upheaval. . .

In the notorious mental hospital known as Bedlam, Dr. Thomas Silkstone seeks out a patient with whom he is on intimate terms. But he is unprepared for the state in which he finds Lady Lydia Farrell. Shocked into action, Thomas vows to help free Lydia by appealing to the custodian of her affairs, Nicholas Lupton. But when Silkstone arrives at the Boughton Estate to speak to Lupton, he finds that another form of madness has taken over the village. . .

What the critics are saying about Shadow of the Raven

““The Dr. Thomas Silkstone books have been an interesting and unique series. Set in 1784 and featuring an anatomist colonist from America, Harris looks at Georgian England through the fresh eyes of an outsider. She displays her complete historical knowledge with her easy and graceful presentation of the times. In this fifth installment, the personal stakes have never been higher. The books highlight a particular, more social aspect of the times. The twists and turns never stop, making Shadow of the Raven impossible to put down.” –RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars Top Pick

“Deception, murder and land wars thwart Dr. Thomas Silkstone’s latest attempt to find happiness with his beloved Lydia.” –Kirkus Review

sammieAbout Sammie Kurty Sammie Kurty is an English major in her junior year at Wittenberg University and a contributor to Fiction Reboot. She is a proud member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society. Sammie has been passionate about writing all her life and is about to complete her first novel, Sapphire Lake, a project she has worked on for three years. When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her practicing makeup artistry or riding roller coasters. Twitter: @Shamtakee