Stephanie: Please help me welcome, Author Gayle Feyrer. Hello Gayle! Please tell me about your book, Floats the Dark Shadow.
Gayle: The novel is set in Belle Époque Paris. It was a golden age—but I show more of its dark and decadent side. My American heroine, Theodora Faraday has had some rough years, but she’s still an innocent abroad. Theo’s living her dream, discovering herself as an artist in what was then the most exciting city in the world. She’s fallen in love with her cousin, one of a group of poets called the Revenants. The dream becomes a nightmare when children she knows vanish and are found murdered. Theo believes a sleazy Satanist committed the crimes. My detective, Michel Devaux, thinks one of the Revenants is the murderer. Theo and Michel work at odds and finally together to capture the villain, who believes he’s the reincarnation of Gilles de Rais, once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant and later the most prolific and evil serial killer in French history.
Stephanie: What was the inspiration for your story?
Gayle: The first inspiration was Paris. I’d wanted to set a book there for years, somewhere between the birth of Impressionism and the first years of the 20th Century. In researching the era I was most drawn to the Fin de Siècle, Belle Époque years.
But I spent almost a year with the wrong story and the wrong characters. My heroine didn’t want to be an artist, she wanted to be a journalist, and we battled. I had a perfectly acceptable plot that refused to take life. I was feeling quite desperate and was scrabbling around for what else I might like to write even though I didn’t want to give up Paris. I remembered an earlier fascination with Gilles de Rais, but I didn’t want to write a medieval historical. Then I thought Copy Cat! Once I had my villain, everything else fell into place very quickly, at least as a concept. I still had to write it.
Stephanie: What genre does this fall under and what interested you most writing in this genre?
Gayle: Mystery—more specifically historical mystery. And I usually call it a literary mystery to let people know it isn’t a quickie read. But it’s also a good historical – Paris is very much a character, the art and poetry, the history of violence behind the era. Michel is a child of the Paris Commune, which was bloodier than the French Revolution. There are cameo appearances by famous writers, artists, and occultists.
I’ve never been much of a “write what you know” person. You have to know the thoughts and feelings of your characters, and understand their world, but I want to time travel to different times and places.
Stephanie: Have you written books in other genres?
Gayle: I wrote four historical romances, very dark and steamy, probably too dark in general for the genre, at least at the time. One was set in Renaissance Florence during the conflict between the Borgias and Savonarola. I did a Robin and Marian tale where Marian is a spy for Eleanor of Acquitaine and recruits Robin. Then I did two Elizabethans.
I wanted to a romance set in Paris in the Belle Époque, maybe a wilder Gigi, but was told that Paris wasn’t romantic, why didn’t I do Scotland.
Stephanie: What book project are you working on now?
Gayle: I’m at work on the sequel to Floats the Dark Shadow, which keeps getting longer and more complex with more voices chiming in. It’s set during the furor of the Dreyfus Affair, but that’s just a piece of the story. It deals with all kinds of prejudice, against Jews, gays, women – and the relatively less bigoted attitude toward blacks. For emotional drama, I’ve got one secret affair busting up and another one starting. There’s hunt for the not insane (we hope) sister locked in an asylum. There are several murders and an attempted assassination. Even a strand of the occult thread from the last book will have its moment to glitter.
Stephanie: Who designs your book covers?
Gayle: One of the great things about working with BearCat was being able to realize my book almost exactly as I pictured it. Early on, I discovered the perfect image, the photo by Michel Colson that we used. I was still thinking of submitting to traditional publishers at that point, so I just wanted to use it on my website and hope they’d listen when I said I wanted it for the cover. I’m an artist, but I can’t do architecture like the Montmartre stairs in the photo. I found Trinigan, the Art Nouveau font I used in my trailer, and then on the cover. Beth Tashery Shannon designs the covers and interiors for BearCat, and for her own book design company, Frogtown Bookmaker. We worked together to create the perfect atmosphere. It’s really too early to think about book 2, but I couldn’t help hunting for inspiration. I was going to ask Michel Colson for another photo for the new book, but the multiple plot lines made choosing an image really difficult. Then I stumbled on a strangely sinister carousel picture, with three horses. I’m playing with that myself to make it even creepier.
Stephanie: What is your writing process like? Do you have a favorite spot in your home you like to write?
Gayle: I have a set of ideas for the next novel, which rise and fall in attractiveness as I think about what I can do with them. Once I pick the most compelling one – or it picks me – I do an outline and research. After that, I pretty much do what you aren’t supposed to do – go chapter by chapter and get it as perfect as I can. If inspiration strikes, I do occasional leaps forward, or dodge something really difficult (action scenes, really gruesome murders), but I don’t do a rough draft, I polish as I go. My early stuff is often so horrid I really, really can’t stand it, or so snarled I have to untangle it to even be able to think again. I work until the dialogue and setting come to life. Once that happens, it’s too much fun not to keep working, so I usually have something pretty close to what ends up in the finished book before I move on. Of course, I polish endlessly, and stuff has to be cut, or added, but write the finished book as I go is my approach. Most other writers blanch when I tell them that.
For a while, I had a cramped space behind the kitchen. It was okay, but there was no room to sprawl, and I’m pretty messy – papers and books everywhere. We redid the garage into a studio. It’s gorgeous, with burgundy walls and a turquoise ceiling. Now I write there, do my art, bead, and make perfumes.
Stephanie: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Gayle: I started writing when I was about twelve and did so intermittently for a long time before I decided that I loved it and that it was probably my strongest talent. I first majored in pictorial arts. Drawing and painting are much more soothing pursuits, but escaping into the written worlds I create is more enthralling.
When I was a kid, I longed to be a ballerina, then an actress. I still love doing readings.
Stephanie: What is your favorite genre to read?
Gayle: My favorite entertainments are mysteries and thrillers. I concentrate on historical mystery because it’s my genre, but I read contemporary settings too. I much prefer dark and intense, but take a break every now and then with something lighter or a different genre. I like fantasy, and I like paranormal elements and throw them into the mix.
I don’t read as much new literature as I should, but I do go back to my favorite classics.
Stephanie: What is the last truly great book you have read? What did you like best about it?
Gayle: I loved Megan Abbott’s Die A Little, which I think will be a classic of the genre. It’s unusual in focusing on the two women, with the brother/husband the prize they battle over. It does Noir beautifully – literally, as it’s very poetic. Psychologically it’s subtly, exquisitely twisted.
I adored The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern created a unique world and a unique web-like structure. I loved entering those fabulous tents never knowing what strange delight awaited me within.
At least once a decade, I reread The Lord of the Rings, which is a 20th century masterpiece. It’s a profound achievement not given full credit for its power because it’s fantasy. I actually love deliciously flashy prose – witness my two other choices – but Tolkien is gorgeous without being flashy. For me, it’s the greatest Everyman story ever. I cry at the end every time I read it.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to an inspiring author?
Write what you love. What sells is anyone’s guess. Discover your own way of working. Learn the rules – then break them.
Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?
Gayle: Being a Libra I can’t seem to settle on just one.
In honor of Oscar Wilde, I’ll pick the classic, “I can resist anything but temptation.”
For fellow writers, there’s the one attributed to Gene Fowler, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit starting at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Stephanie: Where can readers buy a copy of your book?
Gayle: Floats the Dark Shadow is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Amazon author page link below. It can also be ordered through your local book store.
Thank you, Gayle!