Friday, March 2, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Linda Stratmann, author of An Unquiet Ghost

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Linda Stratmann to Flashlight Commentary to discuss the third installment of the Mina Scarletti Series, An Unquiet Ghost.

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Release Date: March 1, 2018   |   Sapere Books   |   Historical Fiction/Paranormal Mystery
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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Linda. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about An Unquiet Ghost.
The setting is 1871 Brighton. Séances were extremely popular, and without independent investigation, there was something of a free-for-all for charlatans. Mina Scarletti has successfully exposed fraudulent mediums who callously extorted money from the vulnerable bereaved, but now she has a new problem. A young couple, second cousins, wish to marry, but twenty years ago an aged relative, Henry Fernwood, was poisoned, and the killer can only have been a blood relation. If they marry will they pass on a dreadful taint to their children? Only one person knows the identity of the killer - the murdered man - and the couple want Mina to find a genuine medium who can contact his unquiet ghost. They visit two mediums, one who receives messages chalked on slates, and an emaciated young woman who has visions of both the living and the dead. Are they truthful, false or simply deluded? And who killed Henry Fernwood? When Mina finds the answer it is worse than she could possibly have imagined. 

An Unquiet Ghost is the third installment of the Mina Scarletti Mystery series. At risk of sounding impertinent, where did the idea for these books come from? Did it strike like lightening out nowhere or was is something that came to you over time? 
Oddly enough it did strike like lightning!  I was walking along my street approaching a corner, when the idea just popped into my head, and by the time I had turned the corner I knew I had something I wanted to write. Of course it must also have been the culmination of all the reading and researching I had been doing. I find that when the time is right, ideas that have been floating about randomly in my head just come together and click. 

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Mina Scarletti’s character and personality?
Mina is 25 and is 4ft 8” tall with a twisted spine. When she was sixteen she was told she should never marry and have children. Physically frail, she has great strength of character, and decided that if the traditional role of a woman was denied her, this gave her the chance to do anything else she wanted. She has great imagination as a storyteller, but at the same time feels she knows the difference between what is real and what is invention. She particularly dislikes people who try to extort money from those who are grieving for loved ones. With few weapons at her disposal, she takes a mischievous pleasure in stirring up others in order to achieve what she wants. 

Mina is a writer by trade, but is becoming well-known for unmasking fraudulent psychics by this point in the series. How did Mina fall into this secondary profession? 
In the first book, Mr Scarletti’s Ghost, Mina’s mother and friends are excited by the seances of a visiting spirit medium, Miss Eustace. Mina is not seriously concerned until she reads about the renowned medium D D Home, (1833-1886) who attempted to separate a 75 year old widow from her fortune. Appalled by this, Mina determines to make sure that her mother and friends are not in the thrall of an extortionist. 

Though she is not a believer in ghosts, Mina is intrigued when George Fernwood and Mary Clifton request her help in tracking down a genuine spiritual medium. What about this request strikes her interest? 
She feels sympathy for the couple who wish to marry, and is interested in the mystery that lies behind their request. Also, as a writer constantly looking for inspiration from her surroundings, their offer to give her the full story behind the 1851 murder is too tempting to resist! 

Do you have a favorite scene in An Unquiet Ghost? 
Not exactly a scene, but there are letters passing between Mina and her older brother Edward, and Mina and her mother which were huge fun for me to write as we get different views of the same situation, and sometimes we have to read between the lines to see the real picture. 

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing An Unquiet Ghost?
I didn’t feel that, but I have laid groundwork for the future. We know very little as yet about Edward’s fiancée, and what will happen when Mina’s sister’s husband, Mr Inskip who is currently abroad, finally re-appears?  

If you could sit down and talk with one of the characters in An Unquiet Ghost, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
It would be great to chat with Nellie, as she has had a fascinating career as a conjuror’s assistant, and knows a few tricks of her own. I’m sure she would have some colourful stories to tell. 

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of An Unquiet Ghost, who would you hire? 
I would love to see Lisa Hammond (Donna in Eastenders) as Mina. She radiates drive, determination and inner strength.  And while we’re about it, what about Nitin Ganatra (Masood) as dishy Dr Hamid? Lily James would make a sparkling Nellie. Leo Suter (Edward Drummond in Victoria) would be great as Mina’s dashing scallywag of a brother, Richard.  Joanna Lumley would be ‘Ab Fab’ to play Mina’s difficult mother. 

A character who appears in The Royal Ghost, (book 2) and is destined to appear again, is the devilishly charismatic war hero and explorer Arthur Wallace Hope and I can’t help thinking about Aidan Turner to play that part!  

What do you hope readers take from their experience of An Unquiet Ghost? 
Admiration for Mina who has overcome difficulties that would crush another person in order to be her true, spirited self, a wish to understand more about the nature of hallucinations and a burning desire to read the other books in the series!

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I was born in the City of Leicester. My parents were in the tailoring trade, and belonged to the Orthodox Jewish community. They wanted me to be educated, have a career, and marry a nice Jewish doctor. I managed two out of the three. All four of my grandparents had immigrated from Poland early in the 20th century, and my parents were born in London. During the second world war, my parents moved to Leicester, though they maintained close ties with the family in London. I have always felt that if there was any place I really belonged, it was London. Much as I enjoy rural pleasures I am a city person at heart, and nowadays would find it hard to live more than a tube ride from the British Library!

My love affair with the printed word probably started when I was two, when I eagerly absorbed the alphabet as taught to me by my mother. I have had my nose in a book ever since. The scribbling of poems and stories certainly dates back as early as six, and my first efforts at a novel from the age of eleven. I attended Medway Street Infants and Junior School, in the days of the eleven plus, and from there I went to Wyggeston Girls Grammar School. My earliest ambition was to be an astronomer, and I both read and wrote a great deal of science fiction. I also read biology, zoology and medicine, and seriously considered a medical career. By my teens, however, I had developed my absorbing and life-long interest in true crime, probably taking after my mother who loved to read about famous trials.

After taking my O levels, I left school, and trained to be a chemist’s dispenser with Boots. I was first married at the age of 18 and my son was born when I was 20. Whatever I was destined to be it was not a housewife, and I took my A levels and went to Newcastle University in 1971, graduating with first class honours in psychology three years later. I then joined the civil service, and trained to be an Inspector of Taxes.
From the early 70s I was very active in science fiction fandom, attending a great many conventions. I was living in Co. Durham , working in Newcastle, yet virtually everything I wanted to do, and most of my friends were in London. In 1987, unable to resist the pull of London I moved there, and my first husband and I were amicably divorced in 1992. I married my second husband, Gary in 1993. In the same year I began practising aikido, and obtained my black belt in 2000.

In 2001 I left the civil service, and in 2002 was commissioned to write my first published book on the history of chloroform.

I am delighted to be Artistic Patron of Talliston House and Gardens.

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