I am pleased to welcome Leanna Renee Hieber, award winning, bestselling Gothic Victorian Fantasy author of The Strangely Beautiful series (now available) and Darker Still, A Novel of Magic Most Foul.
Tell us about Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul
Well, it features a hot British Lord trapped in a painting and is full of: Danger! Intrigue! Mystery! Curses! Magic! Ghosts! Nightmares! Disguises! Pretty Dresses! Stolen kisses! Mayhem! For actual details, here's the bookseller summary:
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, WORD Bookstore
The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. -- New York City, 1880. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing... Lord Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.How did you come up with the idea for the story?
Ever since I was a kid and saw Sesame Street's "Don't Eat The Pictures" where they all get trapped inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art after hours, I've wanted to write a haunted painting story. Then when I read The Picture of Dorian Gray in school, I was done for, and the 'haunted painting' idea nestled into my mind, waiting for the right story and the right characters to tell it. When my agent asked for my next book project after getting the Strangely Beautiful saga underway, this beloved idea from so long ago finally got its turn to shine.
I don't usually gravitate towards writing first person narratives, but it's par for the course for YA fiction. Since Dracula is one of my favourite novels, the epistolary format (meaning a work written in diary entries, letters, newspaper articles) appeals to me, and so Natalie's diary became the perfect way to tell the story. Once I had my main characters and the main 'issue' of the story; Lord Denbury's trapped soul and the mystery of his curse, it unfolded from there.
Where did you get the inspiration for the characters? Which character from the book is your favorite?
Natalie, the heroine and narrator, came at me like a ton of bricks; very distinct and opinionated and she really engaged me with her spirited attitude. I knew that in a story like this, where the hero would be ostensibly trapped for most of the book, that the heroine would have to be an energetic, specific and skilled narrator, and Natalie has enough spunk to make it work. The fact that she doesn't speak makes her inner narrative all the more rich, I think. The idea of a soul trapped in a painting gave rise to my Lord Denbury, a la The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Jonathon grew from there, becoming more nuanced as I continued writing. And I can't pick a favorite, it's like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. I love them all for different reasons. I'm partly in love with Jonathon (every author has to be at least a bit in love with their hero), but Natalie is so very special to me, I can't quantify them separately. And I've only grown to love them all more as I've continued the series.
What do you have in store for the Magic Most Foul world? How many books are planned for the series?
I just finished the sequel and turned it over to my editor. In it we'll see a lot of action and new intrigues. Get ready for a deadly secret society, dreams that could kill, jealousies and betrayal, hot new gentlemen on the scene, hoards of ghosts and healthy doses of reanimation and exorcisms.
As for how many books in the Magic Most Foul saga; I know there will need to be a third book, a fourth could be a possibility, but we may end up sticking with the trilogy format. My editor and I have some decisions to make.
Both Darker Still and your successful Strangely Beautiful series are gothic novels set in the Victorian Era. Why are you drawn to this genre and era?
The first time the Victorian Era had me in thrall was when I was in a production of Oliver Twist at age 9. As a pre-teen I fell in love with Edgar Allan Poe and the Gothic style. I loved Victorian ghost stories. I was 11 or 12 when I started my first novel; a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, set in 1888. So even at that age, the 1880s called to me, and it's been a muse ever since.
The aesthetics were the first things to draw me in; the whole look of the time period and the stories I'd read that were written then. I love all the rich language and big words. I studied the era in college. While performing as a professional actress in the regional theatre circuit, I took to adapting works of 19th century literature for the professional stage and that gave me a certain confidence and facility with the language. I acted in Victorian-set productions and got a chance to 'live' in the era every night on stage. I've traveled for research to various 19th century sites. So I've "experienced" this past time period that continues to compel me, in a very comprehensive way.
Some people suggest it's a past life, I don't know about that, all I know is that the era is my muse. I find the era compelling because it's a bit bi-polar, it's difficult, grim and grand, hypocritical, romantic, full of conflict, revolutions, it created amazing social movements and incredible art, it was brimming with new ideas and it was terrified by all the changes in the world, which birthed some of my favorite novels. And the clothes. I really love the clothes.
Your books are a wonderful mix of genres. Do you read the same genre as you write? What are you currently reading?
Thank you, I love so many elements from different genres that I want to blend them all gently and organically into what I write. I read a lot of research material for my work. But in terms of fiction favourite kind of books are historical mysteries because while I love the fantastical and paranormal, I find it a bit hard to read in exactly the same genre as I write. So I gravitate towards Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters, Erik Larson, etc, so that I can still stay in the flavor of the historical vernacular. But I'm currently reading The Hunger Games because it's a crime not to.
What other projects are you working on at this time?
Having just finished the draft of Magic Most Foul II, I'm back to working on the last Strangely Beautiful novel for next year, and my steampunk novella The World of Tomorrow is Sadly Outdated is being serialized by Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders: http://www.doctorfantastiques.com - And my first novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is being adapted into a musical theatre production! So I'll be working on the staged reading this fall in New York City and other developments with the show in the regional theatre circuit, with the goal of moving it to Broadway when it's all up and ready.
I'll be keeping people updated via my various networks, on my website: http://leannareneehieber.com, on Twitter at http://twitter.com/leannarenee on FB at http://facebook.com/lrhieber and via my blog http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com so please join me for the journey!
In honor of Halloween, what are your favorite horror novels?
All the 19th Century Gothic classics, especially the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe and I'm a particular fan of Stephen King's collected shorts as well.
Tell us your best/scariest Halloween memory.I was the resident teller-of-ghost-stories in my girl scout troupe and amongst my friends. One October night (I think I was around 7 or 8 years old?) I was entertaining my two friends as I perched on an enormous black leather Queen Anne chair, my father's homemade ceramic lamp in my hand and my long blonde hair down around my shoulders (yeah, like the kid from Poltergeist). The lamp bulb was neat, it flickered like a candle and I do love a good effect. The base and part of tine interior wiring of the lamp was exposed but I cupped it in my small hands like a mug. As I reached the climax of the story - a ghost was climbing inexorably up the stairs, with a death-knell tread, ready to burst in upon the hapless young girls within! - I started to slur my words and gurgle. My blonde hair began to rise up around my shoulders. My friends' eyes bulged out of their skulls as they shrieked, tearing from the room screaming "Lea's possessed! Lea's possessed!" I sat there, helpless, tethered to the electrical current when my finger had slipped too far inside the base of the lamp, until I was able to shake myself free and toss the lamp aside. Looking back, the uncomfortable kiss of voltage was worth the effect.
Great story and thank you, Leanna!
Ready for the giveaway? I’ve read (and love) this book and trust me, you want this one! As a part of the Halloween Queens Book Giveaway hosted by KM from One Page at A Time and myself, I will be giving away a copy of this awesome book! To enter, just click on the read more prompt (if you are on the main page) and follow the Rafflecopter instructions. Don't forget to stop by One Page at A Time to win an autographed copy of Anna Dressed In Blood.