Guest Blogger Yves Fey: A Fin de Siècle Halloween

Yves Fey, author of Floats the Dark Shadow is my Halloween guest blogger.

A Fin de Siecle Halloween

Parisians have adopted Halloween, dressing their children as various monstres, fantômes or sorcières, sometimes even as Egyptian momies, but it is not truly their holiday. Instead they have a more somber sort of Day of the Dead on November 1st — La Toussaint, or All Saint’s Day. Graves are visited and bouquets of autumnal chrysanthemums left in displays praised as worthy of tourist visits.

fey Cabaret_du_Chat_Noir_par_Robida
Le Chat Noir (click to enlarge)

Nonetheless, if the clock struck midnight in Paris on Halloween and you climbed into a passing coach for a magical mystery tour of the city in all its fin de siècle glory, you could have treated yourself to a long night on the town, conjuring suitable shivers to celebrate the holiday.

First, you could visit the most famous of black cats, Le Chat Noir, signpost and mascot of the Paris cabaret, and the veritable symbol of Montmartre. Le Chat Noir is considered the first modern nightclub, where the patrons imbibed their potables while watching a show. There were comic monologues, singers, and the famous “shadow plays.”

fey pigalle_pl_7_rat_mort_1908_31_mini-5
Le Rat Mort (click to enlarge)

Having seen the Cat, which only lived until 1897, one might wander over to Le Rat Mort, which maintained its existence for a good deal longer. Legend says the rat was punished by death for having disturbed some clients engaged in a most private tête a tête. Or perhaps other body parts were engaged. Despite its unappetizing name, the club was quite spacious. Artists populated it by day, at night it was one of the most favored lesbian haunts.

fey Cabaret_Neant
Cabaret du Neant (click to enlarge)

From their names, Le Chat Noir and Le Rat Mort are quite suitable for Halloween veneration, but there were clubs far creepier in context. Le Cabaret du Néant, or Nothingness, would now most certainly be the darling of the Goth crowd. There the tables were coffins. Trompe l’oeil tricks turned flesh and blood humans into skeletons before the delighted eyes of the patrons with a visual illusion called “Pepper’s Ghost” (I can’t help it, I hear Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band start to play).

More skeletons dangled from the ceiling of Nothingness, taking the form of crazed chandeliers. The lighting cast a greenish pall over the inhabitants, and waiters dressed as undertakers invited them to partake of such delicacies as a microbe of Asiatic cholera from the last corpse. Perhaps you should move on?

fey EnferOutside
Entrance to L’Enfer (click on enlarge)
fey EnferInside
Interior of L’Enfer (click on enlarge)

I suggest you finish your Halloween tour in Hell. Promising damnation, Satan will gesture you through a mouth of gigantic demonic fangs and into L’Enfer’s interior of plaster souls writing on the ceiling. Inside, the walls ooze metallic lava from their crevices. There is the occasional belch of sulphuric smoke and rumble of thunder. At your blood red table, you can order a seething bumper of molten sin, with a dash of brimstone—black coffee with cognac. According to William Chambers Morrow, who visited the club in 1900, the club’s drinks promise to “season your intestines, and render them invulnerable, for a time at least, to the tortures of the melted iron that will be soon poured down your throats.”

fey Redcielenfer1
Le Ciel (click to enlarge)

Feeling parched? Le Ciel, Heaven, is right next door, filled with fluffy clouds and star-spangled ceilings. There you’ll be served by gauzy angels (doing a bit of moonlighting from the Moulin Rouge). They’ll serve a star dazzler to cool your throat. But why would you go Heaven on Halloween? Just down another bumper of molten sin and remain invulnerable.

About Yves Fey

fey bookcoverMy first introduction to Yves Fey was when I was asked to review her wonderful dark mystery Floats the Dark Shadow by the Historical Novel Society. You can read my review here.

Floats the Dark Shadow is the first of Yves’ series set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. It recently won several Indie awards–a Silver IPPY in the Best Mystery category, a Finalist Award in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in mystery, and it was one of four Finalists in both History and Mystery in the Next Generation Indie Awards.

fey AuthorPhoto
Yves Fey

Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing when she was twelve. She holds a Bachelor’s in Pictorial Arts from UCLA, and a MFA from the University of Oregon in Creative Writing. In her varied career, she has been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, baker, creator of ceramic beasties, illustrator, fiction teacher, and finally, novelist. She’s won prizes for her chocolate desserts, and her current obsession is designing perfumes inspired by her characters and by the magical city of Paris. A Libra with Scorpio Rising, Yves’ romantic nature takes on a darker edge. She hopes these shadows bring depth.

A world traveler, Yves has visited Paris, England, and Italy. She lived for two years in Jakarta, Indonesia, with many trips around Asia. She wishes she could live in Montmartre like her heroine, but feels lucky to reside across the bridge from San Francisco, with her husband and their three cats, an Asian Burmese dubbed Marlowe the Investigator and two rescued girls, half Siamese and half tabby, The Flying Bronte Sisters.

Under her own name, Gayle Feyrer, she authored two historical romances for Dell. The first takes place in the lush and violent world of Renaissance Italy. The second is set amid the earthy glamour of Robin Hood’s Sherwood. Under the nom de plume Taylor Chase, she wrote two historical romances for Avon. These novels explored the turbulent realm of Elizabethan England, an era of brash and bawdy manners contrasting with elaborate courtly protocol, of vice and venality contending with a questing romantic spirit. These books will all soon be available again under her own Tygerbright imprint.

To learn more about Yves, her books, and fin de siecle Paris, visit  http://yvesfey.com

Advertisements

Your Opinion is Requested

I encourage you to take the The Historical Fiction Survey for 2013.  Its creators are M.K. Tod and Richard Lee.  It isn’t a pretend survey that is trying to get you to buy something.

Its creators are really interested in how readers make decisions about buying and reading books. You can see last year’s results at The Historical Fiction Survey for 2012.

The survey creators are hoping to poll a wide range of readers, so if historical fiction isn’t your cup of tea, that is fine.  You can still take the survey and give your opinions on what sorts of books you like to read and what encourages you to buy a book, among other things.

It doesn’t take long, so let your opinions be known and take The Historical Fiction Survey for 2013.

 

Author Interview: Anna Lee Huber

Anna_Lee_Huber_Headshot_1

 

Today I’m welcoming Anna Lee Huber to my series of author interviews. Anna is the author of the Lady Darby mysteries which take place in 19th century Scotland. The first was The Anatomist’s Wife and the second is the newly released Mortal Arts.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Anna. Can you tell us about your Lady Darby mysteries?

anna Anatomists Wife CoverAnna: My Lady Darby mysteries are set in 1830 Scotland and feature Kiera, Lady Darby, a gifted portrait artist and the scandalous widow of a famous anatomist. When a woman is murdered at her sister’s estate in the wilds of northern Highlands, Kiera is forced to team up with gentlemen inquiry agent Sebastian Gage to find the culprit. In future books they will also join forces to solve cases of murder and mayhem.

Elizabeth: When plotting your story, how do you balance the elements of the mystery and the development of the romance between Lady Darby and Mr. Gage?

Anna: Since the Lady Darby novels are at their heart mysteries, the mystery definitely must come first. I usually plot all of the main parts of the mystery—the turning points and major discoveries—and then I weave in the other elements, like the romance and individual character development, trying to match the tone and theme. I continue adding greater detail for all the story elements until I feel my plot is complete.

Elizabeth: Lady Darby is an artist, and it helps her see the world a little differently than the other characters. Does Lady Darby get this from you? Are you a painter or involved in the visual arts?

Anna: I am not a visual artist, though my husband and one of my brothers are. I’m constantly picking their brain about little details. What I am is a musician and a writer, and I’m often struck by how similar the artistic mind is, no matter the medium of expression. It’s amazing how much translates from one type of art to another—the mindset, the worries, the worldview. It definitely gives me greater insight into Lady Darby.

Elizabeth: What first made you interested in this time period and place as a setting for your novels?

anna Mortal_Arts_coverAnna: I love the 19th century. It fascinates me. And I adore England and Scotland. So I knew I wanted to set my historical mystery series then and there. But I didn’t choose the exact year and location until after I crafted Lady Darby’s backstory. Once I realized that she had unwillingly accrued knowledge from her anatomist husband by being forced to sketch his dissections for an anatomy textbook he was writing, I knew that 1830 would be the perfect year. It’s just after the trial of Burke and Hare—Edinburgh body snatchers turned murderers—and two years before the Anatomy Act of 1832. This time period gives me lots of juicy bits of history to explore, as well as exploring the fear and unrest felt by the general public regarding the trade of body snatchers and the actions of anatomists. I chose to set The Anatomist’s Wife in the Highlands because I needed an isolated location, and because I simply love the beauty and melancholy of the terrain. Mortal Arts take place just north of Edinburgh, and I chose this spot because it suited my plot.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Anna: My stories are not based on real historical figures, though sometimes they are woven into the periphery. Instead I use the details of history to build and inform my plots, trying to remain as historically accurate as possible. I also try very hard to make my characters true to their time period, with some fictional license. I like to include a Historical Note at the end of my novels to explain what’s real, and what historical facts I might have altered in some way.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Anna: My writing process is continually evolving, and I suspect it always will be. Once I have an idea for a plot, I do intensive research into the history surrounding it and brainstorm possibilities. Then I plot my novel, starting with the main points—inciting incidents, turning points, etc.—and progressing to ever smaller details. By the time my chart is done, the story is pretty well fleshed out. I also create a character arc and diagram for each main character and for Lady Darby and Gage’s relationship, taking into account motivation and fears, and other important psychological details. Then I write each scene, each important bit of information discovered, each emotional moment on an individual index card. I prefer to do it that way so that I can shuffle them later if needed. I don’t like to over-plot. If I feel like I’ve gone into too much detail, then I feel like I’ve already written the story and it bores me to do so again. I also like to leave room for spontaneity. After all that, I’m ready to write.

Elizabeth: Where will we next find Lady Darby? What are you working on now?

Anna: I am finishing Lady Darby Book 3, A Grave Matter, which is due out in July 2014. After the events in Mortal Arts, Kiera retreats to her childhood home in the Borders region to heal. But when a man is murdered and an old grave at an abbey disturbed, she must once again team up with Gage to solve the crimes.

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Anna: I grew up part of a large family in a small town in northwest Ohio. I wrote my first story in the fourth grade and have pretty much been writing ever since. My second love is music, and I graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a Bachelor’s degree in Music with a minor in Psychology. My husband and I own a web development company and currently live in northern Indiana with our troublemaking tabby cat, Pita. When not writing, I love to read, sing, travel, and spend time with my large extended family.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Anna: Tea

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Anna: I like rocky coasts, like Cornwall or Maine.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Anna: Depends on where I’m hiking. If the terrain interests me, I’d choose that. Otherwise, shopping.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Anna: I play the piano, but I absolutely love the violin. I’ve always wanted to learn to play. If I was choosing a concert to attend or a CD to listen to, violin would likely win out.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Anna: Mystery

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Anna: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Anna: Either if it’s emotionally intense or moving, but I if I had to choose, a love scene.

For more information about Anna and her books, visit her website:

http://www.annaleehuber.com

or find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnaLeeHuber

or Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnaLeeHuber

The Lady Darby mysteries are available on AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-Million, and Indiebound.

Elizabeth: Thanks to Anna Lee Huber for visiting today.

Anna: Thank you so much for having me!