How did you develop your plot and characters?
I had the idea of an artist heroine first, but who she really was didn’t fall into place until I had my villain. Once I knew who my hero, heroine, and villain were, I thought about building the mystery, which meant developing several suspects. I also I thought about the historical elements I wanted to use. Those had specific dates, so I had to weave the plot to use the midnight concert in the catacombs, the salon, the great hoax, the bazar de la charité, and the protest at the École des Beaux Arts when they finally admitted women. I didn’t use Oscar Wilde as a character, as I’d originally hoped, but I tracked his release from prison. And while developing the plot line to uncover clues about the mystery, I had to weave in the history of Gilles de Rais and Joan of Arc.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
Probably Floats the Dark Shadow. It’s the most complex book I’ve written, and it’s very close to what I wanted it to be.
What would you change about it now?
I’d do another pass over the minor characters. I did do that before it was published, but if I could layer in more complexity there, without making it longer, I’d be even happier with it. And I cut a very minor but intriguing character. So minor he only had a couple sentences in Michel’s backstory, but I knew there was a reason he felt important. He’s since leaped into a major character in the next book. He’d get his couple of sentences back, just so the reader could go, Oh yeah, that guy.
How important do you think villains are in a story?
You could probably write a family story with no real villains, just interesting, flawed humans. But—while you’d have a lot of readers who loved that, I probably wouldn’t be one of them. I really love a good old-fashioned conflict between good and evil. An over-the-top villain, one you love to hate, can be very cathartic and fun, but even really evil villains are often more interesting when they are flawed humans for whom you can feel some sympathy. I think my Gilles is a flawed human, though what he does is utterly evil. My sequel will have more than one villain, and they are rather a mixed bag.
Do you envision the movie version? Who’s in your cast?
The movie! The mini-series! So much happens, a mini-series would probably be better. My original Theo and Michel were Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis, but both of them are too old now. I have an ever-changing cast. Jennifer Lawrence has the right athleticism, which is a huge plus. Dakota Fanning and the British actress Imogen Poots have more of the easy golden warmth I see in Theo. Michel is very problematic because I seldom see an actor in his early thirties with the right sort of gravitas. I saw an actor named Luke Evans playing the detective in The Raven. He could probably play Michel, severe, with a simmering intensity. I really adore Christopher Gorham, and he feels like the inner compassionate, romantic Michel, but it’s hard to picture him being cool and austere.
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Genre – Historical Mystery
Rating – R