Curbing curiosities, or an interview with Kerri Maniscalco author of Escaping from Houdini (and a giveaway)


escaping from houdini

Escaping from Houdini (Staking jack the Ripper #3)

By: Kerri Maniscalco

Publisher: JIMMY Patterson

Publication Date: September 18th, 2018

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. . 

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

1) A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?

It certainly does! I’ve mentioned it on social media, but the ending changed significantly from the ARCs to the final version. In fact, HUNDREDS of little things throughout the book changed from that draft to the final! I can’t really go into details since it’ll reveal spoilers though.

Another fun fact is the opening chapter changed three times before I felt it properly introduced readers to this new adventure. (The other versions of the first chapter stayed in the novel and are just used in later scenes.)

2) Writing a historical novel takes a lot of research, what were some of the favorite facts you discovered that you included in the series? What were some that you discovered, loved, but were unable to include?

I have a lot of time restrictions due to deadlines, so facts almost always make it into the book because I can’t get too distracted by traveling down those tantalizing research rabbit holes. A LOT of the details are minor, but end up taking forever to find. An example is the carbolic soap they use to wash their hands in the lab. That took SO long to research and it’s such a tiny, seemingly insignificant detail.

Same is true for electricity versus gas lamps versus oil lamps or kerosene, and where and who might use them, etc. (That took me about three hours while drafting SJTR and it ended up being one passing sentence.)

A fact that’s not necessarily a favorite but is kind of strange is the difference in what a corpse smells like with or without trauma. A whole canned chicken, for those who’d like to know 😉

I also REALLY enjoy getting to research Victorian fashion, so that part is always one of my favorites. (While I love the dresses, I’d HATE to wear the corsets.)

3) Being the third book in the series, the characters of ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI are probably pretty familiar to you now. Are there still any questions you have for your characters? Were there any surprises from these characters as they developed throughout the series?

One of the challenges of these books is that with each new story, readers are introduced to an entirely new ensemble cast. So while Audrey Rose and Thomas might be the main stars, it always feels new and a little thrilling/terrifying to introduce new players to see what growth they inspire in our two leads.

As for Audrey Rose and Thomas, their character arcs have always been loosely plotted out so I have an end game in mind. It’s just some of the smaller steps of the journey that have surprised me. I love how they’re both flawed, but still have plenty of room to grow and even I can’t always predict what’s going to come out of Cresswell’s sassy mouth. Out of every character, he’s definitely the one who’s a bit of a wild card.

4) Writing a sequel and returning to an already created world, what is it like and was it easier or harder to do?

I think because I change settings with each book it’s always disorienting and really difficult at first. They’ve gone from Victorian London, to Romania, to traveling aboard a ship, to America in book four, and each location is new and hard because of how much research goes into researching locations. Though I’m sure any author will tell you writing a sequel is HARD. And writing a third book doesn’t get any easier, much to my dismay. But! All of the struggle and work is so worth it once you get to that final draft and the story has finally blossomed into what you’d hoped it would become.

5) Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional? What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?

I have late stage Lyme disease, so most of the first draft of this book was difficult for me because of how bad my brain fog was while writing it. I couldn’t read more than one sentence at a time—my brain literally couldn’t remember anything beyond that. It was frustrating and hard and there were times I definitely felt like giving up. When I finished it and turned it in, I’d never felt more proud of anything in my life.

Now when I read the final version, I see victory in what felt like the worst sort of defeat. (So I’m totally cheating and saying the whole book—I really am so, so proud of the final version!) ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI is an emotional journey for the characters (and hopefully for readers!) and it was certainly one of the biggest emotional journeys for me too.

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.

Find the author:

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author image, info, giveaway, and more were provided by The Fantastic Flying Book Club.

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