Escaping from Houdini has been my #1 anticipated release of 2018, so I’m extremely excited to be talking to Kerri all about it. Pretty sure you’re going to love it!
Author Interview with Kerri Maniscalco
Jana: Hi Kerri! I hosted an interview with you on SJtR back in 2016 as part of the Debut Author Challenge I host, and I’m super excited to talk to you again! As the biggest fangirl ever in life for the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, I’m so excited to talk to you about Escaping from Houdini and the rest of the series!
Kerri: Hi Jana, I remember! Thank you for continuing to support the series, it means the world to me!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
1. When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
Writing is always something I’ve done for fun, but I never really thought about doing it professionally until around 2009. When I was little I’d make scripts for my Playskool farm animals—I’d give the cows a backstory as to why they were on the pillow/field and the family dynamics of the farmers. (And then I’d make my poor dad take videos so I could watch it back and see what parts needed improving…I was a weird kid ;)
2. How many unpublished and half-finished books have you written?
Oh gosh, I think there’s like seven or eight full novels that I trunked before selling SJTR. Fun fact: I rewrote some scenes, but used a good portion of a trunked book in HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA.
3. Who is in more control of your writing: you or your characters? Why?
I think it’s a little of both. Before I sit down to write, I always like to know who my characters are as people, what their interests are, what secrets people would be surprised to learn about them. From there I give myself a loose outline of where I’d like them to end up, but they usually surprise me with how they get there.
4. Which takes you longer: researching the subject matter of your books or writing your books?
Research! First drafts are always the hardest for me because I can’t just sit down and write everything out. I spend a lot of time stopping to look up some tiny detail and it can take upwards of two or three hours to find something that literally is like a sentence long. It’s hard to switch back and forth from creative to mechanical in those early stages, but I am ALL about revisions.
5. What have you learned about writing since your debut, Stalking Jack the Ripper? What have you learned about yourself?
I’ve learned to be much less structured in some ways and to think outside the box. Since I’d written so many novels before SJTR, I thought I had my method down. Cue writing to a deadline and everything I thought I knew about how to draft a book went flying out the window. It really is a MUCH different experience. Once I figured out that I could write however I needed to in order to finish that first draft, things went much easier and I was SO much less stressed about it.
6. What’s been your favorite experience with a fan of you/your books?
Oh gosh, I have been SO blown away by the huge response from readers. So many people connect with Audrey Rose and her determination to live her life as authentically as possible. One of my favorite things though has been from a teacher who reached out to me. A student in his class dreamed of being a forensic pathologist and was getting made fun of by classmates. He handed her SJTR and said she felt vindicated in pursuing her dreams.
7. As an author, what would you say has been the best compliment you’ve received?Honestly, any time someone tells me they connect with any of my characters is such a huge compliment. As a reader, getting lost in a story is so huge for me, and to have my own readers say they were transported from any hard times in their life? I get teary just thinking about it!
8. Tell us about an early reading experience of yours, when you really fell in love with books.
My grandmother used to read to my mom while she was pregnant with her, and people would make fun of her and say the baby couldn’t hear her. Well, my mother is a HUGE reader. Both her and my dad would take me and my sister on weekly trips to local independent bookstores, or to the library. My entire childhood is filled with memories of hunting down the most magical book and staying up way too late to finish it.
9. What’s been your favorite read so far this year?
This is a trick question, right??? I loved LEGENDARY by Stephanie Garber. I also adored ENCHANTEE by Gita Trelease. GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan. GIRL AT THE GRAVE by Teri Bailey Black. THE WICKED KING by Holly Black. I could go on…
10. What are you up to when you’re not writing?
I’m either reading or cooking! I absolutely love being creative in the kitchen and would have probably ended up doing something in the restaurant business if the writing thing didn’t work out.
ABOUT THE BOOK/SERIES
1. Why Houdini?
Originally I’d planned on having this story be about Tesla, but, alas, there’s a movie out that features him and a Victorian circus. I started researching Houdini and thought he was a MUCH better fit and the rest is history!
2. I love that Escaping from Houdini takes place aboard an ocean liner. Tell us about it! What about this setting is special?
Having a closed setting is something I’ve always been interested in writing, though it’s always been slightly terrifying too. I think that I really enjoyed the challenge of having this confined space, though. Everything felt claustrophobic and the idea of a murderer running wild on a cruise ship gives me chills. I’m always looking for new ways of including tension in my books, and this was too fun to pass up.
3. Is there a particular scene in this book that you’re excited for your readers to experience?
The opening sequence is pretty fun. But I also really like the other carnival acts and performances. I’m probably most excited for readers to see the ship transform each night to reflect whichever act is on stage. I really enjoyed imagining this extravagant dinner show being juxtaposed by murder.
4. Do you have a favorite quote from this book?
I had a really great time with Mephistopheles’s character and most of his lines. Regardless of the havoc he tries to cause, his dialogue was always so much fun to write. I think when he says, “So, I inquire once more, which will you lose before the week is through? Your heart? Your head? Perhaps,” he drawled, face cast in shadows as the chandeliers dimmed slowly before winking out, “you will lose your life, your very soul, to this magical traveling show.” It captures everything I’d tried to infuse into this book and more.
5. Audrey and Thomas are perfection. How did you dream up this dynamic duo?Initially I’d been interested in doing a VERY loose retelling of Sherlock and Watson. Except I wanted my Dr. Watson to be a young woman struggling to find her way in a world run by men. I decided to scrap that and continued with my own characters and their own struggles, but some traits from their original inspiration remained. One of my favorite things is watching two characters banter—and that “will they, won’t they” vibe slays me.
6. Thomas is a swoony dreamboat. Is he inspired by anyone you know?
Haha I get asked this question a lot, and while I’m sure there are plenty of Thomas Cresswell’s out there in real life, this one lives strictly in my imagination. (I don’t like mixing my personal life or relationships/friendships into my work, just in case someone finds my portrayal of them less than flattering. It would make for awkward dinner chats.)
7. If you could tag along on any of the murder cases across the series so far, which one would it be?
This is hard! There’s aspects of each one that I’d love to be a part of. Being on the ground during the Ripper murders would have been something. But…being in Dracula’s castle while studying potential vampire attacks would also be fun. I’m scared of cruises, though I like boats, but I’d probably want to see the performances of the Moonlight Carnival. Plus, since Audrey Rose has got Thomas, that leaves Mephistopheles up for grabs ;)
8. If you could spend a day with one character from your book, who would it be? What would you do together?
Thomas would be either super fun or super annoying to hang out with, depending on which version of him showed up. I’d love to spend time in Mephistopheles’s workshop, watching him engineer some of the more elaborate carnival acts. But I’d definitely choose Audrey Rose over everyone. I’d love to go have high tea and talk about forensics and anything else that we felt like.
9. Is there anything you can share with us about the 4th and final book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series?
I’m being VERY tight-lipped about this book, but readers can expect murder, mystery, romance, betrayal (intentional or accidental), and a story that ties everything—from the novella + bonus content to the main books—together into one, satisfying conclusion. The title and cover will probably be revealed in the early part of the new year, and I am VERY excited to share more soon!
10. Do you already have a plan for what you’ll be doing next after this series is complete?
I always have several ideas going at once, and there’s a few that I’d love to explore more of. Two or three would be within the SJTR universe, (different standalones) but there are also other stories I’d really like to tell outside of this world too. I’d started one right before SJTR sold, and I keep eyeing it up, waiting for the perfect time to dive back into that dark, fantasy world.
Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #3
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 18, 2018
Genres: Young Adult — Historical Fiction, Mystery
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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?
About Kerri Maniscalco
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.
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Author photo credit: Kelli Maniscalco @ Dogwood Lane