Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Q&A with B.R. Myers




B.R. Myers is the author of the new historical novel A Dreadful Splendor. Her other books include the YA novel Rogue Princess. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Q: What inspired you to write A Dreadful Splendor, and how did you create your character Genevieve?


A: I was 8 years old and home sick from school one day, and my mom let me watch the local channel’s afternoon movie, The Pit and the Pendulum (she’s a big Vincent Price fan). The last five minutes of that movie terrified me—but in a fun, shivery kind of way.


And even though I’ve seen most of his other movies (House of Wax is stellar!) it was that first trip to the Medina Castle in The Pit and the Pendulum that was the seed that eventually led me to write A Dreadful Splendor many (many) years later. Never underestimate the power of television!


Genevieve came to me completely fleshed out with a backstory and a trunk full of coping mechanisms and grief. Still, she is one determined character with a lot of sass.


I could have easily written this story from another character’s point of view, but it wouldn’t have been as effective. I knew I needed someone with enough street smarts so she couldn’t be easily duped, but also with a tragedy in her past to make her sympathetic.


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the book, and if so, did you learn anything especially surprising?


A: I researched the gimmicks and methods fake spiritualists used for the time period of this novel. A few particular stories come to mind. A pair of sisters convinced their clients the knocking under the table was the dearly departed loved ones answering their questions, when it was really the youngest sister cracking her big toe.

Another method to awe séance goers was a bit more flagrant. The medium would conduct the séance while holding a sausage casing in their cheek. At the critical moment, they would “purge” the casing, which they said was ectoplasm—proof they had contacted the other side.


I was surprised at how easily people could be fooled by these simple tricks. However, as Genevieve’s mother says in the book, “What people don’t see with their eyes, they fill in with their hearts. The heart sees.” People will believe almost anything if they want to.


Q: The author Gwenda Bond said of the book, “A Dreadful Splendor is a delightful mix of gothic, mystery, and romance. Con artist heroine Genevieve is a memorable addition to literature's gallery of charming rogues.” What do you think of that description, and what do you see as the balance between gothic, mystery, and romance in the novel?


A: I am thrilled with Gwenda’s blurb! She is such a prolific writer and goes between supernatural suspense and romance effortlessly, so I wasn’t surprised these elements were featured in her quote. And truly, the book is a mystery at heart, but the isolated manor and dark family secrets ground it as gothic. And as for the romance, I find that makes it even more intriguing and helps heighten the stakes.


Q: Do you have a preference when it comes to writing for adults or YA?


A: When I first wrote A Dreadful Splendor, I sent it to my YA editor. She loved it, but said, “This is adult.” Oh! Okay, then.


Truly, I write the stories and the characters as they come to me and don’t concentrate on where it will fit on the shelf. And while I’ve written a few mysteries already, I am so in love with the gothic mood that all I want to write now are those kinds of stories. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Another gothic mystery that was also inspired by watching television (more to come on that at a later date). I can’t give too much away, but it’s in a similar vein as A Dreadful Splendor.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes! If you’re a writer in the middle of the query trenches with no end in sight, let me share this; I queried this manuscript for nine months and received dozens of rejections before it was picked out of the slush pile by Jill Marr. Don’t give up! Your “yes” is just an email away.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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