Recently returned to Chicago after a successful tour of Hamlet, Lillian Nolan is awakened in the dead of night by a strange voice. She is shocked to learn that well known and admired actress, Louise Hawthorne, has fallen to her death from the sixth floor of the Tremont House. Was it an accident? Did she jump or was she pushed? Louise’s former lover, and the main suspect, pleads with Lillian to uncover the truth and clear his name.
In the process of learning to trust her intuitive abilities, Lillian attempts to find balance between relying upon her gift and uncovering the truth in her own way. But the menace of death pursues her and soon her own life is at risk. When she finds herself in a trap from which she cannot escape, her only hope of survival is to call upon the metaphysical world.
Forms of Things Unknown is based on an actual event which occurred in June of 1876 in Chicago. It is the third standalone book in the Backstage Mystery Series.
THE BACKSTAGE MYSTERY SERIES
Tagline: Life upon the wicked stage can be deadly.
Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, the Backstage Mystery Series stars Lillian Nolan, an unconventional member of Chicago’s upper class who dreams of a career of fortune and fame in the theater. Talented and ambitious, she possesses a hidden skill which she is extremely reluctant to use—the ability to communicate with those who have died and now live in the world of “The Beyond.”
The series chronicles her adventures in which she continually becomes enmeshed in solving mysteries which often require her accessing the realm of the paranormal. Filled with an incredible cast of characters—factual, fictional, and sometimes non-physical—who either help or hinder her quest for the truth, the stories take place during a period considered to be the golden age of both acting and spiritualism in America.
Did or do you like to read comic books/graphic novels? Which ones?
When I was growing up my family would visit relatives at their lake cottage during the summers. The next door neighbor had a huge stack of all the original comic books—all the superhero ones from the 1940s and 1950s. Whenever it rained, my brother and I would sit on her screened-in porch and read and re-read those comic books. Unfortunately, she eventually threw them all away, having no idea how valuable they were! I don’t think I’ve read another one since that time. I understand the popularity of graphic novels and my daughter is a fan but I just haven’t gotten into them.
Whom did you inherit your love for books/reading from?
I was born with a love of reading as both of my parents were voracious readers. I have always enjoyed reading and spent my summers growing up going to the library and coming home with a basket of books, reading them, and returning for more. Reading is one of the great pleasures of life and I like nothing more than getting lost in a good book or finding out information that is useful to my work and intriguing.
When you need a murder victim or someone you can diagnose with a serious disease or someone who is involved in a fatal accident do you sometimes picture someone nasty you have met in real life and think ‘got you’ LOL?
Not usually, but I am planning to do that in Book Four, working title, Mortal In Folly! Of course, every character is a blend of a little fact and a lot of fiction. It just makes it somewhat easier when you can picture someone from your own life and remember the traits that were not so pleasant about them. Also, it’s a wonderful way to do or say the things you never did at the time they were in your life.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Since I write historical fiction, I like to search for names that have the feeling of another time and place about them. Many of my characters are actors, so I go to books about actors of the period and change their names around—sometimes taking the first name of one person and adding it to the surname of another, or spelling the names in a different way. I also research what names were popular at the time. Since part of the series deals with Lillian Nolan’s family, I’m trying to create a legacy of family names as well.
Do write other things beside books (and shoppinglists 😉 )?
LOL. Glad you included shopping lists. I have to write everything down—and actually take the list to the store with me—or I will forget an item! Currently, I am focusing my attention on mystery novel writing. However, some ideas lend themselves to different forms of expression and you have to be true to that—which is why I haven’t completely given up on screenwriting. I started out writing screenplays and that is a whole different process and form from novel writing. I also enjoy writing actual letters rather than emails. It’s a lost art form. And it’s always fun to receive a letter in the mail because it’s so unexpected.
If your movie or series would be made from your books, would you be happy with the ‘based on’ version or would you rather like they showed it exactly the way you created it?
Having written a lot of screenplays I know that it is an entirely different art form with different requirements. A book is meant to be read, a movie is meant to be seen. While it is essential to remain true to the story in film, some elements—like the main character’s exact thoughts—are easy to do in a book, impossible in movie (because you can’t see what a character is thinking). It is also important to blend or compress events in order to move a story along visually. That said, I would hope that if my books were brought to the screen that they would be true to the characters and the essential elements in the story.
Who would you like/have liked to interview?
I would love to be able to interview people in the past who lived at the time that I write about. There are so many actors who were wildly popular at the time, that are simply unknown today. One of those is the actor, Joseph Jefferson III, another is Edwin Booth, another is the producer, Augustin Daly (known as the “Bishop of Broadway”) who would be great to talk with. Anna Cora Mowett was a playwright and actress known for the satirical melodrama, Fashion. Charlotte Cushman is another great actress of the time. It would be fantastic to actually talk to people who worked in the profession I write about and who lived at the time. Currently, I am reading The Man Who Was Rip Van Winkle which is a biography of Joseph Jefferson III and expands upon the theatre of the time.
Do you have certain people you contact while doing research to pick their brains? What are they specialized in?
Research librarians! Since my stories are set in the 19th century I do research on a lot of different topics and no one is more valuable to me than someone who can help me find what I need to know without having to read every book in the library!
Is there someone you sometimes discuss a dilemma with?
Absolutely. I do it all the time with my writer’s group. We discuss “what ifs” and the pros and cons of going in a certain direction. They are also helpful in expanding ideas that I come up with or suggesting certain plot twists that I haven’t thought of.
What is more important to you: a rating in stars with no comments or a reviewer who explains what the comments they give are based on (without spoilers of course)
No contest. I’m always interested in reading what people have to say and getting feedback. I would much rather read the basis for a rating than just have the rating. I look to see if there are patterns in their comments so that I can understand if I am achieving what I set out to do in a book, or if I am missing the mark.
Thank you, Elizabeth Ireland and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theater early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theater, she accepted a teaching position in a vibrant performing arts department at a college in northern Illinois. For ten years, she taught, directed and ran front-of-house operations. American Theater History—particularly that of the 19th century—has always been of particular interest to her.
She has been a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Two of her screenplays have been optioned, but remain unproduced. Her nonfiction work, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, was published in 2008. Her work has also been published in a collection of paranormal short stories, Paramourtal: Tales of Undying Love and Loving the Undead. She lives in metro Atlanta with her ever-patient husband, and two quirky dachshunds.
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