I’m delighted to be hosting Christie Stratos in my hot seat today chatting to us about Anatomy of a Darkened Heart.
Find out the scene that caused Christie Stratos the most grief, the research she conducted as well as good advice if you’re a new writer (and more!).
A pair of eyes underlined in weary darkness and punctuated with a knowing stare. These are not the normal eyes of a newborn baby. Abigail Delilah is the firstborn of three Whitestone children – and she is the most regretted.
But is it really her fault?
She can’t help that the revelation of Father’s wretched secret coincides with her birth. She can’t help the fear she feels during Mother’s psychological – and physical – assaults. As the shadows grow stronger over her soul and the noose of pain tightens around her neck, Abigail will find out which is stronger: her family’s wicked assumptions about her or her true self.
Take your first step into the Dark Victoriana Collection with ANATOMY OF A DARKENED HEART.
Multi-layered with motifs, symbolism, and psychological depth, this tale of dark Victoriana will appeal to the literary reader and the leisure reader alike, combining key facets of several popular genres. And don’t be afraid to get addicted – the collection continues exploring the intertwining threads that weave together the complex tapestry of the Whitestone legacy.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Anatomy of a Darkened Heart in 20 words or less.
Abigail Delilah is the most regretted child of the Whitestone family. Can she overcome her family’s wicked assumptions of her?
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be …
Hold on tight – you will all make wrong choices that permanently affect each other. And don’t get attached.
What scene was the hardest to write Christie?
This is tough without spoiling the book, but I had a very difficult time writing the scene in which my main character, Abigail, undergoes a shift within herself that is irreversible. It was such a painful scene to write that I put it off for a month! It felt as if I had to actually heal from what I was about to do to Abigail before I could write it, as if I actually went through it myself. I cringed the whole time I was typing the scene.
Does your book tackle a social barrier?
Anatomy of a Darkened Heart delves into abuse, both emotional and physical, and I’ve been told by a number of people that the story is painfully accurate to real-life situations. Although it takes place during the Victorian Era, the themes transcend time. I think it’s important to portray scarring situations realistically for a few reasons: (1) readers should know that if they have experienced these kinds of traumas they are far from alone; (2) those who have not experienced things like this should see the truth from all angles and have compassion; (3) in this world of social media, many admire the apparently perfect lives of others, but it’s important to understand that no one knows the truth of any relationship, and it’s common for people not to believe ugly truths when they’re revealed.
Dealing with psychological issues is one of my favorite things to do in my books, and all of the books in the Dark Victoriana Collection will deal with different ones. The second book, Locke and Keye, for example, includes cult mentality among other psychological subjects.
Did you do any research Christie? What resources did you use?
I did a ton of research on the Victorian Era and also on abuse, two seemingly opposite things – one is almost always portrayed as beautiful and the other is a very sad thing that happens more often than is acknowledged.
There are loads of resources on the Victorian Era, but I work hard to find primary sources. For example, my book has a few meals in it that play crucial roles. I took time to go through a cookbook from the era and find appropriate dishes that would (1) go together and (2) match the family’s income, so I know I have accurate depictions of meals. I use newspaper articles, letters, photographs, and lots more. I also got to explore Victorian etiquette and fashion plates, which was quite fun!
On the abuse side, it’s important to also look into primary resources as much as possible. Reading books by and accounts of victims plus analysis of the effects is the best way to ensure it’s accurate – and its aftereffects are also accurate. As you can imagine, this topics isn’t easy to read, but it’s extremely important.
Is your book is part of a series?
My book is part of a collection, which means that all the books are tied together but don’t have to be read in order. They take place in the same town but during different periods of time. For example, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart takes place from 1840 to 1861, while my second book, Locke and Keye, takes place during 1849. Most of the time, characters or scenes from one book can be found in another.
(LOVE those covers! Locke and Keye is also available to purchase now.)
What is in the future in the Dark Victorian Collection?
Book 3 is actually an unplanned book! I had planned for five books in the collection, but now this sixth one has entered the game as well as several short stories. Book 3 will revolve around a character from Locke and Keye and will once again involve a lot of psychology but have a totally different feel from the other two. I can’t share too much yet so I don’t spoil the surprise!
Panster or plotter?
PANTSER. My characters tell me the story, and I let them lead me every step of the way. When I try to lead, it just doesn’t work.
Have you joined any writing groups Christie?
I’m part of Sisters in Crime, which is a very active mystery group – and I don’t write mystery – that offers wonderful support and amazing informal education opportunities. Almost every month there is a speaker who talks on a helpful topic, and those seminars motivate me big time. The topics range from police work to crime scenes to positive thinking to friendly and effective social media approaches. I learn something new and exciting every month!
Finally, are there any tips you could share with new writers?
I tend to have a fear that I’ll write the wrong thing and I won’t be able to save the book once I go down the wrong path. I’ve proven to myself that it’s impossible to not be able to rewrite, fix, adjust, etc., but the fear did freeze me for a while – multiple times! The way I finally overcame it (although sometimes I relapse briefly) was to tape images that inspired my writing into my notebook and write in all directions, in different colored pens, feeling free to cross things out and draw arrows to where they were rewritten, and more strategies that basically say, “It’s impossible to screw up!” I recommend that to anyone who has a fear of the blank page or who is afraid of writing the wrong thing, or any variation of these issues.
Thank you for being my guest today Christie.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Christie Stratos is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Locke and Keye, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies.
Connect with Christie Stratos
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Christie-Stratos/e/B015L5FMTM/
Author YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/christiestratos
The Writer’s Edge YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thewritersedgeshow
Creative Edge Writer’s Showcase: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/sets/creative-edge-writers-showcase