I’m delighted to welcome Donna Scott to Author Chats today to talk about her work and inspiration. To kick-off, let me share the blurb on her new novel, The London Monster. And then, we’ll talk!
In 1788, exactly one hundred years before Jack the Ripper terrorizes the people of London, a sexual miscreant known as the London Monster roams the streets in search of his next victim…
Thomas Hayes, having lost his mother in a vicious street assault, becomes an underground pugilist on a mission to rid the streets of violent criminals. But his vigilante actions lead to him being mistaken for the most terrifying criminal of all.
Assistance arrives in the form of Sophie Carlisle, a young journalist with dreams of covering a big story, though she is forced to masquerade as a man to do it. Trapped in an engagement to a man she doesn’t love, Sophie yearns to break free to tell stories that matter about London’s darker side—gaming, prostitution, violence—and realizes Tom could be the one to help. Together, they come up with a plan.
Straddling the line between his need for vengeance and the need to hide his true identity as a politician’s son becomes increasingly difficult as Tom is pressured to win more fights. The more he wins, the more notoriety he receives, and the greater the chance his identity may be exposed—a revelation that could jeopardize his father’s political aspirations and destroy his family’s reputation.
Sophie is also in danger as hysteria spreads and the attacks increase in severity and frequency. No one knows who to trust, and no one is safe—Tom included, yet he refuses to end the hunt.
Little does he realize, the monster is also hunting him.
Donna, welcome. Let me ask to begin, what literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I have gone on quite a few over the years. It’s what I choose to do when I go on vacation. From the time I was a child, my parents would take my siblings and me on historical pilgrimages to see battlefields and American Civil War reenactments. Although I found them fascinating, I hadn’t read anything outside of school textbooks that connected me to those moments. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I felt the desire to learn more about what I’d read in novels. So, to answer the question, I toured numerous sites and castles in England—thanks to Philippa Gregory—to learn more about the wives of Henry VIII.
After reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I traveled to Scotland and spent the summer touring the Highlands, isles, and major cities to learn more about Clan culture and the battle of Culloden. also visited Versailles, France after reading Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund and Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. Of course, I also travel to research my own work. Several of my trips to England and Scotland have been for purposes of meeting experts, going to museums, and visiting the settings in my books. I’ve been fortunate to have had so many wonderful trips that added to my experience as a reader and writer.
What is the first book that made you cry?
My husband says I cry at the drop of a handkerchief. He’s not wrong. I cry watching Hallmark commercials or any kind of ad that shows cruelties against children or animals. But I can’t remember the first book that made me cry. My guess is it was probably Charlotte’s Web or Old Yeller or some other sad children’s book. I can tell you the last book that made me cry: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Maybe it’s just me, but I think a lot of historical fiction, in particular, contains tragic plot lines that elicit strong emotion.
When you did your research, did it change your plot or your characters significantly?
For all my novels, I research before, during, and after I start writing. Before I put pen to paper for The London Monster, I read Jan Bondeson’s The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale, which was a fabulous resource that gave me a fairly clear image of the man who terrorized the streets of London. For that reason, I think I portrayed that character correctly. Professor Bondeson was also kind enough to correspond with me about certain other details that I wanted to get just right. In the end, I didn’t have to change my characters, but I chose to create an ending beyond what was fact at the time. I can’t tell you more than that, or it would spoil the story for you.
What would you want readers to think when they reach “the end.”
Well, naturally I want them to have enjoyed the time they spent reading the book, but I would also want them to wonder what happens to the characters long after the story has ended. In the case of The London Monster, I want the reader to gasp at the end, or at least say, “I didn’t see that coming!”
Tea or Coffee—Ooooh. I like both. Tea with honey and decaf coffee so I don’t get the “crazies”.
Dark or Milk Chocolate—Milk, for sure.
When were you the happiest? Any time I’m traveling makes me happy. Especially if it’s somewhere in Europe.
Favourite Children’s Book—I read To Kill a Mockingbird fairly young and thought it was incredible. Still do!
Favourite Adult Novel—This is too tough to answer. How about a favourite author? Top five? Ken Follett, Michelle Moran, Diana Gabaldon, Jennifer Donnelly, and Noah Gordon.
Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband. Her first novel, Shame the Devil, received the first place Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction and a Best Book designation from Chanticleer International Book Reviews.
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