Hey everyone! It’s my first author interview and I’m here with Monica Shaughnessy, author of The Tell-Tail Heart. A cursory glance at the title might lead one to believe she collects animal tails in her spare time but upon a closer reading of her new novella, we find that’s not the case.
Q: Monica, is it true that you keep a jar of glass eyeballs under your bed at home?
A: Well, not exactly. Although I have been known to collect some pretty creepy things, including a ventriloquist dummy that absolutely terrifies children. I grew up loving shows like The Twilight Zone and The Munsters, and I bring that same creepiness to my writing. My latest book, The Tell-Tail Heart, involves a series of bizarre murders where the victims are robbed of their glass eyes.
Q: Mmm, yummy, I mean, grisly. As an indie author, you are the director from research to writing to cover art to marketing. What is your favorite part to
obsess work on? And is it true you are teaching your Beagle to type press kits because she can’t answer the phone like a proper secretary?
A. No, my beagle is much more adept at coding HTML. She does all my web work (her rates are reasonable – I pay her in dog bones). The rest I do myself. Being an indie author means owning a small business. It’s not for the faint of heart. On any given day, I might be writing, contacting bloggers, updating my blog, creating cover art, developing a promotion…the list goes on.
Q: And I suppose part of that list includes learning tons of historical data. I understand you did a lot of research on Edgar Allan Poe while writing from the POV of his real-life cat companion, Cattarina. Is it true he wanted to build an army of automatons? And that those automatons would make people to read his book, The Tell-Tale Heart, once a day and that leg of lamb would become the new national dish?
A. No, I don’t believe he did any of those things. But the army of automatons is an interesting concept. When the idea of The Tell-Tail Heart first came to me, the sheer amount of research involved in writing an historical intimidated me. I almost didn’t start the book! But my interest in Poe won out, and I began. All I can say is, thank heavens for the internet. And for the library. I combed through old maps of Philadelphia from the 1800s to provide a backdrop for my story, read Poe’s biography, read Cattarina’s biography (one exists!), and even studied old engravings of Philly businesses from the 1840s. I wouldn’t call myself a Poe expert, but I now have more than a passing knowledge of the man and his time. Did you know that he was one of the first American writers to try and make a living solely off his trade? Or that he “invented” the detective novel?
Q: Hmm, invented the detective novel? Fascinating—but I might have to check with ol’ Agatha on that. But from my readings, I also understand that timeout was a popular disciplinary device for criminals in Victorian America. Should we build prisons like those in Poe’s time to send our kids to instead of summer camp?
A. Well, things would be a lot quieter if we did, but I’m not sure the kids would enjoy camp that much. In researching the book, I dug deep into the background of the Eastern State Penitentiary, a major accomplishment of the city. It was a chilling institution modeled after the Quaker method of criminal punishment. In order to properly atone for one’s misdeed, one had to have time, mental space, and access to God in order to repent. So each prisoner was given that time (years), mental space (they were absolutely forbidden to talk to one another and were sequestered), and access to God (bottom floor prisoners had a yard, second floor prisoners had a skylight). This type of punishment literally drove men mad.
Q: While speaking of mad, that leads me to our most important question—readers want to know, how many cats must a person have before they are considered a “crazy cat lady”? I say twenty-three but that’s just my personal opinion.
A: Oh, let’s make it a hundred. Cats are way too adorable!
One hundred? Then you are definitely pur-fect to write a cat cozy. Check out Monica’s new historical cat cozy, The Tell-Tail Heart. Available at Amazon now. And be sure to hide your glass eyeballs when reading it.