LCR: Hi Christine, welcome to Library of Clean Reads! I have read and reviewed all of your books and, although you've impressed me with all of them (your historical details are so well researched) I think Lady of Ashes is now one of my favorites! It got me all curious about the trade of undertaking. Here are a few things I was wondering about:
The character, Violet Morgan, is a female undertaker during the Victorian era, a most unusual profession. Was this hard to research?
CT: Yes, in that undertakers have always held their practices close. Whether it is how they keep jaws and eyes closed, or their particular embalming methods, each mortician has his own special way of doing things, and is not keen to share it. Funeral directors tend to hand their businesses down from generation to generation, leading to more confidentiality of their practices. I am by no means insulting their traditions, merely stating that it made research difficult. Furthermore, undertaking was largely reviled historically in both the U.S. and Great Britain (read Oliver Twist), which I suspect also led undertakers to become much more private about their procedures.
LCR: Okay, I just have to ask this... Have you ever had the chance to see an undertaker prepare a corpse for burial? You know, as part of your research?
Although I did spend time with a well-respected funeral director in my local area, he didn’t invite me into the basement to observe their work. I’m sure it would have violated all kinds of rules and regulations for me to have done so. I’m not sure I would have wanted to see it first-hand, either. I was spooked enough when the director’s adult son came up from the basement to ask his father a question, and was wearing a tell-tale apron. My mind began racing with thoughts of what he was in the middle of doing. Was he working on a man or woman? Was embalming fluid coursing through his or her veins? Had makeup just been applied? My own imagination was probably conjuring up much more than what was actually happening down there.
LCR: Oh my goodness! I wouldn't want to know what was happening in that basement either! My copy of the ARC of your book says this is the first book in a new historical mystery series. Does that mean that Violet Morgan will be back as a main character in your second book?
CT: I initially wrote LADY OF ASHES as a standalone book in my tradition of women-in-unusual-professions. I was very fortunate that my editor loved LADY OF ASHES, and it was her idea to turn it into a series. Yes, Violet will be back for more adventures, again performing services for Queen Victoria. In the next book, which I have almost completed, she is involved in the mysterious death of a viscount who has been working on a secret mission for the queen.
LCR: Sounds exciting! I can't wait to read it. Now...if you could put yourself as a character in this book, who would you be?
Well….I’m not sure this example is one of courage as much as it is of endurance. My mother has been quite ill for a long time, and at one point in mid-2012, I thought I was going to lose her. Realizing her own precarious situation, she asked me to take her to a funeral home so she could make her final plans. This was in the middle of my doing research for LADY OF ASHES.
Thanks so much Christine for taking the time to chat with me!
The publisher has graciously offered a copy of Lady of Ashes to one of my readers.
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