Please welcome Tracy Ward, author of Chorus of the Dead.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would include a minimum of five hours uninterrupted writing time with a cat curled up close by, a bottomless mug of half hot chocolate, half coffee within arm’s reach, and a doggy door so I don’t have to worry about my puppy, Watson, peeing on my area rug.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
A bobby pin because in a pinch I can pick locks with it and in the meantime my hair doesn’t fall out of place…much.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
My first influence was Mrs. Fox, a teacher-librarian at my elementary school. Her passion for the written word made me want to read and eventually become a writer. An early writer inspiration for me was Lucy Maud Montgomery and her books about Anne, Emily, Marigold and Jane. As a teen I loved escaping to Prince Edward Island and knowing I wasn’t the only 12 year old girl who daydreamed. In high school I was blessed to have an art teacher, Mrs. Bethel, who asked me to be the editor of an arts newsletter she wanted to start for the school. That really reinforced my desire to write for a living and the next year I applied for a Journalism program in college. Her faith in my writing and leadership abilities set the stage for my career.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Sometimes I do. While writing Chorus of the Dead I listened to performances of piano music that would have been popular during the 1860s. Sometimes if I am stuck at the beginning of a writing session I put on my MP3 player and listen to Adele’s 21 album, or Jann Arden’s Time for Mercy with my eyes closed. Like meditation, it’s often enough to blank my mind so I can really work on my story without worrying about real life.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Probably a cocoa dusted truffle with a rich creamy ganache. There is just something spectacularly decadent about mid 19th-century England.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I wanted to write something about the Victorians that I didn’t know a lot about. In this case it was early forensic science and the evolution of autopsies. The Victorians had a lot of dark obsessions, some would argue an unhealthy interest in the dead and their attraction to spirituality highlighted this. The Victorian era is also a time of great scientific discovery and unforeseen progress. This overlap of science and spirituality is very alluring and makes for some very interesting story lines. When I developed Dr. Peter Ainsley, the methodical scientist and his sister, Margaret Marshall, the spiritual strong-willed woman, I knew they would complement each other nicely while displaying common attitudes of their time.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Scientific ethics seem to play a large role in Chorus of the Dead where Ainsley grapples with whether it is right to do what he feels he needs to do or follow the standard convention of society. I believe it is a question modern scientists still face every day.
The second book, which I am currently writing, is closer to home for Ainsley and Margaret and puts their family under the microscope. Again medical ethics plays a part, as does the role science plays in criminal investigations–which up until the mid-19th century was rudimentary and unreliable. Margaret and Ainsley are on the cusp of what we now know as forensic science but back then it was all uncharted territory.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Born Peter Marshall, Ainsley is a well-bred, privileged son of an earl and he despises it. Forbidden to work in any sort of worthwhile profession he created a double life, taking his mother’s maiden name, “Ainsley,” and using it professionally to protect the family from public ridicule. A doctor (a surgeon no less!) is a lowly labourer, not the sort of career befitting his station but Ainsley has always been the rebellious type. He’s a drinker and somewhat of a scoundrel, but a likeable one. Driven by what is right and not by what is socially acceptable, Ainsley uses his love for science and need for answers to develop autopsy techniques to solve crimes that no one seems to care about. I would totally have an affair with him if he were real.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
With looks of Adrien Brody, the personality of Gil Grissom (CSI) and a splash of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Peter Ainsley is a dreamboat.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Sir Conan Arthur Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Deanna Raybourn, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Sarah Waters and Charlotte Bronte.
What’s next for you?
I am working on book two of the Peter Ainsley mystery series. I am also finishing up a modern mystery set in New England. And I am involved with two short story anthologies due out this fall, so watch out for those.
If people want to keep abreast of my projects, they are welcome to follow my blog at www.gothicmystery.blogspot.com or “like” my fan page, www.facebook.com/TracyWard.author. I am also on twitter @TracyWardAuthor.
A former journalist and graduate from Humber College’s School for Writers, Tracy L. Ward has been hard at work developing her favourite protagonist, Peter Ainsley, and chronicling his adventures as a young surgeon in Victorian England. Her first book featuring Peter Ainsley, Chorus of the Dead, is now available on Kindle, Kobo and other E-readers. Tracy Ward is currently working on the second book in the Peter Ainsley mystery series. She lives near Barrie, Ontario with her husband and two kids.