MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CHRISTIE STRATOS
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Hi writers and readers! I’m Christie Stratos, author of the Dark Victoriana Collection, which is psychological suspense and historical fiction. I’m also about to delve into mystery with my upcoming third book in the collection.
My short stories range from horror to contemporary fiction, from symbolic experimentalism to fairy tale reimaginings.
In short, I’m a multi-genre author.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
My Dark Victoriana Collection books require quite a bit of research as historical fiction in the Victorian era. I found primary resources like original 1850s cookbooks to reference unique and authentic food, home care books, and dictionaries to ensure the words I used existed in the time period and were used the way they are in the book. I also had to research the fashion, not just of the particular decades I wrote in (and am still writing in), but also for middle class people. There is often a fascination with the wealthy and the poor in bygone time periods, so researching the middle class can be a bit tough. Everything must be researched and cross-researched.
In one case, I couldn’t find the information I needed, and I turned to another author who writes in the same time period to ask if she knew where I could find what I was looking for. She was gracious enough to tell me everything she knew about the subject, and she’s in the acknowledgements of my first book, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
They play a huge part in both of my novels. In Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, the main character’s name, Abigail Delilah, is important because it was chosen by her cruel mother specifically to cause problems for her daughter. Biblically, the two names are total opposites with Abigail being a loyal wife and Delilah being the exact opposite. The name is just part of Abigail’s struggle with herself and her family.
In Brotherhood of Secrets, all of the locksmiths’ names are from the Bible—Matthew, Luke, John, Timothy, and Jude (who has another name I won’t spoil). It becomes clear quickly that they are expected to be Mr. Locke’s “disciples”. They do have some similarities to their namesakes, and they’re named this way because Mr. Locke warps Bible verses to convince certain characters to do his bidding. Similar manipulation of the Bible occurs in Anatomy of a Darkened Heart.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
When my characters refuse to talk to me! Sometimes they shut down, and that usually means I either don’t know what makes them tick deep down yet or I’m taking them in the wrong direction. They’re the ones who write my stories, and it’s amazing how real they become during the writing process. It can be frustrating when they don’t make things as clear to me as I’d like, but it is a warning signal that something is missing, and that’s very important to recognize in order to write a well-developed book.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
I consider my reviews my overall best accomplishment. I’ve won awards for my writing, which was wonderful and meant a lot to me, but continually seeing in my reviews that people truly understand my work and enjoy it is the greatest reward I could ask for.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write your dream novel. Write what you’ve always wanted to read. Don’t start out by trying to be like someone else, and don’t bury yourself in writing courses if it will stifle your creativity. Just write, and know that the first drafts of most writers’ novels and short stories need lots of work. It’s not about getting the idea down perfectly, it’s about getting it down in whatever shape it’s in. Don’t be afraid of rewrites either. Embrace them for how much they can improve your story.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Of course! Here’s an excerpt:
“How did you get all these cuts to your hands?” the doctor asked.
Timothy stared at him with too-wide eyes, unsure what he wanted to say. Should he tell the doctor about Mr. Locke? What if the doctor knew him? He might not even believe Timothy.
“Come now, Mr. Finsworth found you in the woods asleep. He thought you were a drunkard on his property—you know those woods belong to him, don’t you?—but then he saw your condition and brought you in. He says he’s never seen you before. What were you doing on his property and how did you get so badly hurt?”
Timothy swallowed hard. “Had to escape,” he tried. But where could he go from there? He couldn’t be honest.
After a deep breath, Timothy said, “I ain’t obliged to say.” It was the truth, at least.
The doctor pressed his lips together in annoyance. “Well we’ll just have to see if that’s good enough for Mr. Finsworth. He could take you to the police, you know, for trespassing.”
“That’d be safer for me.”
The doctor raised his eyebrows and walked to the opposite end of Timothy’s bed.
“Mr. Finsworth said you weren’t walking well.”
“My right ankle,” Timothy said. “I hurt it when I jumped out of the…” Timothy stopped talking.
The doctor pursed his lips. He bent over Timothy’s leg and took off his shoe and lifted his pantleg. “I can see already that it’s swollen.” He spared Timothy nothing, immediately putting both his hands on the injured ankle and squeezing and bending, ignoring Timothy’s hisses of pain through his teeth. “Doesn’t seem broken. I’m going to let your blood to reduce the swelling.”
“No!” Timothy yelled. A very young child from the orphan house once had to have leeches. Not only had it been horribly painful, but they’d let too much blood, and the child died. It was terrifying.
The doctor looked Timothy up and down before saying, “I have an ammonionated lotion that should help instead.”
Timothy didn’t respond as the doctor left the room. He looked at the apothecary cabinet with its dozens of tiny drawers, wondering what kinds of things were inside and what they were used for. How could a man learn so many techniques for healing and remember them all? Did doctors refer back to books to know what each thing did?
The doctor came back with a bottle and more bandages. He set to work rubbing the lotion on Timothy’s ankle—and not with any care taken to reduce the pain of his rough touch—and then wrapped it with the bandages.
“That will help with the swelling and the pain. My name is Dr. Pruitt, by the way. What is your name?”
Dr. Pruitt waited, and when Timothy said nothing more, the doctor asked, “What is your family name?”
Timothy paused. Whatever he did next, he didn’t want to be associated with the boy Mr. Locke knew as Timothy. It was a shame he hadn’t thought of that before he said his real first name. “Sinnett,” Timothy said. “Timothy Sinnett.” John had said he wanted Timothy to be part of his family anyway. That had been the plan. Now, after his death, Timothy would be part of it in his own way. It felt right to honor his best friend and mentor in the way Timothy thought John would have wanted.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
Jude from Brotherhood of Secrets. He is a sadly misled man with anger issues from his childhood that affect him so deeply, he needs an outlet, which Mr. Locke gives him. He truly thinks he’s doing good in the crimes he commits, and some readers might even side with him—if not for what the crimes achieve, then out of compassion for how Mr. Locke takes advantage of his pain. He’s not someone readers love to hate, he’s someone who fascinates.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Energize! Once I get going, I want to go and go and go. That isn’t always possible because of time constraints and when I need to mull over where I’m going next (I’m a pantser), but it feels so good to write, it’s hard to stop.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Creating something unique is the whole point of my writing. I don’t like to create what has already been done time and time again, although some readers are looking for that. It’s just not what creativity means to me. I like to develop totally different characters and storylines, and my readers appreciate that they’re reading something they’ve never seen before in any other book. I’ve even had reviewers comment on how refreshing that is, which encourages me more than anything.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
You can find me on lots of social media platforms:
Sign up for my newsletter: http://bit.ly/2thw6Pn
Follow me on Amazon to find out when I release something new: 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
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
Thank you so much for featuring me!
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 Brotherhood of Secrets, 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.
Anatomy of a Darkened Heart links:
Brotherhood of Secrets links:
“The Subtlety of Terror” links: