So a short while ago I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to read “The Room Beyond” from Stephanie Elmas and I loved it. Review shortly but first I caught up with Stephanie and asked her a few questions – here is what she had to tell me.
The Room Beyond was a labour of love for you – tell us how the idea first came into focus.
I have always loved reading about grand eccentric families. Brideshead Revisited is one of my favourite books for example. As an only child from a very small family, sibling dynamics are something that fascinate me and I think the family in The Room Beyond was probably born out of that fascination. What I didn’t bargain for was how dark the novel became as I wrote it. That simply evolved and perhaps a psychologist would be needed to dig about in the corners of my mind to find out where those specific ideas emerged from!
Please tell us about Walter Balanchine – what was your inspiration for that weirdly wonderful character?
Walter Balanchine is a character from the Victorian part of the novel. He is an East End London mystic who wears outlandish wizard like clothes and carries charms and trinkets around his neck. Readers of the book have told me that at first they’re not sure whether he is good or bad as he is so unconventional and strange looking. Walter was born out of the turmoil that was taking place in late Victorian society. Darwin’s findings had made a lot of people question the role of religion and industrialisation and Empire were changing the way that many saw the world. As a result there was a growing interest in the occult and supernatural during this period. I think that Walter embodies a lot of what was going on then. He is a misfit and an eccentric and I loved writing him.
Was it fun writing over two timelines?
Yes it was. Many people say that it’s a very hard thing to weave two time frames together but I actually found it refreshing and less intense. If I was in a Serena mood (my present day heroine) then I’d write about her but if I felt like plunging into Victorian London then I could do that too. The novel I’m writing now does not have two timelines but I’d love to do it again in the future.
Did any of the characters “speak” to you more than the others?
I loved writing Beth, the little girl that Serena is nanny to in the present day. I have two little girls of my own: one is very serious and mature, the other incredibly flamboyant and articulate. Beth is based on neither of my children but there are elements of both of them there and when I created her I really did write from the heart.
Can you tell us anything about your next project?
Well, I couldn’t possibly leave Walter Balanchine alone! So, I’m sticking to the Victorian era this time and writing about his early life. I chart his progress from a young workhouse boy in the East End to a talented conjurer and mystic who, with the help of his friend Tom Winter, takes London society by storm. Expect smoke, decadence and a fabulous love affair…
Favourite comfort book or author.
I like Kate Morton or something much loved and familiar like the books of E M Forster.
Favourite thing to do on a rainy day
Writing of course – I couldn’t possibly say otherwise! Or sitting in a dim sum restaurant and eating my body weight in dumplings.
Film you watch for pure escapism?
The Lord of the Rings, I don’t mind which one or in what order. Can’t get more escapist than that!
Thanks so much Stephanie!
When Serena begins a new life working for the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue she falls in love, not just with its eccentric and alluring inhabitants and their world, but with the house itself. Number 36 is a beautiful Victorian London mansion that has remained in the family for generations. Serena feels that by being here she has escaped the ghosts of her own sad childhood and found a true home, but she soon discovers that behind its gleaming surfaces Marguerite Avenue is plagued by secrets and mystery. Why does such a beautiful tranquil street seem sometimes to shimmer with menace? Is everyone in the family quite who they appear to be? And just what is it that the family is trying to hide from her?
Set in two timelines, with Serena beginning her employment with the Hartreve family and the relationship developing between her and the enigmatic Sebastian, we also head back to 1892 and meet Miranda Whitehouse, struggling in her marriage and forever under the watchful eye of her sister Jane. When she gets involved with the reclusive and mysterious Lucinda who lives next door, nothing will be the same again…
I love a novel that gives you true atmosphere and this one does just that… a beautifully descriptive writing style and classic tension building are key here and Stephanie Elmas pulls it off perfectly. The early part of the novel rambles gently but compellingly along but as things develop a much darker side appears – and from then on its a breathtaking rush to the final denouement. I wasnt expecting it to be that favourite thing of mine – a wonderfully twisty tale – but it was. The strong supernatural elements hit the mark and all in all this was a delightful surprise of a read.
Characterisation is terrific, I adored Miranda, she was perhaps my favourite but I have to give a nod to Walter Balanchine with his weird and wonderful style, a truly terrific creation indeed. As the strands of the separate stories are pulled together, I was pleased that this was an ebook, I’m fairly sure if it had been a physical book I would currently be suffering paper cuts from my eagerness to turn the pages. I loved it.
You will notice that plot details are rather lacking in this review – there is a reason for that – the absolute joy of this novel for me was that it wasnt quite what I was expecting, but what it turned out to be was captivating and delectable.
Find out more here: http://www.stephanieelmas.com/
Follow Stephanie on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/StephanieElmas
Purchase Information clickety click http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Room-Beyond-ebook/dp/B00FJ433QK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382606481&sr=1-1&keywords=the+room+beyond
Happy Reading Folks!