Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Someone's come in and killed Father!": An interview with Erika Mailman

I'm thrilled to share my interview with novelist Erika Mailman. Erika wrote Woman of Ill Fame, which I read in 2013 and uh-dored. (I actually can't believe I read it four years ago - it's so vibrant in my mind I would have sworn I read it last year!)

Now Erika is looking at the infamous Borden family murders with her book, The Murderer's Maid. I'll be reviewing this one soon (could there be a more perfect October read?!).

While you wait for my inevitable squees, here's an interview with Erika about her writing of this book (question three shows she is far, far more brave than I could ever be!).

What scene or character surprised you while you were writing?

I had to track down the story that Lizzie Borden had fainted during her trial at the sight of her father and stepmother's skulls. I knew the person showing the skulls was Dr. Draper, but the court transcript during his testimony didn't show her fainting. I started to think the story was apocrypha, but a Lizzie expert confirmed it (while not remembering the details) so I kept checking and reading through the transcripts. It turns out Lizzie got a "sneak peek" at the skulls when the tissue paper covering them inside a valise was accidentally swept away during someone else's testimony...and yes, she did in fact faint at the grisly and sad spectacle. That was a particularly difficult incident of trying to fact-check something.

Erika Mailman
Is there a food/drink/smell/music/other you associate with the writing of this book?

Maybe (I hope this isn't too gross) the smell of blood. There are some pretty visceral scenes where, if you have imagination, you're smelling it. History has made much of the fact that the poor Bordens ate off the same mutton roast for a week, even having mutton stew for breakfast the morning of the murders. Yech. I actually don't know what mutton tastes like (the lamb in my gyro is as far as I've gotten), but I can only imagine that a stew made of elderly meat is pretty unattractive on a hot August day. I would've gone with Dunkin Donuts instead.

Speaking of the Bordens, is it true their house is now a murder themed B&B?

Yes. It is. My editor made me stay there. My account can be read at The Millions.

With an old college friend, I slept in the attic bedroom of Bridget Sullivan, the fresh-from-Ireland maid who was responsible for that mutton stew. She was washing windows when the stepmother was killed, and upstairs in that very room napping while Mr. Borden was murdered. She woke to Lizzie at the bottom of the stairs calling up three flights, "Come down! Someone's come in and killed Father!"

Read anything good recently?

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon, which is sitting on my Kindle waiting for me; Dear Friend: Letters of Encouragement, Humor, and Love for Women with Breast Cancer by Gina Mulligan (incorporates full-color scans of people's handwritten letters to loved ones); and can't wait to start Sparks of Light on my bedstand by Janet Butler Taylor

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Embed Code: The Murderer's Maid

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for the great interview, Audra & Erika! THE MURDERER'S MAID is a wonderful book and I am so excited for more people to read it!

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