Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Interview with Mary Sharratt on her newest novel, Ecstasy

I'm an enormous Mary Sharratt fan; her novels are rich, detailed, evocative, complicated, lush, and compelling. (See my reviews for Illuminations and The Dark Lady's Mask.) I'm sharing my review of her newest novel, Ecstasy, tomorrow, but needless to say, it'll be all gushing praise. Sharratt's portrait of Alma Mahler, Gustave Mahler's beautiful, talented wife, is so good. I couldn't say I liked Alma's choices, but Sharratt allowed me to imagine why she would have made them.

I'm delighted to share my interview with Ms. Sharratt about Ecstasy. There's also a giveaway at the end, too!

How did Alma's story cross your path?

I’ve always been a huge Gustav Mahler fan. I adore his music and he appears like the perfect tragic hero, rising up from rural obscurity and facing insurmountable struggles in his life, and meeting his untimely death with great courage and dignity. But then I became intrigued by the figure of his wife, Alma, especially after I learned that she was a composer in her own right and had given up her music at his behest. I wanted to put her at the center of her own story and explore her heroine’s journey. I always felt many Mahler fans have unfairly blamed her for Mahler’s downfall and I wanted to go deeper and explore her beyond all the femme fatal clich├ęs that have been heaped on her.

Was Ecstasy the original title of your book?

Indeed it was. The name comes from one of Alma’s songs, "Ekstase".

As you were writing Ecstasy, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I compulsively read Alma’s early diaries cover to cover and was very pleasantly surprised to discover the secret Alma hidden in those private pages—a soulful and talented young woman who had a rich inner life away from the male gaze. I was also very intrigued to learn about the very accomplished women friends she had that have all but been written out of history-- for example, her girlhood friend, the sculptor Ilse Conrat, and her New York friend, the ethnomusicologist, composer, and Native American rights activist, Natalie Curtis. Alma totally passes the Bechdel test!

As you were writing, what did you do to anchor yourself in Alma and her world? Particular food, images, smells, sounds?

I played her and Mahler’s music continually. I also went on three extensive research trips to Vienna and visited her and Gustav’s summer homes in the mountains and went on the hikes they would have gone on. I went to Alma’s favorite musical haunt, the Vienna State Opera, to see her favorite opera, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. I immersed myself in the paintings of her admirer Gustav Klimt, of her lover Oskar Kokoschka, her stepfather Carl Moll, and her father Emil Schindler. I tried to plunge myself into her world.

Read any good books recently?

I’m currently reading Stacia Brown’s Accidents of Providence, set in the English Civil War. It’s excellent, harrowing, literary historical fiction. I also blurbed Stacia’s latest book, The Half-Wives, set in turn-of- the-twentieth- century San Francisco.

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My thanks to Ms. Sharratt for her time and thoughtful responses.


MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

For more information, please visit Mary Sharratt’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Ecstasy! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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1 comment :

  1. Fantastic interview, Mary & Audra! Thanks so much!

    HF Virtual Book Tours