Friday, May 09, 2014

Interview: Stephanie Elmas: Author of The Room Beyond: Mystery Set in London Now and in the 1890s

Stephanie Elmas was born in Hong Kong to an English father and Czech mother but spent most of her childhood in Bristol, England UK. She studied English at university in London. She has worked as a head hunter, taught English in Japan and returned to university to complete a Masters in Victorian fiction. It was here that she developed her interest in the dark dangerous world of Victorian sensation writing. Stephanie now lives in a chaotic house in Surrey, England UK, with her husband and three highly energetic but wonderful children.

Your real name and pen name?

Stephanie Elmas

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

Reading all the time, always creating things (out of anything I could find. I used to make countless dolls houses out of old shoe boxes!) and playing great imaginary games with my friends.

About your education

I read English at King’s College, London and then went back there some years later to complete a Masters in nineteenth century literature.

What career did you plan during your education days

I didn’t! I became a head hunter after I left education and soon discovered that it wasn’t for me. My big aim was to earn enough money so that I could return to my studies.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life

My children.

What hurts you most in this world

Watching the news.  Sometimes I avoid it because there are just too many awful things happening out there, but you can’t hide away. It’s important to try and understand what’s going on in the world and also to be grateful for what you have.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

Probably writing my book, The Room Beyond. It took me seven years to complete.

If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or deadpersonality, who would it be and why?

Wow, there are so many. Probably Queen Elizabeth I. She was such a strong, powerful woman and, very importantly, wore some marvellous clothes!

What is your favorite genre and why?

I love mystery and suspense. I completed my Masters dissertation on Victorian sensation fiction and completely fell in love with it. It was the inspiration behind The Room Beyond.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

I’ve written short stories and poems from early childhood, but I only started writing seriously when I began my novel. I think that writing is great brain exercise and wonderfully escapist.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

My novel is called The Room Beyond and is a mystery set in London both now and in the 1890s.

Here is the synopsis:
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?

It is 1892. On a hot summer night scented with jasmine, Miranda Whitestone hosts a dinner party at 34 Marguerite Avenue. Watching helplessly as her husband is seduced by her glamorous neighbour Lucinda Eden, she can have no idea of the consequences the evening will have.

For the history of Marguerite Avenue is more chilling than Serena could have imagined, and the fates of two women - the beautiful renegade Lucinda and the 'good wife' Miranda - will reach out from the past to cast a shadow over Serena's own future.

The Room Beyond is a thriller that delves beneath the romance and grandeur of a London house and finds a family haunted by the legacy of past wrongdoings. As the suspense grows and the fog thickens, will Serena be able to give up all that she has come to love? Will she ever escape?

What are your forthcoming writings?

During the writing of The Room Beyond I fell in love with one of my more minor characters – an eccentric Victorian mystic from London’s East End called Walter Balanchine.  I am now writing the story of his early life: how he grew up in the workhouse, the development of his strange mystical persona and the way he takes London society by storm with his feats of magic. I’m having great fun with it, Victorian London is my oyster.

What are your future plans?

To look after my family. To write. To be happy!

What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?

Interesting characters are the most important thing, coupled with a plot that does them justice. I also think that the quality of the writing is absolutely vital. I often read my work out loud, just to see if I’m happy with the way it flows. Finally, I think there needs to be a certain amount of tension in a book.  That’s what transforms it into a page-turner, leaving the audience wanting more.

Your dream destination on Earth?

It depends on my mood. Right now a beautiful, hot beach with a cocktail by my side!

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed.

My parents lived in Hong Kong for some years and I was born out there. I love travelling through Asia and have done a lot of backpacking out there and in South America. Now that I have three children, that’s not so easy, so we tend to have holidays closer to home in Europe.

What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

The Temples of Angkor in Cambodia were staggeringly beautiful. I also lived in Tokyo for six months and have wonderful memories of that time.

Your favorite time of the day?

Evening – time to relax!

Your zodiac/ sunsign?


Your favorite color and why?

I have no idea! My younger daughter would probably say pink, so I’ll go along with that.

Your favorite book and why?

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. I studied it for A Level at school and loved it.

Your favorite celebrity and why?

Judi Dench. She’s dignified and beautiful and, most importantly, good at what she does.

Your favorite food?

Chinese food and chocolate (not necessarily together!)

Some quickies:

Sun or Moon - Sun
Laughter or Smile - Laughter
Morning or Evening - Evening
Coffee or Tea - Tea
Mountain or Sea - Sea
Long Drive or Short Drive – Short Drive
 Silence or Conversation - Conversation
Water or Fire - Fire
Air or Earth - Earth
Mars or Jupiter - Jupiter
Tulip or Rose - Rose
Red or Blue - Red
Left or Right - Right
Glance or Stare - Glance

Twitter handle: @StephanieElmas

Facebook page:

Goodreads author page:

Amazon link:

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