Illusionists in the Late 19th Century

Photo of John Nevil Maskelyne, Illusionist

By Sharon K. Gilbert

I’m currently working on Book Two (Blood Lies), and I decided to add a scene where Paul Stuart visits an informer at a west end music hall. Originally, I’d planned to use the Canterbury Music Hall, which was extremely popular and lay close to Westminster (just across the bridge in Lambeth), but I found a very interesting place yesterday called the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, which featured the stagecraft of a resident illusionist named John Nevil Maskelyne (and his partner George Alfred Cooke). Maskelyne and Cooke perfected the art of the cabinet illusion as well as ‘levitation’. Some in London even began to believe that Maskelyne’s talents were not so much illusory as spiritual in nature. Of course, since I’m writing about spiritual warfare, setting a scene here with this ‘magic’ act will provide for an interesting plot twist.

Spelling the British Way

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Because the novels are in many ways an homage to the beautiful British novels of the 19th century, I chose to use British spelling throughout the books. As an American writer, that presents a challenge, because I don’t tend to use those spellings on a day to day basis. Of course, I don’t generally say ‘whilst’ instead of ‘while’ either, but my characters do. In fact, because I have been using a more archaic form of speech ‘whilst’ writing the books this past year, I sometimes find myself speaking that way, and when writing or reading my first choice sometimes is the British version of a word.

So whilst reading the books, you may also be learning how Brits in the 19th century spoke and ‘spelt’ their words. Here’s a link to a site that’s helped me navigate these unfamiliar linguistic waters. If you spend much time here, you’ll soon find yourself writing ‘favour’ rather than favor and ‘licence’ rather than license.

Music and Mayhem

By Sharon K. Gilbert

For those who don’t know me well, the inclusion of musical scenes in Blood Lies may come as a surprise. Actually, I spent many years as a professional singer, and I even studied and performed opera at the University of Nebraska Lincoln for a couple of years (and before that at Indiana University). So, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that my main female character (and her little cousin Adele) both love to sing. Using opera as a plot device also allows me to include theater scenes and use the lyrics of arias as a means for internal dialogue and even conflict. 

In many ways, the inclusion of operatic elements allows me to pay homage to one of my favorite early 20th century novellas, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (the link is to the Kindle Unlimited Free edition at Amazon).