Before I read Kim Taylor Blakemore’s books, I thought Historical and Gothic Suspense meant Rebecca. Maybe Wuthering Heights. And that’s it. It wasn’t a genre I bothered with. Blakemore showed me what I was missing. A lot!
Her latest novel, AFTER ALICE FELL, is the ultimate nail-biter. Protagonist Marion Abbott is a strong woman. The conflicts and tension arise because she lives in a world where women, especially widows, have little control over their lives. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstances, Marion must battle forces on several fronts to discover the truth: her passive-aggressive sister-in-law; brother Robert, who has his own agenda; and the doctor at Brawders House asylum who believe she should accept his word, especially as an investigation might bring to light some unethical (and creepy) practices.
But there are others who know the truth.
For now, we’ll take a break from the suspense and find out about the author behind the books. Welcome, Kim!
We writers love all our characters. Sometimes the most troublesome child can be a secret favorite. Is there one character you find especially troublesome, and are they your favorite? What makes you love them? Or do you wish they had never wriggled into your book?
I always love it when new characters wriggle their way into a scene. I didn’t plan on their entrance. I never planned on them at all! In The Companion, a remarkably obnoxious and self-referential phrenologist by the name of Enoch Finch stepped down from a carriage and proceeded to wreak his own special havoc. He turned out to be a pivotal character.
Can you give us an example of a piece of research for a book that you especially enjoyed doing? Why was it so much fun?
Well, I research odd things, like asylum and prison records from the 1800s. I pour over newspapers from the era I’m writing, and I read odd books. I’m working on a novel now that features mediums and clairvoyants and mesmerists. Spiritualism was big in the 19th century – and there were quite a few newspapers devoted to the Otherworld. The Banner of Light was the most popular, with reporting on spiritual phenomena. I am currently addicted to the back page “Reports of Spirit Messages.” It’s a classified section of sorts, with writers looking to communicate with loved ones or passing on messages or describing the nature of the spirit world in great detail. The writers are all dead, of course. So, it could be called The Dead Letter classifieds.
Many books, especially cozies, have recipes. I, myself, have bought mysteries for the recipes! Do you have a favorite recipe that you can share with readers? Especially one that character would love to make or eat. Extra points if it’s under five ingredients.
Since I write very not cozy mysteries, but gothicky historical thrillers, the food choices might be rather grim. Aspic, mutton, rotten potatoes. I will share here a recipe, though, that was very popular in 19th century New England – and very tasty with molasses and raisins and cream and cornmeal. I have had it when travelling in New Hampshire and love it. Here’s the recipe, from The American Frugal Housewife, 1833:
BAKED INDIAN PUDDING
Indian pudding is good baked. Scald a quart of milk (skimmed milk will do) and stir in seven table spoonfuls of sifted Indian meal, a tea-spoonful of salt, a tea-cupful of molasses, and a great spoonful of ginger, or sifted cinnamon. Baked three or four hours. If you want whey, you must be sure and pour in a little cold milk, after it is all mixed.
Or you can, of course, try a modern version, this from Yankee Magazine, November 2020:
Total Time: 30
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for baking dish
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 300° and grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
Bring milk to a simmer in a double boiler over high heat. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking to combine. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 15 minutes.
Slowly add molasses, then remove from heat. Add maple syrup and the rest of the ingredients and stir until smooth.
Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and bake until the pudding is set and the top is browned, about 2 hours. Serve hot or cold, topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
It seems you can cut a whole hour from the baking time of the 1833 recipe! Isn’t that grand?
If you could hang out with one of your characters, which would you choose, and what would you do?
Most of my characters scare the pants off me – fun to write, frightening to meet in real life. Except Marion Abbott in AFTER ALICE FELL. She is a straight up kick ass fierce heroine, and if I need a heroine in my life – she’d be the first I call.
One last note about Kim. She is a writing coach, and her Novelitics site is the bomb, as are her workshops! I subscribe to the site, and it would take another blog post to tell you the benefits of hanging out with other writers, getting feedback on pages, and learning under Kim’s tutelage. Hmm. That’s an idea.
And now for the book. (Which I LOVED!) It’s an Amazon Best Seller in Historical Thrillers
Until she discovers the truth of her sister’s death, no one will rest in peace.
New Hampshire, 1865. Marion Abbott is summoned to Brawders House asylum to collect the body of her sister, Alice. She’d been found dead after falling four stories from a steep-pitched roof. Officially: an accident. Confidentially: suicide. But Marion believes a third option: murder.
Returning to her family home to stay with her brother and his second wife, the recently widowed Marion is expected to quiet her feelings of guilt and grief—to let go of the dead and embrace the living. But that’s not easy in this house full of haunting memories.
Just when the search for the truth seems hopeless, a stranger approaches Marion with chilling words: I saw her fall.
Now Marion is more determined than ever to find out what happened that night at Brawders, and why. With no one she can trust, Marion may risk her own life to uncover the secrets buried with Alice in the family plot.
Kim writes historical novels that feature fierce and often dangerous women. She writes about the thieves and servants, murderesses and soiled doves, grifters and dancehall girls – the women with darker stories, tangled lies and hidden motives.
She is the author of the Amazon bestselling historical thriller AFTER ALICE FELL, and THE COMPANION, lauded by Publisher’s Weekly as “a captivating tale of psychological suspense.” She is also the author of BOWERY GIRL and WILLA Literary Award for Best Young Adult novel, CISSY FUNK.
Recipient of a Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award, WILLA Literary Award, and three Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) grants, she is a member of Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime.
Outside of writing, she is a novel coach (www.novelitics.com), a history nerd and gothic novel lover. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and loves the rain. Truly.
Kim Taylor Blakemore
Author of THE COMPANION & AFTER ALICE FELL