07 February 2010

Guest Author: Jennifer Linforth

This week on Unusual Historicals, we're talking with contributor Jennifer Linforth as she celebrates the release of ABENDLIED. This is the second of her "Madrigals" series, which continues Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera. ABENDLIED is available for purchase from Highland Press and all of the major online bookstores. Here's the blurb:

Desiring normalcy is difficult enough with a price on his head, but when Erik is falsely accused of killing Philippe de Chagny, brother of his nemesis Raoul, he is launched toward madness.

Anna is an unlikely companion, sharing Erik's heart and the bounty on his head. As the manhunt heats, Erik's mysterious relationship with Philippe spurs the campaign against them and exposes her darkest secret: defending her honor ended in murder.

Plagued by his past as The Phantom of the Opera, Erik's memories enslave his heart to Raoul's wife Christine, whose shocking confession brings a ruthless bounty hunter into the fray and blackmail to the Chagny bloodline. Blackmail from a hunter who cares little about the Phantom or Philippe and everything about the one he has lusted for: Anna.

With the past weeping like an open wound, can love endure or will it take the memories of one unlikely man to heal them all?


This book is the second in a series. Must MADRIGAL be read first to understand the plot of ABENDLIED?

It doesn't. Naturally reading MADRIGAL first will enhance the experience in following the plot of ABENDLIED, but enough back story is built into this book to help the reader follow the plot and pick up MADRIGAL after the fact.

ABENDLIED highlights an unusual character from Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera. Why did you choose Philippe de Chagny to play opposite Erik, the Phantom?

Philippe de Chagny is one of the most underexplored characters in classic literature. Leroux describes him as "a bit haughty toward men and overly kind toward women," yet a man with "irreproachable conscience and great heart." That line caught my attention. He was born and raised in the height of France's nobility and growing old in the days when titles were fossils. Extremely powerful and wealthy--his arrogance came with the territory. I liked that in his character. Yet he had scruples, that "irreproachable conscience" Leroux wrote about. Here was a character with a firm sense of right and wrong, which many readers of Leroux see as the "evil empire" for not permitting his younger brother to marry for love.

Empires were built on marriages of property and money. If you had 600 years of tradition to adhere to, you would marry for gain as well and keep a mistress on the side for emotional love. Philippe had his freedoms but what of his responsibilities? How does taking the reins of one of the most powerful families when barely a young man shape you and your view of what should and should not be done for the good of your name and title? When would you dare break tradition? In all the heartache he caused Raoul in the original novel, I don't think Philippe went charging into the vaults of the Garnier to do anything to prevent Raoul from marrying Christine as see in Leroux's original story.

So why did he go down there to begin with and lose his life in the process? I explored this and my views of Philippe as a philanthropic character throughout "The Madrigals." Though he is mentioned only briefly in book one, book two cracks into his story and explains him as man and mystery. Monsieur le Comte de Chagny is my favorite character of all classic literature. Barely seen in Leroux he is used as "wallpaper." I wanted to bring him to life.

What is harder to write, your characters or Leroux's?

Leroux's hands down, with the exception of Philippe. He rolled off my fingers. The Phantom of the Opera has an enormous fan base. Each "fandom" is devoted to the storyline they follow be it Leroux's or Webber's ideas. A writer can't please every reader with the characters we craft and that goes double when dealing with expanding classic literature. That being said, a writer expanding classic literature must also respect the original author's ideas. A great deal of research went into following Leroux's vision for his characters, but I added enough of a personal twist to them to appeal to my story and in turn my readers.

Erik is a character many find easy to sympathize with, but he is still the 'villain' of Leroux's novel. How did you adjust to this in your series?

I didn't adjust to it--I worked with it. I stand behind my belief that Erik was a madman. In Leroux he was a murderously vengeful personality while concurrently being a repressed and ardent gentleman. He is still that way in "The Madrigals." He had issues with maternal longings just as Christine had issues with paternal needs. While a highly sensual being, he was not a sexual object as many popular versions make him to be. Leroux penned him as a monster for a reason and I did my best to adhere to his original ideas for the story.

The nature of Erik past births sympathy in a reader, he is the deformed and misunderstood genius that everyone passes by in their rush to fend for themselves. I strove to build sympathy for Erik in ABENDLIED via his unique connection to Philippe, but sought to never lose sight of his history. Too often I find if you strip away the unattainable parts of Leroux, you are left with a story that loses many of the original themes and theories. The Phantom of the Opera is not, in my opinion, a strict romance as it is often thought of.

Your villain is an absinthe addict. Why did you choose this route for your historical?

The history surrounding absinthe in the 19th century just screamed to be explored in Loup. I wanted him to have an unforgettable edge that matched Erik's madness, and absinthe, labeled as dangerously addictive with psychotropic elements, was the appropriate vice. Absinthism was the condition coined for addicts of the "green fairy," and by the late 19th century absinthe was considered the worst alcoholic drink ever known to man. Today the psychotropic elements could be argued as being no worse than that of severe alcoholism.

It was rumored that absinthe gave the drinker clarity of thought, which is why many writers and artists favored it. I loved this element and used it to rock Loup between moments of crystal clear sanity and madness. I wanted the reader to always wonder what side of the fence he was truly on, and wanted a quirk to highlight his twisted mindset. Not to mention sipping it while writing proved to be delightfully tasty research!

Can you elaborate on the twist at the end of ABENDLIED with Philippe de Chagny?

I can... but I won't! The major twist in ABENDLIED comes directly from Leroux's original novel...

What's next for you?

We are on to book three in "The Madrigals," current working title of ELEGY. It picks up seven years after the events in ABENDLIED. In it, four characters seen in ABENDLIED are brought to life to bring the manhunt for Erik full circle. Lovers of The Phantom of the Opera will meet the Persian in full force in book three, (I am having a wonderful time rounding him out) and be introduced in depth to the last player seen in ABENDLIED. I am thrilled that I have already have had requests e-mailed to me to tell the story of this one unique character...


Night Owl Romance 5/5 Reviewer Top Pick: "Jennifer Linforth's latest work is sweet and tender, dark and decadent, a treat to be reached for again and again. For anyone who read Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera and wanted more, this is the book for you!"

Paranormal Romance Reviews: 5/5 Top Pick: "Ms. Linforth has written another noteworthy tale about the Phantom!"


Thanks so much for stopping by, Jennifer! Readers, if you're interested in winning a copy of ABENDLIED, please leave a comment or question for Jennifer. I'll draw a name at random next Sunday. If you're not a regular reader of UH, please leave your email address so we can find you! Void where prohibited. Best of luck!