Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest Post: Amy Carol Reeves, Author of Ripper

Amy Carol Reeves has a PhD in nineteenth-century British literature. She published a few academic articles before deciding that it would be much more fun to write about Jack the Ripper. When she is not writing or teaching college classes, she enjoys running around her neighborhood with her giant Labrador Retriever and serial reading Jane Austen novels. She lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and two children. Ripper is her debut novel.

Why I wrote Ripper

I’ve had several people ask me why I decided to write Ripper, why I would choose the Victorian period as a setting and add the paranormal element to a well-known historical mystery.  Here is a look at why I decided to write about Jack the Ripper and what was going through my mind as I wrote. 
1.) The actual historical background of the era is so inconsistent. The Victorian period was such a sexually repressed period and yet this was the same era where the vibrator was invented (yes, physicians then often treated women for hysteria during the period with vibrators!). Also, in spite of the period’s prudishness, there was a high interest in new more science-based ways of thinking, the most notable being evolution. Yet many, including Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, embraced the psychic movements of spiritualism and mesmerism. Others went so far (ie. the late Victorianist Aleister Crowley) as to practice mythical occult religions.

2)  The unsolved Jack the Ripper murders allowed me as an author to “fill in the blanks” as I wished. There is so much unknown about who the Ripper was and how he was able to murder so swiftly and unnoticed. After all of my research, I do not have a clear suspect in mind as the actual Ripper. No one seemed to be a “perfect” fit. It has been suggested that the Ripper could have been a physician, a butcher, or even a woman. (Abberline, a major investigator in the case, suggested the female Ripper theory.) Many others have filled in these blanks themselves by creating outrageous but interesting theories about who the Ripper might be. Among my favorite theory is the one asserting that Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper. Although I think the suggestion highly implausible, I find it very intriguing to imagine him writing Alice in Wonderland by day and then killing women with his vorpal sword in East End London at night. But it was this theory actually inspired me to place the dodo in Dr. Buck’s hothouse.

3.)  Finally, I thought adding a paranormal element would give me an even greater scope for the landscape and characters in Ripper. I felt like this would move the story away from a traditional whodunit and raise the stakes a bit for Abbie as a heroine. Rather than just finding the murderer and solving the crime, she ends up with a bigger mission on her hands. She has to learn about herself and her family’s bizarre history. She also must decipher her mother’s character as well as figure out what she herself values—what she wants to be. I wanted to write a mystery with dimension and having a teenage heroine thrown in the middle of a historical mystery with paranormal elements—something completely foreign to her “known” world—helped  me accomplish this.  Furthermore, structurally, the paranormal element works very well with the Jack the Ripper mystery. The manner in which the Ripper could strike so quickly, particularly on the night of the double murders, has baffled Ripperologists for years. A paranormal explanation works quite smoothly for a work of fiction.  

Thank you Amy for sharing a little bit about the inspiration for your book! Ripper is now available from Amazon.com and other retailers.

1 comment:

  1. Having just finished reading Ripper, it was interesting to find out more about the author's decisions regarding certain elements. Personally the historical was my favorite as it usually is and I also love the many tensions of the Victorian period especially those around violence and sex.


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