The archival records contained within the chiseled stone of Château de Chillon give some insight into a life long gone. It is, however, the contents of a document trunk that has remained unopened for generations that discloses what truly occurred in the idyllic Swiss Riviera village of Montreux to jolt the monster into existence. Personal letters and diaries detailing events, suppers, lectures, and conversations between Mary Shelley and her confidant, Doctor John Polidori, reveal a spiraling progression of horrors, dismembered cadavers, and uncertainties. Doctor Polidori assists the local gendarmerie in their investigation, unaware of how closely the knife will cut to Mary’s life and his own.
Rachel is drawn into the centuries-old conversations as she attempts to discern fact from fiction. But opening the trunk could not come at a more difficult time for Rachel. Her boyfriend has recently been killed in a motorbike accident and now, as she attempts to reconstruct her life, she is repeatedly confronted by a man of gigantic stature, of uncommon beauty, of intriguing origin. Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley’s Frankensteininterweaves Rachel’s search with the plot of Frankenstein and the horrific occurrences of the summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley dared to dip her quill into the ink of her darkest of waking dreams.
The truth is given life.
REVIEWS: "Monumental", "Stunning", "A superb read", "Unforgettable", "Ambitious", "Masterfully written", "A real tribute to the original Frankenstein", "Tremendous", "Surpasses any expectations".
How long have you been writing?
I have always loved the written word, always been a sucker for a great sentence, paragraph or work that grabs your soul and throws it around, before hugging you tight and slapping its lips against yours. A reader long before I was a writer, I thought that it was something that I could never do (more precisely, others told me not to bother) but then I needed to put pen to paper, an obsession, an overwhelming sense, something that I could not stop. I guess the answer is decades—many, many decades.
What’s your story about?
Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein asks 'could this occur right here, right now in the 21st Century?' but it also asks 'Why did it happen in 1816, what was the catalyst for Mary’s wretch?' The novel is one of discovery, intrigue, horror and—when all is said and done—love. Rachel Walton, a biographer from New York, is in Switzerland researching the life of Mary Shelley, in particular the year 1816 when Mary wrote her iconic novel, Frankenstein, upon the placid shores of Lake Geneva. Dual timelines follow the science, theology, thought, and horrific occurrences of 1816, the Year without a Summer, when Mary first scratched the work into existence with her quill, but also the current day investigation and writing as Rachel is continually confronted by a man of gigantic stature, of uncommon beauty, of intriguing origin. The two timelines spiral rapidly toward each other, impacting on the other until they reach a conclusion unlike any before it.
What genre would you consider your book?
The work is a mix of historic fiction, horror and romanticism. The 1816 timeline in the novel has an Austenesque civility, revealing Mary’s thoughts and study as she constructs the book which is the acknowledged origin of Science Fiction. What happened in Switzerland to Mary is horrific, the threads of the occurrences weaving themselves into her novel. Rachel’s own research for the biography, in the current day timeline, is modern and procedural but as she unravels the mystery of what actually happened she is drawn into her own unconfrontable terror—the horror of true love.
Give me some insight into your main character.
Both Rachel and Mary share the moniker of ‘main character’ in their respective timelines.
Rachel Walton is young, independent and determined. She has worked hard to gain the commission to write the Mary Shelley Biography and now through dedicated research and analytic recognition she has uncovered the unthinkable, facts that 200 years of scholars have failed to detect, the truth about the Summer of 1816. But despite her professionalism, something occurs while she is writing the biography that she is unable to categorize, unable to place into its correct box and handle accordingly...
Mary Shelley is eighteen, an intelligent and liberated woman of the modern era and not afraid to state her mind. With her confidant, Doctor John Polidori, she steps into realms previously forbidden a lady… until perhaps it is too late.
What makes your book different from others in its genre?
Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein blurs fact and fiction with the premise of the original novel: Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus. The work reveals the true scientific and theological catalysts for Mary’s novel in the early eighteen-hundreds, but then it diverges into her iconic manuscript as it seeks to determine what is truth and what is not. Rachel’s biographical research and world are drawn into this dichotomy—as the more her investigation reveals, the more she believes that it and her own life cannot possibly be real. Or perhaps they are more real than she would dare admit.
What inspired you to write your book?
I had read Frankenstein and was intrigued with how an eighteen year old girl could write such a novel, what was the stimulus in her life that could bring the wretch to life. And, would it be possible to create such a wretch with current technology?
How did you come up with the title?
Fire and Water are referenced throughout Frankenstein, creating a symbolism which is relevant to the changing moods as the story progresses. The title of this new work pays homage to Mary’s symbolism and takes it to the next level—building upon words written 200 years ago. Hidden within the many insinuations in both the original novel and this new work, Water represents youth and innocence, and Fire represents new life.
What’s your favorite part of it, without giving anything away of course?
The chapter in the Cemetery. Sounds clichéd, but it was something that had to be done. And what happens in amongst the tombstones…? Well… that’s the bit that sent shivers down my spine as I wrote it.
Tell me about your writing process?
I rarely have time to sit in front of my lap-top. Most of the writing happens in my head. Concepts and thoughts evolve, storylines meander. Sitting on the bus, standing on the train, draft after draft goes through my mind until I eventually get to tap them out on the keyboard into a first draft that I am happy with. Sentence structure can sometimes be excruciating. I am not a writer that can throw it all down on paper then come back and fix up the awful bits—I pretty much need to be reasonably happy with every word of every sentence before I can go onto the next.
What do you find most difficult about writing?
For me, my writing follows a definite emotional curve. I am passionate and love what I am writing, I hone it and make it the best I can but then I take a 99th look and go through the “it’s all total garbage, no one would want to read this” phase. It can be hard to get over this slump especially when you are slogging it out attempting to find an agent or a publisher that loves the work as much as yourself. But then you see your manuscript for what it is and you fall in love with it all over again and know that it is worth persevering.
Are you a full-time writer?
I wish. Nine to five I am a fraud analyst—analysing fraud trends, then writing and automating code to detect and prevent. That work can be very creative and satisfying, but not in the same realm as literature.
What are your writing ambitions?
My ambition is to write full-time. Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is my second published novel and is a step toward that goal. I have completed the first draft of my third novel, AMERICA: Túwaqachi which follows a single family line through 37,000 years of North American history. Hopefully that work will help me up a couple more notches. I already have several major works formulating in my mind, and the sooner I can get them out of my head and onto paper (or more appropriately, word doc) the better.
What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Go for a walk. I am an Australian currently living in New York City. Plenty of neighbourhoods to explore—another museum, restaurant or bar to find and enjoy.
Do you outline and plot your book as you’re writing or does it go where it goes?
My first and third works were heavily plotted out. Especially the third, AMERICA: Túwaqachi, required large spreadsheets of family trees, archaeological data, historic events etc. etc., to construct timelines spanning the full 37,000 years of the novel. It was very heavy going. That is an additional reason why I wrote Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I needed a break from the vast volumes of research—I needed to just sit down and write something that required little to no research. I knew what the first chapter would be and I knew the last, but had absolutely no idea what was going to happen in the middle. I didn’t even realize that Mary Shelley would be in the novel until I typed the last word of the first chapter and “wondered what Mary was doing.” I let the book write itself, the characters taking total charge of where they wanted to go. Of course, once they were on their way I then had to do in-depth research into the early eighteen-hundreds and current technology to back up their actions—thankfully they seemed to know what they were doing.
What is your favorite book?
Janes Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. There is definite homage to Miss Austen’s work in Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It is a universal truth that there is no better book.
Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?
My current favourite author is Australian/Canadian Tara Moss. She recently completed her Makedde Vanderwall series—a crime thriller that has done well internationally for a very good reason—Tara is a great writer.
Are you self published or traditionally published? Do you wish you had gone about the process differently?
Fire on the Water: A Companion to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is published by a traditional publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House. They are an independent, with staff around the world, most famous for publishing Fifty Shades of Grey. I would much prefer to keep on the traditional route as then the reader is assured that the work is more likely to be of a higher quality and not a waste of their precious reading time.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write for yourself. You are your own audience. That uniqueness will be recognized and prized by others. As soon as you try to please someone else, you are watering down your original concept and fitting it into a box that has already been done to death. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus at the age of eighteen. She created a completely new genre--Science Fiction. Write for yourself.
If you could have dinner with any person dead or alive who would it be?
My immediate thought is Jane Austen, but with my modern sensibilities and recently-acquired NYC manners the evening would probably stir up a whole new gamut of perceived prejudices.
When you aren’t writing, what do you do for fun?
Reading, eating, reading, researching, reading, walking/travelling (to find places to research, read or eat something).
What's your biggest fear?
An inability to share all my stories because I don’t have time to write them down.
Who is the most annoying character you've ever encountered in a book, on tv or in a movie?
Anna Karenina, but as I am not a mean spirited person I will not say why.
If you were on death row, what would you choose for a final meal?
Pepperoni Pizza (Family size to share with the guards), Guy Fieri Chicken Wings (enough to bribe the warden) and a couple of Budweisers.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
‘Celebrities’ that have done nothing to be worthy of celebrity.
If you knew you could get away with anything without consequence, what would you do?
I already have, but if I tell you, there might be consequences.
What is your biggest regret in life?
Not being true to myself earlier than I was.
If you had Doctor Who's TARDIS, what time would you travel to?
01 Nov 1989, about 10:15pm, South-west corner of Sunset and Vermont, Los Angeles, California.
Go and find out.
What is the best present you ever received?
The freedom to be myself.
What's your secret guilty pleasure movie you don't want to admit you love?
The Brady Bunch Movie when it came out in the mid-90’s. I was very sad and it made me happy.
What is your most prized material possession?
My lap top. It’s really crappy and slow but it allows me to tell my stories.
If you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?
Don’t get trapped into reading something you have already read. Once you’ve placed the square peg into the square hole, why do it again… and again… and again? Find a new author, a new genre, a new story—something that will stretch your imagination.
Where can we find you?