1. Who inspired the character of Aunt Enid? Is she based on a real person?
Aunt Enid is an amalgam of my own Great Aunt Enid and my grandmother. . I have fond memories of them; both were strong, independent women. When I was at uni, I shared a granny flat with my grandmother. She wore trousers and rode a motorbike when she was young. I used to help my great aunt make lemon butter on her big, old, metal wood-burning stove with a multitude of doors (back in the 1970s). She lived in an old Queenslander house, with large hydrangea bushes at the bottom of the front stairs; one on each side.
2. The Protectors are such a great concept. What inspired them?
I’ve had the idea for a fantasy series – called The Otherworlds – whirling around in my head for over thirty years. It will happen one day… I decided to write The Aunt Enid Mysteries as a ‘fantasy’ mystery on this side of the portal to that fantasy world – with the advantage of less world building.
Having hit the big five-oh a little while ago, I realised/was frustrated/annoyed/dismayed TK at the lack of older female protagonists, let alone ‘women of a certain age’. The hero/heroine in fantasy stories were usually the ‘chosen one’ fated to save the world (ie. protect it), so I thought: why can’t they be a group (usually three, isn’t it?) sworn to protect our world from the hordes of Darkness and magical creatures invading from the Otherworlds.
Hence, the ‘Protectors’: (Great) Aunt Enid and her friends. But, of course, they aren’t just little old ladies…
3. Why is it important to you that you use Adelaide as a setting? (As I like to use Brisbane because I can research the settings personally.)
Adelaide is my adopted home, having moved here in 1988. It’s a city rich in history. I find out more interesting snippets with each round of research. Many don’t know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited here in 1920, for a lecture tour. We were the first state in Australia (and second place in the world) to give women the vote.
There are many stories set in England, or the US, but not nearly enough stories set in Australia. I wanted to add a local Adelaide flavour to my stories – and the research is easier. I love walking around the local area and finding historical places and stories. And the Adelaide Hills are a perfect setting for a cosy mystery.
4. I enjoy the fact that Enid is ‘a feminist’ thinker in an era when it was a scandal to be an independent woman. Was that always your goal?
Yes, it was. I wanted to channel my great aunt Enid and my grandmother. Little old ladies (or not so old in A Fey Tale), aren’t always frail and withering.
5. You have an excellent use of humour in this novel – do you find it hard or easy to write humour?
Yes, and no – and thank you!
Humour is subjective and is suited to everyone. I read to escape, as many of us have over the past couple of years. I read a lot of stories with whimsy and love Gail Carriger’s ‘etiquette of humour’. A bit of light-heartedness is always a good foil for darker, ‘Australian’ cosies.
I know other readers plan the humorous beats to their stories. I can’t force the humour. It feels stifled. I do look for potential ‘situational humour’ opportunities when I plan scenes. When a cheeky idea pops into my head, I let my imagination run with it to see if it will work. If not, I rewrite.
6. How much research do you do for your historical references?
I’m a research geek! I devour documentaries, often ending up with several ideas for stories. I usually am working on a few stories when in the research phase. I love speculating and twisting history. I’m always asking ‘what if?’. But you need to know something well to be able to play with it convincingly. I spend months (sometimes several) researching before I start work on a story.
I collect old books and facsimiles of books written at the time I’m researching. I have a couple of bookcases and several stacks of books, dedicated to history, especially sixteenth century Florence, and 19th century society in general. I also love Ancient Egypt. I’m fascinated by eras when science was emerging, and folklore was still ingrained in society. Science, art and legend create an interesting mix.
7. How does writing these fantasies contrast to how you write your Steampunk novels?
My steampunk is set in an alternate ‘real’ world, so a lot of my world building is already done. I just need to work out how technology has changed and how this has affected society. In fantasy, there is a lot of world building: maps (I love maps!), climate, cultures, society, economy, history, etc – the reason why I’ve delayed writing my fantasy series. I haven’t got all the ducks in row, as it were. The Aunt Enid Mysteries is a ‘suburban’ fantasy (not quite an urban fantasy), set in the ‘real’ world with fantasy elements hidden all around us. We’re just not aware of it.
It’s much easier and quicker to build on existing worlds and not have to start from scratch.
8. Who are your writing ‘heroes’? What do you read for fun?
There are so many. I’ll give you the short list:
Classics such as:
- JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings for world building and setting
- Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh for mysteries/detective stories.
- HG Wells, Mary Shelley, Jules Verne – for early science fiction
- Gail Carriger for whimsical steampunk, humour and voice.
- Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams for quirky narrator (so jealous), humour and voice
- Jim Butcher for fun, urban fantasy, and use of first person that doesn’t grate on me
And so many more, for many reasons; some have great ideas, some a wonderful writing style, and some for description.
9. Where can people source this book and your backlog?
If you’re in Australia, you can buy original music and print books direct from my website shop (and get them signed) – www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop
With less events this year, I’ve got my first Victorian mystery series, The Adventures of Viola Stewart, on sale til new year (or while stocks last). https://karenjcarlisle.com/product-category/books/
eBooks and print books are also available at many online book shops. Check out Books2Read for listings. https://books2read.com/ap/nmAy7z/Karen-J-Carlisle
Book blog specials: A Fey Tale
- Print direct from author: $18 (RRP AUS$22.99) + post (within Australia) – https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/a-fey-tale/
- eBook – 50% off via Smashwords (until 13th January, 2022) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1119230
And don’t forget Viola Stewart’s Christmas story, Tomorrow, When I Die (eBook only): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/742528
10. Are there more Enid novels in the works?
Oh, yes, until I run out of ideas. They’re novels I write between others. The third book already has a dedicated ideas box, with a few scenes and lots of notes. It’s set back in current-day Adelaide, and will be next in line after the second book of The Department of Curiosities is finished.