Author Interview: Carla Acheson, author of The Whitechapel Virgin

Publisher: Createspace

Publication Date: February 2014

Book Links:  Amazon

Synopsis: Catherine, a fifteen year old runaway, stumbles into a seedy brothel-house tavern in the back streets of Whitechapel, London. She hesitates at the scene before her, one filled with low class prostitutes and drunkards, but it is late, and the dimly-lit labyrinthine alleyways are filled with deviant fellows and petty criminals.

Weary and hungry, she meets Eddie, the rugged young tavern boy who shows her to a room for the night. She settles down only to be awoken in the early hours by piercing cries from the room next door. Arising to find the cause of the commotion, she becomes witness to a gruesome abortion.

Filled with revulsion, Catherine decides to flee as soon as daylight arrives, but Eddie quickly soothes her fears and convinces her to stay, arranging for her to meet Madame Davenport, the nefarious brothel-mistress who employs Catherine as a serving girl, under the proviso she begins work ‛servicing’ men once she is settled in.

Difficulties arise, however, when Eddie’s growing romantic affections for Catherine clash with her sudden infatuation for the dashing middle-class gent, Mr Cross. Unknown to Catherine, the lothario is keeping a diary of his affairs with Whitechapel’s whores, with the dishonourable intention of turning his writing into a successful ‛gentleman’s, publication.’ Mr Cross quickly seduces the fresh young virgin, allowing his sexual fantasies to escalate into an unfathomable obsession.

As Catherine tries her hardest to fit into the ways of life at the lodging house, she encounters only jealousy from Eddie, and resentment from the other prostitutes who reside there. Annie, in particular, dislikes the new girl who has blossoming beauty and youth on her side.

Unexpectedly one night, a crime occurs within the narrow landing of George Yard Buildings. Local prostitute Martha Tabram is found brutally hacked to death by a cruel assailant. The police can unearth no explainable motive. The Victorian crime stuns the entire Whitechapel district, causing widespread panic amongst the prostitutes who each fear for their own lives.

Catherine’s anxiety increases when Edward Cross begins to show signs of ‘odd’ sexual behaviour and mental decline, as he brutally tries to expunge the girl of her virtues. When two more gruesome murders occur in the area, the prostitutes realise that there is no escape from the vicious killer who calls himself Jack The Ripper. But who is he? And who will be the next Jack victim?

Interview: Q. How did writing this book affect you?

Writing about Victorian London's prostitutes and poverty revealed many gruesome facts and details. Even though the story is fictional, the ways of life and many of the events in my book were real issues that were dealt with by people on a daily basis. Things which we might naturally turn away from in disgust.

I became enlightened to this sad reality, and having a sensitive character by nature it truly 'toughened' me up. It has also made me feel much more grateful for the blessings in my life, good health, food on my plate, a roof over my head. It all seems like so much in comparison.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

The editing is always the hardest part for me. It just goes on and on for months, and just when you think 'Okay, I'm done,' for the very last time, you find yourself back there again, changing this and that.

I've realised nothing is ever truly finished until the author stops working on it. Even even after the book is in print, there is still the temptation to go on editing. This is why they advise you not to look at your text once it has been submitted for publishing, unless you want to tear your hair out of course!

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

The Whitechapel Virgin is my second novel and I'm currently on meltdown after so much focus and hard work, having spent up to a year immersed in this particular project. I'd like to take some breathing space for a while and catch up on other things I love like writing music and playing the piano. At least until that well known writer's spark of motivation grabs hold of me again - which I fear will not be long!

Q. What are you currently reading?

I'm reading the third installment of the 'Game of Thrones,' series. What phenomenal characters indeed. There are hundreds mentioned within the book that I can't quite keep up with, but I do love all the main characters in the story, their quirks and secret devious plans.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

I have just a couple of nights ago celebrated the launch of the Whitechapel Virgin at our local Gala Casino. It was a Champagne Reception which many people attended, including the local press. A friend and I decided to go the whole hog, and so she designed and put together two marvellous Victorian dresses, and even the waiters and staff got involved with dressing up. Our special guest, Jack the Ripper, was superb too. All in all it was a 'blow out' and costly launch, but one not that easily forgotten.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I definitely have one of those. A fear of commas! I even blogged about how tormenting they can be. When I am re-reading the same piece of text multiple times, I get a declining lack of comprehension over the where the commas should be placed in a sentence, The more I stare at them, the worse it gets. I have given myself migraines over the dilemma. But in my more sensible moments I realise that life is just too short to worry about roguish comma's... commas? Agh!!

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

About me? Hmm let's see, well I can appear as quite a serious person overall, though my sense of humour is really quite juvenile and self-deprecating. If some unfortunate person trips over and lands face-first in front of me I might be laughing for weeks, you know, long after the joke is done! I also possess the most frightful cackle, just like a witch. But I suppose that would be expected, being born on Halloween.

Q. Is there anything you haven’t written about that you would like to in the future?

I'm always drawn to 'characterisation' more than any other element of writing. People are just too interesting to ignore. As I already write about people in history, I think it might be fun to explore what people will be like in the future.

Time travel is another area I have real interest in, and I actually have already published on kindle a short book of time travel writing prompts and ideas. I am never ever short of ideas, and there are infinite possibilities there because we have a completely blank canvas to fill.

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I already play the keyboard but I like the idea of learning the violin. The only thing that puts me off is having to endure months of sounding like a dying cat. My neighbours would not be too happy.

Q. What gives you the most joy in life?

Most definitely my six year old little boy. Every day I look at his perfect face and cannot believe that I created him. He is handsome, funny, cute and loving. I know I sound biased as hell, but he is seriously the most treasured thing I have.

Q. Which of your characters would you want to be and why?

I don't think I'd want to be any of my characters as they are all destitute, but I do think I instilled a strong proportion of my character into the poor heroine, Maggie, in my first novel, The Last Gift. She finds the strength to overcome the most horrific and adverse events in her lifetime, and survives. I couldn't scratch the surface of what she went through, but I know I would do the same.

Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?

With my husband and my little boy, primarily. I try to get involved in all the fun things they like to do, boys stuff like playing arcade games, bowling. We live on a small Rock in the Mediterranean sea surrounded by the ocean, where monkeys like to sit on our terrace wall quite frequently. Yes, literally!

It can be a bit of a tourist trap but we have great weather for most of the year, so it's the outdoor beach lifestyle we lead during the day, and eating and drinking out in great restaurants at night. (When I am not writing that is!) I am truly blessed.

Q. How did you come up with the title?

It wasn't hard. The Whitechapel Virgin is more or less the subject of the story. Initially I toyed with, 'The Ripper and the Virgin,' but I preferred the former because so far it's a pretty unique title, and the entire story is set in Whitechapel which is quite a famous district in London. Although the book features The Ripper, it isn't about him, so the current title made more sense.

Q. When did you know you would be a writer?

It's a gradual thing. I can remember writing as far back as aged seven, penning little stories about the dolls sitting on my bed. I didn't seriously get into it until I was ready and willing to stick it out full time, because let's face it, the writing world can be pretty tough and unrewarding at the best of times.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I would say simply thank you for choosing to read my work, and to all those readers who wrote such great reviews of my first book, you really have encouraged me to continue.

Author Bio: Carla lives in Gibraltar with her family and is a member of the Freelance Writers Association. She works as a book reviewer and has interviewed and published book reviews and articles for best-selling and award-winning authors. Her articles and reviews have been featured in various press publications, as well as Waterstones Quarterly UK Magazine.

Her debut fiction novel ‘The Last Gift’ released October 2012, is available on both Kindle and paperback.

Carla is also the founder of the Rock Writers Group formed in Gibraltar in 2009.

Music production, singing, reading and writing have always been the main essential ingredients in Carla’s life.

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