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Susanne Alleyn, author of The Cavalier of the Apocalypse (Sep 14-25)

Author Chat

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Sep 14, 2009, 10:54am Top

Please welcome Susanne Alleyn, author of The Cavalier of the Apocalypse. Susanne will be chatting on Librarything until September 25th.

Edited: Sep 14, 2009, 7:40pm Top

Hi! I'm Susanne Alleyn, author of the Aristide Ravel Mysteries set in the era of the French Revolution. The Cavalier of the Apocalypse is the newest novel in the series. Right now I'm working (not too hard) on the next novel, but since I'm actually on vacation, not much is getting done. ;-) I do hope to finish soon!

Please drop a line with questions or comments about the books or about the French Revolution. To get started, come visit my website, http://www.susannealleyn.com , or read a recent post of mine at The Writers' Forensics Blog, http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/ , where I respond to a blog post (Guillotine And Death, posted Sept. 7, my response at the "comments" link) about the guillotine which is, um, well, a thing of mine. Feel free to respond there or here!


Sep 14, 2009, 12:02pm Top

Welcome to LibraryThing, Susanne -

I know that you will find a warm welcome here. There are thousands of book lovers, cat lovers and probably many (myself included) for whom the French Revolution holds great fascination.

I am interested in your new book, The Cavalier of the Apocalypse. It sounds great ... as the one to follow with the support of your publisher, of course, (Take that, Baroness Orczy!) will be the ultimate thrill.

Right now I am just starting to read A Far Better Rest, which I got on Saturday afternoon from our Main Library here in Leon County (Tallahassee) Florida.

Again, welcome to LT and the Author Chat.

womansheart/Ruth Craig

Sep 14, 2009, 12:16pm Top

Thanks, Ruth! I hope you enjoy A Far Better Rest. Some people love it, a few seriously hate it, so I won't be wounded if it turns out not to be your cup of tea. I knew what I was getting into when I set out to mess with a classic! ;-)


Sep 14, 2009, 3:03pm Top

Susanne - I loved your comment about the guillotine! Very informative - I had no idea they ran into trouble when ropes were attached to the blade.

I haven't read any of your novels, but I just added them to my wishlist. They look fascinating - and unusual! What made you decide to set your mysteries during the French Revolution? What's the greatest challenge for your hero in investigating during that time period?

Edited: Sep 15, 2009, 9:04am Top

Hi, Caramellunacy (yum)! I got interested in the French Revolution a long time before I ever thought I would be a mystery writer...about 30 years ago, actually, while I was in my last year or two of high school! The interest developed during college (I'm such a history geek) and I thought I would like to write something about it. I wrote a stage play in college and then tried fiction, eventually writing A Far Better Rest because A Tale of Two Cities was what originally piqued my interest in the period.

Though I've always enjoyed mysteries, it was quite a while before I thought of writing one. The increasing popularity of the historical mystery subgenre certainly encouraged me. After A Far Better Rest, I was trying to write a new novel set in the French Revolutionary period, and what I had was terrible; I finally realized that if I turned my lead character into the antagonist instead, and made the story a mystery, it would work. That became Game of Patience and the editor who bought it said "You're planning a series, right?" "Sure!" I said, thinking "I'll do anything you want if you buy this book . . ." Essentially, there was never any doubt that the mysteries I wrote would be set in my favorite period; I write about the French Revolution, whether or not it's a mystery novel. I've been working on a long non-mystery Rev novel, on and off, for many years now, and hope to finish and publish it someday.

The greatest challenge? Hmm. I suppose, both for Ravel as the sleuth and for me as the writer, it's the situation of the Parisian police during the Revolution. The police were very well organized under the royal government (and there's lots of documentation for me to study), but in 1790, it was completely overhauled, probably because people had bad memories of a police force that was there not only to maintain order but also to enforce the absolute monarchy with paid informers and thought control (censorship, control of publishing and bookselling, etc).

The whole system was decentralized in 1790 and became much less efficient for some years. This makes it harder for Ravel to deal with the bureaucracy, but it does help in keeping him frustrated (and making the information harder to get), which builds the plot. :-) As for me, there is far less information out there on the police in the 1790s, so I use what I can and extrapolate a lot. A couple of history professors who specialize in the police have been a lot of help to me, though they told me themselves, since there wasn't too much hard information available, to feel free to use my imagination . . .


Sep 14, 2009, 9:41pm Top

Hi Susanne,

I'll understand if you don't want to comment on this, but when does the fourth Ravel book fall on the timeline?

Sep 14, 2009, 10:29pm Top

No problem. It takes place in 1793. My editor chose some random ideas I had without paying much attention to a timeline ("These sound interesting . . . We'll take that one {Cavalier} and also that one {the WIP}. Start writing.") ;-)

Sep 14, 2009, 11:31pm Top

Hi, Susanne ~ I'm still thinking about The Cavalier of the Apocalypse with great fondness and enthusiasm. Want to read it again soon, but first A Far Better Rest. Can't wait to see how it jibes with A Tale of Two Cities, which is my favorite Dickens of all that I've read so far. :)

Edited: Sep 15, 2009, 6:22pm Top

Hi Mary-- hope you enjoy it! Let me know if you think Ravel resembles Sydney a little (though without the alcohol). ;-)

Sep 16, 2009, 8:39am Top

Meeting a fellow mystery writer for lunch today here in Toronto: Elizabeth J. Duncan, who happens to be published by St. Martin's as well! I feel so "writerly". Elizabeth won the grand prize of a copy of The Cavalier of the Apocalypse and also a copy of Game of Patience in my recent promotional giveaway. (I'd be giving away a copy of A Treasury of Regrets, too, except SMP is "out of stock" and has no more copies--we're nagging them to publish a trade paperback edition or at least to get off their keisters and get a Kindle edition available already.)

Check out Elizabeth's author website, http://www.elizabethjduncan.com/ , and her novel, The Cold Light of Mourning.

After lunch, I'll probably wander over to the Eaton Centre and the giant Indigo Books there, and sign the copies of Cavalier that they have in stock, also at The World's Biggest Bookstore a few blocks beyond. Can't hurt! (Torontonians, now you know where to get signed copies... ;-)

P.S. I may get to the St. Lawrence Market in search of the kitchen gadget store and the elusive lemon reamer. More on the quest later...

Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 10:48am Top

I did find a lemon reamer yesterday! Also not one, but two, books on the history of the guillotine (The Guillotine: Timbers of Justice, a general history, and When the Guillotine Fell, actually an account of France's last execution, with history 1792-1977 interspersed). Very interesting!

After some dipping into the pages, it looks as if I'll have to amend my comment at the Forensics Blog site to admit that there _were_ a few botched guillotinings during the past two centuries (one described by Victor Hugo) -- although not during the Revolution, which was what the original author of the blog article stated. I tend to have a narrow view of this, focusing only on those years 1789-1799. :-)

La Guillotine was used right up until 1977, so it's likely there were a few mishaps, particularly with inexperienced executioners officiating . . . but during the Revolution, the executioners had had far too much practice to let things go wrong . . . :-P

Sep 17, 2009, 9:17pm Top

OMG, until 1977? That's pretty unbelievable, tho I am not saying "You lie!" but only commenting that I had not heard that before and find it incredible. :)

Sep 17, 2009, 11:00pm Top

It's quite true, though after WWII and the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s, executions were very infrequent in France. The last executioner, Marcel Chevalier, only officiated at three executions during his whole "career." The death penalty was abolished in 1981, I think.

Sep 18, 2009, 6:04pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 22, 2009, 5:54pm Top

My very, very dear Miss Alleyn:

How I appreciate your Aristide Ravel series now that I've read Game of Patience and have A Treasury of Regrets all cued up, so to speak. It's delightful to be transported to the Basse-Geole (in a manner of speaking) and it's a difficult feat to have made this complex period of French history so accessible. Citizen and Citizeness have always struck me as humorous replacements for Monsieur et Madame, but as I trundled along in the book, I found myself accepting the titles as...well, normal!

So, thank you very much for the hours of pleasure that the books have given me. Now go camp on the doorstep of Emmy-winning producer Rebecca Eaton of WGBH's "Masterpiece Mystery" show and make her read and buy them! I'd do it myself, but the Boston PD is still interested in me...but let's not talk about that!

Are you familiar with the idea of alternate, or alternative, history novels? Harry Turtledove and his Guns of the South, Eric Flint and his 1812: The Rivers of War are sterling examples of the genre, if not of the caliber of writing that you do. There is a website http://www.uchronia.com/ that offers a good definition of the genre and lists gazillons of books in it. (Please pardon me if I am telling you something you already know.)

I'd like to give you an idea...possibly even for that longer Revolution-set novel of yours...what if, as the saying goes, the Revolution had succeeded? As in, no Napoleonic Empire to drag the whole durn thing down? What would the world look like today with a French republic dating from 1790? Suppose the Revolutionary calendar, as well as the metric system, had caught on? Would the USA have been a friend in deed to that Republic? Could their tandem rise have been negotiated during the Jefferson presidency? The Louisiana Purchase becomes the Louisiana Concession, and allows French commercial interests to prevail over native or British ones? After all, we still hated the Brits then. (I, for one, still do.) (Well, okay, only Charles Dickens and David Lodge. And Neville Chamberlain.) (Oh yeah, Margaret Thatcher, too.)

I love reading alternate history, and am writing one of Texas (mah homelan') and Mexico, based on a a different outcome of the Cristero War (don't ask), but always want new things to read...would you just possibly consider my modest proposal? I hasten to assure you that I have NO interest in claiming it for any purpose down the line. I'd just like to see someone do this, and I can think of no other writer who a) has the knowledge and b) has the chops besides you.

Please? Pretty please with marzipan on top?

Sep 24, 2009, 2:29pm Top

Hello Richard:

I'm very glad you're enjoying Aristide's adventures. I'm supposed to be working on the next one...well, I'll get back to that on Saturday. :-)

I quite like alternate history, but I don't think I have the right sort of imagination for it. I am the writer who, for years, was convinced she couldn't make up a plot . . . until she suddenly found herself writing mysteries. Alternate Rev would indeed be interesting to speculate on, but I fear that alternate history wouldn't be the right sort of thing at all for my non-mystery Revnovel, which has been a long time in the works and focuses on one particular story.

I will, however, throw the idea at the French-Rev discussion group at YahooGroups and see what they come up with!


Sep 24, 2009, 2:37pm Top

Right sort of imagination...? You're the creative soul who imagined Sydney doing some veeery interesting stuff in his offstage time, but I shan't argue.

I see a seed planted, and I patiently await its Germinal...I mean, germination. Who knows who'll take up the cudgels on YahooGroups? (There's a group there for Alternate History, in case you'd like to take a dip.)

I'm eager to see more of Aristide, too, and will gladly hand over the spondulix for the current hardcover ASAP.

Sep 24, 2009, 6:02pm Top

Oh, and I've posted my review of Game of Patience on my thread http://www.librarything.com/topic/73753 in post #11, and on the book's reviews page.

Short version: Oh hell yeah.

Sep 25, 2009, 11:09am Top

Wow. That's an amazingly enthusiastic and well-written review, and I am flattered. Thanks, Richard!

This evening I'm attending, by invitation, a cocktail party sponsored by the Hudson-Mohawk Library Association here in the (NY) Capital District. I get to meet librarians, self-promote, hopefully sell some books, and enjoy (two words beautiful to the ear of poverty-stricken, relatively unknown authors) free food. Should be fun. If LT allows this chat thread to continue beyond its official end date (today), I will report....

Sep 25, 2009, 1:24pm Top

I've posted my review of Susanne Alleyn's second Aristide Ravel mystery, A Treasury of Regrets, on my thread http://www.librarything.com/topic/73753 in post #19, and on the book's reviews page.

Short version: Better the second time around.

And Miss Alleyn...flattery isn't the aim, it's praise I offer! I think the world of Revolutionary Paris is very interesting and I expect that anyone who reads these books will too.

As to LT...they leave threads alone, so it'll be here pretty much forever. If no one posts in it for a few months, it goes dormant, but that's the sum total of the bad news....

Sep 26, 2009, 12:04pm Top

Richard's so right! And the third Aristide Ravel is, in my humble opinion, the best of all three!

Please get back to us, Susanne, and give us a peek into the world of the author's luxurious life of cocktail parties and free food. (Oh, yes, hope it was fun!) Haha!

Sep 26, 2009, 3:04pm Top

Luxurious? Hah!

(OK, the restaurant where the party took place was luxurious and what a friend of mine calls "sh-t-trendy," meaning pretentious and overpriced...) Well, the librarians didn't do a whole lot of mingling with the authors, being more interested in hanging out with the people they already knew! No books sold, though I got to sign one for the organizer who had already bought a copy. The food was good, though. ;-)

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