The Immortal Prudence Blackwood by Stephanie Grey explores what really happened to the world’s most notorious unknown serial killers such as Jack the Ripper, The Atlanta Ripper, and the Cleveland Torso Murderer.
We talked with her about the inspirations, characters, and her writing process. Join us for part two of her interview on Wednesday, October 9.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
The Immortal Prudence Blackwood is the first book I actually had to spend real time doing research for. It’s set in different time periods and has historical figures, so it was a solid two months of researching history, historical figures like Eliot Ness, and, especially, the serial killers. The best part of my research, though, was talking to my grandma. She was born in 1937 and the bulk of the story takes place in 1947, so she was able to tell me all kinds of things about that decade that were just fascinating. I loved hearing her reliving her past and she told me some stories about herself and my great aunts and uncles that, while they didn’t help with my story, were wonderful to hear nonetheless.
Once I had my research completed, I realized how wrong I was that I was done. The research continued as I wrote and it was for those little details. I had to hunt in a museum’s archives to see which paintings they had on display back then. It’s a sentence long in the story, but that took several hours of looking up the information.
I watched YouTube videos of Artie Shaw performing to be able to describe him and his music that’s featured for a few short paragraphs.
There were several nights spent discussing ways to kill a person with my husband. If you’d heard our dinner conversations, you would’ve thought we were crazy or plotting something real. No, it was just us talking about ways to kill bad guys.
Research is never truly over when you’re writing, nor should it be. Those details enhance the story and readers will appreciate it.
What did you edit out of this book?
In the original version of The Immortal Prudence Blackwood, I’d included an intimate love scene between two characters. I felt so awkward writing it. I’d never make it in romance. The scene felt like it took ages to write and I kept it in until I did my first read-through and decided it had to go. It just wasn’t my style and it didn’t enhance the story.
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
You need to stay true to who that figure was as a person. Research, research, research. For example, Eliot Ness was the real Safety Director in charge of the Cleveland Torso Murderers. He helped take down Al Capone. He was a good man with strong values. I did my best to portray him that way in The Immortal Prudence Blackwood.
How do you select the names of your characters?
For my latest book, Prudence is a name that I actually liked from the show Charmed. It’s old-fashioned and I felt like it would suit the lead character well. As for Blackwood, her last name, I went through several names. I scribbled down my favorites and thought of which one reflected a strong woman and decided on Blackwood.
I researched popular names for the 1910s era when Clive O’Reilly would’ve been born and just loved Clive. O’Reilly is a play off my mother’s maiden name, Reilly.
That’s basically how it’s done: research a name or choose one based off the family tree.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Oh, gosh, this is too easy. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I cried when Hedwig died. I’m talking an all-out boo-hoo, ugly cry. Mascara be damned that day.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It depends on what I’m writing. For my latest book, The Immortal Prudence Blackwood, it was such a departure from my usual style that yes, I felt emotionally drained after each session. My other books have my signature quirky sense of humor in them and with Prudence, I knew I couldn’t do that without being detrimental to its tone. It’s dark and suspenseful, and Prudence herself is conflicted, so being serious and not allowing myself any whimsy was tough.
You know what they say about nothing worth having is ever easy, and that’s how I feel about Prudence. She wasn’t easy for me to write, but I’m so unbelievably proud of it.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think aspiring writers don’t realize how tough the publishing industry is if they want to be published. Also, research your publishers. I cannot stress this part enough. Not all publishers are created equally!
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think a big ego hurts a writer because with big egos come big expectations. Confidence, however, is an entirely different entity. You need to have a lot of confidence in yourself because writing isn’t an easy task. Plotting, character development, background stories, hell, actually sitting down and doing the writing, none of it is simple. If you don’t have confidence in yourself to do those things, you’re in a bad place if you want to call yourself a writer.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Absolutely. I had started reading a book I’d been waiting on for almost a year from one of my favorite authors and I was extremely disappointed in it. It was like a filler book bridging the gap between his previous one and his next one that isn’t to be released for another year. I forced myself to finish it but, after that, I didn’t read anything for about a month. Nothing seemed interesting to me during that time, which is ridiculous because there’s an infinite number of amazing books out there I have yet to read.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I once considered it, but scratched that idea. As someone who is brand new, I knew I needed to start a reader base with people who already know me. If I wrote by another name, I was concerned they wouldn’t be able to make the connection.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I do what I want when I write. I will never please everyone, so I might as well write something that makes me happy.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell myself to savor the moments I get to write. Life gets to be so busy and it is especially difficult at times to carve out time to write. Treasure those moments where it’s just the sound of whatever music fits the book’s mood at the time and the keys tapping away something worthwhile.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I felt a bit more pressure to finish the next book, but nothing changed as far as the actual process itself. I did have to explain to a few people who wanted a new book immediately that writing takes time and so does the publishing process. Some people actually thought writing a book only took a couple of weeks and boom, your book is released.
What does literary success look like to you?
I’d love for people to see a book by me and while they may not remember me as the author, they’ll say, “Oh, I know that book. It’s great!”
About The Immortal Prudence Blackwood
Justice watches from the shadows in this unique and suspenseful twist on a serial killer manhunt…
Throughout history, the world has witnessed cruel, gruesome, and twisted murders at the hands of the most notorious serial killers. For those who were never caught—Jack the Ripper, the Atlanta Ripper, and the Cleveland Torso Murderer—their crimes will live on in infamy as their identities are forever chased, but never revealed.
It’s 1947 in Washington, D.C. and a dangerous murderer has boldly discarded two headless bodies nearby the White House and the Jefferson Memorial. With no leads, Detective Clive O’Reilly is feeling desperate. When a stranger convinces O’Reilly to join him at a local pub, he is treated to a wild tale about Prudence Blackwood, an immortal who seeks vengeance for those murdered by history’s most notorious serial killers.
Initially in disbelief over her existence, O’Reilly is surprised to discover that she’s very real and she’ll be assisting in the investigation. But Prudence has unorthodox methods. With the body count rising, O’Reilly will have to find a way to work with her to stop the most brutal killer in D.C.’s history before more victims are added to the list.
Read an excerpt of The Immortal Prudence Blackwood
Praise for The Immortal Prudence Blackwood
“Grey did…a fantastic job of creating the character of Prudence Blackwood. It was refreshing to have a strong and powerful female lead that appeared normal to the outside world, rather than looking like a superhero. I absolutely loved this book, and would highly recommend it.” —For Books Sake book blog
“…sucks you in and keeps you hungry for more until you reach the mind-blowing ending.” —Gwendalyn’s Books Blog
“…a very entertaining book. The story was different and, really, quite clever.” —Sheryle Gouker, Librarian
“I had a very hard time putting this one down.” —Randee J. Bybee, Librarian
“…this book did not disappoint. It did, in fact, live up to everything that I thought it would be.” —Books, Tea, Healthy Me Book Blog
“Prudence is a badass woman…and proves that not all heroes wear capes…a captivating read…” —Lukten av Trykksverte Book Blog
About the author:
Stephanie Grey is a graduate of East Tennessee State University with a degree in journalism. Writing has always been present in Stephanie’s life. From a young age, she has been writing short stories for her family to enjoy. When she entered high school, she decided that she would one day write a full-length novel. She finally achieved her goal and is the proud author of three novels, including The Immortal Prudence Blackwood. She continues to write and hopes to be able to share her stories with the world for many years to come.
To learn more about The Immortal Prudence Blackwood and other titles available from BHC Press, visit our website.