Today we kick off our three-part exclusive interview with Sonia Gensler, author of The Dark Between and The Revenant. Thanks for stopping by, Sonia!
I know the idea for THE DARK BETWEEN started with the Society for Psychical Research. How did you learn about the society, and how did they inspire THE DARK BETWEEN?
I learned about the Society in a random way. While researching my first novel, THE REVENANT, I happened to stumble across Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death, an engaging history of a group of scholars who studied paranormal phenomena in a unbiased, scientific manner. This non-fiction account read like a novel, and I found myself totally hooked on the drama and conflict of their quest for truth. The founders’ lives would have made great fodder for a film or cable series, but in the end I was more interested in what life might have been like for their children. I took a few liberties with the timeline, created my own teen protagonists, and thus THE DARK BETWEEN was born!
What sort of research went into writing THE DARK BETWEEN?
I devoured books about psychical researchers and mediums. I read about Cambridge University, particularly Newnham College (the inspiration for Summerfield) and Trinity College. I enjoyed a charming account of growing up in Cambridge written by the granddaughter of Charles Darwin. (Period Piece by Gwen Raverat — highly recommended!) I researched commonly prescribed narcotics and the medical uses of electricity. I delved into the details of 1901 fashion and furnishings and social customs. I visited Cambridge, England, four times and even filmed a “behind the scenes” video with the help of a Cambridge graduate student. In case you hadn’t already guessed, research is one of my favorite parts of creating a story!
I know you’ve visited some of the real-life locations featured in THE DARK BETWEEN. Tell us how these places fit into the book and (if applicable) how they influenced the story.
Cambridge, England, is the main setting of THE DARK BETWEEN, and sometimes it feels like my favorite character. It’s a smaller town than its rival, Oxford, and to me seems wonderfully bucolic with its meadows and pastures and gently flowing river. In the novel, the two main locations within Cambridge are Trinity College, founded by Henry VIII and to this day one of the richest and most prestigious colleges within Cambridge University, and Summerfield, based on Newnham College, which was founded for women by a member of the Society for Psychical Research in the late 1800s. At that time, colleges for women were still sneered at by fashionable society, but in THE DARK BETWEEN female education is taken seriously by most of the main characters. Summerfield is a bit isolated and quiet — the perfect place for three strangers to hide from their problems and learn to become friends. It’s also the perfect setting for surreptitious criminal activity! I suppose the location influenced the story in this way — when I first saw the Old Lab at Newnham College, I knew something creepy must have happened there. So I created a story to explain exactly what that creepy thing was.
Tune in later this week for more from Sonia!