Has anyone else already found one of their FAVOURITE BOOKS of the year? I wasn’t even finished the prologue and I already knew that this book was going to be a five-star read. (You can read my full review of this beautiful story here!)
The Girl in His Shadow captivated me instantly and has definitely stayed with me long after finishing it. That’s why I was super excited to get to chat with the author, Audrey Blake! Author interviews are like mini “behind the scenes tours” and I think that this one has a few surprises in store.
Thank you so much for chatting with us today! I recently finished The Girl In His Shadow and, I have to say, it’s been my favourite read of 2021 so far. From the first few pages of the prologue, I was absolutely riveted. So, first of all, congratulations on this amazing book! Arriving at the authors’ note at the end of the book, I was very surprised to discover that there are two of you! Can you share with our readers a little bit about who is Audrey Blake?
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share our story and process with you! We’re so happy you liked the book. We like to say Audrey Blake is a split personality. We are two friends and writers who wanted to tackle a story that felt bigger than either one of us could handle alone. Jaima lives in Canada and Regina lives in Kansas. Our meeting and friendship was an act of pure serendipity that probably deserves its own book.
How did you come up with the name Audrey Blake?
We used a combination of some of our children’s names. We tried a few different combinations with different children’s names and this one felt the most like us. Our relatives liked it for its simplicity and origin.
When people hear about a book being written by more than one author, I’m sure one of the first questions is, “Who did what?” Were there any specific story elements that either of you naturally gravitated towards?
Jaima naturally gravitates toward story openings and beginnings. Regina loves the mess in the middle. We’ve heard of co-authors trading scenes or chapters but we work very differently. We are both in the kitchen at all times, cooking up the story. One of us will write a first draft of a scene after consulting one another and then the other will make all of her changes and suggestions and then word by word we combine our visions into something we both believe in. There really is no paragraph in the book that we both haven’t contributed to.
I’m someone who (admittedly) gets a bit squeamish when reading books with autopsies and descriptions of body parts floating in jars – and yet, I could not put this book down. Not only is it highly engaging and easily comprehensible, it’s also clearly been immaculately researched. Do either of you have a background in medicine? Where did the fascination with this topic begin?
Thank you so much for that incredible compliment. It means so much to us. Jaima is an occupational therapist and Regina majored in history. But, ironically, Jaima is just as much a historian as evidenced by her several historical novels, and Regina is a medical addict who can’t stop researching medicine and anatomy, so our interests are almost identical. We did spend many years going through period medical journals before we attempted this story.
The fascination for Regina began with the historical writings of David McCullough and his stories of medical students in the mid 19th century. That led to more biographies of John Snow and John Hunter. When Jaima came to Kansas for a friend’s weekend we discussed the books we’d be reading and we both got infected with the bug- pardon the pun. We were both completely fascinated by the story of medicine and anesthesia in this time period. The idea of writing together was new and a little intimidating but the story was too irresistible.
Were there any medical procedures you would have loved to include but that just didn’t quite fit into the story?
There were times we wanted to tell more of Horace Croft’s fascinating medical career in the British navy, but we had to spend our time in 1845 with Nora and Daniel. There are also some great stories from the Sorbonne with Harry and Daniel when they were in medical school that we didn’t have time to include.
In some ways, this book reminded me of Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. And I could definitely see The Girl In His Shadow being made into a hit TV series. If itever made it onto the screen, who would you love to see cast as the main characters?
They exist so vividly in our minds that it is difficult to superimpose them onto other human beings. If something like that ever did happen it would be incredible to see the vision that other creative artists would bring to our story. For Nora we would like somebody new and relatively unknown, because that’s exactly who she was. She was an unknown of spectacular potential. Whoever plays Daniel would have to be someone intelligent and gentle and a little guarded. Horace must be bigger than life.
And speaking of characters, Nora is absolutely fascinating. Were there any specific historical figures who inspired her character?
She is a composite of several pioneering woman who all had to have courage and a sense of self worth and ability that did not come from the society around them. In the sequel you get a closer look at some of these women– Italian anatomist and lecturers who worked in a world usually forbidden to women. We were inspired by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first British female physician and surgeon, as well as Anna Manzolini, Italian doctor and anatomist.
And finally, what do you have in store next? Will there be another Audrey Blake book in the future?
Nora’s next story is on its way to the presses. You will follow her to Italy for medical school, as well as follow the practice that Horace and Daniel have set up in London. New stories are always brewing so we hope Audrey Blake is just warming up.
Thank you so much for chatting with us! We enjoyed The Girl in His Shadow immensely and cannot wait for the sequel. For those interested in medical history, historical fiction, or incredible female characters, be sure to check out Audrey Blake’s The Girl in His Shadow!
AVAILABLE TODAY! (May 4, 2021)