Lillian Stewart Carl's work often features paranormal/fantasy themes and always
features plots based on mythology, history, and archaeology. Her novels have
been compared to the classic works of Daphne du Maurier, Mary Renault, Mary
Stewart (no relation), Barbara Michaels/ Elizabeth Peters, and Tolkien's
colleague, Charles Williams--except Lillian's novels take place squarely in the
twenty-first century, where the past lingers on into the present, especially in
the British Isles.
She is the author of fifteen novels so far, including the Jean
Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron mystery series--America's exile and Scotland's
finest on the trail of all-too-living legends---which includes The Secret Portrait, The Murder Hole, and The Burning Glass.
Of her mystery, fantasy, and sf short stories, eleven are available in a
collection titled Along the Rim of Time, and thirteen are collected in
The Muse and Other Stories of History, Mystery, and Myth.
Lillian Stewart Carl describes herself s "a mild-mannered pixel-stained denizen of Texas, a librarian, a historian,
and a mother. Not necessarily in that order. I love to read, I've traveled quite
a bit (mostly to the UK, but elsewhere as well), and I enjoy quiet hobbies such
as knitting, needlework, playing the piano, and tai chi. Although my tai chi
instructor is giving the class a more martial arts approach, so if one day one
of my mild-mannered heroines slings the bad guy across the room, you'll know
Stewart Carl started writing wehn she was barely old enough to hold a pencil, let alone know
what to do with it. "I've always written, plays, poetry, bits of
stories. I actually finished a story for an assignment in high school -- that
may have been the first one. I started my first novel on a legal pad when I was
laid up in the hospital more years ago than I care to remember. I just can't
help following that elusive 'what if' and then expressing it in words. It tells
you something that I was in advanced English classes in high school and remedial
math classes in college."
The author has a distinct subgenre of her own: a blend of mystery/romance with
supernatural/historical/mythological underpinnings. She feels it comes from reading
eclectically in her younger years. "I
like the puzzle aspect of mysteries, the gradual revelation of cause and effect,
and I like the emotional resonances of romance, both in the
section-of-the-bookstore sense and in the sense of adventure and drama, so that
makes me a natural for romantic suspense.
"I love to explore that uncertain shore where historical fact meets mythical
fancy. None of us are here today without having been there, in the past, whether
it's a true past or not. People can be haunted as surely as places can be. The
ghosts and visions in my story simply happen externally as well as internally."
To make this blend work takes considerable groundwork. "I read a lot of history and
archaeology for my facts, and many legends and ghost
stories for my 'woo-woo', as they say in the mystery field. Pseudo-history (like
the copious material underpinning The Da Vinci Code) is a rich source for me,
because the authors will indiscriminately tangle fact and fancy. If only they
admitted they were writing fantasy!
"I've also traveled to some of the places mentioned in my Scottish novels,
leaving a few people rather nonplussed. The Director of the West Highland
Museum, where a scene in The Secret Portrait is set, said after she read the
book how interesting it was to see themselves as others see them!"
Stewart Carl has experienced some near-"woo-woo" of her own. She referes to them as
"odd synchronies of the writing life".
"The heroine of Ashes to Ashes is a woman named Rebecca, from Missouri, who works
at an American replica of Scottish Craigievar Castle. After the book came out, I
went back to Craigievar, to be conducted through the house by a woman named
Rebecca from Oklahoma.
She discovered Jenny Cameron, a one-time associate of Bonnie Prince Charlie, really did die the
year before his very late marriage, a fact that ties in exactly to the plot of
her novel The Secret Portrait.
"I found out after I'd written The Murder Hole that there really is a Pictish
cemetery above Loch Ness, very close to where I postulated one for the novel.
In the novel she current is writing The Charm Stone , the author named a cat "Bucktrout", an old colonial Virginian name.
(Part of the mystery concerns a contemporary Colonial Williamsburg cabinetmaker.)
"Only after I set all this up did I discover that a local eighteenth-century
cabinetmaker was named Benjamin Bucktrout."
The early 1900s house in Fort Worth, Texas, in Garden of Thorns is blown away by
a tornado at the end of the book. "The early 1900s Fort Worth house on the cover
of the reprint edition," she says, "was barely missed by a tornado the month after the book
Only time will tell if Blackness Tower results in any "odd synchronies."
Right now, as Blackness Tower is published, Lillian Stewart Carl is
writing the abovementioned The Charm Stone, book four of the Jean
Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron mystery/romance/paranormal series. ("America's exile
and Scotland's finest on the trail of all-too-living legends.") She's just
finished co-editing (with Martin H. Greenberg) The Vorkosigan Fireside Companion, a retrospective on Lois
McMaster Bujold's sf work. It will be published in 2009.