My connection to Dickens (despite a 194 year separation...)

When Scott presented his idea to me in 2012 it struck me like a shiny, brass gong.

How about a mystery series set in London mid-1800’s with Dickens’ Scrooge as a reluctant detective?” he suggested. The fog parted at that moment and I knew I’d met my muse!

As it happens, my family moved to London from Wakefield in around 1820 (and then my namesake by complete coincidence, Elizabeth Wilson, was the first Wilson to be born in London. That was 1821!) One of the reasons the Wilsons moved to London during this time was because of my great-great-great-great-uncle wonderfully named Mozart, and his older brother Haydn. (It’s true. We’re eccentric.)

The two lads were budding musicians (of course), and the family moved to London so the boys would have the very best chance to nurture their art.

Haydn enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music and actually attended around the same time as Charles Dicken's little sister Fanny.  Read more about Dickens and Music here.

In fact, the Dickens family moved to London around that time too and lived about a mile from the Wilsons. I do hope they crossed paths and perhaps even knew each other a little. Maybe the Dickenses brought a plate of scones round to celebrate Mozart’s eventual success. Perhaps the Wilsons shared a plum pudding with the Dickenses to congratulate them on Charles’ epic stamp on literary history.

Haydn was eventually described in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1829 as “a young composer in the Royal Academy of considerable promise.” and became resident organ player at St Mary's Newington. He later wrote a heap of organ music which is currently held at the university library at Cambridge. He never married, and eventually moved back to Wakefield in later life to live with his sister Jane Nicholson (of the organ making Nicholsons).

Mozart and Haydn had a nephew also named Mozart (yes, I know…) who went on to quite a bit of musical success and is the subject of my mother's great interest - she's a personal historian specializing in Victorian London (very convenient for me and Scott!). This Mozart Wilson (the younger) also happens to be an ancestor of Sylvia R. Swann, the editor of my novel Ascension Denied.

My family were (and still are) a mind-boggling bunch of cartoons who serve as excellent characters for a book! For example, Haydn’s uncle went bankrupt a few times, was a journalist and explored Afghanistan and Persia before running a dramatic society in India somewhere - no mean feat in those days. I think he’d make a smashing cameo character in the next book. I might mention it to Scott.

As always, thanks for reading,


Why Scrooge?

Dear readers,

The following is a beautiful reflection from the late Scott Ciencin on why Ebenezer Scrooge became the hero of our story. On the anniversary of it's original posting, I'll just leave it here for you as a treat!

With love,

E.A.A Wilson

Writers are often asked, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Most of the time, there's no real answer. In the case of THE HUMBUG MURDERS, I vividly remember the moment of inspiration. 

Well over a decade ago, on a particular Christmas Eve, my wife and I were watching the 1984 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL starring George C. Scott. This was a Christmas tradition for us. We would listen to Patrick Stewart or E.G. Marshall essay Scrooge, read the Dickens text to one another, or, more often than not, watch this version. 

Something sparked in me this time as I watched the scene of Belle rejecting Young Scrooge. For one thing, I became angry with Belle. I had witnessed this scene many times before and I knew how I was supposed to react, that I was supposed to side with her in the matter of the golden idol that had taken her place. Instead, this time, I felt Belle was giving Ebenezer a raw deal. 

Maybe it had to do with the performances of Mark Strickson and Lucy Gutteridge: Mark's devastation and heartbreak, Lucy's aloof chill. But suddenly I wanted to know more about young Scrooge's life. A lot more. I hit "pause" and stood, began pacing. Denise looked at me, a familiar smile on her face that said, I know what this is... And, as I often do, I began working out a verbal pitch. A series of novels focusing on young Scrooge, for sure, but where were the stakes, what was the ticking bomb?

I thought back to the party at the Fezziwig's and said, "Fezziwig was dead to begin with." The next thing I knew, it was a mystery series with Scrooge fitted up for his former mentor's murder. 

I only ever pitched the story to one person other than Denise, and that was my former longtime editor Alice Alfonsi, who now writes the amazing Coffeehouse Mysteries with her husband Marc Cerasini. Alice loved the idea and I knew I had something special. So special, in fact, that although I immediately began the extensive research necessary to recreate a realistic and gritty London for the series, and developed many storylines and concepts, I never felt quite ready to take the plunge with this one until two years ago.

What happened? I received an email that changed everything. A mutual friend had met Elizabeth Wilson at an event, learned that she was writing her first novel, and told her about me. He thought I might offer her some helpful advice. Elizabeth emailed me and the moment I read just the first few sentences of her email I knew that she was a natural with a sparkling wit and distinctive voice.

This, just from an email, mind you.

Then she sent me the first 50 pages of her book, which has since evolved into Ascension Denied, (click here to learn more), and had, as Blackadder might say, a bold and cunning plan form in my mind. I asked her if she had ever read historical mysteries and it turned out that she had. We both loved the Matthew Shardlake series. Beyond that, her mother was a historian and her family had come to London from Ireland in the 1830s, and they had copious diaries from their ancestors to sift through of that time. Result!

I grew up reading British literature and watching more British television than American. But I was born in a bedroom community in New Jersey 45 minutes from NYC. Scrooge Mysteries was simply too important a concept for me to execute without having an authentic British voice behind it.

Elizabeth, of course, brought that and a ton more to the mix. The story and our approach to Scrooge has been constantly evolving and refining. Charlie Olsen at Inkwell Management offered invaluable insights and guidance, editors who passed on an early draft of the proposal gave us useful notes for a second more successful round of submissions, and Natasha Simons at Gallery Books not only acquired the series, but added even more fantastic notions to the mix.

When all is said and done, the real answer, for me, when asked, "Why Scrooge?" is pretty simple. He's fun. There's a sting in his every retort, and he's fearless, he says the things we only wish we could.

My hero. And that's no humbug!


Scott Ciencin, 7/21/2014

A Sad Announcement

It’s with deep sadness that I announce the sudden and unexpected passing of my very dear friend and writing partner Scott Ciencin, on Tuesday 5 August.

                                              Malcolm Scott Ciencin (9/1/1962 - 8/5/2014)

                                              Malcolm Scott Ciencin (9/1/1962 - 8/5/2014)

It has taken me a few days to build up the courage to share this. Scott was, apart from being a phenomenal author and a huge icon in YA literature with an impressive bibliography, a man with a heart as deep as the ocean.

Three years ago, when I decided to start writing, I reached out through the business network for anyone who might be willing to help me. I didn’t expect someone of Scott’s talent, track record and gravitas to respond. But that was Scott. Never too big to reach down and give a little person a helping hand.

Without abandon he offered me everything he knew. He mentored me through the gruelling early days, he spent hours and hours with me explaining the industry. He asked me to partner with him on a mystery series, and we started creating together, writing a whole new world and producing an amazing book which we eventually sold to S&S Gallery under the penname LJ Oliver.

We sat together for hours only a few days ago, plotting the next book, planning our social strategy, and laughing. I still don’t feel awake to this sad, sad truth that he is gone.

Scott was a man who shared and shared and gave and gave. His legacy is not in the many wonderful books he wrote, but in the lives he awakened, and the people who are who they are because of his kindness.

Even though he is gone too soon, and even though he had so many stories left to write, he left our world fulfilled. He met his soulmate Denise 20 years ago and was as in love with her now as he ever was. Scott, thank you for everything: your insights, your help, your endless patience and humor, your friendship and your love.

Good luck on your next adventure.

As always, thank you for reading,

E.A.A Wilson

What Was Your First Mystery? :D

Man, that's a loaded question. 

Mystery book series, people! :D

For me it was Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels. I got into this hard R-rated crime series at the ripe old age of eight. I still remember standing at the library check-out desk lifting high a stack of these hardcovers to a very uncomfortable librarian who stared at my mother asking, "Um, are you sure about this?" And receiving a cold unflinching High Noon-worthy thin-lipped nod. Probably explains a lot about how I turned out.