The Season of the Witch

The Torn Heart

a novel by Etienne de Mendes

Etienne Answers Your Questions


I just have one question about Julian. Was his deformity caused by the poison that Sarah ingested early in her pregnancy or was it a genetic defect?

His deformities (both physical and emotional) were threefold in cause. Yes, there was a genetic misalignment due to the closeness of his parents, and the poison Sarah ingested trying to end the pregnancy definitely had an ill-effect on her fetus. But Julian's psychosocial disorder (both he and his grandfather are somewhat principled sociopaths) is due to his deep-seated anger. He felt he'd been robbed of parents/family and lied to, then in the monastery there was Brother Randolph's repeated victimization to deal with. In the end Julian evolved into his own worst enemy. These were difficult passages to write.

I am a cutter, non-active at the moment, and want to know if I can write to you about your novels.

Please feel free to write anything that you like to me. I have a medical background and will do my best to understand. You have my word-of-honor that no one reads the emails I receive but me, and no one has your email address but me. I respect privacy and want my own, that's why there's nothing about me on the books. I let the main characters to shine for better or worse, so I bow and give them center stage. If you ask a question or make an observation, I'll always tell you how I perceive a subject, but I may need a day or two to think things over. Also, I promise to tell you if I'm feeling uncomfortable with a subject. So far nothing you've written about makes me feel uneasy. One girl wrote that she wanted me to talk "dirty" to her. I think I understand some of the basic needs people experience and what motivated her request. I told her that she would have to go to another source for that kind of response, as it wouldn't be coming from me.

How devoted to your writing are you? Any recommendations for a young novelist? Do critics bother you?

I recommend that you don’t stop writing, and that you never back away from re-writing and editing a piece. I work on my stories in my spare time…right up to the point that my brain turns to mush-o-lah. Then I stop, walk into a closet and scream, go get a snack and a Pepsi. Readers have the advantage of plowing through a novel. We do not. For me, some parts are authored out of sequence and then tied together to make the whole. I don't know if other authors write straight from start to finish, I just know that I don't. In the editing process I look for ways to make the piece cohesive. This third book will be another novel I really do not want to share with the world...even though it takes on another dimension of Erik’s story. Oh, well...I'll live. I know I have a commitment to publish it. Once it's out, I'll stick my fingers in my ears and not listen to the inane half dozen people who want to criticize (another e-mailer tells me they are unhappy jerks known as ‘flamers’). Try to ignore critics. They do not suggest how to make stories better, except to say that we shouldn’t have written anything in the first place. As to my devotion toward writing in the future, I'll probably continue making up stories (I've done it for some time), just won't publish. People have lots of different reasons for writing. These three books are something I wanted to say, and the Phantom is a rich source to dip into. It's important to me to know that someone else actually likes this stuff. Thanks for your comments.

Would you put me in one of your stories if I asked you?

Now, my friend, the problem with putting your name on a character is that you would expect that individual to reflect some convoluted way or another. And that's impossible, given that the stories are fiction and that I don’t know you. Could you just be happy to see someone with your name and be content with that? It is perfectly reasonable that you could write about you in a story in the Writer’s Forum…that should be pretty easy. Come to think of it, will we ever read part III of your Phantom adventure on the website?

Do you put people you know into your books?

No. You are safe. Even members of my family tell me they don't see themselves anywhere in the stories. I tell them their absence is intentional. They're safe, too. I should be able to come up with enough extraneous plots on my own. I do appreciate putting a reader’s thoughts and questions up on the website. Since I don’t really advertise, it helps others coming to the site to figure things out.

The second book is darker than the first, and I understand why. All the scenes are very well written, but I felt repugnant over Sarah and Michael’s actions. I understand why Erik and the Daroga took the child away. If Erik had the love and attention that baby had, he would have been so grateful and his life would have been so very different. That is a sad thing I think, that the baby grew up to be such a mean little kid. I enjoyed reading this novel for a second and a third time!

The repugnance you felt is very interesting to me. There are so many facets of life that are truly odious and the majority of people simple let them slip by without protest. I wanted to show that we've been trained to stick our noses into the lives and bedrooms of others and crank up our indignation, curious improper trait of our species. I try to write about difficult subjects. There's a couple in Germany with four children...the state keeps taking their little ones away and putting the father in prison. They are quiet, law-abiding citizens, but their crime is Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA). Not murder, terrorism, drug smuggling. Anyway, I've dealt with the subject of GSA as far as I intend to...the third book takes on a different vein of world snobbery, especially in the field of science. It also deals with the fact that we know very little about human memory and inherited instinct. But then we're in our infancy of learning and the micro-universe lies awaiting.

From Part Four, if you ever wanted to, you could start a whole new story about the Daroga and Erik.

If you read the third book, The Tale of the Bloodline, you will see that I very much want to develop this relationship between Erik and Khalil. I have also tried to account for some of the very strange things the Daroga says in Leroux's book. Hopefully in an interesting, plot oriented fashion.

Part Three seems to be, as far as I’m concerned, the last part about Erik and his family. I think the way you handled everything was the only way it could be done. I was saddened that Julian murdered Mrs. Edwards. He was indeed very remorseless, and I wonder where it came from? It wasn’t like he hadn’t been loved when he was a baby. I think God just left those parts out of him. I also think the story shows that Erik had more character than his son and grandson.

In The Season of the Witch I tried to show that Erik (despite his drawbacks) has more distinct insightfulness and courage than his family. He doesn't care for society's rules, but he does care what society will do to Michael and Sarah, and his grandson. As to Julian, he wanted others, especially his grandfather, to feel the pain he was experiencing. "If I hurt, you can all hurt." In some ways, Julian was a product of what was done to him from conception onward. He makes very poor choices, but given the physical and environmental influences surrounding him, the odds were not in his favor...and he paid the price for his actions. They all did to some degree. It is a very difficult thing for an author to give up a main character like Louisa Edwards, but it needed to be done to show Julian's nature and to put Erik into a state of genuine grief. Did you know that Leroux was a heavy drinker and gambler? I have often wondered about his level of intoxication when he wrote The Phantom of the Opera. He aligns the macabre and the whimsical so very well. There is a scene where Erik is playing violin to Christine in a graveyard...blows me away every time I read it.

I loved the two different descriptions of the weddings. Thought they were wonderful. I could picture them in my mind’s eye so clearly. I could have been there – and wish I had been. Where do you get the description of the jewelry, costumes, dances, and other rituals? Did you make them up or did you do a lot of research? The way I read it, I thought perhaps you have a friend who explained Jewish weddings and the old time weddings of yesteryear. Regardless, they’re great!

I'll try to answer your question as simply as I can: because of my background I know a lot about religious rituals, social customs and medicine. No one needs to explain the particulars of Jewish or Christian weddings and funerals to me. I grew up on a private estate and have been around jewelers and other professionals all my life. What I don't know for a story, I research. I did speak with a policeman and a local fireman for the answers to several questions I had for the first book, The Return of the Phantom. For the second novel I spent time looking up the 'why', not the 'how', of several courtship and wedding rituals. My stories are fiction, the plot and descriptions started in my head, then went to outlines, and were finally placed into chapters. Writing a novel is a new experience for me, one that I approach with enthusiasm for the social issues I feel strongly about. Hope that helps.

Do you take into consideration your reader’s thoughts? Could you write more about Erik’s past before the Opera House?

Your opinions as a reader help me decide where to put emphasis in the next story, or if I must trim a scene...where to apply the scissors. What I think I'm hearing from you is that Erik being human and tender is most appealing. He is an edgy, very specific kind of predator. At times irrational if not outright insane, but he does his best with what the past has brought him. You'll learn more about how I see his upbringing in the third novel, and I a very entertaining way. I write about difficult human situations, but they do not represent me in my personal life. For example, I am not a serial killer or a sexual predator, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't research the actions and motivations of those people and write about those characters – especially if I want to point out a particular trait or tendency.

Are you irritated when people ask you questions about the Phantom’s children? The book is about Erik and his life, not about his children. I think you’re very patient with these people.

I don’t mind answering questions about the characters. So far, the readers aren’t belaboring any particular point about the children, and I remind them that they are free to expound on a scenario and add to the Writer’s Forum on the website. To be truthful, I’m surprised and more than a little humbled that anyone would even bother asking about my work. The ones who hate what I write, have (for the most part) channeled their caustic negativity towards those who will listen…their railings tend to drain the glass of creative juice most efficiently. So I ignore them, not because I think I can’t improve. I know I can, but not every treatment of a subject sits in everyone’s different coffee cup to perfection. (Some are writers themselves and still don’t get that an effort is an effort.) As I write I will remain true to myself and hit the keyboard about the subjects that move me to speak out. Right now, that’s Erik.

Can you please say something about all the different interpretations of Erik out there?

Variety is the spice of life. Everyone (author or reader) is entitled to his or her personal interpretation. Some descriptions fascinate, others infuriate, and some are just plain lame. But still, all are valid. I see him as deeply troubled, a genius, but very much a man. Anyone who composes music possesses a certain degree of sensitivity. I asked myself many times: What would have to happen for him to finally win? When I started writing these three books I also wanted to address some of the very human conditions I've come across (and have a little supernatural fun along the way).

I understand about Erik, the way you wrote about him in your answer. On the very first page when Erik has written to his "Lonely Heir" he wonders/asks "who the hell he is" and that made me think from the start that he has played so many roles over his life that the real Erik is lost. But I still have this question. When Erik is down in the dungeon where Julian has put him, he struggles to hang on as the thought of his Christine being in another's arms makes him sick. But, he told Louisa to come to him if she needed a man! And he had other minor affairs at the Inn. How does he reconcile that in his mind? I know he doesn't care about the ways of society, but how can he be so obsessive about Christine and yet do this? And I have to tell you I was worried towards the end that he wanted to die to be with Louisa. I couldn't imagine him wanting death, to leave Christine behind. And I do like your Christine. She is strong, she takes care of her family and she does not "need" anyone to take care of her - so different from how many writers portray her. I am a huge fan and have read and reread your site too many times to count. I love the other reader's questions and your comments. It helped me, too! You are incredible!

If you understood the dilemma of Erik’s having to wear so many mantles, then you understand his exhausting walks and lonely search for an identity of self.
First, I don’t know that Erik ever did anything (except with Pascale) at the Inn of the Marching Drum, but watch. I allude to that remarkable trait twice in The Season. He has taught himself to simply stand back and observe. Smelling like cigars, perfume, or hashish does not mean that someone participated in anything themselves. It does say that they were in the room, or very close by. I'll ask him, but you should probably know that he may chose not to answer me.

Next, Erik loves these women in the way that he understands love. He is unique, an entity unto himself. He knows what it is to feel dead inside. He doesn’t want Louisa to feel that way. Easing her pain is very important to him. And lastly, in the bottom of the oubliette he thinks about the only woman he ever considered wife (even though they never had a legal ceremony). Down in the muck, thoughts of Christine give him the strength to fight a little longer. She feeds his reserves again when she lets him argue with her after Louisa’s death. You are right; she is both strong and wise, but she didn’t start out that way. Erik takes a mistress, she doesn’t care. Erik’s first sexual needs were so exasperating that he considered having them with a corpse. She doesn’t care. Louisa leads him into the world of men and women, and she still doesn’t step into the role of judge. They agreed in The Return to not judge each other, to simply accept what the other felt or did…as if they were reading a story. They actually meant it. To ask Erik to behave in a way that you or I would consider more acceptable simply cannot be done. We have not had his life experience, nor have we the particular level of genius he’s walking around with in his head. To me he’s intriguing because he is so different, but then many men have loved more than one woman for any number of reasons…and vice versa. When a shark bites, it bites. Read again the bottom of page 237 in The Season. Erik is his own brand of predator. In my stories Christine evolves, she grows…and uses her experiences to put Erik, the Angel of Music, into her life and keep him there. Quite adaptive really.

Erik nearly goes nuts thinking of any other man even being near his Christine. How can he justify sleeping with Pascale for all those years, having a child with her and telling Louisa he loves her and come to him if she wants to be intimate? Double standards isn't it?

Your question is extremely interesting. First and foremost, let us be honest about Erik. He does not give a rat's whisker for the morals and standards of society. He considers humankind to be be basically full of hypocrites; with their inward ugliness safely hidden from view they have rejected him, and he in turn has scorned them. He does have a few tender friends who have managed to chip their way through his defenses. He cares for them in ways that cause me to pause. Getting inside his head was no easy matter. I've lost count of how many times I've read Leroux's original novel. In The Return of the Phantom Erik is willing to share Christine with Raoul, because Raoul can provide stability for her and has raised her lot in life. It is only when he sees her slipping away from this world that he reveals himself. Even still he refuses to step forward and claim her...that is what the whole first book is about. Christine goes from mouse to champion, from a girl ga-ga over an aristocrat to Erik's surprising sworn confidant and confederate. The top of page 22, when Erik whispers to her his private thoughts is a very special moment to my thinking...whatever he says to her, his words are held private even from us.

In the second book, Erik has evolved in that he has assumed a false identity for Christine's sake. He wrestles and struggles with his more dominant need to isolate himself and those he cares for. If the world cannot reach them, the world cannot hurt them! Add to that the fact that as this false "Count" he searches constantly for precious autonomy. Who is he? Does he define himself simply as Christine's husband? As father to these children he's gladly given her? The answer is an emphatic "no" and his enemies appear from within the family structure and without. Strictly for entertainment purposes, I brought Victor back, but then Erik has to face Sarah and Julian (each contorted in their own way)...and a woman who threatens to betray all he has tried to build up...Pascale. For the first time in his life there is a female who has not run away because of how he looks (even Christine was initially frightened out of her socks). Plus, Pascale - in her own needs - offers an intriguing drug that adds to his "manliness". (By the way, the descendant of their daughter is a main character in the third book.)

These are complex people who do not fit into the cookie-cutter mold of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. They are humans with horrendous selfish faults and they are capable of great strengths. Society's guidelines are there, to be followed or rejected (just as real people in the world do constantly, everyday.) Before I close, I do want to say one thing about Christine. I believe that she becomes a very courageous person, she is so glad to have Erik finally in her life, to have him everyday in some degree or another, that she counts herself lucky. In many ways, she is the most unsung of heroines! Hopefully, the third book will address some of the praise due her.

Please say something more about Michael and Sarah’s relationship. The epilogue left me with questions.

Seeing Michael so unattached and so sad was breaking Sarah’s heart. She wanted to mend the hurt inside him anyway possible.

Were parts of this book difficult to write?

Trust me when I tell you that it takes raw courage to write explicit love scenes. My sister says that in today's world people want to read about intimacy, but they don't want to admit that they do. It makes me smile from ear to ear every time someone tells me they had an emotional response to a scene. My work is not porn, but even pornography serves an excellent purpose...we use it all the time in fertility clinics and to help couples - who for some reason cannot be intimate anymore - to touch each other again.

As a writer you must feel some of this. What, if any, of these dark passages touched you?

Every time I read the scene where Julian dies beside Erik in the bottom of the oubliette, I am moved. The pain they both experienced at that moment tears into the mind. All of Erik's hopes and dreams for the boy – shot to hell, and Julian never really grasping the bigger picture. Michael didn’t know the boy, so his grief was delayed…but Erik’s was quite acute.

Do you think any of the ghosts on the cover of the season are reaching out to you?

Who knows? I’m not worried about it. Welcome to the party.

What do you think about the cruel review that was just posted on

I'm very grateful for the people who absolutely don't want my artistic heart chewed up and spit out by a cold and callous world. We both know there is already way too much sorrow on this planet. The reviewer actually invited me to join them on another website for discussion. I turned them down.

Did you believe that Pascale semi-blackmailed Erik into having a relationship with her?

You're actually the first person who has picked up on the fact that Erik was being coerced into having an affair. He probably could have figured a way out of the situation had he tried harder. But in some respects who could blame him? Pascale (I really like that name) was the first woman who just simply accepted his deformity. Something tells me that his title and wealth were a definite attraction for the widow.

I know you believe that descriptions of violence are widely accepted by the public, while descriptions of human intimacy are hypocritically frowned on. What are your thoughts now with this second book out?

I recently had an opportunity to watch the movie Quills and had to chuckle over the fact that the French in the late 1700’s were debating how much openness about sex should be allowed in literature and plays. We seemed to have progressed very little. Violence then and now is considered entertaining. They had the very public event of the guillotine with its all-encompassing torments. One girl in the movie gets her back ripped raw in front of a jeering crowd. No one bats a single eyelash over all the blood and the taking of lives right and left. Geoffrey Rush plays the main character and to his great credit there is a shot of him in full frontal nudity. Coming from the field of medicine, I can assure you that if we would just get over some of these "church bred" hang ups and look at the real nasty villains of the day, I would be happier. Want to hear some real dirty words? Cancer. How's that? Malignant sarcoma. Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Necrotizing Fasciitis. That last one is particularly vile. I once cared for a patient who spent the last three days of his life in excruciating pain dying from it.

You did this book in four sections – something like the four seasons?

Because the story spanned such a long time period, I thought that the mechanism would help change the focus a little. I could have broken The Season of the Witch into two sections and sold them as two books with larger print. I didn't do that because I wanted this portion of Erik's life to be as cohesive as possible. I’m glad the titled sections worked for you. As to the third section: Erik and Julian's relationship is the primary plot of the book and we had to have incest to get to Julian. If the child hadn't been Erik's own blood he never would have taken the measures he did to protect it. Never.

Will you please write a fourth book?

If I wrote a fourth book about Erik it would be "The Disciples of the Night". I have only a vague idea where that book would start, because I know where The Tale of the Bloodline ends. Yikes! To even begin mulling over a fourth book boggles the mind. Thanks for thinking that I am such a prolific author.

I am so amazed that you email individual fans. I really appreciate your superb talents! What a privilege it is to correspond with an author. Truly, not many authors would email phans like you do. I don't think they would make the time, let alone remember each e-mailer corresponding to them. You make us feel exceptionally special and honored. I sincerely mean every word of that. Thank you!

Please don't make too much of me emailing you. Not every reader wants a dialogue. Remember, I am just a person and I benefit, too. I will not forget those that stuck by me as I wrote these books. Being something of an isolationist helps me write about Erik, it also gives me time for emails.

How do you think of all these twists and turns? Is your mind boiling like 24/7?

No, I am not thinking plot 24/7. I sleep and do other things. Frequently a picture inspires me, sometimes music. I found a really creepy set of stairs yesterday that helped me work on a scene today. Spooky sounds are always good, and they are all around us. Writing the plot is not the's trying to get the words right to describe the plot. Why say wonderful, when the word is really wondrous? Or underwear, when it's really silken gossamer chemise? Sometimes I look at a segment of plot in progress and realize that a particular facet has not been explained well. I know why it’s there, but the circumstances that brought it there haven’t been well accounted for. Point in hand, why Victor chose to hurt his daughter, even in death, was one of those weird little quirky things I stumbled upon. Working through that in my mind brought about some nice little touches to the story.

Do you believe in the devil?

No, but I believe that what goes around comes around. We tend to reap what we sow and evil begets evil. That may sound harsh on my part, but I have seen a great deal of insidious evil in my life. I don't believe there is a physical devil. I know that the wickedness humans accomplish is real and that there are disasters Nature creates. I place responsibility for what happens on planet Earth squarely on humans or Nature. But it certainly was interesting writing about a disciple of the devil. It’s just fiction.

Do you remember all the scenes you write in detail?

To be honest, my thoughts travel elsewhere after I write a scene or finish a book. I complete the current area (often knowing I will return to it many times for a re-write) and then scurry on down the road. I retain overall plot and some particulars. If you ask a specific question, I might recall its circumstances immediately, or I may have to go back and look at the section. There's just so much that can be in my head at one time.

How can I make my characters more interesting?

You might try thinking about a person you know that has similar character traits to the individual you’re writing about. (Combinations of people are totally acceptable.) Write down four or five characteristics...then employ those characteristics into plot-action. I'll give it a try...hmm...ok I've got my most interesting male in mind, and no, it's not this fellow de Mendes, he's too reclusive.

1. extremely intelligent and observes a lot (“Yesterday, you wore the green again today. Blue streaked in arterial blood is not your favorite color?”)
2. dry sense of humor that comes up at odd moments (after someone trips over something: "Gee, I wish I could do that.")
3. loves action movies but isn't exceptionally physical himself (“You make the popcorn, I made it last time. And don't forget the butter.”)
4. kind hearted, chokes up at sad stories and over injured animals or people (no example needed, it's just plain touching to see when it happens.)
5. generous with his time (Stops to ask staff all kinds of "I'm interested in your life" type of questions.)

Did Erik love Pascale?

I don't think Erik ever got to the point of loving Pascale. He was more in awe of her and her acceptance – while it lasted. There is a dangerous side to life, and a brighter safer side. For me Erik’s bright side is the women who cared about him.

Did Sarah love her husband? How long did she stay drugged to cooperate, years? Any personal surprises as you wrote it?

Sarah was only drugged for the first three days of her that she would accept Claude not only as a friend, but as a mate. She is deeply and truly in love with two men. A phenomenon that occurs quite often in humankind...more often than we'd like to admit, even if it’s done only mentally. Unfortunately, The Season of the Witch was already a very hefty volume and since my stories are about Erik, I wrote very little about Sarah’s life with her husband. The surprise, at least for me, was when I realized how much Claude loves Michael. Claude is very much his mother's son, loyal and true. You might want to re-read the epilogue. It deals with those three more closely.

I was so upset when the gardens burned to a crisp! I wanted the flames to stop so bad that I could have grabbed a shovel and helped them.

Sorry, the charring of the grounds served a specific purpose in the plot. Anything lesser would not have involved the entire de Chagny community as a united front...and I so wanted to play around in the seance with an animal burning right outside the window. Nothing But The Dead, indeed! Bijan didn't know what he was messing with when he came into a paranormal event with Lucretia rocking at his side. He was not ready for that degree of metaphysical transference. Ha! Thanks for saying that you thought my seance scene was "wicked awesome", I worked very hard on it. That Raoul helped by supplying information was a nice twist in my opinion. Who says that "dead" means a character never shows up in the plot again?

In your mind did Erik do everything he could to help Julian?

Yes, Erik made every effort to protect and save the boy. I wanted to write a story where Erik had to react to a flesh and blood replica of himself. I created that third section deeply into Erik's character. (Real Jekyll-Hyde situation there.)

Any suggestions about story components for a fledgling writer?

Well, I certainly understand the predicament of plot and plot choices. Today I ploughed through the notes of a chapter in the third book that I decided was just plain boring. I know I have to keep the characters moving forward. I tagged the chapter with a note that in the next go-round, I will definitely spice things up. Really, it almost put me to sleep. Action, we need action! (Shouted through director's bullhorn.) I am all for letting the reader know why something is happening (and the emotions behind that why), but through action. Lets have movement tell the tale. If an area is boring add a degree of fire…or comedy.

It saddened me that the Daroga died!

I wouldn't wave goodbye to the Daroga just yet. He's very much in the third book. His relationship with Erik is one I want to look at more closely.

Is Michael’s continued attraction to Sarah the results of a spell involved with eating an eclair or genuine love?

Just before the carnival ghost-binding we learn that there is a ring in Michael’s pocket he’s wanted to give her for years. In the epilogue we learn he still stays away on trips abroad and yet is gladdened every time he returns home. Sounds like we are looking at conflicted self-sacrifice...and that is not spell or magic...that is love. However, one could argue that love is magic and I would readily concede the point. No, the spell of the powder in the éclair wore off. Real sentiments were there to carry the attraction forward. He just loves her, and she loves him. To my thinking the remarkable character is Claude...who confesses at the end how deeply he loves them both. I guess there are some who would say, "Now there's a tragedy." Seems more like a triumph of spirit on Claude’s part, albeit an unusual one.

Bravo, you put Leroux back into the story!

To my knowledge, no one has actually put Leroux back in the story as a character. He is definitely in the original novel...that's for sure. In the 1911 book he runs around assuring every Parisian who will listen that the Opera Ghost is real. It was great fun writing the fourth section of The Season of the Witch. Thanks for letting me know that my book could affect a male. Up to this point all the reviews are from females.

Did any scenes make you laugh?

When Armand takes Sarah's hand and places it strategically under the table was the first. That actually happened to someone I know...and the reaction was very much the same. Mental turmoil leading to, "Huh? What? What the...!" The second was one of my favorite scenes in the book: when the ghost throws a knife out of the pantry-closet and the flour descends like snow, bodies pile up on the floor in everyone’s effort to run away. I wish more comedic ideas would come to me. Leroux depicted Erik with quite a sense of humor and I laugh every time I read the original novel. What an experience. Also, I want to really thank you properly for thinking that my interpretation of Erik, though more humanized, is not "fluffy". I tried very hard to look at the core of the man based on what I could discern. Ultimately, every Phantom author is left to interpret Erik the way they see him. I think we should all respect that.

What do you do about mean nasty reviews?

If you want to understand why a writer would be reluctant to publish their stories, read some of the negative reviews on Amazon. They are rife with exaggerations and misrepresentations: for example complaining about the spelling of “couer” while using “phan” and “phiction” in the review. It seems that most of these people never consider encouraging others, probably because they never received any encouragement themselves. Independent publishing is a good way for an unknown author to get into print, as magically binding books is not available. Most of the negative reviewers I’ve read rigidly do not allow for any creative interpretation of Erik other than the cookie-cutter we've been handed for decades. I also think that some are trying to gain recognition for themselves by climbing on the backs of new authors. I like a lot of movies and books that the reviewers are negative about. Point in hand, The Season of the Witch just got a one-star review from someone who likes Gerry Butler's interpretation of the Phantom. She recommends that no one who enjoys Butler’s performance read my book. (I personally think he might like it, but that's just a guess based on his other works.)

As a writer, have you ever created a place, outside of Erik's world, that you find your mind returning to in times when you feel sad or alone or perhaps just really tired of everything?

Right now I only write about Erik and his world, even though I have been asked by two different emailers to consider writing about vampires. At the moment, that is not a viable option as we still have a third book to produce.

This story is so different from The Return of the Phantom. Any comments?

Different story, different issues…especially for Erik. It's not so much that I wanted to write about the fast train ride into hell that a soul can take, (or the long walk out), as much as I wanted to explore what we see in the mirror. For Erik the reflection was Julian, for Sarah it was Michael. Within the chamber of mirrors we can rise and we can fall. M'wahaha. Also, as far as I other author anywhere has ever had Leroux meet his own creation. The third book will follow a different process. All three novels are their own stories. There is no ghost in the third book, we will be dealing with other problems there. To my knowledge I only left two things hanging to be picked up in the third piece of the series.

I loved Julian as a little guy, now I hate him. He went from mischievous to progressively more violent. Why did you do this?

Some mental disorders do not surface until puberty. Don’t forget that Julian was poisoned in utero, like a mother that's doing crack cocaine; her unborn fetus is also receiving it. Also, life events he cannot control cause him anger as they pile up around him. Julian doesn't have the amazing intelligence his grandfather possesses. Besides, his character needed to evolve. Factors working against Julian and Erik helped to drive the plot.

I think Claude is just such an amazing young man. I relate to him on so many levels. I find it sweet that he waited for Sarah, that he still loved her even when her heart was yearning for another. But couldn’t he have done something else besides drug Sarah on their wedding night?

Given her astounding and persistent attraction to the morally forbidden, I think it was rather clever of Claude and Erik to use Pascale’s drug on her. It seemed to work and pave a way for a more acceptable lifestyle. There was also an unknown factor facing them: How much of her unholy affinity for Michael was driven by the ghost’s influence? You tell me.

How could you have let Erik have an affair with Pascale when he truly loves Christine?

Erik is struggling for autonomy and a sense of himself. Christine has him romping around playing the Count de Chagny every day. The groundwork for his dilemma is laid out in the prologue. Don’t blame me if Erik had an affair…he strolled out on his own. Pascale is the only woman who just simply accepted his deformity. (Erik's riches and adopted title got him further with a woman of nobility than his fame as a malformed genius hiding in the Opera House. That scene was a deliberate snicker at the snobbery of some aristocrats.)

Does Erik care about the child that Pascale de Grasse will not let him see?

Yes, very much. He places a paid spy within Pascale’s household to watch his daughter for him. If I wrote about Erik's feelings for that child and his perception of Pascale, my book would have grown exponentially (and its already a hefty volume.) The descendent of that child plays an important part in the third book: The Tale of the Bloodline. In a very twisted way, she will meet the Phantom of the Opera.

Are you condemning the Catholic Church for ignoring its long history of child abuse? Was the travesty that happened to Julian a slap in the face to priests of the Catholic religion?

There are men of all religions that abuse their power...not just those in the Catholic Church. Muslims, Jews, Christians…none have a totally innocent past, tough they would like the world to think they do. I hate the exploitation of children...that's what I was trying to say. Take your vows and practice your faith you men of the cloth! You’re setting examples that others look to.

There are some pretty raw emotions in this book. I’m shocked, but in a good way. I feel like I’ve been thrown to the mountaintops and delivered to the darkest depths. You can really tell a story, Sir. Will you say something more about Julian’s role in the tale?

In the second novel I wanted to explore Erik's reaction to an outcast child of his own flesh and blood – one that was marred irreparably. Very deep process on my part, and as you can see...Erik was quite torn over the whole process. Thank you for telling me that I can spin a story. For a new author, it means a great deal. I have tried not to shy away from difficult subject material. (At least Erik isn't henpecked or physically beaten in this book, he is himself...a person who sacrificed a great deal for the love of Christine and his children, a person of enormous class and great rage.)

When The Season of the Witch came out (“went live”), you sent an announcement to some of your fans. Would you post it here so my friends can enjoy it?

Certainly: High atop a stony mountaintop, in an ancient and decrepit castle, crashing thunder rolls above the laboratory. Through the intermittent bolts of lighting illuminating the granite walled room, Dr. Frankenstein and his faithful servant, Igor, stand frozen. Straining to look up through the silver planes of rain beating down upon them. Above them the monster, the creation, the hope of mankind's victory over death has moved and is still moving. "It's alive! It's alive!" screams Frankenstein. Quickly they tighten the tension on the rattling chains that hold the iron stretcher - ordering the apparatus to retract and lower its precious cargo toward the laboratory's floor. From beneath the sheets, still a good fifteen feet above their heads, a sodden bandaged hand appears. The fingers victoriously clutch a 6 x 9 rectangular object.

The wretched stench of burned fat and hair emanating from their patient permeates the air. Roiling their stomachs with nausea. Gently the platform comes to rest upon the surgical table. An insane and terrified Frankenstein rushes to see what object his creature grasps so firmly in its slimy wet fingers. "A first edition copy of The Season of the Witch?" Shaken to the bone from cold and disbelief, his tremulous voice queries, "What could this mean? He knows how to read?"

Like a panther on the prowl, the grisly and deformed Igor darts forward. Snatching the book from the physician's hand his gooey tongue appears. Slowly licking the new ink from off the front cover, he groans in ecstasy...then pauses. "I'll take this," he declares. Leaping backward on the slick flagstones, his hunched back shape tucks the book within the folds of his tattered green jacket. Patting the hidden object, he stammers, "I've been waiting for this. Have to keep the tome safe."

Yes, The Season of the Witch went live today and I am officially in mourning. You, however, can explore the catacombs of the website, and if you simply cannot wait for Amazon to offer it, order a copy directly from the publisher, AuthorHouse. It's so much cheaper! We will officially announce the winner of the contest as soon as I can lay my grief stricken hands on the infamous webmaster. If you would like to have your copy of book autographed, mail it to me and I'll send it right back to you. It’s been a long and arduous road, but not to worry, the plot of the third book of my trilogy is safely tucked away in my tattered green jacket. M’wahaha. I will most likely answer all your questions at night...when the spooks are out seeking vengeance.

We’re going to need a family tree for the third book! Can you give us one?

OK, I’ll stick a small one in it so you’ll know who’s who. Thanks for the idea.

Why didn’t Julian take his own revenge out on Randolph?

He is the one who kills Randolph. The Daroga (Julian’s godfather) slew the abbot.

Why does the ghost appear to only Sarah and Julian? What is the connection there? And how come he refuses to leave the property? And when he first appears to Julian he won’t speak to him, why?

Dear Troubled Soul, the ghost appears to more people than Sarah and Julian. He is seeking revenge on Erik…so he basically targets those most defenseless that Erik cares about. He is insecure about straying from the place where he died, and he doesn’t want to loose track of the Phantom. To be honest, I put no interpretation on why he didn’t initially speak to Julian. Maybe he was fascinated to see how Erik and Julian interacted with each other. He certainly made up for his silence later on.

Wouldn't Christine be furious over Pascale...because she was certainly jealous of Erik talking to the lady at the Inn?

Deep down, Christine doesn’t give two flips that Erik had that affair. She is just honored and hungry to keep the Phantom in her life. She also knows very well the sacrifice to self he made to stay with her on the estate. At one point she even wants to join him on an escapade to The Inn of the Marching Drum.

I can't believe this story, it seems like a dream. I love the color of the jacket. I was imagined a brighter orange from the website, but I love this color. It's softer. The picture of Erik is clearer and he’s so handsome with the mask. His face is clearer, like he's coming out, closer into the world. Which I think is what you wanted it to depict if I’m correctly remembering what you said about the cover. The angles around him are curved and more comforting. Softer. And I'm not sure, but are there pictures on the column to the right of Erik? Above his head to his right (a male figure), and farther up to his right (a female picture)? Am I imagining, or is this what I see? And there’s a warm, soft light to the back of Erik coming around the back of him. Did you specifically do any of these details or am I imagining more in my mind? I love it, love it, love it! I can't wait to turn the lights low and start reading!

You have my most solemn word of honor that I did not place those ghostly images on the cover. I take credit for the artwork on the jacket and the angel on the title page. The actual layout belongs to our illustrious webmaster, who is quite a talented individual.

Is the ghost Imel Grey? Was it the rum cake that had blood on it? What the ghost did boiled my blood.

Imel Grey is not the ghost, but good for you that you are already wondering who in the world he is. Yes, the rum wedding cake (the very piece that Sarah ate) had a few droplets on it. The blood was the final ingredient needed to create the rift between two worlds and let the ghost punch through to this plane.

Was the magic show illusion or was Christine rising like she did in the chapel? Is she being lifted by unseen beings? Is Erik an angel?

Erik is a man with a destiny ordained by heaven. The magic show for the wedding guests is illusion; Erik playing the part of a magician. What happens in the chapel (that Michael witnesses and reacts to) is different. There is a wonderful artist named Marc Chagall who painted people floating when they are in love or in a state of inspiration. Please take a look at some of his pieces; I believe you will like them. I wanted to write in words (using my craft) the same sentiment. When love is focused, we tend to disappear into each other, we float on a diaphanous plane. Could that not be absolutely real? To me, yes. She was no longer on the floor. She was attended by beings who must bear witness to pure undiluted love.

When is this new book going to be available?

The manuscript was sent to the publisher on July 3rd. It became available for purchase on October 14th 2008.


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The Phantom of the Opera

The Opera Ghost Returns

The Paris Opera House

The Return of the Phantom

The Season of the Witch

The Tale of the Bloodline

Etienne de Mendes

The Phantom

Christine Daae

Madame Giry

"Feast your eyes, glut your soul on my cursed ugliness!"

Gaston Leroux