I’m so excited to do this exclusive author interview with Constance Sayers! I have to say I read The Ladies of the Secret Circus in two days and LOVED IT. Constance Sayers has a way to mix fantasy with historical in such a way that I’m hooked with her writing. It is why I am beyond excited to welcome her to HeyitsCarlyRae!
Tell us more about The Ladies of the Secret Circus.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus follows Lara Barnes on her quest to find answers when her fiancé doesn’t show up for their wedding. When her mother doesn’t seem shocked about his disappearance, Lara begins to suspect there is some hidden secret in the family. By chance, Lara takes a painting of her great-grandmother, who was an aerialist in Paris, to a framer and learns that it could be one of three lost paintings around a mysterious circus known as The Secret Circus or The Devil’s Circus. Does her family have ties to this mysterious circus? Could her family’s legacy be the reason for her fiancé’s disappearance?
Are the characters of Cecile and Lara based on real people?
No, they are entirely made up. I have a sister who is my first reader (and my best friend), and we’re very close, so I think the sister relationship is very complex. In a weird way, I think my good relationship with my own sister helped me outline one that was fraught.
Was there really a ‘Secret Circus’? Did you do a lot of research to craft the world readers meet in The Ladies of the Secret Circus?
The Secret Circus is entirely fictional, but it does have quite a few historical inspirations. Circuses in Paris were different than the carnival-like circus experiences we had in the US. In France, the circus was a serious cultural event like the opera. It was often (and some still are) housed in permanent buildings. In the 1920s, the most popular was Cirque Medrano, located in Montmartre.
Before that, Cirque Medrano had been called Cirque Fernando, and you’ll find that Toulouse-Lautrec has several paintings of Cirque Fernando. Those were the inspiration for Emile Giroux’s fictional work in the book. There was also Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol that was housed in an old chapel in the Pigalle district. That show ran from 1897 into the 1960s. It featured darker acts that were so brutal people often got physically sick watching them. Also, the entrance to The Secret Circus was based on Cabaret de l’Enfer (often called The Cabaret of Hell) that was located in Montmartre.
I first came across these circuses and theaters while doing research for A Witch in Time and put them in the background while I was completing my first book. The visual images of them were so powerful, though that I began to form the story of Cecile and Esme and knew it had to be the second book. The subject definitely called to me.
Did you have a favorite part of crafting The Ladies of the Secret Circus?
Writing Althacazur was just a hoot. There was a smile on my face every time he was on the page, as you can tell from The New Demonpedia.com, which was so fun to write. He first makes an appearance in A Witch in Time as the demon that Juliet’s mother summons for the curse against Auguste Marchant. He’s funny and decadent, yet there is a calculating nasty side of him that reveals itself. I should add that I see him as a romantic Byronic figure. My version of Hell has a real Victorian flair to it.
Was it difficult crafting a story that took place in 1925 AND 2005?
No. I love historical fiction, and that is the way I tend to structure all of my books in this fashion. I’ve become familiar with the process and really enjoy taking historical details and then taking the leap to create a fully fleshed-out world around them. I’d say the hardest part of writing this book was crafting Cecile’s journals.
It was less about historical research and accuracy and more about writing in a journal style. As a writer, you can’t just directly mimic a journal. Diaries can fall flat, so, instead, you have to write a memoir of sorts that has detail and enough voice that the reader falls in love with the story and forgets that they’re essentially just reading a chapter in first-person.
Before I let you go, tell us, are you writing more books?
I am working on a third, stand-alone novel set on a film set in the Loire Valley in 1967. Something goes terribly wrong on the set, and the actress is transported into her film—an 1897 horror film (think a French Dark Shadows). It’s got a modern timeline as well and lots of romance. Beyond that, I’m open to revisiting both A Witch in Time and The Ladies of the Secret Circus. I think there is much more to tell with those two books!
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Be sure to comment below too and let me know what you think of today’s exclusive Author Interview with Constance Sayers! Thank you so much for joining me in reading today’s exclusive interview! Have you read The Ladies of the Secret Circus?