A Chat with Erik and Meg from Cheryl Mahoney’s Nocturne (The Guardian of the Opera, Book One)

Welcome to Novel PASTimes. Please tell us a little about yourselves as an introduction.

Meg: I’m so happy to be here talking with you!  My name’s Meg Giry, and I live in Paris with my mother.  We came to Paris six years ago when I was twelve. The city was confusing at first, but I love it now.  I’m a dancer in the corps de ballet at the Opera Garnier.

Erik: I don’t like talking to strangers.  Or anyone, actually.  So I’m not that happy about being here, but…I don’t know, sometimes I think maybe I need people.  Mostly, though, I’m certain they’re not going to be friendly to a man in a mask.  This may be why I live alone under an opera house and make people believe I’m a phantom.  Maybe that’s why.  I’m admitting nothing.

I’m hearing a connection with the opera house.  How do you two know each other?

Meg: We don’t, actually—not yet, at least, but I keep hoping we will.  We met once by chance when I first arrived at the Opera Garnier, and he was kinder than all the spooky stories about the Phantom of the Opera claimed.  I haven’t believed those stories ever since, and I’ve been looking out for a chance to bump into him again.

Erik: I don’t exactly remember meeting, but if she says so, I guess it’s true.  Mostly I just know she’s the daughter of my boxkeeper, Madame Giry.

Meg: Oh, we have a mutual friend too!  Christine Daaé is my closest friend, and lately she’s claimed an Angel of Music is teaching her to sing.  I’m fairly sure I know who’s behind that.

Erik: I’m still admitting nothing.

You both seem to be involved with the arts.  Meg, you mentioned the ballet, and that your friend is a singer. Erik, are you a singer?

Erik: I sing, yes.  Not for anyone to hear but yes, I can sing.  I identify more as a composer, possibly the greatest there’s ever been.

You think well of yourself.

Erik: I really don’t.

So what other interests do you each have?

Meg: I love the ballet, but it’s not my only focus in life, like many of the women I dance with.  I’m so interested in everything else going on at the Opera Garnier – the singing, the productions, and everything happening in the lives of the people there.  I also like exploring Paris, walking by the Seine or attending Easter mass at Notre Dame Cathedral.  I’d love to be able to travel and visit more of the world, but that’s not easy to do in the 1880s!

Erik: I never leave the Opera.  Almost never.  Sometimes I have to buy food, but then I go out in the twilight when there are plenty of shadows.  Haunting the opera house keeps me very busy anyway: spreading frightening stories, giving advice on the productions, dripping fake blood down the walls.  I spend much of my time composing music too. Sometimes I enjoy a good book; two of my favorites are The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein. It’s possible I identify too closely with certain characters in those books.

Are there things you’d like to change in your lives?

Erik: Most things.  But I doubt very much that’s possible.  I have my music and my opera house and that should be enough.  If I’m tangled up with Christine Daaé—and I’m still not confirming whether I am—I’m sure it can only end badly.

Meg: I’d like people to stop thinking of me as just my mother’s daughter or Christine’s friend.  I want to have a role that matters in something important.  I want to be the heroine of my own life, because I often don’t feel that way.

Erik: I’d like to stop feeling like the villain in my life.

I hope the story will bring you each what you’re looking for.  Thanks so much for sharing with us!

Cheryl Mahoney lives in California and dreams of other worlds. She is the author of the Guardian of the Opera trilogy, exploring the Phantom of the Opera story from a new perspective.  The first book, Nocturne, was published June 5, 2020, and can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.  Cheryl also wrote the Beyond the Tales quartet, retelling familiar fairy tales, but subverting expectations with new twists to the tales. She loves exploring new worlds in the past, the future or fairyland, and builds her stories around characters finding their way through those worlds – especially characters overlooked or underestimated by the people around them.  Cheryl has been blogging since 2010 at Tales of the Marvelous (http://marveloustales.com).

Interview with Victoria from Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

Victoria, thank you for sitting down to this interview.  Since you are in constant danger, I promise I will not publish this until after the war. I hope we can meet up again if you survive the war. It is very brave of you and your four counterparts to be willing to be sent by the OSS into Nazi occupied Paris. Dragonfly is an interesting code name for the group since they are almost impossible to snare and have no blind spots with the ability to escape.Collectively each of you are smart, capable, innovative, honest, resourceful, and of course you are all loyal patriots.

Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?

Victoria Grayson: “Put-offing” because of my natural reserve and the assumption that outwardly beautiful people of wealth and education are unapproachable.  To my great regret, I do not possess the nature by which to convince them otherwise. 

EC: Why the code name Liverwort?

VG: It’s a plant that people do not give just due because of its ugliness. It is similar to how beautiful people are often denied appreciation for their inner qualities because of being blinded by outward appearances.

EC: Do you consider yourself a non-conformist?

VG: No. I would consider myself a traditionalist.

EC: Why did you take up the hobby of fencing?

VG: Because of a natural skill and my attraction to the grace, discipline, and civility of the sport.

EC: Did you ever think your beauty can be used to your advantage?

VG: Of course! 

EC: Did you ever truly love someone?

VG: Ralph DuPont, my fiancé who was MIA, with all my heart.

EC: Besides wanting to find your fiancé was there another reason you joined the OSS?

VG: I wouldn’t have gone to France had it not been for my fiancé, so I doubt that I would have joined the OSS.  I would have sought another way to serve my country to do my part as my fiancé and brother were doing theirs. 

EC: Do you think good people can be caught up doing bad things?

VG: Yes.  I’d like to think that the Nazi SS Colonel Albrecht was essentially a good man misled beyond escape by a corrupt leader he believed in.  Lots of people make bad choices for what they believe to be the right reasons, but eventually, we pay for those mistakes.  

EC: Do you think Colonel Derrick Albrecht was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

VG: Oh no, because Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had dual personalities resulting from some erratic brain disorder.  Colonel Albrecht was a rational man in control of his thoughts and actions.  His deeds were deliberate and calculated, not generated by dysfunctional urges.

EC: What happened in your youth?-Has it influenced you?

VG: I had a perfect childhood, not only because it was one of great privilege but because I was loved by my family.  There was, however, the “Grayson code” that my brother and I were expected to live up to, a set of principles.  We were to live with the honor and courage set forth by our ancestors.  Sometimes that type of set rules results in a rigid exterior which perhaps explains mine.

EC: What did you learn about the French culture?

VG: That is a difficult question to answer since I was only in Paris, at a time when the pleasures, gaiety, and delight thought of as part of French culture had been snuffed by the German occupation.  The French could not “be themselves.”  Their city has become dark. 

EC: Of your other four co-patriots who did you feel closest to?

VG: Well, of course, being a woman, I was closest to Bridgette who became the sister I never had. I adored her.  But the boys . . . such fine men.  Who could not love them, treasure their goodness and kindness, enjoy their humor and fun-loving natures.  As we came to know one another, I was protective of them as if they were my siblings. 

EC: If you could make a wish what would it be?

VG: That the world would learn to live in peace, that the money to wage war and outfit armies would be converted to feed the hungry, care for the sick and elderly and poor, provide shelter for the homeless, and educate people to love thy neighbor.  Think what a wonderful world that would be.

EC: Do you still have hopes and dreams or do you consider yourself a cynic?

VG: I certainly do not consider myself a cynic.  Cynics are people who are ungrateful for the blessings they have, especially the blessing of living in the United States.  Living in Paris and seeing what I have seen, has made me grateful that I am an American.

THANK YOU!!

Photo: Marie Langmore_Langmore Photography.

Leila Meacham is a writer and former teacher who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of the bestselling novels Roses, Tumbleweeds, Somerset, and Titans.  She started her writing career in her 60s, publishing her bestseller “Roses” at 70.