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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Characters on the Couch: Viola Carr's Lizzie and Eliza

It's often said that we authors have voices in our heads. Viola Carr has voices with their own voices. She's currently in the midst of the very clever Electric Empire steampunk series. The second, The Devious Dr. Jekyll, came out Tuesday.


Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy steampunk fantasy retelling of the horror classic—in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Dr. Henry Jekyll.

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London in blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching the Chopper will make Eliza’s career - or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father’s forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde. 

When the Royal Society sends their Enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a sorcerer, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London’s luminous magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own. 

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free …

Before I give you the cover and blurb for the second book, which I cannot wait to read, here's an interview with Viola, Eliza, and Lizzie. It made me laugh, which gives you an idea of the tone of the books. Yes, there's some dark stuff, but a lot of humor. Oh, and as you can see, she comes from a place where they add an extra vowel to "behaviour."

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Oh, dear. Where does one begin? {evil laugh}

My heroine – crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll – is witty, clever, polite and cautious. But she has a secret dual identity. Drink the magic potion, and she becomes Lizzie Hyde, her flamboyant, rude second self.

Lizzie is reckless, angry and unafraid. She carouses in seedy pubs, drinks too much gin and flirts with dangerous men. She couldn't care less what other people think of her.

Which would be all very well, if Eliza wasn't trying to carry on a respectable career in a strait-laced Victorian London obsessed with keeping up appearances. If Eliza wasn't addicted to the magic potion, over-using to the extent that Lizzie sometimes pops out of her own accord. And if magic of any kind wasn't forbidden on pain of execution.

Most inconvenient!

Understandably, Eliza doesn’t like talking about her 'problem'. Getting her into therapy won't be easy without a pretext. She's worked as a mad-doctor in lunatic asylums. So you might get her in your office with the promise of showing her some cool new treatment for mental illness. As for treating her own issues… well, she'd decline with a sharp smile and a witticism, and walk away.

Lizzie thinks it's Eliza who's the problem. Offer her a way to get rid of Eliza, and she'd at least listen. If you suggest to her she's a sickness who needs to be cured? She'll likely punch you in the face.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Yes to both! External, because changing shape at whim is very inconvenient when magic is a capital offense. Spies are everywhere. She's sure to get caught.

And internal, because despite the trouble Lizzie causes, deep in her heart Eliza secretly wants to be Lizzie. To say and do exactly what she thinks, to take what she wants with no regard for the consequences.

Lizzie, too, wants her own life. She's sick of being stuck inside Eliza all the time. She wants out.

Not to mention the romantic conflict. What if they're interested in different men? Worse: what if it's the same man?

Most of the time, they'd each happily strangle the other… but they love each other, too. The way we all secretly love the darkest, strangest part of our own heart. Because, well, it's our heart.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Eliza sits quietly, smooths her inoffensive gray skirts, folds her hands in her lap. She listens to what you've got to say before she opens her mouth to demolish you with her cutting wit, so she won't have to face the problem.

Lizzie – assuming you got her in there at all – slouches about, grumbling and poking at your stuff and wondering where the gin is.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Lizzie: {flops on couch in a flounce of scarlet skirts} Well? Don't just sit there gaping like a stunned sardine. Get on with it. All this head-shrinking malarkey is cutting into my drinking time.

Therapist: I'd like you to talk to me about the effect your behaviour is having on your host.
CD note: Viola made it easy on me and filled in the therapist questions.
Lizzie: {snorts} My behaviour? All my fault, is it? What about her? She never wants to have any fun! Always yammering in my ear with 'do this', 'don't do that', 'keep your voice down', 'ooh, Lizzie, don't flirt, whatever are you up to with that sly-fingered gent?'

Therapist: So you’re hearing her voice?  She gives you instructions?

Lizzie: Invading my privacy, that's what it is. Right distracting it is, too, having prim and prissy Dr. Eliza chirping in my ear when I'm getting down to most private business. Never a moment's peace!

Therapist: And how does that make you feel?
CD: Hahahahaha!

Lizzie: Like I want to punch her in the nose? I'm only doing what she'd do if she had the guts. At least Miss Lizzie knows how to have a good time. I'm a prisoner, that's what I am. I'm the victim here. She's the one with a stick shoved up her snooty behind.

Therapist: I'm sensing some hostility…

Lizzie: Right. She's the one what hates me. I'm just trying to get along. Are we done here?

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Lizzie orders gin. Flirts with the bartender. More gin. Flirts with the bloke next to her until he pays for more gin. Has deep conversation about how she, Lizzie, is just fine the way she is, thanks very much, and Eliza is the one who ought to get some frickin' therapy. More gin, laced with laudanum. Everything goes black. Eliza wakes up next morning sprawled on the pub floor, wondering what the hell happened, where her stockings are and why her skirt has blood on it.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

I definitely do a lot of work on backstory. What are the pivotal events that made this character the way she is? What are the core beliefs that guide her decisions? And what are her limits – what would those core beliefs never allow her to say or do?

Often the characters don't consciously know what these things are. One of Eliza's core values is justice – she's driven to solve crimes and get justice for murder victims, particularly murdered women. But at the start of the series, she doesn't really know why - not until she uncovers some mysteries from her childhood does she come to understand.

Thanks for hosting me on your blog today – it was lots of fun!

And thank you for coming by! You gave great answers. I mean, Lizzie did. 

My review of The Diabolical Miss Hyde:

I picked up a copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde at the Avon Party at the Romantic Times Convention because it was the only obvious steampunk there. I started reading it that night and got sucked in, but then life got in the way. I picked it back up last night, and can we say book hangover? I was up way too late finishing it.

Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of that Doctor Jekyll, and she's a forensic medical specialist, although that's not what she's called. She also has a secret. Like her father, she has a literal dark side who comes out, Lizzie Hyde, and does all sorts of naughty things.

One of the things that really worked about this book that I never would have expected was that Eliza's parts are in third person while Lizzie's are in first. It gives the reader a good sense of Lizzie's frenetic immediateness, especially since she only gets to come out every so often. It also works for the transitions later in the book so you know exactly whose POV we're getting.

Also intriguing is Captain Remy LaFayette, who is part of the Royal Service whose mission is to squash the practice of magic, but who is dealing with his own curse. I won't spoil what it is, but I found it all intriguing. Lizzie is attracted to this captain with a dark side, but he's got the hots for Eliza, and wow, that's going to be a complicated love triangle, especially since Eliza is attracted to a bad boy of her own.

I really really hope this is the first in a series because I can't wait to get back to this complex world and these fascinating characters. (And I'm so glad it is!)


A perilous case. A worthy foe. This could make her career ... or ruin it forever.

Solving the notorious Chopper case was supposed to help crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll—daughter of the infamous Henry—establish her fledgling career in the chauvinistic world of Victorian law enforcement. But the scrutiny that comes with her newfound fame is unwelcome for a woman with a diabolical secret: her dark and jealous shadow self, Lizzie Hyde. And there is the mercurial Royal Society agent with his own secret to hide, Captain Remy Lafayette. Does he want to marry Eliza or burn her at the stake? It’s impossible, however, for Eliza to push Remy away when he tempts her with the one thing she can’t resist: a bizarre crime to investigate. And although Eliza is uncertain about Remy, Lizzie isn’t. Lizzie wants to steal the magnetic and persistent agent and usurp Eliza’s life. 

As the search for a bloodthirsty ritual torturer dubbed the Pentacle Killer draws Eliza and Remy into a terrifying world of spies, art thieves, and evil alchemy—where the price of immortality is madness or damnation—only Lizzie’s dark ingenuity can help Eliza survive. Eliza and Remy must race to thwart a foul conspiracy involving the sorcerous French, but they must also overcome a sinister enemy who is all too close to home: the vengeful Lizzie, who is determined to dispose of Eliza for good.


Viola Carr was born in a strange and distant land, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

If you could be your evil twin for one night, what would you do? Comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde.


  1. Your books sound so intriguing!!

  2. If you could be your evil twin for one night, what would you do? Comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde.

    I would love for my evil twin to go into a book world and live for the night, maybe the Blackdagger Brotherhood books or Eternal Guardians books

  3. I would go out and raid a bookstore lol

  4. Oooh the possibilities!!! Gallivanting around and then relaxing with a good book.

    1. I agree that relaxation is a must after some good gallivanting - great word! Thanks for the comment!