Thursday, February 19, 2015

THE WITCH OF NAPOLI: 5 Questions for Michael Schmicker

 Please join Michael Schmicker as he tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Witch of Napoli, from February 16-March 20.

Visit Passages to the Past to enter a book giveaway! Ends 2/26/15.

The Book
Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, seductive medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra's mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. 

Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know - does the "Queen of Spirits" really have supernatural powers? Nigel Huxley is convinced she's simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England's Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. Meanwhile, the Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe. 

Praised by Kirkus Reviews as an "enchanting and graceful narrative that absorbs readers from the first page," The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter, 19th century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.

Publication Date: January 15, 2015 | Palladino Books | Formats: eBook, Paperback | Genre: Historical Fantasy
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5 Questions for Michael Schmicker
What are three things people may not know about you?

1) I refuse to try an Ouija board. All in the mind? Simply the power of suggestion?  I’m not so sure.
2) I’ve never seen a ghost, despite investigating the paranormal for over 20 years. However, members of my family have had paranormal experiences (ESP, a Near Death Experience, poltergeist phenomena).
3) My favorite Italian chocolates are Perugina "Baci" – chocolate "kisses" filled with hazelnut paste and wrapped in a multilingual love note.

What is your favorite movie based on a book, where you preferred the movie?
Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. The 1982 sci-fi film was based on a short novel written in 1968 by Philip K. Dick entitled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Don’t get me wrong – Dick is a great writer, but sometimes “one picture is worth a thousand words,” as they say. Ridley Scott’s neo-noir, cinematic  visualization of dystopian 2019 Los Angeles is creepy, scary, psychologically unsettling; the immense pathos in the face (and dialogue) the replicant Roy as he counts down the seconds of his dying  “life” takes Philip Dick’s written word  to another emotional level. If you haven’t seen it, do.

Which actress would you like to see play the heroine from your novel “The Witch of Napoli?”
Great question!  Simple answer – Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz.  My heroine Alessandra is Italian, just turned 40. She’s mature, sexy in a different way than a 20- or 30-year old woman. Those two Latin actresses fit the bill best. If you know Salma’s agent, email me! Now a confession – I originally wrote The Witch of Napoli as a 15-page film treatment (I studied documentary film at New York University and at the British Film Institute). It was inspired by the true-life story of Italian Spiritualist medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918). I fell in love with her while researching my first (non-fiction) book, “Best Evidence.” She was such a wild woman -- fiery-tempered, amorous, vulgar, confident – in a Victorian age where respectable women were insipid saints on a pedestal, stunted socially, sexually, intellectually, economically.  She allowed strange men to sit with her in a darkened room holding her hands and knees and legs (“proper” women would have fainted, or throw themselves off a precipice, if caught in that situation).  She flirted and teased her male sitters, argued loudly, slapped a Duke who insulted her country, flew at men who accused her of cheating (even when she did).   

Yet she was also extremely kind and generous to anyone in trouble, loved animals, gave to beggars. Her heart was large. She had a gift and believed in it. I thought she’d make a hell of a heroine. Besides, I like underdogs. I was convinced Eusapia’s life would make a great Hollywood movie. But agents in Los Angeles told me the treatment route was a million-to-one shot.  The way to do it was to write the novel first, then option the book.  But I didn’t want to write a novel – I’d never written fiction before. A novel is a nightmare for the amateur, and a challenge even for a pro. It requires playing with a Rubik’s cube of characters, plot, subplots, pacing, dialogue, style, emotional arc – pieces which the writer must move in a certain sequence, and at the proper moment,  to propel the tale forward, hold the fickle reader’s attention, and arrive at a successful denouement. Historical fiction raises the complexity another level. Where do you find information in the cost of a plate of pasta in 19th century Napoli?  How much history should be included?  When and where do you drop it
in? How do you share it without slowing the story and boring readers? Frankly, I was scared stiff. But I finally took the leap. Now that The Witch is up on Amazon, I’m glad I jumped; somewhat surprised I survived; and extremely appreciative of the many positive reviews it has garnered. Best of all, I’ve got my book to option to Hollywood. If I sell it, I’m saving you a ticket to the first screening. Promise!

What is your favorite quote?
From British writer George Orwell: "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”  Half way through the novel, I wrote myself into a dead end. I was pissed, tired, drained, discouraged.  My wife finally led me out of the box and put me back on track with a great suggestion – skip ahead ten chapters and return to the Gordian knot later. That broke the mental logjam and got me back on track.  But that episode made me viscerally appreciate   Orwell’s insight. I now use his quote as the footer for my Gmail correspondence.  Montana is cowboy country, so I’m sure you’ve heard Willie Nelson’s song “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”  I often paraphrase it at a party when people start asking about writing a book: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be novelists…”

What is your favorite movie, and why?
Too many to choose from, truthfully. I love movies and have seen a thousand. But the scariest film I’ve seen is The Exorcist – perhaps because I was raised a Catholic. We were taught demon possession is possible. When Linda Blair does the spider crawl down the stairs, theatergoers freaked out.  I re-watched The Exorcist before writing the demon possession scenes in The Witch of Napoli.  But I made sure to watch it in the daytime.

Meet the Author
Michael Schmicker is an investigative journalist and nationally-known writer on the paranormal. He's been a featured guest on national broadcast radio talk shows, including twice on Coast to Coast AM (560 stations in North America, with 3 million weekly listeners). He also shares his investigations through popular paranormal webcasts including Skeptiko, hosted by Alex Tsakiris; Speaking of Strange with Joshua Warren; the X-Zone, with Rob McConnell (Canada); and he even spent an hour chatting with spoon-bending celebrity Uri Geller on his program Parascience and Beyond (England). 
He is the co-author of The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People (St. Martin's Press). The Witch of Napoli is his debut novel. Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut, and worked as a freelance reporter in Southeast Asia for three years. He has also worked as a stringer for Forbes magazine, and Op-Ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal Asia. His interest in investigating the paranormal began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand where he first encountered a non-Western culture which readily accepts the reality of ghosts and spirits, reincarnation, psychics, mediums, divination,and other persistently reported phenomena unexplainable by current Science. He lives and writes in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a mountaintop overlooking Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Connect with the Author

Join The Witch of Napoli Tour!
Thursday, February 19
Review & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream
Interview at Books and Benches

Saturday, February 21
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary

Sunday, February 22
Review at Carole's Ramblings

Monday, February 23
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, February 24
Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 25
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, February 27
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Saturday, February 28
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Monday, March 2
Review at A Book Drunkard
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, March 3
Review at Unshelfish

Wednesday, March 4
Review at Carpe Librum

Thursday, March 5
Interview at Carpe Librum

Friday, March 6
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, March 9
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, March 10
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, March 11
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Thursday, March 12
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog

Tuesday, March 17
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, March 18
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, March 19
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Friday, March 20
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee 


  1. The book sounds fascinating! Congratulations, Michael, and welcome to Books & Benches!

    1. Aloha MK:
      Thanks for having me, and good luck with your own writing!