Jonathan Skariton was born in Athens, Greece, and attended the University of Edinburgh and the University of Wales, Bangor.
He has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology. Skariton works as a cognitive neuroscientist for the largest fragrance manufacturer in the world. He lives in Kent, England.
(Photogragh by Michael Lionstar)
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE BOOK FOR US?
Ask the average person who invented the movies and you will probably hear it was Thomas Edison, or the Lumiére brothers. Most countries have their own version of who it was who invented film.
Most of them are wrong.
The first person to record and project moving pictures was a French man working in the United Kingdom. His name was Augustin Sekuler and his work precedes any other inventor by at least seven years. On the way to a planned public demonstration of his invention, where he would showcase his creation to the world, he boarded a train headed to Paris in September, 1890. The train arrived in Paris; the inventor was not on it.
He was never seen again, alive or dead.
Not a trace of him or his belongings has been retrieved, nor has his disappearance been explained. All that remain are a few strips of film and his cameras, which, more than a century later, still work. This has been well documented in film history books. As to what happened to the inventor: That is a mystery worthy of a novel.
My novel uses these events -based on Louis Le Prince, the real-life Sekuler- as background to tell the story of the search for the famously lost first film ever made.
The main character, Alex Whitman, is a movie memorabilia dealer-extraordinaire; he can find anything, apart from his own daughter, who was snatched in a park ten years ago. Now Whitman is hired by an eccentric film collector to track down a lost film called Séance Infernale. Its creator, Augustin Sekuler, disappeared from a train in 1890, days before he could present the world with his greatest invention: the moving pictures.
When Whitman tracks down what might be fragments of Sekuler's lost film, questions are raised-- about Sekuler, about what happened to him and to his invention, and about the film itself, which contains the inventor’s secrets. Amidst a shocking series of crimes terrorizing the city it will lead
Whitman to a darker, far more dangerous mystery.
HOW DID YOU COME TO WRITE THE BOOK?
I always wanted to write a story about film. Love of books and love of reading are well represented in literature; love of film not so much. These days the activity of watching a film is more closely associated with pop-corn than redemption.
Séance Infernale is about this idea that film is an intimate ritual, a mirror that only offers us sight of what we already carry inside and that when we participate in this experience we do it with our very soul.
I started with the main character. I knew this man was searching for a film. He was a talented man, a "legionnaire" of the film world, the kind of person you want on your side if you're after rare films or memorabilia. I also knew this man's search was connected to something in his past.
Everything after that took shape from staring at that outline on the screen and wringing out ideas.
During my research I came across French inventor, Louis Le Prince, a figure I drew from for Sekuler's character. I came to realise I was looking at the bare bones of a story as old as storytelling itself.
The biggest mystery in the history of movies involved a train, a disappearance, a grieving family, and patent wars. It clicked.
So this is a book for people who love mysteries, movies, film. Also, it is a book about the city of Edinburgh, which is a particularly strange city. I started writing this book to try and make sense of it and its dual nature: Edinburgh is beautiful and macabre. It is no surprise that the writer of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was born there. The main character in Séance Infernale witnesses this nature time and again as he is captivated by the city's beauty but also haunted by its secrets...
ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
Write about something you know and something you’d like to read. Set a goal each day for your writing and work towards it. Wake up every morning and treat it like a job. The routine will then become the important bit.
Rewrite like there is no tomorrow. Don’t fall in love with your words; they will perish sooner or later.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING YOUR READERS COME AWAY WITH AFTER READING YOUR BOOK?
I want them to come away with an imprint of one or more of the characters I wrote about. I want them to carry their stories, follow them and ponder the decisions that they make; I hope they might be challenged by mystery aspects, excited by the suspense and the thrills and I am hoping that their hearts might be touched by it; also, learn about and recognize the beauty of all things film and the haunting beauty of the city of Edinburgh. Overall, I hope the book stays with them for a long time.