THE SHABTI by Megaera C. Lorenz, feature
THE SHABTI by Megaera C. Lorenz, feature
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The Big Thrill Discusses THE SHABTI with Megaera C. Lorenz

Book Cover: THE SHABTICan you flimflam a ghost?

It’s 1934. Former medium Dashiel Quicke travels the country debunking spiritualism and false mediums while struggling to stay ahead of his ex-business partner and lover who wants him back at any cost. During a demonstration at a college campus, Dashiel meets Hermann Goschalk, an Egyptologist who’s convinced that he has a genuine haunted artifact on his hands. Certain there is a rational explanation for whatever is going on with Hermann’s relics, Dashiel would rather skip town, but soon finds himself falling for Hermann. He agrees to take a look after all and learns that something is haunting Hermann’s office indeed.

Faced with a real ghost Dashiel is terrified, but when the haunting takes a dangerous turn, he must use the tools of the shady trade he left behind to communicate with this otherworldly spirit before his past closes in.

Megaera C. Lorenz recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest paranormal, THE SHABTI.

Author Photo: Megaera C. Lorenz

Megaera C. Lorenz

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

I’d been playing around with various versions of this story for years, but the plot in its final form really clicked into place for me when I read The Psychic Mafia by M. Lamar Keene. That’s where I got the idea to make the protagonist a reformed phony medium.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

The protagonist, Dashiel Quicke, is loosely inspired by the real-life phony medium M. Lamar Keene, who eventually left the racket much the way Dashiel does in THE SHABTI. Keene was himself a fascinating character–clever, funny, insightful, and obviously deeply conflicted about his own past. While there’s a long tradition of spiritualist charlatans in the thriller genre (e.g., Stanton Carlisle in NIGHTMARE ALLEY), I can’t think of many who quite follow Dashiel’s trajectory.

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

I intentionally set out to write a book that combined all of my favorite elements: ancient Egypt, ghosts, 1930s America, paranormal flimflam, and a lovely romance between queer, middle-aged characters. I also created a cast of characters that I fell in love with instantly.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

Some books that were never far from my mind include Carter Beats The Devil, Spook, and of course The Psychic Mafia. Another major influence was the classic Universal monster film The Mummy (1932, with Boris Karloff in the title role). My soundtrack while writing consisted mainly of 1920s-1930s love songs, including “What Is This Thing Called Love,” “Too Many Tears,” and “Who Am I.”

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I hope they will be intrigued by the historical details in the story–not just the Egyptological elements, but the Depression-era setting and the minutiae of the mediumistic trickery. But even more than that, I hope they fall in love with the characters the way I did, since I feel that they are the real shining gems of THE SHABTI.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

Right now I’m working on a spinoff/sequel to THE SHABTI focusing on a different protagonist (one of the minor characters from the original story). It will be a more traditional ghost story in some ways, but with a twist that I’m very excited about!


Megaera Lorenz is an Egyptologist and professional tech writer/editor who is fascinated with all things odd and uncanny. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2017, she decided to pursue her lifelong interest in creative writing. She loves to craft stories that tap into her interests and expertise and combine them in strange and surprising ways. She has lived in the Chicagoland area for nearly 20 years. Currently, she resides in St. Charles, IL with her family, which includes two kids, two cats, and a hyperactive Belgian Tervuren.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.