“My goal is to write pulp fiction, but good pulp fiction,” says Robert Isenberg, a freelance writer based in Rhode Island. “I try to combine outrageous plots – like levitating murderers and opium-den virtual reality – with vivid historical realism. I call it ‘Dorothy Parker meets The X-Files.’”
Just in time for Halloween, Isenberg will release The Woman in the Sky, a 209-page novel in paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The book will be available October 1, 2020. The Woman in the Sky is based on Isenberg’s hit podcast series, The Adventures of Elizabeth Crowne, a fiction serial that has garnered nearly 80,000 downloads since its first episode in 2016.
“It’s like an ongoing audiobook with moody music,” says Isenberg. “It’s very simple. But it also lets me write with as much breadth and imagination as I can muster. Am I really going to write a plot about vampires in zeppelins? Absolutely. And if I do it right, the listener gets drawn in.”
At 40 years old, Isenberg has lived a picaresque life. He grew up in Vermont, worked as a freelance writer in Pittsburgh for 13 years, served as a journalist in Costa Rica for two years, and became an editor and staff writer for Providence Monthly in 2017.
In between, Isenberg created The Pittsburgh Monologue Project, wrote 17 produced plays, developed segments for public radio, directed scores of short documentaries, and authored several nonfiction books. He has taught writing workshops for several colleges, including Simmons University and URI.
“The Adventures of Elizabeth Crowne is my chance to let my hair down,” says Isenberg. “It’s pure thrill. But I think the themes speak to contemporary readers – women’s empowerment, escapism, mental health, camaraderie, and putting natural gifts to good use.”
The Book – “I’ve written the whole thing out of order,” says Isenberg. “But chronologically, The Woman in the Sky is the first book. It’s the first title you should read. It introduces Elizabeth and her world, and it demonstrates just how mind-bending these stories can get.”
In 1912, Elizabeth Crowne is the first woman to study at St. Luke’s Medical Academy in rural Massachusetts. But when a series of murders takes place at a nearby convent, her mysterious professor enlists her help. Across three linked stories, Elizabeth travels to England and Spain, where she is inducted into a secret society of paranormal investigators.
The Series – “It all started as a hobby, when I was living in Central America,” says Isenberg. “During the rainy season, the nights are long and wet, and there isn’t much to do. So I started writing for fun between deadlines. I wanted to write about a smart-alecky heroine in the 1920s, and I wanted to indulge any genre I felt like – espionage, horror, romance, whodunnit, whatever.”
In 2016, Isenberg started recording the podcast, which has won over listeners from New York to New Zealand. Two books already exist, The Mysterious Tongue of Dr. Vermilion and Ghost Bandits of Sonora, a Western inspired by the author’s two years living and working in Phoenix, Arizona.
The podcast was a finalist for a Parsec Award, which honors science fiction and fantasy podcasting. “This is really just the start,” says Isenberg. “There are so many projects on deck. But The Woman in the Sky is the place to start. If you let the book cast its spell, there’s a lot more where that came from.”
The Company – Isenberg established Airmail Media in the summer of 2020 as an umbrella company for independent publishing and multimedia pursuits. The Woman in the Sky is its pilot project.