Welcome! Today I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for House of Ashes by Loretta Marion. I’ll have an interview with the author for you underneath the general book information. I hope you enjoy!
About the Book
House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery
1st in Series
Crooked Lane Books (November 13, 2018)
Hardcover, 336 pages
Digital Details Coming Soon
Purchase Links: Amazon – B&N
A family patriarch’s dying proclamation, an enigmatic disappearance, and a century-old curse converge in the shadows of a majestic home on Cape Cod’s craggy coast.
Thirty-seven-year-old painter Cassandra Mitchell is fourth-generation to live in the majestic Battersea Bluffs, a brooding Queen Anne home originally built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, and still standing despite tragedies that have swept the generations. Local lore has it that there was a curse placed on the family and the house is haunted, though opinions are divided on whether it’s by malicious or benevolent spirits. Cassie believes the latter―but now she stands to lose her beloved home to mounting debt and the machinations of her dream-weaving ex-husband.
Salvation seems to arrive when a nomadic young couple wanders onto the property with the promise of companionship and much-needed help―until they vanish without a trace, leaving behind no clue to their identities. Cassie is devastated, but determined to discover what’s happened to the young couple…even as digging into their disappearance starts to uncover family secrets of her own. Despite warnings from her childhood friend, now the local Chief of Police―as well as an FBI agent who pushes the boundaries of professionalism―Cassie can’t help following the trail of clues (and eerie signals from the old house itself) to unravel the mystery. But can she do so before her family’s dark curse destroys everything in its path?
Interview with Loretta Marion
First of all, a huge “Thank you” to Loretta Marion for being willing to answer my questions!
Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: Writing is my current day job – and often times, nights and weekends too! My career background before I started writing straddled nutrition and marketing. Having an education in nutrition held personal benefits as well as satisfying my need to help others. Marketing opened up a whole new world for me, but I didn’t love business travel. Interestingly enough, it was always the writing aspects of my jobs that I enjoyed the most.
Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: I try to write every day, but not necessarily in the same time slot. Having a large chunk of time set aside for my writing works best for me. I do not have a daily writing goal, though I do set objective time-lines to help meet deadlines.
I prefer either quiet nature sounds (birds chirping, wind rustling leaves, ocean waves, falling rain) or classical music when I write. Noise does affect my ability to concentrate and that includes music with lyrics.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: I do need to start with an outline to have an idea of where I’m headed and to get the story I want to tell in some sort of order. But usually, the book I end up writing, is much different from the book I started out writing — and much better I hope! I think it’s important to be open to new thoughts and ideas that come to mind. It helps the story evolve.
As for the characters hijacking the story? It’s a great question and it gave me pause to consider. A lesser character might grow in importance, but I don’t recall ever having the sense of losing control of the story to a character. When I create my outline, I also develop bios for the characters to keep a clear picture of them and their motivations in my mind. But as the writing progresses, these aspects often change as well. Then I need to reimagine them.
Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: There’s a long story here, but I’ll try to be brief.
I didn’t know I wanted to write a book until I was a hospice volunteer and as part of the training had to write my own obituary. It was both daunting and eye-opening. But through that exercise I discovered a buried desire to write a novel. And thus, I set out upon a journey for which I had no idea of the destination.
The first book I wrote received many rejections from agents, and with each rejection I continued to revise and edit. Finally, I had a manuscript that caught the attention of an agent who has been steadfast through the years. Our paths crossed just when I was ready to throw in that proverbial towel.
That first book did not get picked up, nor did the second one I wrote. But I loved writing, so I persisted while taking courses and attending conferences to hone the craft. I wrote two more books, and while my agent represented one, I decided to take the other out independently to see how my writing would be received. It was quite a learning experience and a tremendous amount of hard work. This brought me to another crossroads. About a year ago I found myself uncertain about independently publishing another book. Good fortune and timing were with me, because at that turning point my agent called with the great news of a publisher’s interest in my book.
Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: Countless revisions. Honestly, I can’t quantify it. I do have beta readers and a critique partner, and I find their input invaluable. My agent is also a wonderful resource. Plus, I have a fabulous editor.
I find it very helpful to allow some time and space between edits, but sometimes deadlines don’t allow for that luxury.
Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: Creating a devious or disturbed character requires building a foundation for a persona that is unlike the writer, and that requires research to accomplish. I pay close attention to the traits of bad-guy or bad-girl characters I’ve read in literature or observed on the screen in television and film. There are real-life evil people to draw from as well. I also try to imagine what characteristics would most frighten or disturb me if I were facing the villain I might be writing.
It’s an interesting experience to slip into the skin of a character that is nothing like me, to live vicariously through them for a while, acting in ways and saying things I wouldn’t dare in real life.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: My characters are mostly fictional with the occasional wink and a nod to someone in my life. If they have an awesome trait, quirk or even a great line I can borrow, why not?
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan. Though I’ve never written a biography, I’d find these two women to be fascinating subjects, especially in light of the current political environment in our country.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Marion’s Answer:
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
The Lost Girls by Heather Young
I try to read or reread the classics and recently revisited Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: I read Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage at a life and career crossroads. I was seeking change but lacked the courage. I found the book’s themes to be influential and life-altering in that it inspired me to take those tentative steps toward a transformation.
In high school it was Black Like Me that influenced me more than any other book. Though the book was published in 1961 and I read it in the 1970s, it opened my eyes to prejudices I was blind to in my sheltered, small-town midwestern world. I can’t recall if this was required reading or a book of my own choosing. Regardless, it made a lasting impression on me and how I viewed the world.
Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG-13 please)
Ms. Marion’s Answer: It would be police chief Brooks Kincaid because I have such a crush on him. I’d like to sit with him on his deck that overlooks Whale Rock Harbor and find out more about him, maybe play a game of backgammon, sip some wine. I’m happily married so that would be enough for me.
Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Ms. Marion’s Answer: I’m glad you asked this question.
I do read all my reviews. Being a good writer has always been more important to me than being published. My desire has been to write stories that entertain and bring pleasure to others. I think a writer must always be learning and striving to be better, so certainly, I pay attention to what people say about my writing.
While I don’t expect everyone to like my books or react positively to my writing, I do feel that reviewers have an obligation to be respectful. Although it’s hurtful to read a bad critique, I always listen to thoughtful, constructive criticism delivered in a respectful way, even from someone who didn’t like my book. However, if the review is gratuitously mean spirited, I try not to give it much credence. I don’t respond to these negative reviews. Instead I visit the Goodreads page of some of my favorite authors where I’m able to see that even the best of the best rarely sail through unscathed. It’s good therapy to understand that few books appeal across the entire spectrum of readers.
Thank you again to Loretta Marion for being willing to answer my questions! Thank you also to you, my readers, for stopping by! If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below to be taken to the main tour page. There you will find a list of tour participants!