Tag Archives: gothic novels

Exclusive Creepy Excerpt of Teaser Chapter from Melika Lux’s Corcitura: a gothic vampire read!

Today, I have an EXCLUSIVE teaser chapter that accompanies Melika Dannese Lux’s gothic vampire novel, Corcitura, which we discussed HERE yesterday! It was interesting to learn about her inspiration for the book!

In this chapter, with some strategic editing as to not give any plot points away, she writes Madelaine’s POV in first person present tense, the first time she admits she has ever done so!  Melika stated, “Maddie’s narrative is also the only one to use this tense, which I think sets her apart from the guys’ narratives that book end hers.”

Have a go at reading this amazingly creepy read! If you like it, head down for the information on Corcitura and order in time for Halloween reading. It’s a historically gothic vampire read that is unique and cunning.

Final Corcitura Cover 9-29-12

Melika is also graciously giving away an e-copy of Corcitura to one winner and you have a week to sign-up! Just use the Rafflecopter link below to enter to win!  Ends Sunday, Oct. 26, 2013.

RAFFLECOPTER LINK~

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/OTg4YjQzMDA1MjEzZWRlNTcyNmZkNjQyMzFkYjE2OjM=/

With further ado, here is the exclusive extra chapter, enjoy and share! And we love comments!

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Belododia’s Belfry

My husband is gone. I cannot find him anywhere. When I went to sleep last night, he was by my side, but now, as the first rays of dawn break through the window, I know for certain he is gone. His side of the bed is cold—as cold as if he has not slept there at all. The door is bolted. There is no trace of him.

I have ransacked this room, torn it apart, and still it is as if he never set foot here, never even existed. I feel a heaviness in my limbs this morning, though I suppose it could just be the baby within me. When I look in the cup from which I drank my tea last night, I notice a residue, a filmy white liquid on the bottom. I dip in my finger and put it to my lips, tasting something sickly sweet.

I know I have been drugged.

I must go out into this desolate house; I must leave the safety of this chamber that begins to feel more and more like a tomb. I must find answers. Yet I am afraid, terrified even, of what will happen if the master of this place finds me alone. I have a mission; I know that, now that my husband is gone. My heart aches to admit it. I pray he is still alive, but if he is alive in a different form, will he still be the man I love? Can he even love in that state? I cannot think of these things now or I will go mad.

The only one I can count on is myself. I do not trust Stefan’s so-called wife nor that son of hers who bears an uncanny resemblance to my husband. And though it pains me to admit it, I cannot trust Luc, least of all Luc, though he swears he will be able to bring Zigmund back.

I walk toward the door and reach for the handle. I breathe in deeply, steeling myself. Father did not raise a coward. Mother would not allow me to fear the dark. How could I fear the dark when I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life? I’ve always been drawn to things that make other women scream.

I press down on the handle and step out into the corridor. I don’t know what I am expecting to see, maybe a bevy of vampires rushing down the hallway, but there is nothing. Darkness, silence—the corridor is empty.

I am nearly at the bottom of the steps when something calls to me. I know it is not his voice. Eric said only those who were marked can hear him in their minds. Still, whose voice could it be?

The voice draws me back up the staircase, leading me on, its soft, wordless timbre guiding me toward I don’t know what. Finally, it ceases. I feel somehow bereft, even more alone without it, until I see where it has led me.

I am standing before the door leading up to the turret above our room. I noticed the turret the night we first arrived. How could I not? There is something dark about it, something mysterious, something unknown that frightens me. I have tried to convince myself I did not see a figure flitting up there that first night, but I cannot deny what I saw. Was it Leonora? Or something else? I have never ventured there on my own, but now I have no choice. The pull is too insistent.

I push open the door and once more the voice starts to call. I cannot make out what it says. All I know is that I must go to it, must answer its summons.

The steps are narrow and made of stones so ancient I am afraid they will crumble if I put too much weight on them. There is no light in here, no air. I feel choked and am thankful when I finally emerge onto the balcony. Tendrils of morning fog wisp through the railing, which is decaying, I notice with alarm. I dare not go near it. One false move and over I will go, which I’m sure will make the master of the house very pleased, since he has me marked for death already.

“Such a fine morning, my dear, is it not?”

I have tried my hardest to avoid him, yet he has found me regardless of my efforts. That voice was his, I am sure of it now, so why am I still hearing it if its owner is in my presence?

The breath catches in my throat as I look into his eyes. His dark-rimmed pupils are larger than I remember, the rest of his eyes so colorless as to be nearly white.

“It’s a bit chilly,” I say. He seems amused by this. His eyes crinkle at the edges and he buttons his coat, though I know it is just an act for my benefit. He has no pulse. How could he be cold?

“You know much, my dear, but what do you really know about vampires?”

His question startles me. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from betraying my fears to this creature. “Naught but what I’ve read in Polidori and Le Fanu,” I answer. I remember the ashes of Carmilla and the terror in Eric’s eyes when he saw me holding the book. All I know of vampires, I have learned from a handful of novels, but what good does fiction do me when I have a damned soul staring me in the face?

“Ah, yes, but those are fairy tales,” he says, waving his hand dismissively. “Pure fantasy.” He pauses near a waterspout carved into a devil’s head. It is meant to portray a gargoyle, but I have never seen one so ugly and diabolical-looking, even by grotesque standards. I shiver, but not because I am cold.

“What do you know about…real vampires?”

“Not enough to kill them.” The boldness of my words surprises me, but he does not flinch. “What have you done with my husband?” I have spoken before I can stop myself, but then I realize I don’t want to stop myself. Something has changed in the air between us. I’m no longer as afraid as I was.

“I haven’t the faintest idea. Was he not with you this morning? I should think you would know his whereabouts better than me. Or is there already strain in your too-brief marriage? Does he not want a child so soon?”

“Of course he wants…” I cut off the words, biting my tongue in the process. His eyes are gleaming, his lips parted in anticipation. He is staring at me as though he wants to devour me…me and the child he already knows I carry. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Belododia…”

“Stefan.” The name slithers off his tongue.

Stefan,” I say with effort. “I expected Eric to be with you at the bedside of Greydanus. I must say the boy is doing remarkably well, considering that he was supposedly at death’s door, hence our presence here.”

“Ah, yes, my son…”

“Your son, who shares so many characteristics with my husband.”

The words make me sick to say. I fear them too much, fear the implications, though Eric claimed he’d never known Leonora in that way.

I feel as though my words have erected a barrier between us—more of a barrier than there already was. He reaches out and brushes the leaves off the railing. I see his shoulders tense, his whole body becoming rigid. I take a step toward the railing and stare down at what he’s looking at so intently.

A small, brownish-grey wolf prances about the frozen pond. Something about that wolf strikes me as familiar. I lean against the railing, causing bits of gravel to slip through the spindles. The wolf must have exceptional hearing. That small sound has alerted him to our presence.

The wolf ceases his wild gamboling and stares up at us. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else. The wolf’s eyes are so radiant, glowing almost, yet black as night. Idiotically, I reach out my hand as if I could stroke the wolf’s fur from such a great distance. I stare dumbly at the wolf, until I am jerked back to reality by the feel of a vise closing around my wrist. I cry out as I look down at my arm.

Stefan’s ice-cold hand encircles my wrist, crushing it. “Do not be attracted to things you don’t understand,” he hisses. Is he talking of himself? I can soundly disabuse him of this notion in a matter of seconds. I am not attracted to him, though I do not understand him any more than that wolf down below.

He releases my wrist. There is a blue mark discoloring my skin where his hand used to be. I rub it fiercely, trying to instill some warmth, but it is no use. I wonder if I am now marked, too.

He seems to have forgotten me. He is still staring at the wolf. There are worry lines between his brows, and his mouth is drawn down at the edges into a scowl. “It appears we still have a wolf infestation. If you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to. I hope to see you again for dinner?”

“Yes, of course,” I say abstractedly, watching the wolf run off into the forest.

“I wish you good hunting today, my dear.” Before I can snatch it away, he takes my hand in his and kisses it. Ice shoots through my body and weakens my knees. I feel as though I have been kissed by death.

I am alone once more, on this the highest peak of the château. A chill wind lashes through the trees, sending snowflakes fluttering to the ground. Dark strands of my hair whip across my face, obscuring my vision, but not completely, not enough so that I am no longer incapable of watching Stefan…

…watching Stefan watching me. He is not alone, standing now at the edge of the forest. There is a woman at his side. She is not the woman I expected to see, the woman I mistrust. This woman’s beauty terrifies me, mainly because it is so perfect, so inhuman. Her lustrous blonde hair flows freely down her back. She turns, and I can see her eyes—green and glowing and brutal. Her lips are redder than blood and her skin as pale as the snow she treads upon. I know she sees me, but whether he tells her not to acknowledge my presence or she decides to ignore me of her own accord is a mystery. Her eyes remain fixed on the wolf tracks at her feet.

He takes her hand and guides her toward the trees, and I am left with a memory of her face. I know I have seen her before.

Something slithers beneath my feet. I look down, expecting to see a snake or some other creature. Instead, there is nothing but a rose. A dead rose, its petals black and brittle. Affixed to the stem, threaded through a frayed black ribbon, is a small band of gold.

My husband’s wedding ring.

This is all the impetus I need. I am down the staircase and making for the stables in an instant. I feel panic in my chest, but I damp it down. Hysteria will do me no good now. This is a clue. I know it is, though it is meant as a taunt. In my heart, I feel he is alive.

I must find Professor Fertig’s book.

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Corcitura Blurb~

Final Corcitura Cover 9-29-12Corcitura.  Some call it hybrid, others half-blood, mongrel, beast.  They are all names for the same thing:  vampire—the created progeny of the half-wolf, half-vampire, barb-tongued Grecian Vrykolakas, and the suave but equally vicious Russian Upyr.  Corcitura:  this is what happens when a man is attacked by two vampires of differing species.  He becomes an entirely new breed—ruthless, deadly, unstoppable…almost.

London, 1888:  Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, best friends since childhood, have finally succeeded in convincing their parents to send them on a Grand Tour of the Continent.  It will be the adventure of a lifetime for the two eighteen-year-old Englishmen, but almost from the moment they set foot on French soil, Eric senses a change in Stefan, a change that is intensified when they cross paths with the enigmatic Vladec Salei and his traveling companions:  Leonora Bianchetti, a woman who fascinates Eric for reasons he does not understand, and the bewitching Augustin and Sorina Boroi—siblings, opera impresarios, and wielders of an alarming power that nearly drives Eric mad.

Unable to resist the pull of their new friends, Eric and Stefan walk into a trap that has been waiting to be sprung for more than five hundred years—and Stefan is the catalyst.  Terrified by the transformation his friend is undergoing, Eric knows he must get Stefan away from Vladec Salei and Constantinos, the rabid, blood-crazed Vrykolakas, before Stefan is changed beyond recognition.  But after witnessing a horrific scene in a shadowed courtyard in Eastern Europe, Eric’s worst fears are confirmed.

Six years removed from the terror he experienced at the hands of Salei and Constantinos, Eric finally believes he has escaped his past.  But once marked, forever marked, as he painfully begins to understand.  He has kept company with vampires, and now they have returned to claim him for their own.

Book trailer~

http://youtu.be/xStibsfjBvo

Amazon.com Buy Links~

Kindle Editionhttp://www.amazon.com/Corcitura-ebook/dp/B009JKUWKK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1380726601

Paperback Edition:  http://www.amazon.com/Corcitura-Melika-Dannese-Lux/dp/0615722091/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380726601&sr=8-1&keywords=melika+dannese+lux

Amazon UK Buy Links~

Paperback Edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corcitura-Melika-Dannese-Lux/dp/0615722091/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1381946506&sr=8-1

Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corcitura-Melika-Dannese-Lux-ebook/dp/B009JKUWKK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1381946506&sr=8-1

Author Bio, Melika Dannese Lux~

Melika LuxI have been an author since the age of fourteen and write Young/New Adult historical romance, suspense, supernatural/paranormal thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, novellas—you name it, I write it! I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

Social Media Links~

 I’m very active on social media, so please feel free to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:

My Web Site: http://booksinmybelfry.com/  

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/950456.Melika_Dannese_Lux

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/booksinmybelfry/boards/

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Filed under Guest Posts

Discussing What Makes Gothic Literature: Guest Article by Author Stephanie Carroll

Today I have a guest article by Stephanie Carroll, the author of the debut novel, A White Room. Her book has a Victorian Gothic feel and so she discusses what might make a gothic novel, based on her research, and also her opinion on the subject. She asks a few questions of readers at the end of her article, so she’d love for you to take a minute to comment if you’ve read the post. What does “gothic novel” mean to you?

Also, we’ve had a giveaway running for an e-copy of A White Room for a few months (see my review of A White Room HERE and my interview with Stephanie HERE). Please make sure to enter to win by going to her website here: http://www.stephaniecarroll.net/p/the-binding-of-saint-barbara.html and clicking on the Rafflecopter Giveaway under Oh, for the Hook of a Book. Open until August 31, 2013! Best of luck!

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What Exactly is The Gothic Novel?
by Stephanie Carroll, Author of A White Room

Reviewers have compared my debut novel A White Room to the classic gothic novels The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (thank you Oh, For the Hook of a Book!). I was so delighted when this happened because I wrote my novel in a way I felt was reminiscent of gothic fiction, but when I looked at other gothic novels, mine didn’t seem very gothic in comparison. That led me to wonder, what exactly is a gothic novel?

Note:  I’m not an expert on the gothic novel, so I am including my sources for where I got my information, and for you, in case you’d like to do further research.

A White Room 350x525

The Origin of Gothic

The term gothic actually derives from the Visigoths and Ostrogoths (the barbarians) who conquered Rome in the 5th Century A.D. After the collapse of Rome, the world fell into a dark age and the Goths were ultimately forgotten until artists and architects rediscovered Greco-Roman culture during the Renaissance. They began to refer to certain (barbaric) architecture built during the middle ages as gothic even though it wasn’t necessarily built by the Goths. These were castles, mansions, and abbeys, many of which were in ruins.

The Gothic Novel – UC Davis

crumbling ruins

Crumbling Ruins Photo Credit: L Grove via photopin cc

 The Original Gothic Novel

Writers developed the first gothic novels in England from 1790 to 1830. These works were termed gothic because they took place in and around gothic buildings and architecture. Many themes and conventions developed that also came to define the gothic novel. In addition to usually taking place in a mansion, castle, or abbey, these buildings were often in ruins in the story, which created a mood of mystery and dread because it reminded readers of a world lost, a fallen society, or a world in decay. The hero was usually isolated in some way, and the villain was usually a man who had fallen from grace and represented the epitome of evil.

These novels also dealt with serious real-world fears like murder, rape, and sin, but on an exaggerated level and often times through the supernatural, so the gothic novel also became associated with horror fiction. Some examples of gothic literature from this time period are Matthew G. Lewis’s The Monk and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The Gothic Novel – UC Davis

mansion door

Mansion Dorr Photo Credit: Shoes_on_wires via photopin cc

 Victorian Gothic

Another form of the gothic novel came about in the Victorian Era starting in the 1880s (my kind of gothic). The setting, again, played a role and usually involved a large, dark mansion. Like the previous gothic novels, these dealt with frightening real-world themes also on an exaggerated level and with the use of the supernatural. This is when Bram Stoker’s Dracula was written. Victorian fears seen in gothic fiction included insanity, sexuality, incest, and the fear of progress.

At this time, the modern world was quickly advancing in science and technology (automobiles, electricity, etc.) and society had its concerns about the consequences to mankind. This is quite obvious in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which reveal society’s fears by demonstrating the horrors technology could have on the human body.

According to experts, the gothic novel is a cyclic occurrence in literature, something that is revived to express or deal with society’s anxieties.

Victorian fin de Seicle – gothic literature pathfinder

The Modern Gothic Novel

Gothic culture has boomed in the twentieth century in style, music, movies, and more. The modern gothic novel is a little bit more difficult to pin down though. Some people would argue that the thriving horror and gore genres are our modern day gothic. Others would argue that the modern gothic would be anything similar to the works of Tim Burton, whose dark, macabre style has been a focal point of gothic culture for years.

Yet, if you look around the internet for the modern day gothic novel, you will find all kinds of suggestions. Horror Novel Reviews lists The Body by Stephen King (later made into the classic and awesome film Stand by Me) as a modern day example of a gothic novel. Goodreads lists Kate’s Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. Amazon UK lists The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

An Opinion

From what I can tell, all gothic novels in the past were contingent on a few specific elements.

In all of the original gothic novels, a creepy old castle or mansion was in the mix. Now you might be thinking that means only writers willing to set their novels in the past can qualify, but keep in mind that the original gothic authors were placing contemporary characters into a setting that was old and decaying. They weren’t setting their stories in the past when those buildings were in use.

Now, I don’t know if I would go as far as to say that the architecture has to be from the middle ages. The Victorian gothic novel didn’t stick to middle ages architecture, but the setting was usually in a large, dark mansion, which felt reminiscent of that architecture. Or those mansions may have all technically been gothic architecture as there was a gothic revival in architecture in the Victorian Era. However, I don’t have a source that confirms that theory.

Something else that seems to define the gothic novel is the presence of contemporary anxieties that often tap into our darkest fears. In that definition The Body would qualify, but I just can’t accept that movie as gothic because it doesn’t have the dark aesthetic.

What does modern day gothic style, music, and movies prove about gothic culture? It’s contingent on the dark aesthetic. I don’t think that dark aesthetic has to be historical in nature, but I do think it needs to be there in order for something to be categorized as gothic. Now does that mean it needs to be at a Tim Burton level? No! Definitely not! I think the gothic aesthetic can be achieved in many ways, and I’m sure there are all kinds of novels that qualify.

In my opinion, to be truly loyal to the origins of gothic though, a novel needs a traditional or similar setting, dark aesthetic, and themes involving mankind’s deepest, darkest fears. Dealing with those fears using the supernatural is a major bonus.

With that definition a novel like The Forgotten Garden would fit, but how many people would say they recognized it as gothic? And what about novels that only have one of these three aspects—that includes my own novel— or none at all but still seem recognizable as gothic?

Well, one answer is that my definition is totally wrong. =/

Another possibility is that novels that fit the genre but don’t appear gothic or others that don’t fit the genre but do appear gothic might not be true to the tradition, but might be on the verge of a new gothic genre, subgenre, or adjacent genre, which is much more exciting than subscribing to what has already been done.

It’s called breaking tradition, and what’s awesome is that actually goes back to the tradition of the gothic novel. The original gothic novels were born out of the Romantic tradition in literature, but the authors used the gothic novel to break Romantic conventions and created something brand new. (The Gothic Novel – UC Davis)

goth girl

Goth Girl Photo Credit: violscraper via photopin cc

 So what is your opinion? What do you think are the modern gothic novels of our day?

What do you think makes a novel gothic at all?

 Author Stephanie Carroll, Biography~

Author Photo at Irwin Street Inn - CopyAs a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Stephanie writes The Unhinged Historian blog, exploring the dark side of the Victorian Era and Gilded Age, and Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives for conquering those little moments that make Navy Wives feel crazy. Stephanie lives in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.

A White Room is her debut novel.

Find Stephanie Carroll

FacebookTwitterGoodreads

www.stephaniecarroll.net

Advanced Praise for A White Room

“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

 A White Room, Synopsis~

A White Room 350x525At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

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Reminders: Enter the giveaway via link at beginning of the post! Also, Stephanie would love your comments on her questions posted about gothic literature; those are located at the end of her post.

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Filed under Guest Posts

Stephanie Carroll, Author of A White Room, is Interviewed on Gothic Style, Victorian Era, and Writing Historical Fiction

Today I am discussing with the author Stephanie Carroll her novel A White Room, as well as themes like how she writes a gothic feel into her novels. She talks Victorican Age, women in history, offers writing tips, and gives a personal glimpse into her inspiration and life. AND she’d be happy for comments or questions under the post as well, she loves to answer!

Don’t forget to check the links for an ebook giveaway of her debut novel, A White Room. If you don’t know what the book is about, you can see my review HERE! You can link to the giveaway in Stephanie’s welcome comment (right below this) or all the way at the bottom of the post after you read the interview. Enjoy!

A White Room 350x525

Hi Stephanie, so happy to have you on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I look forward to discussing your writing life and your debut novel, A White Room. How has the summer launch of your book been going?

Stephanie:  Thank you for having me, Erin, and thank you for asking about the launch. It is going very well. I’ve been so very busy and having a lot of fun doing interviews, writing guest posts, and giving away free copies of A White Room like the ebook giveaway on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Also, your readers can see the schedule of tour stops on my blog The Unhinged Historian.

Erin: Let’s find a sunny spot. I’ll go ahead and hop an airplane to you, I’m sure I’d love the weather a lot more than this Ohio rollercoaster! Grab a favorite drink and we’ll start talking! 

Stephanie:  Actually, the weather in California’s Central Valley is in the 100s and not so lovely, so let’s fly a little further west and bam lemon drops beach-side – ask away!  

Q:  Where did you find the inspiration to write A White Room? How much research went in to the book?

A:  The inspiration came from a free-write I did about a woman trapped in a white room. It was kind of a metaphor on an outlook about life and life’s responsibilities, which I incorporated into the book. Readers will know what I’m talking about when they see it – got to read the book now.  ; )

The amount of research that went into it was extensive. I researched for six months straight before I started writing, and I continued to research throughout the entire process of writing and editing, up to the final stages of production and publishing. My initial six months of research was to get the base knowledge of day to day life at the time. My continued research was on specific topics or issues when I’d realize I wanted to go in a certain direction with the book or it would just be me fact checking.

Q: I know you love the gothic feel of the Victorian Era. How did you incorporate this into your novel?

A: I really did want the novel to have an overall darkness, and I think I achieved that through a number of ways. Obviously, the furniture and the house have gothic characteristics, and much of Emeline’s hallucinations have kind of a gothic haunting feel to them.

However, I really felt like I tapped into some kind of gothic tradition with the fact that Emeline is in mourning. Victorian etiquette requires her to wear black for up to a year or more. Plus, she is in a way forced to move away from her family to a frightening place with a man she doesn’t know. There is darkness there from an emotional sense of sadness, dread, and death. Then there’s a literal darkness from Emeline having to wear black, the house having this gothic appearance, and from Emeline’s husband having insisted on keeping all the rooms shut up, so there is never any light in certain areas of the house.  

Q:  I believe that women’s rights and women’s independence was a large part of the societal issues your book portrayed, being set in Missouri in 1901. How did you formulate your female lead and do you think authentically represented a portion of the women during that time period? Why?

A: Emeline represents a growing group of women during a historical point in time. The turn of the century was a period of transition for women. Twenty years earlier and women were entrenched in the Cult of True Womanhood, and twenty years later, women were demanding the right to vote. Emeline represents a woman trapped between the two extremes, a woman with the desire to do something more, but a woman who is held back by the expectations of her time. I tried to also represent a variety of other women’s experiences with the other female characters in the novel.

Q:  What other societal issues did you bring to readers through your book? Was the class struggle you presented prominent during this time period across the U.S.?  How did you create your character to be able to overcome this kind of drama?

A:  During the Victorian Era it was normal to consider the lower classes as lower and to treat them poorly, even abusively. No one would second guess such behavior. It was just the way it was, and yet historians have found many accounts of people from both classes who overcame these barriers, treated one another with kindness, and on many occasions recognized and fought against such inequalities.

Q:  Your cover is beautiful. How did that all come together and what does the painting represent to you or your book?

A: The original painting is called “Lady Astor” and was painted by John Singer Sargent in 1909. My cover designer Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial found it and showed me a mock up. I had known I wanted a woman in white on the cover. We had already gone through multiple mock-ups of women in white dresses and nothing looked quite right until I saw this one.

From the moment I saw it, I knew it was the one. She looked like Emeline and from that instant the woman in the painting became Emeline in my mind. I even re-wrote scenes at the end to try to match the dress Emeline is wearing to the dress in the painting. My cover designer wrote a blog post on our process. You can read it on Historical Editorial.

Q:  I loved the description of the house your character moves to in your novel.  How did you create that image in your mind? How fun was it for you to make up the things that the house begins to do your character?

A: I originally attempted to make up a house to fit what I wanted, but I didn’t know enough about Victorian architecture to even attempt it, so I went on a hunt for the right house. The house in the book is based on The Doyle-Mounce House in Hannibal, Missouri. View it on Dave’s Victorian House Site. (The fastest way is to press Ctrl F and search Doyle-Mounce.)

I tried to do my best to describe the exterior of the house in the book, but the interior is all my own creation. I couldn’t find any information or photos of the interior of the house. I did do my best to make the interior designed to the times although also an oddity. BTW – that’s a pretty difficult thing to do – to make a house historically accurate but at the same time a house that would be considered odd in comparison to other houses at the time. It was a lot of fun though.

Q:  Do you read any type of gothic fiction yourself? What are your favorite authors in the genre and/or what else do you like to read or what authors do you prefer?

A: It depends on your definition of the gothic novel. The original gothic novel was something of a horror romance genre that developed in the late Eighteenth Century and further in the Nineteenth Century with Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelly, but if you search Gothic Victorian Fiction on a book site like Goodreads, you’ll get everything from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

My personal definition of gothic fiction has to do with dark themes, dark moods, and gothic aesthetics, which is ultimately determined by setting and description. I know there are plenty of gothic novels written today, but the one’s I think of having read are all classics like The Raven and Wuthering Heights, which is funny considering my definition falls on the modern side. Now I’m going to have to go on a reading hunt for modern gothic Victorian novels. Maybe your readers have some suggestions.

Erin Comments:  Try Daphne DuMaurier, if you haven’t! I pick them up at sales with the cover price still as .35cents, so of course I get them cheaper even. You might like some of them! If you haven’t read Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, maybe that too. I referred to that in your review. 🙂

Q:  What is the most surprising or amazing thing that you’ve found in your researching?

A:  The most surprising thing, I learned while researching A White Room was the way that investigators went about interrogating people involved in an illegal abortion. Investigators would force all involved, which usually included family members, to describe everything in graphic detail. At a time when people didn’t even speak openly about pregnancy, this was a really embarrassing experience, especially for women questioned by male investigators. The humiliation is palpable in the historical documentation of the process.

Outside of my research for A White Room, I was really surprised by the government sanctioned eugenics program, which allowed for forceful sterilization of people considered a detriment to society. The program went after a range of people from the blind to those with mental disabilities to promiscuous women, many of whom were raped and accused of promiscuity. The program survived for a long time. People are still around who had this done to them.

Erin Comments: Humanity sometimes makes me very angry! I just can’t understand why people were treated this way, especially women. And the idea of putting women in institutions or sanitariums for having an independent mind….don’t get me started!

Q:  What tips do you have for authors about the skill of researching?

A: I recently wrote a guest blog post on this very topic on A Writer of History blog, so I’ll suggest that for a more detailed answer, but as far as a quick tip:  Research the day-to-day details, like the cost of a doctor visit or how shoes were fastened – buckles, buttons, laces? Stuff like that. Those are the details that will bring a historical world to life, and that is what readers of historical fiction are after. It’s the kind of history you don’t learn in school. It’s what allows the reader to experience what it was like to live during that time.

Q:  Have you researched any historical women you’d like to possibly write a book about in the future? Who are some women from history who have made lasting impressions on you?

A: There are plenty of women in history who have stuck out to me. The French Queen Catherine de Medici who was married off at 14, ignored by her husband for his mistress, and then thrust into politics after the king’s death. I also find myself attracted to historical characters like Mercédès Mondego from The Count of Monte Cristo. I’d like to re-write that story from her perspective. Apparently, I need to learn French. =)

I haven’t decided when or if I’ll pursue these ideas, and they are just a few among many. I have other projects that need to come first. I plan to stick with the American Victorian and Gilded Age for a while, but I won’t rule anything out as far as branching out with future projects. I hope to someday be like Alice Hoffman and have 30 books under my belt.

Erin Comments: You should certainly read C.W. Gortner’s (Christopher Gortner) novel on Catherine de Medici! I bet you’ll love it!

Q:  Many women struggle with the issue of feeling that their writing time is accepted. Do you schedule time for your writing or have any advice for women who “just can’t find the time?” or “feel pulled in too many other directions?”

A: I treat my writing like a second job. I schedule time to work on it daily and refuse to do anything else during that time – no dishes or bills. Even if that means I’m staring at the white screen typing, I don’t know what to write, over and over. I have totally done that.

Make the schedule work for you – maybe you get one day a week where you can dedicate eight hours to writing. Or maybe all you can squeeze in is an hour a day. Some people focus on word count, and it’s usually recommended that beginning writers focus on writing 300 words a day – that’s like half a page.

If you are a parent, make it work with your children’s nap time or when hubby gets home and can take over for a little while. Make an agreement with your family that this time is yours and no one is to interrupt you.  

If you work – take that mandatory hour lunch break and write or take an hour after work and go to a Starbucks. I once had a two hour block between two part-time jobs. I’d sit in Starbucks and edit. I remember thinking it wasn’t enough time to do anything, but I got quite a bit done without any distractions.

Every writer is different, though. Some have to take a month off from work and lock themselves in the attic while others tick away over time. The main thing that makes the difference between a successful writer and the person that writes a chapter once a year is that the successful writer dedicates themselves to writing regularly. No successful writer waits for inspiration.

Erin Comments: Great advice!

Q:  Do you use an outline when writing a novel or do you prefer to write freely, going where the muse takes you?

A: I wrote A White Room kind of haphazardly, writing chapters all over the place and then arranging and re-arranging them. I eventually created an outline and worked off of that during the editing process. For my second novel, I created the outline first and wrote almost every chapter in order. I wrote the first draft for that second novel really fast, so I think I prefer outlines. I like to be organized and efficient. And yet, I’ve already written random chapters for my third novel in no particular order so who knows. Maybe it will be different every time.

Q:  What challenges have you had in your writing and publishing process, what have your learned, and what are your positives?

A: The most difficult thing happened after I was diagnosed with scoliosis and a chronic pain disorder called Myofascial Pain Syndrome. It’s comparable to fibromyalgia, but it’s only in certain locations – for me it’s my back. I was diagnosed after years of back problems, which were worsened by sitting and typing – aka writing.

At the time, none of the treatments helped. The only thing I could do to relieve the pain was lay down. I had become Emeline – bedridden.

On top of that, my writing career was going nowhere. I had to quit my job as a reporter because of the pain, and A White Room had been rejected by every literary agent possible it seemed. I felt like I had to consider whether or not I just wasn’t good enough or if it just wasn’t the right path for me. Plus, it hurt so much to write. I couldn’t do it for very long without hurting. It all led to a pretty dark time in my life.

I got over it when I forced myself to get back to life – fake it until you make it kind of thing. I went to physical therapy, got a part-time job, and returned to writing and my pursuit of publishing. It took a couple more years, but here I am with a published book. My back problems continue, but I’ve learned to manage them, and I’m even using some of my experiences with chronic pain to develop one of my characters in my next novel.

What did I learn? It’s nothing profound. Don’t give up – it’s depressing. Seriously though, that’s what I learned. I almost became that person who says I wrote a novel once but it never went anywhere. I’m sure there are exceptions and there are writers who write more for themselves than for publishing, but I think if you are an author who is truly dedicated to getting published, you will get published as long as you don’t give up.

Erin Comments: Aw, Stephanie. I am sorry to hear this, I know how hard it can be to get through the painful days. I have several related things myself which is why I am home freelancing my work and writing, as well. But I really didn’t start reading and writing again until I was bedridden. It was a curse, and a blessing. It’s hard to be in pain, even to type, but the feeling after is so worth it. I can totally understand. And I could relate to your character in A White Room too, being cooped up inside that room and almost going mad!

Q:  What is in the future for you? What else are you writing or do you plan to write about?

A: My second novel is called The Binding of Saint Barbara, and it takes place during the historical story leading up to the first death by electrocution in Auburn Prison in 1890, New York. The story focuses on the prison warden and his family, who lived in the prison and interacted with the condemned prisoner on a daily basis.

The main plotline though is about the warden’s fictional daughter Charlotte who has the patron saint of lightning trapped inside her. While her family is wrapped up with issues of death, Charlotte learns about life after meeting a strange boy outside the prison walls, a strange boy the saint will not let Charlotte forget.

This and many of my future works will involve magical realism, a fiction technique where the writer intermingles magic with reality, treating it as if it’s just normal and nothing special. My third novel is going to involve several generations of women, a family curse, and turn of the century spiritualism, which is where we get séances and crystal balls from.  

Q:  If you lived in a room of talking furniture yourself, what piece of furniture would be your best friend? Why? (All in good fun…)

A: The flamboyant wine rack of course or perhaps a saucy liquor cabinet. Why? Well, if I’m going to be stuck in a room of talking furniture, I’m going to get them to talk! Oooooo the sofa and the coatrack did what? Scandalous!

Erin Comments: HA!!

Q:  Where can readers and writers connect with you? Where can they buy your book?

A: I’m kind of everywhere on social media – I recently joined Instagram – I’m on YouTube, GooglePlus, and Pinterest, but my most used accounts are Facebook,  Twitter, and Goodreads.    I can be found on most social media sites by searching either CarrollBooks or StephanieCarroll.

You can of course also find me on my website www.stephaniecarroll.net or on one of my two blogs The Unhinged Historian (exploring the dark side of the Victorian & Gilded Ages) and Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives (Embracing the Insanity of being a Navy Wife).

A White Room is Available in Print $14.99 and eBook $3.99 (Kindle, Nook, Sony, e-pub) at: AmazonBarnes & NobleSonyKoboInkteraSmashwordsApple’s iBooks.

Erin:  Thank you so very much Stephanie! It has been a pleasure talking to you and your book was fabulous. I wish you much continued success and look forward to reading more on your blog too.  Come back by anytime!

Stephanie: Thank you Erin for having me back, for taking the time to read and review A White Room, and for interviewing me today. I hope your readers enjoy it as much as I did, and I hope they are all blessed with the most obedient furniture in the world.  

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Giveaway~

A Rafflecopter giveaway for an ebook version of Stephanie’s book! Just click on the link and enter to win! Ends Aug. 31, 2013! There are several thing you can do for extra entries.

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Advanced Praise for A White Room~

“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

 A White Room, Synopsis~

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family. 

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from emA White Room 350x525pty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

Author Stephanie Carroll, Biography~

Author Photo at Irwin Street Inn - CopyAs a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).  A White Room is her debut novel.

Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.

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Interview and Discussion with Gothic Horror Author Jonathan Janz

The wonderful author Jonathan Janz stopped by my blog for an AWESOME interview you’ll want to check out below! It’s lengthy, but it’s worth it. We discussed so many cool topics.

I just reviewed and discussed The Sorrows, his novel currently available with Samhain Publishing. If you missed this review post Friday, you can see it HERE NOW!! Don’t miss it.

Then read the interview where we discuss the horror genre, being a writer, his book and what else he’s writing….like a new western vampire novella (say what??), and much more.  Let us know what you think in the comment section after the post.  We’d love to hear from you!

INTERVIEW WITH JONATHAN JANZ, AUTHOR OF THE SORROWS

Hi Jonathan! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book blog! We’ve been having a streak of horror and dark related fiction lately and you’re a welcome addition!

 Hey, Erin! Thank you so much for having me. How the heck are you, pal?

 Erin:  Nothing better to me than reading and writing, so I’m feeling great! Speaking of reading, The Sorrows was both eloquently (yea, I said that—LOL) written as well as pulse-pounding, dark, and foreboding.

 Jonathan:  Wow! Thank you for saying those wonderful things about The Sorrows! And it’s wonderful finally getting to sit down to talk with you. You’ve been extremely supportive to me, both professionally and as a friend.

Erin:  I am excited too. Not only are you a great writer, but a wonderful person, friend, and the greatest dad I know! I respect all you pack into a day so thanks for making time here.

 I didn’t know what to expect when I first read The Sorrows. Since I haven’t grown up reading much of the true horror masters that many people mention, such as Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum (I know-GASP-but zip it. I grew up in a Christian home with mom who didn’t like things to go bump in the night. Only in high school and college did I fall in love with Stephen King). 

So for all the adults who don’t have a background in horror, but are still loving reading all the new darker tales that are appearing in fiction lately, can you give us a reference point to what your work could be described as?

Jonathan: Without getting too wordy—that’ll happen later in this interview—I’ll just say that what I write is fast-paced Gothic horror. I love stories that move, but I also love stories that make you feel shivers and check behind you to make sure you aren’t being watched. Or menaced. Many authors seem to shoot for one or the other—a breakneck pace or an atmosphere of dread—but I’ve never seen the two as mutually exclusive.

Erin: Now that we’ve gotten it in a more general sense, go ahead for the horror aficionados and name some authors you think have influenced your work and why. And who are your favorite writers?

Jonathan: Stephen King above all. I read about thirty of his books before I even began sampling other authors. And when I did branch out, the authors I chose were the ones listed in the appendix of Danse Macabre. So I read Hell House and Ghost Story and Lord of the Flies, and those three books all had profound influences on my style and my sensibility. The Haunting of Hill House was another that really showed me what a horror story could do. Other authors that followed and that profoundly influenced my writing were Ramsey Campbell, Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Ray Bradbury, and Joe R. Lansdale.

I spoke about Hell House and Ghost Story being important books in my development, and from that it can correctly be assumed that Richard Matheson and Peter Straub really helped shape my writing. Richard Matheson is like a mad conductor leading words and paragraphs in some dark symphony. If you draw back a bit and really examine the manner in which he orchestrates a scene of suspense, you can appreciate the elegance of his design. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” contains a few scenes that demonstrate what I’m talking about. It also supports my assertion that horror writers are also great magicians. They’re able to get you thinking about one thing while they’re really setting you up for something entirely different. And the ruse they’re employing is wholly engrossing and necessary—not just distracting windage. But man, when they spring their trap and you find yourself helplessly bound in their machinery, you realize just how sly they’ve been. Matheson is a sly magician as well as a deeply heartfelt writer.

Straub is another story and a tougher labyrinth to navigate. He can seem cold and clinical at times, which is why some don’t love his stuff, but when you stay with one of his works it almost always pays off in a grand way. Ghost Story is my favorite horror novel, and it’s one whose structure I can see in my own work. Both The Sorrows and House of Skin employ a Gothic structure similar to the one Straub used in Ghost Story. In my fifth book, I’ll be using it too—hopefully in a grander way than in any of my previous books. After I read (and marveled at) Ghost Story, I went on to Julia, which was also hugely frightening and influential for me, and then I read If You Could See Me Now, Shadowland, and several others.

Erin:  I am inclined to say that your novel had some part Edgar Allan Poe inspiration. I mean, he would be one to wall someone up right? Do you feel his influence? I feel like some of your novel is a fantastical type of storytelling, more than the screaming in fright type of work.  The way Poe wrote. Do you agree or disagree?

Jonathan: I wholeheartedly agree and feel like screaming THANK YOU for the compliment. Poe is one of my very favorites. I teach his work and have been profoundly influenced by his stories. In fact, the Poe influence goes back to my early childhood. I can remember checking out albums from the library with spooky stories on them. A couple were “The Signal-Man” by Charles Dickens and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Poe. My mom told me the plot of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” among others, and that also had an impact.

There’s something deliciously scary about the work of the old masters. I eat up any horror written prior to 1940, and I hope some of that shows in my writing. Guys like Poe and Lovecraft have been very important to me, but some of the lesser known (at least to modern audiences) writers like Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Arthur Machen, J.S. Lefanu, Oliver Onions, and E.F. Benson have been just as crucial in my learning. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received from readers of The Sorrows is that the passages from Calvin Shepherd, my first-person narrator from 1911 to 1925, read authentically and feel organic to the story. Many readers—including my wife—have told me that those passages are their favorite parts. I’m not patting myself on the back here, but I think to pull that sort of thing off with any kind of success, a writer needs to know his heritage and have a deep respect for guys like Poe, M.R. James, and the rest.

Erin Comment:  I agree. I also have loved Poe since early literature learning, as well as Lovecraft. If they had put the black and white Addams Family or Twilight Zone in a series books back then too, I’d have loved that. For me, the classic horror of Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all had such a creative way of causing fear deep in your bones without graphically cutting off limbs just for effect. Three of my favorite Poe stories are Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, and the Tell-Tale Heart.  They follow me wherever I go. They cause me to look at my own life and emotions and see if I am “walling up” or “hiding under the floorboards” things in my life I don’t want to face head on. Our own human emotions can be just as scary as anything else out there. We all fight demons in many ways, but the sad thing is that you can’t get away from them by hiding them. You’ve got to face them or they will tick, tick, tick away at you. I like that about horror, it makes you face your fears. 

What do you think about horror in that sense? Why do you feel people love to read horror?

Jonathan Comment: For exactly the reason you state above. You can’t hide your horror away, to paraphrase The Beatles. It’s why I believe horror writers are the sanest individuals in the world, contrary to what most folks assume about us. We writers tend to exorcise each and every one of our fears, worries, neuroses, etc. on the page, which means in every other way we’re basically well-adjusted people.

I also think people are drawn to horror because it makes them feel better about their own lives. Human beings are essentially ungrateful creatures. When all you read about is women going on glorious binges of self-discovery or men successfully foiling nuclear bomb plots, your own life tends to pale in comparison. You get discontented. But when you read about people whose lives are irrevocably messed up or people whose body parts are slowly devoured by a three-headed alien, you tend to appreciate what you’ve got a whole lot more.

Erin:  Where did your idea for The Sorrows come from? Which actually came first, The Sorrows or your upcoming novel House of Skin?

Jonathan: I actually began writing House of Skin about eight years before I put pen to paper on The Sorrows. I wrote probably seven drafts of House of Skin and trashed each one. Then, with The Sorrows, I wrote around 170,000 words and then slowly, painfully winnowed it down to what it is now (around 94,000 words). As I was doing that, I went back and re-wrote House of Skin (which was first called Starlight, then Her Eyes Were Wild) and on the eighth try finally got it the way I’d always suspected it could be. So House of Skin came first and third, with The Sorrows sandwiched between.

My idea for The Sorrows came from an image of a man walled in a tower. You were absolutely right to mention Poe here, as both “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Black Cat” involve walling characters up. But in this case, my figure was in a tower with nothing else but a piano. The song he played was like, yet unlike, Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor.” It had that jarring, haunting quality, but it was its own beast too. It was even more sorrowful and sinister. That figure became Gabriel, one of the central figures in The Sorrows.

Erin Comments: Absolutely, again with emotions, music can bring us to tears, make us shake with joy and happiness, and create dread in our inner being. A picture of Dracula playing the organ comes to mind (or was that the Count on Sesame Street?) and how he channeled his inner sorrow into the music and became one with it. It is a way for people who don’t want to feel or don’t know how to feel, to become one with emotion and be able to cope.  

Jonathan Comment: Agreed!

 Erin: Speaking on that, I loved The Sorrows for the musical component. I love classical music and how some of the masters have created a level of foreboding and excitement, setting the pace for great cinematic works such as Star Wars, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserable.  Where did you get the idea? Wouldn’t it be great to actually have their composition put to music?

Jonathan:  Well, you sort of explained my feelings on the matter with your question. Like you, I love classical music, and a great many film scores are informed by the great classical masters. Some might think this is silly, but I’ve heard it said that if Beethoven or Bach were around today, they’d be writing for the movies. I agree wholeheartedly.

Guys like John Williams, Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Vertigo), and Hans Zimmer just amaze me with their ability to turn an emotion into a song. That kind of genius is far beyond my understanding, but I try to get at the heart of it in The Sorrows. I know they’re different beasts, but I suspect there’s some overlap in the creative process between writers of music and writers of fiction. Though one’s head is important, a great deal relies on feel and on one’s heart. I used what I knew of music, what I knew of the creative process, and what I learned from others (like my wife, for instance, who is an extremely gifted musician). The feedback I’ve had from both musicians and non-musicians has been very positive, which is really gratifying. You kind of alluded to this, but someone on GoodReads suggested that The Sorrows could be a great multi-media work, complete with a full musical score. I couldn’t agree more. Maybe someday it’ll happen!

Erin comments: Oh, I certainly believe that Mozart helped pull off many an amazing theater production when he was alive just with his musical scores.  He was loved for that and had he not died a mysterious early death, we’d be blessed with so much more from this savant. Music is not something you listen to with your ears and your mind, but feel in your heart. Tim is an amazing singer and when I listen to someone I love sing from the joy of loving to sing, it moves me in ways I can’t even describe. I feel this way with the classic masters of musical score as well and partly a huge reason I never want the stage to go to being a thing of the past.

Jonathan comment: I feel that way about my wife too. She’s incredibly talented and is able to feel the music as well as perform it. Which in turn allows the audience to internalize the experience, as well.

Erin: The historical element added between chapters really added to the story. I liked how the ancient evil doings come back to haunt them.  How did you accomplish this to be so authentic (writing in the voice from generations before)?

Jonathan: Thank you! I touched on this above, but going a bit deeper, I think balance is important with anything in life. So the two things that I feel need to be balanced in this case are a) the authorly courage to stretch one’s boundaries and b) the need to be true to oneself and to always be real. A good reader can hear a false note in a story immediately. That is triply true for a false passage or even a false complete work. So while I believe in trying new things, I also believe that if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

Which leads me to this: everything I wrote in The Sorrows, be it the contemporary sections or the journal entries from the 1910s and 1920s, was one-hundred percent authentic. It all felt good and real and true. Hemingway had it right. You have to search for the truth of the story (and the characters), and once you’ve found that, the writing will come naturally.

It felt totally natural to me to write as Calvin, despite the fact that he was a repressed, somewhat sinister servant from the early part of the twentieth century. I became him and wrote as he would have. I say all that simply and probably make it sound simplistic, but what made that possible for me was the copious reading I’d done (and continue to do) of guys like Blackwood, Machen, etc. Again, I’m not suggesting that I’m some incredible writer or anything; rather, I’m saying that because that voice was in me (likely because of the unintentional preparation I’d done), it all flowed naturally. Readers like you seem to feel the same way, which makes me happier than you know.

Erin comments: You should be happy, you did a wonderful job. Besides horror, my main reading love is history. In fact, besides degrees in Journalism and English Lit, I also have a BA in History. So I did feel as if you wrote those sections with great historical presence without it feeling phony. I loved feeling the emotions from those characters and I think I even related more to them than I did to some of the contemporary characters.  And I always love books with historical elements. The best part of your book to me was the historical secret component. And why was everything in the past so much more sinister than today?

Jonathan comment: It wasn’t more sinister by design, but now that I think about it, I do have to say you’re right about that. Perhaps it has something to do with the role of fatherhood then as opposed to now. I know there have always been bad fathers, and there are plenty of bad fathers today. But I feel like society at large is growing slowly more aware of how little is expected from dads when it comes to parenting. Ben Shadeland is a responsible, loving, caring father. His relationship with his son is the emotional core of the novel. Robert Blackwood, the composer in the early 1900s sections, cares nothing for his children because his only focus is his career. My impression is that kind of thinking was wholly acceptable back then, and while many still think it’s okay to win bread and stay the heck away from the child rearing, hopefully we’re learning that men have a sacred duty and opportunity to nurture their children too. Just my opinion.

Erin comments: A good opinion and in my book, the right opinion. And there are less servants and nannies in this day and age!  Oh, less mansions with graveyards too.

 Erin:  There is quite a bit of female abusive in this novel. I think you explained once in something I read about why this is and how the outcome justifies it. As a survivor of domestic abuse myself, it was hard to read at times, but I see what you were going for in the novel. Can you talk a little about that from your novel standpoint? Also, why do you feel that dark, brooding tales always seem to prey on women in a sexual way, but haunt men mentally?

Jonathan: I don’t want to correct you or to sound disrespectful (because you know I respect you a great deal), but I feel I should clarify this point so my meaning is clear. I don’t feel that the fates of the abusive characters justify the presence of the abuse. The truth is nothing can justify or alleviate or lessen the lasting impact of abuse (in fiction or in life). I don’t feel like Lee Stanley (the director of the movie in The Sorrows), for instance, got what he deserved in the story. He physically, mentally, and emotionally abused at least two women and brought about both of their deaths. The depths of his depravity and viciousness are really beyond comprehension. So while he does experience a decidedly horrific fate (which I won’t here give away), that end doesn’t erase the torture that those women endured.

The same thing holds true in life. I think I’m a pretty forgiving guy, but when it comes to abuse…honestly, it’s very hard for me to forgive. A child is beaten or molested, and then the perpetrator is murdered in prison. Sure, some would say justice was served, but the child is still scarred and damaged, and no vengeful act can undo that damage.

I’m a husband and a father, and because of the powerful emotions I have for my family, I often find myself thinking rather monstrous thoughts about those I see on the news who would harm a woman or a child (or anyone, for that matter). Jack Ketchum deals with these issues better than any writer I’ve read in stories like The Girl Next Door and The Woman, and I think he’d agree with what I’m about to say…

What it comes down to for me is telling the truth. What is the truth of that story? What is the authentic behavior or word or thought of that character? And whatever those answers are dictate the trajectory of my stories. Sure, I might detest something a character does or says or thinks, but just because it’s contrary to my belief system doesn’t mean I should change it or soften the blow in any way. That would ring false and would compromise the story. Men who abuse women and children are the vilest scum in creation, but if they show up in my stories, I have to honestly record the truth about them, even when it makes me sick. And I did feel ill at times writing and editing segments of The Sorrows. There’s a scene with Eddie Blaze—you’ll probably remember the one, Erin—where he does something so reprehensible that our feelings for him are forever changed. I felt shaken as I wrote that scene, but I felt like I recorded it honestly. And for that reason, I think it rings true.

I don’t know if I’ve answered your question or not, but I hope I’ve shed some light regarding my thoughts on the issue.

Erin comments: No need for correcting me or any disrespect taken. It was just a question so people understand that male authors don’t always agree with the violence that their male characters sometimes dole out to the female characters. I know where your heart is, but I wanted the readers to hear it. I had the pleasure of getting to know you some before completing the book, so I knew that you didn’t condone the actions; however, I wanted to address it here for my readers who are feminists like me. Many men are crude and abusive and controlling, like your characters, and though what happens to them doesn’t make up for the pain an abused person continues to feel, it does make it feel like “what goes around comes around” and life forces didn’t let them get away with it.

Jonathan comment: Thanks, Erin. It’s an extremely sensitive topic, as we’ve talked about, and I probably over-explained a little. Like you said, I just wanted people to know my true thoughts on the matter. I’m glad I made at least a little bit of sense! 

Erin:  Do you want to talk a little about your writing experience? How long have you been writing? How did you get discovered and what does it mean to you to now be a published author?

Jonathan: My writing experience has been working, failing, working, failing some more, learning, getting rejected, learning more, getting rejected a lot more, getting rejected a hundred more times, experiencing a minor success, then getting rejected several hundred times more.

 I’m not exaggerating.

 The fact is, this is a grueling business. Unless you’re extraordinarily gifted—and those folks are rare—you’ve got to have an iron will and an indomitable spirit. I’m not the most talented writer in the world, but I do have determination. No one will ever be able to break my spirit or define what I can or can’t do. Whether I succeed or fail, I’ll always fight.

I’m a dreamer. I find inspiration all over the place. The movie Ratatouille inspired me just the other night. I love the way that Chef Gusteau believes that anyone can cook. I love the way that Remy the Rat combines a fighter’s spirit with a poet’s heart. If you’ve got those two things, you’ve got a great combination.

Erin Comments: Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies. J  I am so glad you are so determined!! But what makes you want to write only horror? Do you ever hope to write anything else?

Jonathan comment: I’ll always write horror, but it’s certainly not the only thing I’ll ever write. I’ve worked on some things already that blur and blend genres. One novella that’ll be done within a few months (hopefully) is a western vampire story. Another story—and this is kind of secret—I wrote several years ago is a combination thriller/horror/crime novel. It’s called Garden of Snakes, and it’s actually a full-length, completed novel. I need to go back and do some work to parts of it, but overall I really love the book. I just shelved it for a while because I was working on other projects (like The Sorrows and House of Skin).

Eventually I plan on doing some sci-fi, some fantasy, some western, and some thriller/mystery/suspense. I even (like most authors) have some ideas for kids’ books.

Erin:  I know that your family is very important to you. You and your wife have 3 small children, you work another full time job, and you don’t want to miss a minute of your kid’s growing up moments. So how do you find the balance? What habits do you need? What motivates you to keep writing? How do you find the time?

Jonathan: Well, this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. I talked earlier about truth in writing. Even more, I believe in truth in living. If you polled a hundred “family men” and asked them what matters the most in their lives, they’d of course say their wives and their children.

But how do they actually live? Do they veg out in front of the flat screen watching football all afternoon, or do they wrestle with their kids? Do they sit there jacking around on their IPhones when they’re with their wives or do they actually, you know, talk to their wives? How about their careers? Do they put in extra hours so they can put more money into their kids’ 529s, or do they put in extra hours so they can belong to a posh country club and drive nicer cars?

In short, I think most men live for the wrong things and are absolutely full of crap when they say they care most about their families. For my part, I simply want to live truly and authentically. My wife and my kids are the best things in my life, and they deserve the best of me. Sure, sometimes I get distracted thinking of a story idea, and yes, I occasionally catch myself checking my email when I should be talking to my wife. But at least I’m aware of it, and I try to do better. That’s got to count for something.

Erin comments: I totally agree. I live my life the same, and I’ve got a great partner and friend in Tim who totally parents as you do. We are PRESENT for our children, not just in the same room. And to each other as well. People don’t always like it, but it’s not their life and life is much too short.  That said though, for aspiring authors who do want to write and raise a family, what is your advice for still finding time to write and market while you are present for your family and have a full-time job?

Jonathan comment: Well, providing they do have their priorities straight—rather than giving lip service to them—I’d say they need to work with their significant others to carve out a reasonable schedule. And don’t wait for inspiration to strike. You wait for that, you’ll never get anything written. You’ve gotta write whenever you can, and you’ve gotta know that it’s not always going to be good. Mike Myers (Shrek, Austin Powers) once said something I really took to heart: “Give yourself permission to suck.” Once you do that, you’re really liberated to get working. There’s no law that states you’ve got to show people everything you do—in fact, you better not do that because much of it probably will suck—but because you’re not paralyzed by doubt or rationalizing inaction by pretending that inspiration is necessary, you’ll also do some really good work too.

Erin comments: I know what you mean about lip service due to personal reasons, but there are good people out there that do parent well like Tim and I. We both have a hard time finding any time at all to write. I think it was easier when the kids were smaller. Now they are just into activities and we never feel there is any time to put writing first for an hour or two because we do want to enjoy every moment with them. I suppose at some point it will iron out a little. I do like to hear different techniques by different authors; I think many other authors struggle with the same scenario. None of us make writing a priority. Probably some of that is the sense of it making us feel selfish.

Erin:  What other interests do you have (and I know you’ll say your family of course)? So what else besides your family and writing do you enjoy?

Jonathan: Books, of course. I love books. And I should have said my grandparents and my mom before that, but I didn’t want to sound too boring. I love movies a great deal. I lift three or four times a week and run two or three times…most weeks. I enjoy taking care of our house, working in the yard (which is rendered much more enjoyable because of Frank Muller’s wonderful audio versions of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books). I’m a huge nature freak—the world truly awes me. When we travel, I really enjoy that, though as you can attest to, Erin, it’s hard to travel with really little ones. I love going to church, though I hate it when people use religion as a means of wounding others and separating themselves from their fellow man.

I’m big on multi-tasking, which means I’ll often watch a Cubs game or a basketball game as I’m lifting or running. I can’t just sit and watch those things because I don’t feel productive enough. It’s kind of a sickness, really, the need to achieve and accomplish. But at least I’m never bored. Boredom is an emotion I’ll never be able to understand. There’s too much to do, too much to experience to ever be bored.

Erin: What things do you use for inspiration in your writing? I always have to ask horror writers that, because I pray it’s not their everyday life (I mean like seeing arms get sawed off or something!!) Ha!

Jonathan: It says on my bio that I grew up between a graveyard and a dark forest. Perhaps for that reason, for as long as I can remember I’ve found mystery and potential menace everywhere I look. I hear darkness in music. I’m planning a novel at some point based on a Metallica song. I see characters’ faces in my mind’s eye. I’ll imagine a scenario out of the blue that will blossom into a full-fledged story idea.

Poetry often inspires me. House of Skin was inspired by a course I took at Purdue on the Romantic poets. Words from Byron, Shelley, and the rest spawned the basis of that novel. One of the epigraphs at the beginning of the book is by Keats.

I ascribe to Stephen King’s belief that stories are found things. A writer doesn’t conjure or create a story—he discovers it, digs it up, and dusts it off as best he can without harming it. If he does a good job at exhuming it, the tale might be worth something. That’s what I try to do. Once I find it, I listen. The characters control everything.

Erin: Your next novel coming soon to e-book and then paperback is called House of Skin.  That just sounds creepy!! Is it a sequel to the The Sorrows, or a stand-alone? Give us the scoop, what’s it about?

Jonathan:  House of Skin is a stand-alone novel, so you can read it without any foreknowledge. It does, however, connect to The Sorrows in a very cool way. For those who haven’t read The Sorrows, the main characters in that book are composing music for a horror film. The horror film just happens to be House of Skin. So you get references in The Sorrows to House of Skin (some of the characters, a bit of the plot, a couple of scene allusions). Neither book is at all reliant on the other, but it’s still fun to see how they connect.

Talking about House of Skin…I’ll go ahead and share the synopsis that Don D’Auria (Samhain Publishing) created for the novel:

 Myles Carver is dead. But his estate, Watermere, lives on, waiting for a new Carver to move in. Myles’s wife, Annabel, is dead too, but she is also waiting, lying in her grave in the woods. For nearly half a century she was responsible for a nightmarish reign of terror, and she’s not prepared to stop now. She is hungry to live again…and her unsuspecting nephew, Paul, will be the key.

 Julia Merrow has a secret almost as dark as Watermere’s. But when she and Paul fall in love they think their problems might be over. How can they know what Fate—and Annabel—have in store for them? Who could imagine that what was once a moldering corpse in a forest grave is growing stronger every day, eager to take her rightful place amongst the horrors of Watermere?

Erin’s comments: That sounds so good; I really can’t wait to read it. J

Jonathan’s comment: Thanks, Erin!

 Erin:  What else can we expect from you in the near future? What else are you currently writing or plan to write?

Jonathan: I recently found a fantastic agent named Louise Fury. She procured a deal for my third novel within two days of signing me. It’s called THE DARKEST LULLABY, and it will be published by Don D’Auria and Samhain Horror in early 2013. I’ll be posting more about the novel on my blog soon, but for now I’ll just say that it’s a combination of ghosts, demons, and vampires, and it has a Paranormal Activity/The Shining/Rosemary’s Baby vibe. Not saying it’s on par with those masterpieces, but you get my point.

I’m nearing completion on my fourth novel, which has the working title NATIVE. It’s by far the bloodiest, most action-packed thing I’ve written. In a strange way it’s also a lot of fun. Extraordinarily dark fun, but fun nonetheless.

I’ll also be starting work on a fifth novel this summer. I’ve never been as excited to start a book as I am with this fifth one, so I can’t wait to get cracking on it. While THE DARKEST LULLABY and NATIVE have mostly linear stories (with regard to time), my soon-to-be-started project will return to the Gothic present/past structure of THE SORROWS and HOUSE OF SKIN. All of the books, of course, have my sensibility, for whatever that’s worth, but I really like how each one has a different personality. Once I finish with the fifth book and a couple other projects I’ve been working on (a western vampire novella, for instance), I might begin a sequel for either THE SORROWS or HOUSE OF SKIN.

Erin Comments: Congratulations on just securing an agent and also on your third novel being purchased. It also sounds tremendous. I have a lot of reading coming up for you! BUT really, a western vampire novella…..mmmmm….you ARE thinking outside the box.

Jonathan’s comment: I really love the story. It’s something very dear to my heart, and though it’s dark and scary and full of tension and action, it’s also one of the most moving things I’ve written. I just have to finish it.

Erin:  Just to shake things up, if you could have a starring role in any movie, what would it be?                        

Jonathan: Wow! Setting aside the obvious worry about having to feign interest in a woman other than my wife, I’d really like to play Ben in THE SORROWS. Physically Ben and I are pretty similar, and I think it’d be neat to do the things he does. I mean, how many movies allow you to write a music score for a horror film, get into several physical altercations, love a beautiful woman (I’d be replaced by a body double for that scene, of course), and descend into a basement with an ax to do battle with a mythological monster?

Erin: What are your favorite movies?

 Jonathan: Off the top of my head, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, It’s a Wonderful Life, Jaws, The Shawshank Redemption, The Big Lebowski, Rear Window, The Empire Strikes Back, How to Train Your Dragon, Good Will Hunting, Ratatouille, It Happened One Night, Tootsie, Pulp Fiction, 3:10 to Yuma, The Incredibles, and too many others to mention. I love great movies in all genres and watch them whenever I can. I also teach film, so I get to share my love of movies with my students.

Erin comments: I love movies. How awesome you get to teach film. Did you know the Shawshank Redemption was filmed where I live? I can show you photos sometime of the places. J Anyway, great movie. And the Lord of the Rings Trilogy is another favorite of mine and a complete classic. Also Rear Window, the older version, and also the remake with Johnny Depp wasn’t bad. All the Star Wars movies are high on my list too. Tootsie, not so much I guess. But throw in Rain Man and I can’t stop laughing. I love Disney movies and fairy tales, and it’s not just because I’m a girl!

Jonathan’s comment: I’m not at all surprised you enjoy most of those films. And I’m a little jealous about the Shawshank thing!

Erin: I am a HUGE geek and LOVE comics. So did comics influence you growing up? Do you like a particular comic? And if you say you don’t like comics, we will cease to be friends. Kidding.

Jonathan: Uh-oh. Well, I did read comics, but not as much as you or some of my other writer friends (I’m looking at you, Hunter Shea). As the above answer might suggest, I was more influenced by film. And by the woods and graveyards and other landscapes around me. I’d consider myself a book and movie geek, but I don’t have enough experience to consider myself a comic book geek. But I do love comic book movies. Do I get to keep being your friend?

Erin comments: Nope, we’re done. I am so unhappy. Ok, I suppose I’ll let it slide. To me, comics are some of the best written stuff. Action, concise text, heroes, villains, and the art. I love the art. In fact, I am Wonder Woman. There I confessed my secret. Well, look at all the films impacted and inspired by comics?! Have I convinced you yet?

Jonathan’s comment: Consider me convinced.

Erin: Where can readers, fans, and interested parties get to know the very funny Jonathan Janz?

Jonathan: My blog (http://jonathanjanz.com/) is the best place to find me. You can email me directly at jonathanjanz@comcast.net or follow my Twitter feed (@jonathanjanz). I’d also love for you to friend me on Facebook (just look up Jonathan Janz, and there I’ll be!).

Erin comments: Note, there are a TON of people named Jonathan Janz on FB, so look for The Sorrows avatar.

Jonathan’s comment: Good call!

 Erin:  Where can your books be purchased?

 Jonathan:  You can get the e-books or paperbacks pretty much anywhere, but here are a few links to get you started…

 http://www.amazon.com/The-Sorrows-ebook/dp/B00699SD5A/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-sorrows-jonathan-janz/1104324586?ean=9781609286729&format=paperback&itm=1&usri=the+sorrows

 http://store.samhainpublishing.com/jonathan-janz-pa-1672.html

 Erin:  It’s ALWAYS a pleasure talking to you, Jonathan. I absolutely adore you for your friendly, light-hearted and jovial manner and respect you for all you do to pursue your dreams. I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you at the blog again soon.

Jonathan:  Thank you so much, Erin, for having me on your blog and for being so incredible to me. I’m thankful to have met you. Your kindness and sense of humor always brighten my day!

Erin: Thankful to have met you too, my friend.  

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Bio of Jonathan Janz, Author

Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard. In a way, that explains everything. The Sorrows is his first novel, which published with Samhain Horror in late 2011 and his second, House of Skin, is set to publish with Samhain Horror this year (2012). Just this week his third book, The Darkest Lullaby, sold as well.
 
He has also written two novellas (Old Order and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories. His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true.

One of Jonathan’s wishes is to someday get Stephen King, Peter Jackson, Jack Ketchum and Joe R. Lansdale together for an all-night zombie movie marathon. Of course, that can only happen if all four drop their restraining orders against him.

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