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Interview: Haunting and Horror Writer Pamela Morris Talks Books, Women in Horror, and Historical Locations #WIHM #womeninhorror #historicalhorror

Tomorrow is the last day of February and the closing of Women in Horror Month, but I know that I for one won’t stop celebrating women all year long. Stay tuned in March for a little announcement on how I will do that even more on schedule than I have before on this site, even though a majority of people featured here has always been predominately women.

Today, join me for a last segment in my mini women in horror month series. Pamela is a cool horror writer I met online years ago through our mutual friendship with horror author Hunter Shea. She likes her ghouls and haunts and history and so this will be a fun and interesting interview to read. Enjoy!

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Hi Pamela, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you could join us. I have strong coffee or tea, whichever you’d prefer, or stiff drink. Take your pick, and if the former, tell me how you take it.

Pamela: Hey, Erin. It’s nice to be here. *checks the time* Coffee sounds great, with a double shot of Jameson and some whipped cream sounds about right after that chilly walk over here.

Erin: That sounds incredibly wonderful! Let’s carry them into the dining room and begin our chat!

I’ve known you for quite a few years, meeting you online from Hunter Shea. I know you are a fan of the paranormal and write many books in that vein. Can you tell my readers a bit about that and what you write?

Pamela: I have always been interested in all things occult and paranormal. It was something I grew up being very curious about and was never discourage away from learning. I’ve also been an avid reader all my life, so I guess the two just went hand-in-hand. First you read it. Then, in my case, you start writing about it. My first paranormal story was a three-page tale titled “The Strange Well” that I wrote when I was ten.

As I grew older, the stories got longer until now, I focus mainly on novels. My first two supernatural novels also happened to be murder-mysteries and are set in Barnesville, the fictionalized version of the small town I grew up in. Barnesville is home to a secret coven of witches who keep an eye on things. Currently I have four books set in Barnesville and there will be more eventually. These books lean towards the YA crowd.

In addition to The Barnesville Chronicles, I have a psychological horror that is very dark and deals with some taboo subject matter: abuse, rape, incest, murder, etc. Not YA in the least. Lastly, I wrote ghost story where a lot of the story is told from the perspective of the three ghosts involved. You don’t just see or hear what they are doing, but you get to know them as they were in life and why they are doing what they are doing, not just to the living but to their fellow trapped spirits.

Erin: What is your newest book and what’s that about? What did you find the most fun about writing that one and why?

Pamela: Last year I released a novel and a short story. The novel was the second part and conclusion to “The Witch’s Backbone” one of my Barnesville books. It’s very much a coming-of-age type tale. Five kids living in a small town decide to find out the truth about their local urban legend. The legend involves a witch named Rebekkah Hodak who is rumored to haunt a narrow ravine just outside town. It’s said that if you go to where her body was found, see her, and meet her gaze, you’re cursed to die an early, and possibly gruesome, death. One of the kids, twelve-year-old Tara Fielding, accidently sees what she believes to be this witch. Her panic and belief in the legend are what spawns the organization of a camping trip into the nearby woods. Horror ensues.

The short story is all about my personal fear of spiders, “Because, Spiders.” It’s about a nine-year-old girl whose fear is even greater than my own. She’s convinced there’s a giant spider hiding in the shed behind her house and she’s pretty sure it caught and ate the neighbor’s dog, too.

Erin: Do you feature any strong female in starring or supporting roles in your novels and stories? Tell us about a few and what their traits are?

Pamela: Most of my lead characters are women. In The Barnesville Chronicles, that would be Nell Miller. She’s the local small town librarian, who also happens to be a member of the coven mentioned earlier. She’s very out about being Pagan and confident in her magic abilities. She’s a bit of an instigator, always wanting to know more, do more, take action. She’s no Nervous Nellie, that’s for sure. She’s not one to turn down a challenge and will often drag her reluctant friends into helping her out.

In “Dark Hollow Road”, the psychological horror, one of the lead female characters is Mary Alice Brown. She’s the eldest of four and after the death of their mother, she’s the one responsible for taking care of all the rest. She struggles a lot with all that entails, including dealing with their abusive, alcoholic father. She does her best to protect them from him, even if that means she gets hurt in the process. She’s very shy, not well educated, and the victim of a lot of bullying both at home and around town, but she retains her sense of what is right and wrong, she has her hopes and dreams. She’s a fighter.

Erin: I love mysteries and historical research as well. How do those two loves of yours factor into your work?

Pamela: Every year for many, many years I’d get at least four Nancy Drew books for Christmas. I’d have them read by the end of January and craving more. That’s where my love of mysteries started and what greatly influenced what I write. Later I’d graduate to Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins, but Nancy Drew was really the one that taught me that a mystery doesn’t always have to involve a murder.

My maternal grandmother was really interested in family genealogy so I think that may be where my love of history started. She liked antiques and all that. From 2004-2011, I was an American Civil War reenactor. That required a lot of research to know what the heck I was doing or talking to others about as my living history persona. The two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from that time period. I like to keep things as historically accurate as I can so all the research I did for my reenacting, was poured into them. The witches of Barnesville are descendants of the people accused of witchcraft in Connecticut from 1647 to 1663. No Salem witches for me – too typical. I wanted to be different, at last a little bit anyway. So, yeah, lots of real history worked in to everything I write – including that secret Barnesville coven that allegedly existed in my real hometown when I was a teenager!

Erin: What is one piece or location of history you’d like to explore of have explored for your writing or just for general interest? What interesting things have you found?

Pamela: Probably the Salem Witch Trials. I wrote my final high school English paper on the possible causes of the events that took place there. At the time, my mom was working at the main research library at Cornell University and that gave me magical access to the collection of documents housed there on the topic. I got to sit in a locked room with nothing but a pencil, paper, and some of the original document from which I took notes. With those and a few other books I owned at the time, I put together my paper. In 1989 my first husband and I went to New England for our honeymoon and decided we needed to spend the day in Salem. It was a rather whirlwind tour of the place, but still pretty neat. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I’d learn one of the women accused was a distant relative! It was also much later while doing some genealogy research for a friend that I learned about the Connecticut Witch Trials that preceded Salem by about thirty years. It was from this research that I drew the founders, and first coven members, of fictional Barnesville.

Erin: That’s so cool!! How hard do you feel it is to write mysteries and tie up all the points? How do you do so? Outline? What are the challenges and what are the rewards?

Pamela: Only my first two books were murder-mysteries and it was a lot more difficult than I’d initially thought. I’m normally a pantster (meaning I don’t outline … at all), I just write and kind of know where I’m headed or want to head. The mysteries wouldn’t allow that much freedom. Not only do you have to know who committed the murder, why, and how – but you have to come up with believable alibis for all the suspects, the reasons they might have committed the crime, and a secret they have that would cause them to lie about their whereabouts or motivations. Good grief! Plus, if you’re going to touch on police procedures that’s another layer of research to look into. All this is a bit more restricting than I like being, but … the reward of pulling it off, for misdirecting successfully, and it all still making sense in the end feels great.

Erin: You grew up watching horror, I believe. What are some of your great influences and what do you prefer to watch now? Same then with the reading, let us know reads you’ve loved and those who influence your work.

Pamela: Yes, I’ve been watching Horror since I was a wee thing. It started with the local Saturday afternoon horror show, “Monster Movie Matinee’. With the cartoons over, it was time to sit on the floor with a little tray of lunch and take in the creature feature. They showed mostly Universal movies – Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Abbot and Costello Meet The Wolfman, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – family friendly horror, I guess. I grew into the Friday and Saturday night programming after that, darker stuff that started after the 11 o’clock news. Hammer Pictures, a lot of Christopher Lee. I love me them vampires! “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “The Haunting of Hill House”, and “The Legend of Hell House”, “The Other” and “Dark Secret of Harvest Home” are the most memorable ones. Once in a while they’d have a great Made-For-TV movies on. “Night of the Scarecrow” was terrifying to me and my novel “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” was directly inspired by it. Elements of “The Other” also come into play in my book. Lastly, being from Rod Serling Country in Upstate New York, I adored both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.

Oddly, I have a harder time coming up with books that influenced my writing. The style of certain authors inspired me, but maybe not so much the stories themselves. Tanith Lee, a British author, had a collection of kind of Horror\Sci-fi stuff that involved twisted fairy tales. Before her, I’d never heard of doing such a thing. I thought it was super cool and tried my hand at it with varied success. The fine art of short stories eludes me, though I keep trying. I liked Stephen Kings whole ‘small town – weird secret’ theme, too. That can be found in the Barnesville books. Of course, there’s good old Nancy Drew, again. I really enjoy books that make me think more about what’s going on, stories that misdirect the reader and have a lot of unexpected twists, endings that make me sit there and go, “Huh. I never saw that coming at all.” That’s what I try to do.

Erin: I’m a history buff too, and I know you were a Civil War re-enactor for a decade. What role(s) did you play? What was exciting about it? What type of horror or haunts did you learn? Have you used any of your time doing this in your writing?

Pamela: I played the wife of a field embalmer – aka an undertaker. It was very uncommon at the time, but not unheard of. It was also a very lucrative business. A lot like selling life insurance. My job was to gather the personal items of the deceased, write the letter home to his family, and mourn the poor soul appropriately. That involved sitting next to the coffin while dressed in black, wearing a black veil, and weeping (or pretending to weep). Those Victorians viewed death a lot differently than we do, mourning and a proper Christian burial was paramount. Embalming was a new science – formaldehyde hadn’t been invented yet so there was a variety of embalming fluid recipes. All very morbid to a lot of people. A lot of visitors wouldn’t even stop at our display. As I mentioned earlier, the two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from this time period and the man, Beauregard Addams, was the owner of a funeral parlor as well as having been a field embalmer and surgeon during the war.

Erin: That’s so interesting! Also, a mutual fan of road trips, do you take any to historical or haunted locations?

Pamela: No, we have not intentionally sought out haunted or historical locations. My husband isn’t into the whole paranormal or horror thing as much as I am, though I did manage to drag him to Granger, Texas to see the house used in the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not far from where his mom lives. So, that was cool. I also dragged him out to Terligua in West Texas for the Day of the Dead in the cemetery there. He humors me in all my ghostly, cemetery, haunted weirdness ways.

This summer we are hoping to make a delayed trip out to Boston Harbor to see the USS Constitution, might swing by Salem, but I want to go to Danvers, Massachusetts to see the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse who was one of the woman accused and hung for witchcraft back in 1692. She was also my 7x great aunt so I’m kinda curious about all that. We also plan on swinging over to Plimoth Plantation followed by Fall River to see Lizzie Borden’s old stomping grounds then west to wander through Sleepy Hollow for a bit before heading home.

Other road trips are much shorter, day trips or a weekend long adventure on the motorcycle. Anything beyond a four hour ride gets a bit sore on the old bottom!

Erin: Oh nice! That came in once near where son is in DC (the USS Constitution and other tall ships) and he loved it. He’s huge on that stuff (me too). That sounds like some amazing road trip stuff! I want to do all of that too. haha!

What are you working on now and what are your plans for the near future in terms of your writing?

Pamela: I am just finishing up the 4th draft of what I’m calling a Texas Gothic Horror titled “The Inheritance”. It should be ready this summer. I’m a big fan of the classic Gothic genre, old stuff, like Bram Stoker, Poe, and Wilkie Collins and really wanted to write something along those lines. But, I also wanted it to be contemporary, so I set it in the West Texas desert, added some bad ass bikers, and a band of really pissed off Apache spirits. Good times! This was great fun to write! And using the traditional plotting schemes of a Gothic novel really made things zip along. The most fun maybe was doing the research for this – ya know, actually being in the West Texas desert and taking notes, soaking it all in. Creating the biker gang was a blast, too.

Erin: What tips do you have for other women in horror in support of each other or sharing work?

Pamela: I’m really happy that I’m seeing more and more female writers in the Horror genre. There were so few that I knew of as a kids and for as much as I loved King, it would have been every nicer to have had more women to look up to.

I’ve always written what I loved to read and that’s the first thing you need to do, male or female. If you love monsters and freaky creatures, write about them. If you love vampires, write about them. If you love ghosts facing off against bad ass biker chicks, write about them! Your personal passion will come through in your writing. Start there and run with it. Read other female Horror authors. I’ve found their work so much more relatable. Where the men tend to go for the more violent, blood-slinging slasher, women, at least in my readings, tend to be more subtle and devious. But, hey – if you’re a lady and enjoy wielding that machete or ax, swing away!

Enjoy yourself and with any luck at all, those who read your work will enjoy reading it as much as you did writing it. It’s all about having fun after all, right?

Erin: Thanks so much for joining us today, Pamela! You’re welcome anytime, especially if you’ve got a good haunting story. Haha! Let us know where readers can find you, please.

Pamela: It was great chatting with you, Erin. All my titles can be found on Amazon and everything is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. I also have a website, pamelamorrisbooks.com. There are a few free short stories there and a blog where I babble about crows and other random weirdness, sometimes Horror-related, sometimes not. On Facebook, I can be found at Facebook. Folks are welcome to Like an Follow me there, of course. I’m pretty active on Twitter if folks want to follow me there, @pamelamorris65.

Thank you for having me over and letting me babble on about my work. I must say, you make a mean Irish coffee. And with that, in the words of Morticia Addams, “Have a delightfully dreary day!”

Erin: HAHA!! Anytime. It’s rather snowy here so I shall have a freezing night for sure. 😀

Pamela Morris Biography –

PamelaMorris_2019_2Raised in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, but forever longing for the white sands of her birthplace in New Mexico, Pamela has always loved mysteries and the macabre. In high school she quickly found herself labeled ‘That Witchy Chic.’ And school dances? Forget about it! You’d be far more likely to find her at the local small town library on a Friday night or listening to a Horror movie soundtrack in her darkened bedroom.

When her nose wasn’t buried in a vampire novel or any number of books penned by her favorite authors such as Poe, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, Tanith Lee, Shirley Jackson, and Wilkie Collins, Pamela was probably watching ‘Monster Movie Matinee,’ ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” and a myriad of Hammer Films that further fed her growing obsession with Horror.

All grown up now, Pamela has raised two children and enjoys drawing and painting, watching bad B-Movies, remaining ever vigilant to the possibility of encountering a UFO or Bigfoot, an taking road trips with her husband on the Harley. She feeds the local murder of crows in her back yard and still hasn’t quite figured out how she became the Cvlt Leader for The Final Guys Podcast.

TWB1_Curse_CoverFrontThe Witch’s Backbone – Part 1: The Curse

It’s 1980 and the dog days of summer have settled over the small farming community of Meyer’s Knob. Five friends have spent their time at the local creek swimming and gathering crayfish, riding bikes, and mostly just trying to avoid boredom.

When tomboy Tara Fielding reports she’s spotted what she believes to be the witch of their local urban legend, and is now subject to that legend’s deadly curse, her friends rally ‘round and decide they’re going to prove there’s no such thing. After lying to their parents about where they’ll be, the friends head out to The Witch’s Backbone where, the legend claims, the witch waits for foolish travelers who dare pass that way at night.

What the group witnesses during this late summer field trip and what they find out after they return to civilization, does little to put anyone’s mind at ease, least of all Tara’s. Not only do they now believe this long-dead 19th century witch is real, but that she has friends who are still practicing the Black Arts, friends that will see to it that the legend’s curse is carried out.

Are there evil witches stalking the woods and sun-starved ravines between Meyer’s Knob and the neighboring town of Barnesville? Or have the kids just let boredom, the oppressive summer heat, and their own imaginations get the better of them?

Link to Amazon

NRFTWfront_coverNo Rest For The Wicked

 Theirs was a hatred that lived beyond the grave.

A powerless domestic who searches for escape. Naked and screaming, the ghost of Sadie Price wants nothing more than to strike terror into all who dare enter Greenbrier Plantation.

A murderous wife who seeks justice. Lucy thought shooting her philandering husband and his mistress would bring her peace, but her subsequent suicide only creates a more hellish existence for her in the afterlife.

A sadistic doctor who refuses to relinquish control. Dr. Addams stalks the house and grounds of Greenbrier Plantation using his dark powers to control his Earth-bound spirits and anyone living who dares get in his way.

Can peace ever come to these tortured souls or are they eternally damned to walk the earth as proof that there really is no rest for the wicked?

Link to Amazon

DarkHollowRoad-FrontOnlyDark Hollow Road

 A past filled with terror.

On Dark Hollow Road, Mary Alice Brown and her siblings know little more than poverty and abuse at the hands of their father. Getting rid of their tormentor seemed the answer to bringing joy back into their lives. But when that doesn’t work, Mary takes it upon herself to see that justice is served.

A present full of dread.

After an unusual visit from an elderly woman looking to borrow sugar, the theft of his coloring book, and complaints about other kids bothering him in the middle of the night, six-year-old Brandon Evenson, who lives within sight of the house on Dark Hollow Road, goes missing.

A future obsessed with revenge.

Desperate, Brandon’s parents seek answers from Lee Yagar, a local who’s warned people time and again of the dangers lurking at the old Brown place. But, Lee’s suggestion that Mary is involved in Brandon’s abduction makes little sense.

Mary is presumed dead, as she’s not been seen in decades, but is she? And is the house truly as empty and abandoned as it appears to be?

A psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare.

Link to Amazon

WiHM11-GrrrlBlack

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Filed under HookonWiHM, Q and A with Authors, women in history, women in horror

Letters to Kezia, by Peni Jo Renner, Delves Us Further Into Puritan Tales Based on Authentic Historical People

Last year I read Peni Jo Renner’s Puritan Witch: the Redemption of Rebecca Eames and enjoyed the harrowing and insightful story of a woman condemned to hang for being a witch. You can see that review for the first book in The Puritan Chronicles, and an interview I did with Peni, HERE.

????????????????????????Peni recently released the sequel, Letters to Kezia, which picked up in the times following Puritan Witch and features Rebecca Eames son, Daniel, of whom eventually has a child named Kezia. Kezia is born to and lives with her mother, Mary Case, and as a character she starts the book in a present time by finding letters that will allow her to learn about her family’s past.

As soon as she begins to read the letters, we are taken shortly back in time to the meeting between Mary Case and Daniel Eames. He’s awaiting a trial for witchcraft in jail, and Mary, being a Puritan minister’s daughter, takes him food. She seems entranced by him and then rescues him, following him into hiding within a Native American tribe. Danger, turn of events, and emotional secrets all ensue that are quite shocking to Mary. From her courageous struggle to survive in the wildnerness, to having to battle against the men searching for Daniel, to a personal betrayal, to the death of her beloved sister and all she holds true in her heart, Mary runs from one bad situation to the next.

This story is very short. I could skim through the material in about an hour, but it was an enjoyable tale for a quick historical read. Based on the true story of Daniel Eames, it has elements of authentic history to it, as he was the author’s ancestor. It certainly was full of action that kept one wondering what might happen next. In parts, it tugged at the heart strings as it was emotional in respect to Mary, but Mary was presented as a strong woman of great character. This time the novel really focused on Mary, with Daniel as a supporting role. Rebecca reappears in a most kind way and we see Puritan and a witch accused together in way that shows us the compassion of people.

At first I didn’t like Peni’s portrayal of the Algonquin Tribe, but I realized later that she was really delving into what someone truly like Mary, in Mary’s position and situation, might feel towards them. When Mary came to conclusion in one section that she wasn’t anymore sure who the heathens were, the Native Americans or the white religious men, I could understand the sentiment that Peni was getting across with her writing about not judging others.

Peni seems to have a heart for what many people went through with the Puritan’s skepticism and rigid life. We are all intrigued by witches, but the more that books are written truly identifying with the real people and families from this time period, the more we realize how much some people truly endured. We learn a lesson in judging others.

I do wish that Peni would have fleshed out this novel more, however. I think there was room to make a longer novel with this tale, full of more description of setting, people, and their interactions, rather than quickly moving us onto the next without fully being able to delve into the moment. I wanted to read more about Daniel and understand his life and decisions even further. However, Peni does write lovely, detailed sentences with wonderful structure that absorb you into the novel.

Peni is constructing a fabulous Puritan series that will take us back to a time and place in history that is not always fondly remembered but that we all need to continue to learn upon. She showcases for us some of the real people of the time and place. This sequel is another stepping stone to an overall historical legacy of the time.

????????????????????????Letters to Kezia, Synopsis~

Publication Date: January 14, 2015
iUniverse
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 208

Series: Book Two, The Puritan Chronicles
Genre: Historical Fiction

It is 1693 in Hereford, Connecticut, when Mary Case, the spinster daughter of a Puritan minister, finds herself hopelessly smitten by the roguish thief, Daniel Eames. Betrothed to a man she does not like or love, she is soon compelled to help Daniel escape from jail. Suddenly, she finds herself on the run, not only accused of being Daniel’s accomplice, but also of murder.

The fugitive pair soon finds solace-and a mutual attraction-among the escapee’s Algonquin friends until two men from Daniel’s dark past hunt them down. After Mary is captured and returned home to await trial, a tragedy takes the life of her younger sister, revealing a dark secret Mary’s father has kept for months. But just as Mary learns she is pregnant, she makes a horrifying discovery about Daniel that changes everything and prompts her to develop an unlikely bond with his mother, Rebecca, who soon saves Mary from a shocking fate. It is not until years later that her daughter, Kezia, finally learns the truth about her biological father and family.

Letters to Kezia shares a courageous woman’s journey through a Puritan life and beyond as she struggles with adversity and betrayal, and discovers that loyalty can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Praise for Letters to Kezia

“In the tradition of author Peni Jo Renner’s gripping debut novel, Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, Letters to Kezia recounts the tale of courageous, compassionate, and relatable Mary, whose connection to Rebecca and her family is unforeseen and profound. The reader is captivated at the very first page, as Letters to Kezia is a story of forbidden love, deep family secrets, intrigue, murder, and atonement. Another beautifully written triumph for this author, whose immense gift for story-telling transports the reader into each scene so deftly, one can almost smell the wood smoke and hear the crackling of the fire in the hearth.” – Kelly Z. Conrad, award-winning author of Shaman

“Peni Jo Renner enthralled readers with Puritan Witch, the ordeal of Rebecca Eames, who was condemned to hang from Salem’s gallows as a witch. Now the Eames saga continues as Peni uses her special brand of witchery to bring Mary Case and Daniel Eames to vivid life, and shows us just how much a young woman will risk for love. Letters to Kezia is a poignant, true-life tale from colonial New England’s heartland which will captivate you, and keep you guessing until the end.” -JoAnn Butler, author of Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife

Buy the Book~

Amazon 
Barnes & Noble

Author Peni Jo Renner, Biography~

03_Author Peni Jo RennerPENI JO RENNER is the author of the IPPY award-winning novel, Puritan Witch: the Redemption of Rebecca Eames and Letters to Kezia.

Originally from North Dakota, Peni now lives with her husband in Maryland where she is currently researching for the third book in the Puritan Chronicles series.

For more information please visit the Puritan Witch Website and Facebook Page.

You can also follow Peni Jo Renner on Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/letterstokeziablogtour/

Hashtags: #LetterstoKeziaBlogTour #Historical

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @PeniJoRenner

04_Letters to Kezia_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

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Review of Puritan Witch, Circa Salem Witch Trials, and Interview with Author Peni Jo Renner

Today I have a review of Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebeckah Eames, by Peni Jo Renner, as well as an interview with her about her writing. Check it out if you are a fan of Colonial History, Salem Witch Trails, or novels based on family history. And in the black circle on the cover….that is really her ancestor’s signature!

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Review~

I just finished a short novel called Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebeckah Eames, by Peni Jo Renner, which was a true-life account of the authors ninth great grandmother. I enjoy colonial-era literature quite a bit, though most traditional publishers won’t yet publish them, so anytime I see a book come along from this era I am more than happy to take a read. Generally, though most of self-published, they are well-researched and well-written as this one was also.

Taking place in 1692 Massachussetts during the Salem Witchcraft Trials, Renner’s debut novel follows Eames’ life and struggles in this tumultuous time period of history. As Eames is wrongly imprisoned during the trials, what she and her fellow captives had to endure was enough to make you feel nauseous, let alone those women who were actually killed.  The portion of the book dealing with the imprisonment and death sentences were emotional, especially as Rebecca lived through the dreadful day.

The novel is authentic in feel, the history fairly accurate, and as I already noted, the research was obviously done. With it being based on the author’s ancestral line, it makes it feel even more real. The dialogue was realistic for the time period and yet still easy to read and you felt connected to most of the characters and their feelings. I did appreciate how Renner gave us an account of how all family members and other felt during this time, not just those sentenced.

It’s a very quick read, at just over 200 pages. With such depth of history, I felt that she could have easily added more intrigue or background information and details in order to not only tell her family member’s tale but to educate reader on the Salem Witch Trails. I hope she considers giving her novel more room to grow the next time around and adding more character developments and historical information. However, if you are looking for a fast read you can breeze through in a night due to length and subject matter, this novel would allow for that.

Renner’s writing style flows well and is easy to read. It’s absorbing and harrowing. It isn’t like reading Katherine Howe (one of my fave authors who wrote The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane), but it is a definite addition you’ll want for your book library if you enjoy colonial history. I enjoy family history and genealogy myself, tracing my ancestors back to 1600s early America as well, and think it was amazing of her to put her family’s history into words.  I look forward to checking out Renner’s next book.

Interview, Peni Jo Renner~

Hi Peni! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am pleased to have you here with us to chat about your book and life as a writer. It seems your book, The Puritan Witch, has been well-received in the indie book world. What has this been like for you, as you sit back and take it all in?

Peni: Thanks, Erin. I’m happy to be here! This is just a dream come true for me, having my book published.

Erin: I look forward to talking about it with you more. Let’s have a seat. May I offer you a drink? I’ve been offering so many hot drinks in Ohio as we had that horribly cold winter, but suddenly it is 80 degrees, so I’m having peach iced tea myself. What can I get for you?

Peni: I’ll take blackberry merlot if you’ve got it. 🙂

Erin: I’ll pour a glass! Let’s get started with some questions!

Q: The Puritan Witch is your first novel, I believe, and based on a family story. What was the inspiration behind your novel? Can you tell us about the family history behind it?

A: I have always been interested in genealogy, and I took advantage of a free 2-week trial offered by www.ancestry.com . I met some cousins online I didn’t know I had, and one of them—her name is Sandi—and I really hit it off. We started emailing and chatting often, and she told me how she has come across some very interesting ancestors. One of them was Rebecca Blake Eames, who happened to be one of the over 140 accused and/or imprisoned during the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692. It had been over 20 years since I tried to write anything, so I commented to Sandi, “It’s a shame I don’t write anymore; that’d make a great historical novel!” To which Sandi replied, “So write one,” or something to that effect. In any case, it was all that I needed to rekindle my passion for writing and—here we are!

Q: There also seems to be a resurgence of interest into the Salem Witch Trials. The question is raised if magic truly was being performed or if the acts were innocent traditional rituals and apothecary treatments. What do you believe? What types of things did you uncover in your research?

A: Personally, I don’t think there was any actual witchcraft involved in colonial Massachusetts. I think some bored girls were afraid of getting into trouble and so accused their slave woman of bewitching them. Then other girls followed suit to get the attention of adults. This followed to the adults accusing one another, until it got dangerously ridiculous. Some of the court documents and testimonies do leave me scratching my head because they’re so bizarre, like witnesses claiming the “afflicted girls” could contort their bodies in ways that weren’t humanly possible; maybe one of them was double-jointed? There was also the ergotism theory I considered exploring. It’s been suggested that the local crops had been infected by the fungus, ergot, and if ergot is consumed, it can produce hallucinations. For a time I considered using this angle to explain the hysteria, until I spoke to a very helpful archivist in North Andover, Massachusetts. She gave very compelling reasons why the ergotism theory couldn’t have been the reason.

Q: How did you conduct your research? Where did you find information? Did you use books, Internet, travel, or all of the above? Any techniques you found that you might share?

A: I used all of the above! It had been a long time since I’d studied the witchcraft trials so I had to brush up on my facts. I scoured the Internet and read every book I could find. I was fortunate to travel to Boxford, Massachusetts (Rebecca’s hometown) in August 2012. I spoke to the librarian and town archivist and—most exciting of all—I got to visit Rebecca’s grave! It was really important to me to visit the area so I could get a feel for the place.

Q: What do you hope that readers will take away after they read your novel? What issues do you raise, social warnings, or emotional concerns? In other words, do readers learn something about history from your book on an emotional level or is it strictly historical education?

A: Oh, this certainly isn’t “strictly historical education!” I’m not writing a textbook here. I hope the reader will get emotionally attached to the characters and really feel for them. Maybe the reader will stop and consider the truth of a matter before jumping to hasty conclusions. I want to show that greed and corruption is as old as humanity itself, but so is familial love.

Q: What was your most challenging part of writing your novel? What was your biggest success to you personally?

A: The legal process. I would have liked to had more detail with the court scenes, for example, but since I didn’t have the facts, I left things a little vague.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring historical authors? If so, what would you say to them encourage them or do you have any tidbits of knowledge, you know, those that you said “I wish someone would have told me that…!”?

A: What discouraged me from writing for so long was rejection from traditional publishers, so my advice is, go the self-publishing route! I did have to pay a few bucks to get my dream realized, but it was SO worth it.

Q: What other time periods or people of history are you interested in? Will you write a book surrounding the places or people?

A: Well, the colonial period wouldn’t have been my first choice to write about, I guess. The mid- to late- nineteenth century always appealed to me (GONE WITH THE WIND is my all-time favorite novel, just FYI). I always liked to learn how people did things “back then.” Maybe colonial is “my period,” since I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to Puritan Witch, and then researching for a third book to take place in 1689 New Hampshire, I might just stick with the colonial thing for awhile.

Q: Are you interested in writing other types of fiction? If so, what would you write? Do you have any story ideas already percolating or are you writing a second book as we speak?

A: Writing historical fiction was always my dream, and I seem to have answered your second question already…:)

Q: What authors do you read yourself? Who inspires you? Who do you learn from? Who makes you feel lost in a far off land?

A: Like I mentioned earlier, Gone With The Wind is my all-time favorite novel. I have read it over twenty times and each time it’s like revisiting an old friend, so Margaret Mitchell is a big inspiration. I also like James Alexander Thom, Ken Follett and Dan Brown. I try to analyze how they work their craft and get those images so vivid in my head.

Q: If you could tell a room full of people three words that describe you, what might those be?

A: Oh gosh, I dunno. Descriptions depend so much on the observer…think I’ll pass!

Q: Great question of the day given your subject matter, have you watched the new show SALEM on WGN?? I don’t get that channel but watched online on Hulu!

A: My husband Dave and I watched the premier episode, and I gotta tell you, my expectations weren’t all that high. First of all, due to my research, I spent the whole hour finding inaccuracies in Puritan life (i.e. Men and women did not sit together during church services). I realize they gotta do what they gotta do for ratings, but it’s just so far-out I don’t plan to watch any other episodes.

Erin comments: Ah, I liked it! Regardless of inaccuracies, it was a fun show to watch.

Q: Where can readers and writers connect with you? Where can they learn more about the Salem Witch Trials?

A: They can Like my Facebook author’s page: http://www.facebook.com/PuritanWitch and email me at puritanwitch@gmail.com. They can find out all sorts of information by just Googling “Salem Witch Trials.” I would have loved utilizing the Internet when I was younger. And hopefully someday I’ll have a website but I gotta figure out how to do that first!

Erin comments: I am sure anyone can find anything by doing an Internet search, but most authors are happy to share a few resources they’ve found that they think are great for learning about a subject.

Erin: Thank you so much, Peni, for joining us today. I wish you the best of luck with your book and upcoming work. I’d love to have you back for a guest post one day when you have the time.

Peni: Thank you, Erin. I enjoyed it very much. I’ll be happy to guest post again when my second novel is out. ‘Bye, now!

Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, Synopsis~

????????????????????????Publication Date: September 17, 2013
iUniverse
Formats: Ebook, Hardcover, Paperback

On a cold night in 1692, two young girls are caught up in the divining games of a slave woman-and then begin to act very strangely when the game goes wrong. Suddenly, Salem Village is turned upside down as everyone fears that witches may be involved. Six months later, as news of the girls’ strange behavior becomes known, fear and suspicion overwhelm a nearby farming community, pitting neighbors against neighbors and turning friends into enemies. When Rebecca Eames makes one careless utterance during a verbal attack on her family, she is falsely accused of witchcraft. After her fate is decided by three magistrates, Rebecca must endure a prison sentence during which she and her fellow captives have no choice but to valiantly struggle to find humanity and camaraderie among dire conditions. In this novel based on a true story, a woman wrongly imprisoned during the seventeenth-century witchcraft trials comes full circle where she must determine if she can somehow resume her life, despite all she has endured.

Praise for Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames~

“Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames is a story of the fear, suspicion, and accusations as they permeate the surrounding communities. The narration was exquisite, really painting a picture in my head and bringing to life the language of the Puritans much better than it usually is done. I loved that it was based on a true story and that the story really expands on a piece of the darkest of American history. Such a cool read!” – Katelyn Hensel, Readers’ Favorite

“Elegantly written, meticulously researched, and historically accurate, the author’s work rings true. … Renner’s vast talent as a writer is enhanced by the fact that she’s telling the story of her own family, completely captivating from beginning to end.” – Kelly Z. Conrad, award-winning author of Shaman

“In the colonial-era tale Puritan Witch, the plight of Rebecca Eames and her family plays out against the backdrop of one of the most intriguing periods in American history.” – Julie Castillo, writer and editor

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About the Author, Peni Jo Renner~

03_Peni Jo RennerPeni Renner is the author of “Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames,” an award-winning historical novel based on the true-life account of Peni’s 9th great grandmother. The book is Renner’s first published work, and follows Eames’ life and struggles in 1692 Massachussetts during the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Writing historical fiction has always been a lifelong dream of mine. I was discouraged for many years after receiving multiple rejection slips, and turned to other creative outlets like crocheting, quilting and cross-stitch for many years. Then I met a 3rd cousin of mine online who is also into geneology and history. She told me we shared a common ancestor who was involved in the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692, and her story had never been told. My love of writing was rekindled and I began to research this ancestor, Rebecca Blake Eames. In August of 2012 I had the privilege of visiting her grave in Boxford, Massachusetts.

After months and months of research, writing, rewriting and revising, Puritan Witch came into being, featuring a lovely sketch done by my sister-in-law, Jane Sisk.

I have several other story ideas I am working on at the moment, all pertaining to interesting ancestors my 3rd cousin has introduced me to.

For more information please visit the Puritan Witch Facebook Page. You can also follow Peni Jo Renner on Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/puritanwitchvirtualtourandbookblast

Tour Hashtags: #PuritanWitchTour #PeniJoRenner #VirtualBookTour

Twitter: @PeniJoRenner @hfvbt

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