Tag: novel

novel

Things that Go Bump in the Night

  I held a book signing last night to celebrate Death in D Minor’s official release day on July 11. Ghosts play important roles in my novels but none showed up for the party. Their loss. The shrimp and grits and the brisket were to die for. In honor of my second book’s entry into the world, I posed a paranormal question to my fellow MissDemeanors. What’s your favorite ghost/scary story?(Alternate question for those who don’t like spooky stuff: Why don’t you like spooky stuff?) Cate Holahan:First off, I will admit that I believe in spirits.  My mom is Jamaican, a culture in which the belief in “duppies,” aka ghosts, is pretty prevalent. As a result, I don’t feel that strange about it. According to family lore, I could see them as a kid (though I might simply have enjoyed telling stories, even then). Plus, I was raised Catholic and believe people have souls that pass on to another plane of existence, so why wouldn’t one or two occasionally drop in?  All that said, I LOVE a good ghost story. I read R.L Stein’s Goosebumps religiously growing up and in a Dark Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz. The one that freaked me out the most was definitely the girl with the ribbon around her neck… let’s just say I wish she didn’t untie that ribbon.  As for present day, my new favorite ghost stories would have to be yours Alexia. I like to think that if any ghost talked to me today, I’d handle it with as much aplomb as Gethsemane.(AG: I didn’t put her up to saying that) Susan Breen:My favorite ghost story is “Afterward” by Edith Wharton. I love that story so much that for years I had my students read it, though I have to confess no one liked it as much as I did, except for one woman, who became a dear friend. I’ve never seen a ghost myself, but I can believe that a person torn away from this life suddenly might leave a part of himself behind. Often I’ve put some sort of supernatural thing in my writing. Michele Dorsey:Generally, I don’t like spooky stuff. Years ago, I read ghost stories to my daughter’s overnight camp companions and scared myself more than them. Then I had the unfortunate experience of reading a very good book while I was bedridden with the flu and was pleasantly distracted by good writing and a great plot. Until I reached the last few pages and the hero walked through a door. I mean through a door. And then some weird twisted ending took place as I threw (and this time I do mean “threw”) the book across the room. I felt cheated by the author who gave no warning of this dimension of the story and it has had me creeped out about fantasy, etc. ever since. But if fairly warned, I’m okay with ghostly stories, and yours, Alexia are gems.       I admit I have had a few “spiritual” moments where I’ve felt the presence of someone no longer with us. Interestingly, the two times I have traveled to Ireland I have felt a presence when I am near ancient stone formations. Another time was during shivasana  (the corpse pose) when I was on my yoga mat. Paula Munier:I admit that ghost stories scare me. But I like them anyway. I had an idea for writing my own ghost story once–long forgotten now–and so I read several. I remember the ones that scared me the most were Stephen King’s Bag of Bones and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. So much so that I abandoned ghost stories altogether until I read Alexia’s work. Now I’m hooked on ghost stories again!(AG: I didn’t put her up to it, either) Tracee de Hahn:I’ve never liked scary stories but that may be because my early grade school baby sitter used to watch the Friday night horror movie with me. I apparently didn’t have nightmares (although there was the unfortunate one about the bodies buried under the house and the ghost looked EXACTLY like my mother. When she came in that night to check on me I was frozen with fear. I never told her since I didn’t want to get my sitter in trouble for letting me stay up late and watch TV).  Growing up I didn’t believe in the paranormal but I also didn’t object to people believing in it/them. That changed when, during a visit home from college, I saw an apparition in my childhood home and it scared me literally stiff for hours. Since then I won’t discount anything. Your Gethsemane books may convert me to being a ghost story reader…. can’t wait to dive into book two this week! Robin Stuart:I love ghost stories, reading them and writing/telling them. The Shining by Stephen King is one of my all-time favorites. I read it in one sitting when I was 12 or 13, much to my parents’ dismay – I stayed up all night to finish it, too scared to sleep. That made a huge impression on me. I wanted to be able to do that, to evoke such strong reactions from my words alone. Hunting for ghosts in machines is one of the things that drew me to cyber forensics. It often feels like a real-life episode of Scooby Doo, an early ghost story influence, where my team and I unmask villains pretending to be something or someone they’re not. What’s your favorite scary story?   

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PUB DAY!!!! An interview with Swiss Vendetta author Tracee de Hahn

 Publication day!!!! For my first book, it was the fulfillment of a dream, the culmination of years of work and the validation that I had not been crazy when I’d quit my journalism job to get “serious about writing fiction.” It was also terribly unnerving to know that my baby would now be out there, inviting judgment. I was uncharacteristically touchy the whole day, like a raw nerve. Today is fellow MissDemeanor Tracee de Hahn’s publication day for Swiss Vendetta, the first in her Detective Agnes Lüthi mystery series. Award-winning author Charles Todd called the mystery  “a true page turner” and the novel has been hailed as “tense, atmospheric and richly detailed.” She answered a few questions about her writing process and feelings about her big day for today’s blog.  Q. What was your inspiration for writing Swiss Vendetta? A. My husband is Swiss and we lived there for some years. It is a fascinating country. Incredibly beautiful and peaceful and orderly… until you notice the undercurrent of energy expended to keep it that way. The contradiction is fascinating and made me think of the elements of a mystery. There were a few other pieces that had to come together – the winter setting was inspired by the memory of a devastating ice storm some years ago in Geneva. The famous Château de Chillon on the shores of Lac Léman above Lausanne was the inspiration for my Château Vallotton (Lord Byron was also inspired by this location). After I had the location in mind, the plot and characters evolved. The crime at the center of the book came easily. Q. How do you come up with your characters? Are they modeled after people that you know? A. They certainly contain bits of people that I know, but the elements of the individuals are transformed into something wholly of my imagination. For example, one of my favorite characters in Swiss Vendetta is the aging Russian, Vladimir Arsov. His voice, his manner of speaking, and his confidence were all inspired by an Italian architecture professor I had the good fortune to know. Arsov’s life story was all my invention, but the reader will understand how the man’s presence – based on my friend’s – helped created the rest. Q. Do you picture the actress who would play your protagonist in a movie?A. I’ve thought about the cinematographic dimension of the book, but I haven’t thought about the actress who would play Agnes. Hopefully I’ll need to one day. Q. What was the most surprising thing about the book publishing process to you? A. The collegiality of the writing community, particularly those in the mystery and thriller genre. Writing is a solitary endeavor and they make it less so. I imagine that before the internet, authors wrote to one another. Now the immediately of the internet and the growing network of conferences mean that we can connect daily. There is much to be learned and this group is always willing to share. Q. Now that it’s launch day, are you happy, sad, relieved? All of the above? Why?… A. A combination of happy and relieved. I know myself too well, and while writing is solitary, a book is a shared experience. I wanted to be out and about at launch time. My publishers lined up a tour of several cities and I’ll be distracted for a few weeks. For the actual launch date, I am signing at one of my favorite book stores, in a city I love – Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY. If you want to join me on tour, the events are all up on my website at www.traceedehahn.com Q. What is next for you?  A. Finalizing the second in the series and then starting the third! I think that the second is a psychological hurdle. I have a dozen ideas for the next one and hopefully the ones after that. Really, can’t wait to get started! 

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The Non-Feel Good Novel

One of my favorite novelists is Herman Koch because he makes me consistently uncomfortable. The first book I read from Koch was The Dinner. The novel’s POV protagonist, Paul Lohman, starts off as a pretty likable guy. He has some issues, a few stray thoughts that would give most people pause, but doesn’t everyone? Who hasn’t thought something that they would never say aloud? Who hasn’t laughed at a friend’s off-color joke?   As the story goes on, however, it becomes clear that Paul’s naughty thoughts are much more than one-offs. By the book’s end, I felt a bit guilty that I had liked Paul at the start. That guilt made the story stick with me even though the ending wasn’t one to revel in and the characters weren’t people whom I would ever cheer for in real life. I like my good characters with a healthy dose of bad. To me, that makes them complicated, and complexity makes people human. I’m not alone. How could Breaking Bad have been so successful if plenty of people weren’t willing to root for Walter White? Still, not everyone feels this way. When I wrote The Widower’s Wife, some readers didn’t like the fact that my main character, Ana, contemplates a crime when she feels her back is against the wall and isn’t consistently honest. They couldn’t identify with her choices. Understandable. Though I wasn’t asking readers to sympathize with her as much as empathize. If they had Ana’s back story and then were put in her difficult circumstances, might they make a similar choice? At the end of the day, my test for characters–those I read and those I write–is believability, not likability. Given their individual histories, do their actions follow? Whether or not they would be my friend is another matter.  What do you think? Should writers err on the side of likability? Should protagonists make you uncomfortable?     

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