Tuesday 14 October 2014

What Are The Grim Secrets of the Asylum?

Multi-genre author, Dana Wright proves that horror wears many hats. With her brand new story Asylum - the first in her Ghost Echoes series - she has written a novella, full of suspense, the supernatural and some serious sexual tension between her two main characters. I'm delighted she is joining me today - and she's talking about writing, research, and how to juggle life, the day job and dealing with deadlines:

1      Tell us about your newest release.

My newest release is called Asylum and it is about a young woman named Rachel who can see behind the veil and connect with spirits. When she is faced with taking another ghost hunting job after a horrible accident, she is tormented but needs the money to get her grandmother out of a terrible nursing home. She goes to Bremore Asylum with her nemesis, the psychic debunker Matt Rutledge. He thinks she’s a load of hot air and is about to learn the hard way she isn’t. (That’s one of my favorite parts of the story.)

      What was one thing you wanted to research when writing the story?

The research into old asylums and the abuse that went on in some of them. Women were placed in asylums by their families for failing to comply with the social attitudes of the time and there was a lot of pain that stuck around. I wanted to explore that.

The other thing I wanted to explore is the genuine phenomenon of connecting with the spirit world (Rachel’s point of view) and fighting the type of shyster that takes advantage of people in times of great hardship or grief. (Matt Rutledge’s character). They both have very valid points of view and it was wonderful to see them mesh. 

       Do you have anything you do before you start a project?

When I start a new story I immediately go to Pinterest and start looking at images associated with the current project and if they connect, then I make a board. I also pick out music that fits the theme if it is very pronounced. For example, one story I have under my pen name deals with a dark circus/urban fantasy type of environment. I found the most amazing album that had creepy circus music and the story came alive in my mind. The catch is to find something that doesn’t distract with lyrics or I’ll be singing (badly) instead of writing.
     Which authors have influenced your work?

Anne Rice
Stephen King was a biggie in my formative years. I also read a ton of Anne Rice and a wonderful anthology given to me by my sister for Christmas one year when I was a child called Tales of Horror and the Supernatural. I think the tendrils worked their way into my brain. Lol. I also read a lot of Virginia Henley, Nancy Collins, Kim Harrison and Melissa Marr. Urban fantasy, horror, romance, mystery and young adult all find their way into my stories at one point or another.

How does your family like you being an author? 

They are excited for me. I write under two names and they love that I am doing light romance now and demand I write a werewolf or shifter novel. My thinking cap is on.

My husband is my biggest cheerleader. We have worked out a system where he will go to the grocery store and throw me chicken strips or a pizza when deadlines loom and I’m freaking out trying to balance a full time job and writing under two names. It is a balancing act, but with his help I am able to get quality writing time almost every day.

When you aren’t writing what do you like to do?

I love to crochet, knit, play with my furry canine children, bake and read. But as you can imagine, writing comes first and I don’t get to do as much of my hobbies as I would like. Monster movies are also a favorite and you can often find me watching Netflix on my iPad doing my hair or glued to the set while I sit with my husband while we eat, then I dive right back into my writer cave.

      What’s next?

I am working on the next Ghost Echoes story, two YA books, a horror novella and about a dozen other different projects. I’m also working on a middle grade series and it is in the planning stages.

Seven things to know about me:

1.       I am a dog mom.
2.       In my day to day life I am a bookstore manager.
3.       I can’t drive a stick shift to save my life.
4.       Spiders are awesome but roaches make me scream like a girl. (Spiders knit-they are useful but roaches are just nasty little things.)
5.       I hate tomatoes but love spaghetti.
6.       I write under two names. Dana Wright for YA, horror and light romance. Erzabet Bishop for erotic horror and all sorts of erotic romance.
7.       Pizza and macaroni and cheese are my favorite comfort foods outside of chocolate.
The ''awesome" spider

Thanks for having me on the blog today Catherine! It was a lot of fun and I hope you will all love Asylum.

Thank you for being my guest, Dana. And, for the record, I LOVED Asylum!

The voices of the past are alive behind the iron gates of Bremore Asylum. Can Rachel and Matt deduce its secrets before it's too late?

When Rachel agrees to take the job investigating the disappearance of a fellow ghost hunter at Bremore Asylum, she is totally unprepared for the sexy and stubborn psychic debunker Matt Rutledge to be a part of the package. Can these two opposing forces find the answers behind the asylum's crumbling walls before they become the newest victims to the asylum's grim history?

Rachel narrowed her eyes. What little hold she held on her frayed temper snapped. Self-doubt flared, but she stamped it out as quickly as it came.

"What's that supposed to mean?" She stepped forward, hands clenched into fists, her foot brushing against the luggage. Her hoodie slid off the suitcase and flopped unceremoniously into the dirt. 

"We haven't even started on the project and you're trying to displace me already?" 

Rutledge stepped back, surprise clear on his lightly parted lips. Lips she apparently still wanted to kiss, damn his eyes. God, what was wrong with her? 

"My friend almost died because of a mistake I made. But you're already aware of that, aren't you, Mr. High and Mighty? Listen to me and listen good. I'm here because my grandmother needs me. I'm a damn fine ghost hunter, which you would already know if you bothered to see beyond what happened to Jeannie." She poked her finger into his chest and had the satisfaction of seeing him wince. 

Matt stepped back and held up his hands, a ruddy flush creeping up his cheeks. "Okay. I was out of line. Truce?" He bent down and carefully picked up her hoodie, handing it to her gingerly. 

"Thank you, Mr. Rutledge." Rachel snatched the hoodie from his hands and tied it around her waist with a firm yank. She didn't want to chance it falling in the dirt again and it was going to be a long weekend. At the rate they were going, it was going to be a full-on ice storm between them. 

A flash of humor crossed his face. "Do you think maybe you could call me Matt?" 

"That depends." 

"On what?" Matt cocked his eyebrow with surprise. 

"On whether you can stop dissecting me like one of your frauds."

You can buy Asylum here:

 About the author:
Dana Wright has always had a fascination with things that go bump in the night. She is often found playing at local bookstores, trying not to maim herself with crochet hooks or knitting needles, watching monster movies with her husband and furry kids or blogging about books. More commonly, she is chained to her computers, writing like a woman possessed. She is currently working on several children's stories, young adult fiction, romantic suspense, short stories and is trying her hand at poetry. 

She is a contributing author to Ghost Sniffer’s CYOA, Siren’s Call E-zine in their “Women in Horror” issue in February 2013 and "Revenge" in October 2013, a contributing author to Potatoes!, Fossil Lake, Of Dragons and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds, Undead in Pictures, Potnia, Shadows and Light, Dark Corners, Wonderstruck, Shifters: A Charity Anthology, Dead Harvest, Monster Diaries (upcoming), Holiday Horrors and the Roms, Bombs and Zoms Anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media. She is the author of Asylum due out in October 2014.   Dana has also reviewed music for specializing in New Age and alternative music and has been a contributing writer to Eternal Haunted Summer, Nightmare Illustrated, Massacre Magazine, Metaphor Magazine, The Were Traveler October 2013 edition: The Little Magazine of Magnificent Monsters, the December 2013 issue The Day the Zombies Ruled the Earth. She currently reviews music at New Age Music Reviews and Write a Music Review.

Follow Dana’s reviews:
 Twitter: @danawrite

Tuesday 30 September 2014

The Flip Side of Research - Researching Yourself, with JG Faherty

I am delighted to welcome one of my fellow What Waits In The Shadows anthology winners, Bram Stoker Award® nominated horror author, JG Faherty. Today, he is sharing his experience of research - but not the obvious kind. I'll leave it to JG to explain:

 Every one writer – and, I'd venture to say, most readers – know that a good deal of research goes into writing a novel. Even if the novel doesn't take place in a different historical era, or involve complex scientific principles, or have FBI profilers for main characters, there are always facts that need to be included and checked for accuracy. Woe to the writer who has tree vipers in a northern climate or guns with the wrong number of bullets in the clip or automobiles before the combustion engine got invented.

 But these are obvious aspects of research. I want to talk today about a different type of research. Research that looks in instead of out.

 Emotional research.

One of the essences of horror writing – and really, when it comes down to it, any fiction – is having three-dimensional characters who become real to the reader. You want the reader to feel what the characters feel, hurt when they hurt, cry when they're sad, rejoice when everything turns out okay. Part of this is imbuing the character with identifiable traits and placing them in everyday situations, so that when things go bad – and they must! – we are already on board when that ride starts.

It's also essential to have your characters react in ways that are realistic. Too often we read books where the hero is gravely injured, or sees his lover brutally murdered, or drives his car through a crowded mall just to capture a bad guy. And after all this, the hero continues on, forging forward with a relentless dedication to solving the crime or destroying the monster. No time for grief, no time needed to heal, no regret over directly or indirectly causing the deaths of innocent bystanders. This is fine for movies, where action is king and there's no place – or time – for a hero to wrestle with emotions.

When it comes to horror, though, this kind of writing can be the kiss of death.

Just like a lazy writer will fall into the trap of sending a character into a haunted house for no good reason, or checking out that noise in the basement when anyone in their right mind knows it's only going to end badly, so too is it lazy to assume that readers will never notice when a character doesn’t react in a believable fashion.

In my novella Fatal Consequences, I explore the emotions of fear and guilt, and in order to do so I had to put myself in the position where I wanted my hero, Alec Winter. Alec and his family were attacked by a bear while camping. Alec survived by running away. His children were killed and his wife badly injured. Now he's haunted by guilt. And this is where self-research comes into play. Of course, I didn't let a bear attack me, but I did have to imagine myself in Alec's shoes.

You wake up in the night to screams and roars. A bear is attacking. You shout for your family to run. You see the bear tearing your children up.
What do you do? You'd like to think you'd give up your life for your kids, charge the bear, scream at it, throw things at it. Let it maul you so the others can escape.

But would you? Perhaps if you're a trained soldier or woodsman. But the average Joe Accountant spending a weekend in the woods with his family? He might freeze. He might pass out. He might crap his pants and cower behind his wife. Or, like Alec, he might tell the family to run and then take his own advice.

I looked inside myself and the truth was, I didn't know how I'd react. Being faced with a deadly, rampaging animal isn't the same as telling the big guy behind you at the movies to shut up, or stepping in front of your wife when a guy robs you on a dark street, or kicking a vicious dog away when it threatens your kid. When a bear is charging at you, it's like being in the road when a big truck is speeding towards you. Do you jump out of the way, or push your wife to safety? How does your brain react, instinctively or with clarity and heroism, in that split second?

Most of us will never know that kind of fear, and that's a good thing. And because we don't know, we have to imagine it. I had to research my own emotions, see how I'd feel if I was Alec Winter. And in that cold hard light of honesty, I had to admit I might run. Not because I wanted to, not because I'd think "the hell with them I'm outta here," but because sometimes the brain simply shuts down and the body goes into self-preservation mode.

Then there'd be the guilt. Guilt for surviving when my children didn't. Guilt because I'd always be wondering if I could have saved them, or if I'd have just ended up dead next to them. Guilt because everyone thinks I'm a hero for bringing help back for my injured wife. We all know what guilt feels like, but this would be so much worse. Regular guilt multiplied a thousand-fold. Guilt that rises up every time your wife starts to cry, thinking about the children she's lost. Guilt that eats at your guts when your wife thanks you for making sure she lived to celebrate another birthday, to have another child.

And what would be the effect of that guilt, year after year? A little bit of ordinary guilt can cause all sorts of problems. Insomnia. Heartburn. Grouchiness. So how would poor Alec be feeling down the road? Ragged from nightmares? Suffering from an ulcer? Always afraid he'll slip up and let his wife know the truth? That kind of stress can put a guy in the hospital. Or on the psychiatrist's couch, in Alec's case.

This is the type of research that needs to be done with every character in every book. If I read a story where a bear attacked a family and the father chased it away by banging pots together, or he leaps on its back and punches it 'til it runs away, I'm thinking, "Yeah, right. Who is this guy, Rambo?" And unless this is a book about a Rambo-type fellow, the writer has already lost me. Just like you're going to lose me when the girl goes into the basement without a flashlight to find out what's making that moaning noise, or a cop follows a perp into a building without calling for backup or putting on his vest, or people stay in the isolated cabin even after seeing that the house down the road is filled with mutant hillbillies. Here are some other things that will make me move on to the next book:

The hero isn't wracked with grief and unable to go to work after his wife is killed. Guess what? That means he never cared about here.

People see a monster – bigfoot, Godzilla, whatever – and instead of running the other way, they chase after it. Sorry, real people are gonna high-tail it out of there.

Characters who never believe what they are seeing with their own eyes. Dumb characters don't make for good stories.

So, in short, if you want your characters to be believable, do some soul-searching. Think about how you would react in a situation, not how a "hero" would react. You'll end up with a flawed hero – which is a good thing – and a story that packs the kind of emotional punch people want to read.

About the Author

JG Faherty is the Bram Stoker Award®- and Thriller Award-nominated author of four novels, seven novellas, and more than 50 short stories. He writes adult and YA horror/sci-fi/fantasy, and his works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness. 

His latest novella, FATAL CONSEQUENCES, is available here:

 You can follow him at:

 His novella - Castle By The Sea - is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and in the anthology What Waits In The Shadows