Interview with Martin Turnbull, Author of “The Garden of Allah” series

Author Interviews

In the age of Marvel superhero movies, computer-generated dragons, and implausible car chase sequences, it is fantastic to know that a candid interest survives about the early days of film-making…
The Golden Age of Hollywood is truly named. The greatest films from that era have survived, and thrived, in our modern age.
I recently spoke with author Martin Turnbull, creator of the fantastic The Garden of Allah novels, about his thoughts on Hollywood, past and present.
Martin Turnbull, author of the Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels
“Searchlights and Shadows”
The Garden of Allah novels are rich in the history and lore of old Hollywood. What made you interested in this particular niche of history to begin with?
I had written three novels before, each of them better than the previous effort, but none of them good enough or unique enough to publish. So I was looking around for a new idea when I came across an article online about the Garden of Allah Hotel, its history and list of residents. I’ve been watching old movies and reading biographies and autobiographies and memoirs of Hollywood stars, moguls, important players and regular folks since I was a teenager but I’d never come across this hotel before. As I read through the names of people who stayed there – Bogie and Bacall, Harpo Marx, Errol Flynn, David Niven, Ginger Rogers, Rachmaninoff, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker and half the Algonquin Round Table to mention but a few – I marveled at how I’d never heard of this place.
Outside Bullock's department store at 7th St. looking north towards Hill St., downtown Los Angeles, 1937
I went looking for more information and found only one book – a non-fiction memoir of sorts by gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham. By about page 10 I knew I what I wanted to do. The Garden of Allah opened in 1927 a couple of months before “The Jazz Singer” ushered in the talkies, and closed in 1959, the year that “Ben Hur” made pretty much the last hurrah of the golden era of Hollywood. So, I realized, the Garden of Allah was open from 1927 to 1959, the exact same years of the golden era. I saw that I could tell the story of the history of Hollywood – from the invention of sound, then Technicolor, to the propaganda years of WWII, to the post war anti-communist Red Scare, and into the fifties with the decline of radio and the rise of television. And I could tell it through the eyes of the people who lived at the Garden of Allah because not only did they witness the unfolding evolution of Hollywood, but they actively participated in it. These were the people who acted in the movies, who wrote them, directed them, scored them, and costumed them. The idea to write a nine-book series came to me in one great WHOOSH! and I couldn’t wait to start.
Brown Derby, Beverly Hills, 1950s
How has writing the Garden of Allah novels changed your view of this golden age that we perceive as the greatest era of film production?
The thing that comes to mind is how small the movie industry was, and how small Los Angeles was. These days, we think of L.A. is being this huge megalopolis sprawling for hundreds of miles in every direction, home to millions of people, crowding the freeways and parking lots and airports and supermarkets. It’s been that way for a number of decades now so it’s easy to assume that it’s always been that case. However, in the years of Hollywood’s studio system heyday, it really wasn’t like that. L.A. was a much smaller, much less densely populated place. You had a bustling downtown, but outside of that, not so much. Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Hills were almost semi-rural. Consequently, everybody who worked in the movie industry was far more likely to know each other than they might today. In those days, L.A. was barely big enough to be called a city; it was really just a town — and the movie industry was a village. People regularly moved from studio to studio so they got to know everyone.
Sidney Skolsky Chats With His Daughter, Steffi At Schwab's Pharmacy
I’ve seen online comments about my books questioning how realistic it would have been for various characters to know other (famous) characters, but it really was like that. You didn’t need six degrees of separation—usually two or three at most degrees was usually enough. Especially at a place like the Garden of Allah. The residents there were so varied and so social (in other words, they drank a lot!) that if you lived there for any length of time, sooner or later you’d either know everybody or know someone who knows everybody. It’s hard to imagine in the L.A. of today, but back then, it really was like that.
 The Mocambo at 8588 Sunset Blvd
L. B. Mayer is sometimes perceived as a womanizing, omnipresent tyrant that held dominion over everyone at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—hungry for money, and power. In “The Trouble with Scarlett,” Mayer didn’t seem like the “Lion” history remembers. Is this closer in your opinion to the real man or were most of the legends true?
I think it’s human nature to want to paint people in broad strokes, especially the prominent ones whose lives unfold in the public arena. But people are more complicated than that: heroes aren’t always good, villains aren’t always bad, clowns aren’t always happy, damsels are always virgins. I never really accepted the perceived view that Louis B. Mayer – and, for that matter, his contemporaries: Harry Cohn from Columbia, Jack Warner from Warner Bros., Daryl F. Zanuck from Twentieth Century-Fox – were all tyrannical, greedy, power-hungry tyrants 100% of the time.
Obviously, you don’t get to be the highest paid executive in America as Mayer was without some degree of manipulative maneuvering, but I doubt he was quite as bad as the default perceptions of him. I read in “City of Nets” how he was quite morally upright until his wife had a hysterectomy and was told by her doctor that she could never have sex again. According to the author, that sent Mayer off the deep end and he did start behaving like the clichéd movie mogul. That got me thinking about how we all evolve through various times in our lives, and how we are different things to different people, and I wanted to paint a version of Louis B. Mayer that would reflect all that.
The Garden of Allah novels are very candid about the homosexual and heterosexual relationships deemed “sinful” at a time when the Hays office and Catholic Legion of Decency was breathing down everyone’s necks—something that not many historical novelists touch on when exploring this era. What made you want to go with this angle?
I’m interested in exploring the machinations and maneuvering that went on behind Hollywood’s golden era, and what it took to bring to the screen those images that reflected idealistic America back to itself. I find it particularly interesting the dichotomy between the life that Hollywoodites were living versus the version of life they were creating for the screen.
In 1934, when the Hays Office was empowered to enforce the Production Code, the people who made the movies had to stick to a very strict set of highly moral codes in order to get their movies made. But in real life, their own lives were filled with excessive drinking and drug taking, adultery, unlawful sexual practices, wild affairs, divorces, gambling, and god knows what else.
The homosexual angle was a case in point. Hundreds and hundreds of gay men and women contributed enormously to golden era Hollywood—as directors, writers, costumers, makeup and hair designers, and in many other capacities. However their lifestyles were not allowed to be even hinted at, let alone portrayed with any honesty. I felt it was an aspect of the history of Hollywood’s golden era that was worth exploring.
Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind
Speaking of candor, you’ve chosen to utilize some of the biggest names of the time as major players in “The Garden on Sunset,” and then in “The Trouble with Scarlett.” This is one of the most appealing things to me as a reader, but many novelists are afraid of mentioning stars in their books, let alone using them as working characters. Why did you not go the “safe” route and change their names to suit the story?
To my way of thinking, the whole point of telling the story of the history of Hollywood through the eyes of the residents of the Garden of Allah was the very fact that so many famous people lived there. This is a place where Harpo Marx and Sergei Rachmaninoff were neighbors, where F. Scott Fitzgerald played charades with Dorothy Parker, and where Bogie courted Bacall. I immediately recognized that it was an immensely rich field for storytelling and figured: why bother telling it if I’m going to change the names? We’ve all read books and seen movies with names like Mammoth Pictures, which we know is MGM, and characters like Lowell Mohr, which we know is really Louis B. Mayer. I figured, why not just tell it like it was? So that’s what I’ve set out to do. Tell a fictionalized history of Hollywood sticking to the facts and real life people as much as I can.
Who is the one person you would like to have lunch with at the MGM Commissary, circa 1939?
Well, if you’re going to restrict me to 1939, can I say “The entire cast of The Women”…? Hmmm . . . probably not. In that case I’ll say Rosalind Russell. No, wait, Greer Garson. No, wait, Myrna Loy. Umm . . . I’ll get back to you on that one.
Fred Astaire working with his choreographic partner Hermes Pan, 1936  Fred Astaire and Hermes Pan, 1936.
Is there hope for Hollywood heavyweights Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, or choreographer Hermes Pan becoming supporting characters in any of your future novels? (Those are only a few of my many favorites!)
Ginger Rogers (a Garden of Allah resident—she stayed there when she arrived in Hollywood with her mother) has made a couple of cameos, and Judy has too. I hadn’t considered Hermes Pan but now you’ve got me thinking…! The temptation with this sort of material is to shoehorn all my own personal favorites into the narrative. As I talked about earlier, Hollywood was really just a small company town where everybody knew and/or worked with everybody else sooner or later. So weaving anybody I wanted to into the plot wouldn’t stretch credibility too far, but it needs to come from an organic place. If I’m going to write, say Hermes Pan into the story, it has to be because Hermes would have been around at that time and at that place, and could’ve been involved with whatever plotline I’m writing about. I’m trying to write a history of Hollywood that didn’t actually happen, but could have and to do that, I can’t just insert whichever celebrity I want . . . tempting though as that may be.
Billie Wilder's
Do you think stories set in and about Old Hollywood are becoming more popular because of the accessibility of Turner Classic Movies and their constant spotlight on great films?
Yes, I absolutely do! I grew up watching old movies – generally the midday movie during my school vacations. So I’d watch whatever they chose to show, but TCM has exponentially increased our exposure to the movies of Hollywood’s golden era. I thought I’d seen a lot but then along comes TCM and I realized I’d only just scratched the surface. I think it’s produced a whole new audience for these movies and a flow-on effect, like a greater interest in the time and place from which these movies sprung is an inevitable (and wonderful!) consequence.
Who has been your greatest influence as a writer?
Hmmm, I don’t know that I have a single author who has influenced my work. I read a fairly wide range of novels. A lot of historical fiction (from all eras) but anything whose plot intrigues me. Right now I’m reading “The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard” by Eric McGraw, which I am LOVING so I expect she’ll be my greatest influence . . . until I find myself reading my next OMG-I-LOVE-THIS book. If anything, I guess perhaps Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” books have been influential. I didn’t start out trying to write a “TOTC” type series, but I was nearly done with my second book, “The Trouble with Scarlett,” when it occurred to me that that’s kinda sorta what I’d done. I realized that instead about a tightly knitted bunch of friends living in San Francisco in the 70s and 80s, I was writing about a tightly knitted bunch of friends living in Los Angeles in the 30s and 40s. So the parallels are there, albeit unconscious and unintentional.
Classic Style: Old Hollywood Vintage Glamour
You have quite a background! As a private tour guide for Warner Bros. in Burbank, California and a volunteer docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy, were there any stories about our legendary Hollywood idols that surprised even you?
From our modern, 21st century perspective, we (fans of old Hollywood) tend to look on that period as a golden age of glamour and star power. And it certainly was that in a wide range of ways. But what struck me the most about my time at Warner Bros. was realizing that for the people who worked there, both then and now—not just the stars, but the costumers, the writers, the directors, the lighting guys and even the girls in the typing pool—it was simply “where they went to work.” Sure, it was highly creative and all that goes with that process, but I saw that it was a daily thing. There was always another scene to memorize, another dress to make, another set to build, another P.R. campaign to concoct. So when I started writing the Garden of Allah novels, I thought about that a lot. I am writing about people who are living their daily lives during this time, just as we do now. I don’t know that they thought they were working doing a golden time. Perhaps they did, or some of them did, but I suspect it was more a case of what they did when they went to work, and that informs the books that I write. My goal is to write a story that, while it didn’t actually happen, I could have happened, and my time at Warner Bros. helped me to see what daily life was like back then.
Ziegfeld Girl. Hedy Lamarr, 1941 (this film was a favourite of Valentino Garavani's).
Where do you see yourself after completion of the Garden of Allah story arc?
I have a ton of ideas of what to write after the ninth Garden of Allah book. I have a minor character in the series who I like a lot and I’m starting to think she deserves her own book. The other ideas I have are all set during Hollywood’s golden age. I see that period being so rich for storytelling that I could happily stay within the “Hollywood Historical Fiction” genre for the rest of my days.
Casablanca. Another classic I haven't seen... I'm sensing a movie night in my future!
This might be a loaded question for a writer who loves film, but what is one movie that has earned the coveted spot of “Martin’s Favorite”?
That is a TOTALLY loaded question! And impossible to answer if you’re looking for just one movie. I can give you a bunch though: “Gone with the Wind” – “Casablanca” – “Singin in the Rain” – “Now, Voyager” – “On The Town” – “The Adventures of Robin Hood” – “The Maltese Falcon” – “The Women” – “The Wizard of Oz” – “Citizen Kane” – “All About Eve” – stop me any time because we could be here all night . . .
Movie Making at MGM studios
I hear there is some exciting news in your court concerning present-day Hollywood…
Yes! I recently signed an option agreement with a film/TV producer who wants to use my novels as the basis for either a TV series, mini series or movie(s.) As soon as I conceived the idea, I saw it could make a great TV show. I’d been approached a couple of times but negotiations didn’t really go anywhere. Then this producer approached me, having read the first couple of books. Turns out he’s a big fan of golden era Hollywood and of L.A. history and it soon became apparent to me that he wanted to try and bring these novels to the screen for all the right reasons. We were very sympatico that way and we reached an agreement that we’re both quite happy with. So we’ll see!
Harpo, Groucho and Chico Marx outside the gates of the Los Angeles Studios MGM, 1938 (Photo by Virgil Apger)
You can read about the announcement of the deal on the Hollywood Reporter website: http://bit.ly/gardenofallah
For more about Martin Turnbull and his books, visit: http://www.martinturnbull.com/
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Weekly Novel Writing Inspiration #12

Weekly Features, Weekly Novel Writing Inspiration

The Novel Writing Inspiration feature is a weekly meme begun right here on Shylock and Shakespeare highlighting visual inspiration as writing prompts.

Feel free to post links to your own NWI memes in the comments!

BAH

Forest Moon, Wales.

.

Giselle in just a frame

paris in winter

.

ethereo | Aaron Choi

Waddesdon Manor - Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, England

I can't get over this.

Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Vintage war love....

Tom Hiddleston in the November 2013 issue of British GQ by Dylan Don

Enndolynn

Review: The Garden on Sunset by Martin Turnbull

Book Reviews, Book Reviews

Review: The Garden on Sunset by Martin Turnbull

Synopsis:

In 1927, violet-eyed Alla Nazimova, the highest paid and most famous actress in the world, converted her Sunset Boulevard movie-star mansion into a hotel and dubbed it ‘The Garden of Allah.’ Before you could say Prohibition-Schmohibition it became a fabled residence-of-choice for hopeful and ambitious arrivals in Hollywood. The likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Bogart & Bacall, Gary Cooper, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Errol Flynn, Harpo Marx, Orson Welles, and others walked, wobbled, wandered, and wafted through its doors and sometimes into its pool. Drunk. Or naked. Or both. And rarely alone.

Drawn to this hallowed haven is Marcus Adler whose own father has run him out of Pennsylvania. There is only one address he knows: 8152 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood–the home of the luminous Nazimova, a vision in diaphanous lavender tulle who once visited him when he was a child sick with diphtheria. “Come visit me any time,” she whispered into his ear. He takes her at her word but finds her home is now a hotel. With nowhere else to go, he checks in and thinks, Now what? There he meets Kathryn Massey who has run away from her overbearing stage mother to pursue a career as a journalist–God forbid a girl in Hollywood would actually want to use her brains–and Gwendolyn Brick, a hopeful actress from ‘The Other Hollywood’–Hollywood, Florida–who has come to try her luck in Glitter City. The girl is blessed/cursed with a pair of lips that the men in this town are going to be lining up to have a go at. She won’t be able to fight them off on her own.

They band together: three naïve hopefuls madly dog-paddling against a tidal wave of threadbare casting couches, nervous bootleggers, human billboards, round-world Zeppelins, sinking gambling boats, waiters in black face, William Randolph Hearst, the Long Beach earthquake, starlets, harlots, Harlows and Garbos.

THE GARDEN ON SUNSET is the first in Martin Turnbull’s series of historical novels set during Hollywood’s golden age.

Synopsis Courtesy of the Author’s Website.

After coming off a recent reading high after finishing “Love Me” by Rachel Shukert, (review coming soon) I found the perfect solution in “The Garden on Sunset” by Martin Turnbull, book 1 in the Garden of Allah series. This self-published novel was pretty hard to track down, but eventually my library found just one copy in a library in Illinois and sent it my way.

Needless to say, I eagerly devoured this unknown gem in a few short days. It had everything I wanted in a novel about the Golden Age of Hollywood: exotic film stars, intrigue, and excellent descriptions of locales that were familiar to me via other books and movies like Schwabb’s, the Brown Derby, and the Paramount lot. Although some of the content was surprising, it fit very naturally in this plot, and I’m left wondering why this book hasn’t found a home with a traditional publishing house.

My only criticism would be about the timeline and pacing. As a reader, I was not sure if the plot had jumped forward a day, two days, a month or six months with each chapter. A  little more time could have been taken for character development and I believe a little subscript at the top of the new chapters like “Six weeks later” or “Christmas, 1934” might have helped to keep readers a bit more oriented with the timeline.

For fans of the Starstruck series by Rachel Shukert, although definitely intended for an older reader, this series surely has the ability to go further in the publishing industry with some well-placed publicity.

Book 2: The Trouble With Scarlett

About the Author:

Martin Turnbull

Martin Turnbull has worked as a private tour guide showing both locals and out-of-towners the movie studios, Beverly Hills mansions, Hollywood hills vistas and where all the bodies are buried. For nine years, he has also volunteered as an historical walking tour docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy. He worked for a summer as a guide at the Warner Bros. movie studios in Burbank showing movie fans through the sound stages where Bogie and Bacall, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and James Cagney created some of Hollywood’s classic motion pictures.

From an early age, Martin was enchanted with old movies from Hollywood’s golden era–from the dawn of the talkies in the late 1920s to the dusk of the studio system in the late 1950s–and has spent many, many a happy hour watching the likes of Garland, Gable, Crawford, Garbo, Grant, Miller, Kelly, Astaire, Rogers, Turner, Welles go through their paces.

When he discovered the wonderful world of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs, his love of reading merged with his love of movies and his love of history to produce a three-headed hydra gobbling up everything in his path. Ever since then, he’s been on a mission to learn and share as much as he can about this unique time.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Martin moved to Los Angeles in the mid-90s.

Author Website: http://martinturnbull.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @TurnbullMartin

Epic Reads #ARCParty: December 2013 Edition

Book Reviews

If you haven’t checked out Epic Reads, do so now! They have an amazing team over at Harper Collins and Epic Reads is just another reason to love this publishing company. Here is a sneak peek at all of the fantastic titles coming from them in January, featured in their #ARCParty: December 2013 Edition

http://www.epicreads.com/
 

Ain’t no party like an Epic Reads ARC Party! It’s time for our bi-annual, live streaming party where we open our mystery boxes filled with spring and summer books and geek out over them with our fellow book nerds on Twitter.

Watch the replay here!

Dance break!

Complete list of ARCs debuted:

(Clicking on each book will bring you to their Goodreads’ page!)

Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard

Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

Exile by Kevin Emerson

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

After the End by Amy Plum

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

The Taking by Kimberly Derting

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

Vivian Divine is Dead by Lauren Sabel

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

In the End by Demitria Lunetta

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

Rebel by Amy Tintera

Wicked Games by Sean Olin

Talker 25 by Joshua McCune

Tease by Amanda Maciel

So You Want To Be A Writer: Harvesting Inspiration

So You Want To Be A Writer, Weekly Features, Weekly Novel Writing Inspiration

I usually post a photography feature for novel writing inspiration, and I would like to share my thoughts on how inspiration in the form of a snapshot can become a window into something spectacular.

todays pick ... hot off the bench ... upscaled vintage bottles

There are countless ways to bottle inspiration. Reading a Jane Austen book, going for a walk along the Seine, watching an Italian film, or a whirlwind romance with a handsome stranger you met in Trafalgar Square. I’m asked quite often, “Where does inspiration come from?”

My answer, “I harvest it.”

Surrounded for Illuminations

That usually stumps the inquirer.

eloise

Many writers are faced with this question daily. Where does inspiration come from?

Lion

Can you buy it in a store, like bread and eggs? Is it a commodity to invest in? Or is it simply a far away muse that can only be tapped into if the diva allows it?

Umbrella

Inspiration for writers, both young and old, is not tangible. It is different for each person. We experience the world through a pair of eyes, and a pair of hands. Photography has provided a glorious window for a moment in time to be captured, and many authors will say a certain photo grabbed them so intensely that they wrote an entire book trying to explain it all.

The flea

Lois Lowry, who is most famous for writing “The Giver” was inspired by bunch of unwanted photos in an antique store, that she purchased them all and wrote a book surrounded the exact photos she’d found. That book became “The Silent Boy.” And although inspiration, like love, can’t be bought, but it can be found in the strangest of places.

Estudio Domus

Where would J.K. Rowling be if she hadn’t ridden on that train and found the nucleus of the Harry Potter series dropped into her lap?

It all ends.

Where would Stephenie Meyer be without the dream about an ordinary human girl falling in love with a vampire?

Haha

Where would most of the publishing world be without these tiny sparks of inspiration?

Fairy Tales

Photography allows me to “harvest” inspiration in the forms of little scenes, captured in time. One day, it may be the right time, the right moment, when a pretty picture could spark the beginnings of a book idea.

Lady Bannon of Berwick

Harvest your inspiration like you harvest love.

Sow the seeds and search out your inspiration in the beautiful world out there, and you’ll reap inspiration in the most unlikely places.

:)

Weekly Novel Writing Inspiration

Weekly Features, Weekly Novel Writing Inspiration

The Novel Writing Inspiration feature is a meme begun right here on Shylock Books highlighting visual inspiration as writing prompts.

Feel free to post links to your own NWI memes in the comments!

Review: Unsinkable by Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway

Book Reviews

Unsinkable: A memoir

Debbie Reynolds

and Dorian Hannaway

Library Copy

Grade: ***

Unsinkable: A Memoir

“Unsinkable is the definitive memoir by film legend and Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds.

Actress, comedienne, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds shares the highs and lows of her life as an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age, anecdotes about her lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor and her experiences as the foremost collector of Hollywood memorabilia, and intimate details of her marriages and family life with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher.

A story of heartbreak, hope, and survival, “America’s Sweetheart” Debbie Reynolds picks up where she left off in her first memoir, Debbie: My Life.

Unsinkable is illustrated with previously unpublished photos from Reynolds’s personal collection.”

—Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com

This memoir was highly anticipated for me. Having read Debbie Reynolds’s earlier memoir from the 1980s, I didn’t believe she could write much more on her life—having had quite a full life already!

From her earliest days at the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios, she was that “cute” kid with the really high voice that could do impersonations of famous actors. She had been through several divorces, multiple scandals, earned and lost millions, and worked with some of the most legendary stars of the silver screen. My first encounter with her acting work was in “Singin’ in the Rain” starring Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.

This memoir was a bit jumbled in its presentation, beginning with what happened since her last memoir, then working from her beginnings at MGM to her most recent movie. I loved the little anecdotes that were missing since the first memoir, but all in all it seemed like a very long-winded rant on how she has been wronged by all her ex-husbands, and is a bit boastful on how “she came out on top” but everyone should still feel sorry for her because she lost all of her money. I get it. Her marriages were not the best. But using that as the only fuel you have to write another memoir doesn’t make for an excellent tome of your life.

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Reviews

The Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater

Library Copy

(****)

cover, young adult, series, fantasy books

Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble.

—Synopsis courtesy of the author’s website.

The Raven Boys, like every other Maggie Stiefvater novel, was highly anticipated by librarians, readers, and booksellers alike. I knew next to nothing about it, but requested it at my library nonetheless. I hadn’t liked her last book, The Scorpio Races, very much even though the premise was wonderful. With The Raven Boys I enjoyed it far better, as the pace wasn’t muddled and the plot lines were much clearer.

As with all of Maggie Stiefvater’s writings, again with this one I felt “something” was missing from the prose. I have yet to pin down exactly what that “something” is, but I had noticed that it was missing when I read the Shiver series, and again with the Scorpio Races. The closest that I could possibly say that “something” would be is a fullness of character, and character settings. Like there are only four or five characters in the entire world throughout each book, and no other life exists outside of this little world inside the book. Where in their world there are no grocers or bankers, or families or other friends in school, or secondary characters that might add a fuller sense of place.

The one book of hers that I noticed had a bit more fullness than the others was Linger, and mainly that had to do with Cole St. Clair’s storyline adding to the Grace and Sam storyline.

The premise of The Raven Boys was unique, and not something you usually see in today’s Young Adult Fiction market. With that being said, I cannot wait for my copy of The Dream Thieves, the second book in the Raven Cycle.

Guest Post: Behind the Scenes with “Phantom” author Laura DeLuca on her Brand New Short Story “Jessica”

Author Interviews

Laura DeLuca, author of “Phantom”  has stopped by to bring us behind-the-scenes on her brand new short story, “Jessica.” 

******************************************************

Jessica is a little Halloween surprise my publisher arranged for my readers. Today, I thought I’d give you a behind of scenes look at how this short story came to be. I usually prefer to write full length a novel as opposed to shorts, but this one was sort of thrust upon me. I wrote this story almost two decades ago during my freshman year of college. The story was influenced by two very interesting people–Jessica Pirnik Gittle and James T . Kirk.

Jessica & Laura-Wildwood Catholic High School-1993

This is a photo of me with Jessica. She was one of my best and closest friends in high school. We did everything together. We were in the chorus, the yearbook staff, the school newsletter (I was editor, of course), the ecology club, and just about every other club that wasn’t a sport. I don’t do sports. We met when we were freshman in high school because we were seated alphabetically. Her name was Pirnik and my maiden name was Rice. Yes, it was a small school so there wasn’t anyone in between us in our homeroom. So, this is my best friend who I laughed and cried with, who always supported me in my writing and in all my crazy schemes. Yet, she never got a part in one of my books. She doesn’t even remember this, but she used to bug me about it all the time. It wasn’t until after we graduated from high school and I was in college that I finally put her name in a story. That story, of course, was Jessica.

Fall Formal at Stockton-I was 17

So this brings me to James T. Kirk. I bet you thought I meant the one from the spaceship. Well, no offense to the captain, but that’s not the James. T. Kirk I’m talking about here. I’m referring to a professor at my old college, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. I was in his creative writing class back in 1994, and one of our projects was to write a Halloween themed story that was set on the college campus.

This is me at Lake Fred-1994

At first, I wasn’t into this project at all. I like inspiration to flow naturally. I don’t like trying to force it. I remember sitting in my dorm, chewing he edge of my pen, coming up with nothing, and the deadline was the hours away. Then, feeling a homesick moment, I started to flip through an old photo album I had brought with me. I saw that picture of Jessica and me together. It reminded me that she had asked for her name to be a story. I thought it would be even better if her name was the title of that story. From that point, the idea flowed pretty flawlessly.

Nature Trail at Stockton

Bringing the campus into the story was even less challenging. It’s truly stunning, especially in the fall, and with its circling trails and lily covered ponds, it’s the perfect setting for all kinds of spooky happenings. I changed the name of the college for the story, but the scenery remains pretty much the same. Stockton is surrounded by acres of woods and there really is a beautiful lake there named Lake Fred. There isn’t really a White Lady haunting the lake, at least not that I know of. Still, I if I were a guy, I wouldn’t want to be wondering around Lake Fred all alone on Halloween night…

So that’s the story behind the story.

If you want to grab a copy of this short paranormal thriller for yourself, it’s available exclusively on Amazon in e-book format for only $0.99.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009RBJYL4

Want to know more about Laura DeLuca?

Book Trailer Thursday! “Struck” by Jennifer Bosworth

Book Trailer Thursday, Weekly Features

Once Upon a Twilight

Book Trailer Thursday is a weekly feature started by Once Upon A Twilight, and features a book trailer for a new or upcoming release! Please post links to your own BTTs in the comments!

 “Struck” by Jennifer Bosworth