Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
I was born and raised in New York City, came to Phoenix, Arizona 27 years ago. I didn’t start writing until after my youngest child went off to college.
Kev: Tell us a bit about your book, Liz.
“Seeing Eye – A day at the fair” is a quirky mystery with an unusual heroine. Rory Wilson is a psychic with issues – family issues, trust issues, attitude issues. When she ‘sees’ a murder no one else knows about, Rory’s life changes, maybe forever. Her new life includes Phoenix PD Michael Warrick, a good guy with issues of his own, and a killer looking to snip a loose end – named Rory.
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it? I knew I wanted to write a mystery, because I’ve always been drawn to that genre. For some reason, I was thinking about people who think being gay is a choice, and how unfair that is. I didn’t feel qualified to write about a gay heroine, but then I came up with a psychic heroine, born into a Catholic family, and how they might try to change her, make her ‘normal’.
Kev: Did you do any specialised research for your story? Oh, yes, lots! I went to the Arizona State Fair and interviewed people, and I observed things I’d never noticed before. I signed up for a “Carnie-only” website, and learned a bit about how they lived. And then I joined a Tarot group, to learn how to read the cards. And after all that, of course, I made stuff up!
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story? Well, the biggest challenge is the writing itself. I had to learn ‘the arc of the story’, and to persevere when nothing was coming to me. Luckily, I joined a critique group that turned out to be amazing at whipping me and my writing into shape.
Kev: Who is the protagonist? That would be ‘Reluctant Psychic’, Rory Wilson, who plays hokey, gaudy, crystal ball reader Madame Mona in the traveling carnival. Most of her readings are made up. She doesn’t want word getting around to her fellow carnies, or anyone else, that her power is real; in fact, she hopes that if she denies she has this power, it will go away.
Kev: What would you say is the protagonist’s greatest weakness or obstacle and why? I think her greatest obstacle is one that most of us face – she was born into the wrong family. That one fact, that in her family her gift is a sin, has determined the trajectory of her life.
Kev: What would you say is the main antagonist’s greatest strength? Rory is a tough cookie. She’s carved out a life where she is in control, and she doesn’t take guff from anyone. At the same time, she has a soft heart, and when a woman and her little boy come to her asking for help, she has no choice but to use her gift to help.
Kev: Could you provide a short passage from your book to give us a taster? With pleasure! This is from the end of Chapter 3:
Later that night, sitting around the campfire in the boneyard, there was something weird going on, a vibration in my head. A small electric current began jolting me right above my kidneys, jarring my whole body. Very unpleasant, and it only got worse.
The hair on my back stood up, making me quiver. It felt like fear, and I found myself barking violently, trying to attract attention. Hair on my back? Barking? I dragged myself up, looking around to make sure no one had noticed. Crap. Anthony definitely noticed, although his body position was the same. His dark eyes glittered in the firelight, his mind questioning.
What did I do to attract his attention? I never let on to my fellow carneys that I was different. As far as they knew, I was just one of them, trying to make a living by giving the customer what they wanted.
I hoped to God I had not literally barked. Stretching and yawning as though waking from a nap, I went to search for Rawlie. I was addled from the wine, confused. I’d never read anything from an animal before. Was it my imagination?
I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find her; the feeling was gone, and anyway I wasn’t getting pictures, just a feeling of urgency, getting fainter and fainter. Against instinct, I made myself relax. I’d learned over many years that nothing was gained by pushing for answers.
Wandering in whatever direction seemed the most comfortable, passing closed booths, overflowing trash cans, and silent rides, I ended up at the outer edge of the fairgrounds, behind the animal barns.
The area was not well lit, but there were some security lights above the rear doors of the barns, and there was Rawlie, stiff-legged and alternately barking, growling, and sniffing something in a pile of manure. She let me know she was relieved I was there, and then she went back on the alert.
At first, all I saw was dung, and lots of it. Horses, cows, sheep, goats and pigs, chickens and guinea pigs, they all did what came naturally, and it all ended up here before being hauled away by special trucks every other day or so. I tried to call Rawlie off, but she was on point and wouldn’t budge until I took a look. Reluctantly, I went closer, covering my nose with the crook of my arm.
God, what a stink!
Finally I saw a shape, separate from the heap, shades of brown and orange, but not manure. Something round, with a multi-colored, geometrical pattern. I went closer, and then jumped back with a scream. It was the head of a huge snake, sticking menacingly out of the dung heap as though about to strike. Rawlie, reacting to my terror, started barking furiously, but she stayed a few feet away. I didn’t blame her.
I forced myself to move closer, although nothing would have made me touch it. Its mouth was open, and you could see teeth, facing backward — the better to guide unsuspecting prey down its one-way gullet. The creature was created to blend in with just such surroundings, and I’m sure it would have been carted away, unnoticed, had Rawlie not happened upon it.
My scream brought some men out of the barns to see what was going on. One of them, a small man in a t-shirt and boxers, brought a shovel, and he poked the handle into the corpse to make sure it was dead.
It was. Another man reached in and pulled it out, and we all screamed again as he swung it around his head like a rope. The serpent was cut in half, the white spine visible in the middle of a bloody circle.
In the middle of the dung heap the head of a second snake appeared.
People began coming over to see what all the yelling was about, and every minute or so, someone else would scream. It was quite a sight, all right. Two heads, eyes staring, teeth bared, bodies cut in half. Someone threw the body parts on the ground in front of the manure pile, and as horrible as it was, none of us could tear ourselves away.
Suddenly, someone pushed urgently through the crowd – not curious, like the rest of us, but frantic. Hers was an entirely different sound, the keening cry ripped from the throat of a mother at the sight of a dead child. Evelyn Ravega, the snake charmer, stared at the corpses in horror and disbelief. Dressed in black shorts and white muscle tee, her dark hair in curls around her face, her generous red-painted mouth in a horrified “O”, she looked like Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream,” come to life.
Unmistakably, these were her snakes.
Her husband, Robert Ravega, the manager of the carnival, came up behind her. He put his hands on her shoulders and tried to lead her away from the horrible scene, but she turned on him.
“Don’t touch me! Don’t you dare touch me!” She practically spat at him, the veins on her neck popping like they would explode. “You did this! You!”
Robert, embarrassed by the onlookers and yet wanting to comfort his wife, tried again to lead her away, and then gave up as she fled, crying, back to their motor home. She turned once before disappearing into the crowd, to hiss at Robert, “You always hated my babies. Always.”
There was so much emotion flying around, I was afraid I would of going into a full-blown attack, but nothing happened. I was as clueless as everyone else about what had befallen Evelyn’s long, scaly ‘babies.’
Robert turned away from her, facing the crowd. Unexpectedly, our eyes met, and in his face I read something startling – guilt. The connection lasted only a second, and then he was gone, following Evelyn.
Kev: When you write, do write off-the-cuff or do you use some kind of formula? This is my first novel, so I’m still feeling my way. I’d love to be more organized about it, but right now I just jump in and flail around until it takes shape. And it’s exhausting!
Kev: How do you deal with writers-block? This is one of the ways the critique group helped me. When you have a meeting coming up, and nothing to show, you just bang your head on the desk until something comes to you!
Kev: Preference for writing: Day or Night? Day, definitely. I’m pretty fried by evening.
Kev: How do you come up with your book covers? I wanted the cover to be mysterious and intriguing, and since I designed it myself, I needed it to be simple. I’m very happy with it!
Kev: Do you think the book cover is important? Oh, absolutely! I know I won’t consider reading a book unless the cover catches my eye in some way, and I’m sure most readers feel the same way.
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors? Read a lot, take a class or two, and join up with other writers. If you’ve got the desire to write, it gets weaker or stronger, but it never goes away, so just go ahead and do it!
Kev: Is there anything else you would like to add? I have a drawing going on right now. If you read the book, and post a review on any public site, I will put your name in a hat. The winner’s name will be drawn on October 31, 2015, and they will then become a character in the next “Seeing Eye” novel! (Just be sure and contact me at: www.LizMarshall.co to let me know.)
LIZ MARSHALL, EVERYONE!