Monday, October 29, 2012
Author Interview: Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem By Vera Jane Cook
Little Blurb about yourself:
I have five published novels, a reprint of Dancing Backward in Paradise due out in November and Where the Wildflowers Grow due to be published in 2013, both Southern fiction. Annabel Horton is my first paranormal/fantasy book and will be followed by two more: Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau and Annabel Horton and the Demon of Loudun. My novel, Lies a River Deep was published by Musa in 2012 and The Story of Sassy Sweetwater, also in 2012. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater received a 5 Star ForeWord Clarion review and in its first printing, Dancing Backward in Paradise was an Indie excellence Award Finalist and an Eric Hoffer award winner for publishing excellence. I have two women's fiction manuscripts waiting to be published and two spec fiction manuscripts on the shelf. By day I am an account manager for an education publisher and by night an avid fan of Damages, Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Nip Tuck and Homeland. I am a Sunday, sick day, holiday writer.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I began reading at a very early age. By the time I got into high school I was completely hooked on reading books. Other writers are my inspiration, back then they were my friends and I loved entering the world they created. Without realizing it at the time, it was really other people's books that inspired me to become a writer many, many years later.
How long did it take you to write (title of book you're promoting)?
Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem came to me in a dream, no kidding. I woke up one morning and I wrote down what Annabel was saying to me. It was as if I were channeling her. The plot developed after that. I really did internalize Annabel's voice which is probably why the book is written in first person and I'm a little nutty. I worked on Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem for years before I finished it, maybe as long as eight.
While writing how many times do you go back and rewrite a plot?
Many, many times. Writing is rewriting, as they say.
You run into a bookstore, where do you go first?
New bestsellers usually.
How many books in a month do you tend to read?
One to two.
In all the books you've read. Who is your most favorite character and why?
My favorite character is Lestat from Anne Rice's vampire series. I love him because he is poetic, daring and sad. But he always bounces back.
State 5 random facts about yourself.
I am hot tempered, very sensitive, colorful, amusing and as you can see, terribly conceited.
Your favorite Genre?
Actually, women's fiction is my favorite genre even though I love the vampire series by Anne Rice. I think she inspired me to write Annabel because in writing fantasy or paranormal anything and I mean anything goes.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve.
What is the best book you've read?
Every time I finish a book I love I say 'that is the best book I've ever read.' When I was a teenager I loved The Picture of Dorian Grey. In my early twenties I loved Atlas Shrugged. I remember reading in my thirties War and Peace, and that was the ultimate best. In my forties I read She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb and I raved and raved about it. Let's stop there and just say when it comes to favorite books I'm very fickle.
Any new projects coming up?
I have two new novels coming out with Musa, a re-print of my award winning title Dancing Backward in Paradise and Where the Wildflowers Grow, both southern fiction.
Here’s your chance to market your book. Describe it. And why readers should pick it up?
Annabel Horton is a very interesting character. She has morals even though she commits murder in order to live. She is intensely spiritual because she's been there beyond the white light and has returned as a true heroine but also, as a lost soul. She is lost in a kind of miracle that will never release her. You will like her though you won't always understand her. I'd say, give her a read, she'll take you on one hell of a journey.
Some say I am a stain on your history, a nameless statistic―a grotesque misfortune that is alluded to in your textbooks. I cannot disagree. Allow me to introduce myself as I am. Patience Annabel Horton is my given name, though I refer to myself as Annabel, never much caring to claim a virtue I do not possess. I am in spirit form for the most part, though it was not always so.
It was in the year 1692, in the village of Salem, in the state of Massachusetts, that I swung by my neck. Many of us died there, such needless, senseless tragedies.
There was evil in Salem Village in 1692, but it was not in the soul of any of those women they hanged. Poor Goodwife Nurse, now she was the saddest of the lot to be taken to the tree. No more of a witch than poor Bridget Bishop. No one was safe from the devil’s fire; certainly I was not, not with my detachment, my disinterest in the other girls of my village and their silly games. You see, I knew I had powers, and it kept me apart, but I told no one my secrets. Of course, I only tell you now because it no longer matters.
But I am not here to condemn anyone for my suffering. So do not be alarmed. As you may or may not know, men who believed they were doing God’s work chastised many of Salem's citizens as witches and brought us to trial. Many, like myself, were hanged. I was eighteen years old.
I will tell you what really happened in Salem Village before the century turned. You never learned the truth of it. Your history books do not contain the truth, but I will open the veil of time for you.
* * * *
Before my death, one year to be exact, a presence came to me.
“Who goes there?” I called in the dark. The form was like mist. The answer was like wind.
“Leave me, ghost,” I whispered coarsely.
The wind became a breeze and caressed my lips. I knew I had been kissed and I shuddered.
“Who are you?” I asked softly. The form appeared to be that of a man.
“Yours,” I thought I heard him say.
“You hold me in your arms, and yet I cannot see you.” I looked around the room. I felt his movement. Once again, he came so close.
The wind was like a dance as it lifted the hair from my brow. The air around my body felt so light and sensual. I seemed touched by a gentleness. It caused my heart to pound.
“Show yourself,” I commanded.
He circled the room, a tall gray mist. I was sure his hair was black, his eyes as dark as evening.
After that, I waited for him every night, and almost every night he came to me. It was not long before I fell in love with this spirit, as helplessly in love as any restless young woman can be.
These ghostly visits continued right up until my physical death. I always knew when he was near because the air would become faint with the scent of fresh rain and I would feel drugged with the fragrance that lingered in my room.
“You smell like late afternoons in summer, after a rainfall,” I told him, but he did not answer. He spoke to me so seldom. It was quite by chance that I heard his whisper.
“Matthew,” he said.
“Matthew is your name?” I asked.
I listened so carefully as the shutters moved and some papers on my bureau fluttered like wings.
“Matthew?” I asked again. “Oh, please speak more. Tell me where you come from?”
My illusive shadow was silent.
“Matthew. Matthew, speak to me! Show me your face. Let me see the hand that strokes me.”
Suddenly, the wind returned. “I am so far,” he uttered.
“Surely you must be a spirit from another time," I said.
Miraculously, the papers on my bureau flew around and around again, as if chasing each other in a playful game of tag.
I knew he could not reach me, could not fully pass beyond the barriers between us. Yet I felt him like an artist must feel his subject.
“You are tall,” I said. “Your shirt has cuffs of white and I have images of your smile. Does time part us, Matthew? Are the centuries between us too vast?”
I saw a shadowy light. It shone before me and revealed a man of great height, but in a split second the light was gone, the image within, too oblique to recall.
* * * *
Soon after his first visit, I received letters. They appeared out of nowhere. I would find them all over the house, always beginning: To my wife.
“What’s this?” I stammered as I held the letters in my hand.
Know that I love you and I’ll come to protect you. He had written.
His notes were always signed with the letter M, for his first name.
“Matthew,” I whispered. “How is it that you can leave notes about the house and yet not show me your face?”
But my ghost was silent and could not find a way to answer me.
“Why do you sign only with the letter M? I asked. “Is Matthew really your name?”
Silence remained, as still as the night wind beyond my window.
I began to think that I had truly gone insane. Oftentimes, I doubted the presence of my ghost and I questioned Father about the mysterious letters. For surely, I thought, the sun must be too hot and had affected my brain.
“Father, I have received notes of affection. Do you know who sends them?”
Father laughed. “A neighbor’s boy must surely be culprit to the bow of Cupid, daughter.”
Ha! I knew better. No neighbor’s boy in Salem would dare call me his wife. I frightened the boys of my village. They thought me haughty and illusive. Oh, there was a young man from Andover with the courage to court me, and I might have married him if not for my fascination with my ghostly lover, but I never got that chance.
It must be you who writes me. Mustn’t it be so, Matthew?
If only I had known then that it would be centuries before I would see the face of my beloved. But in 1692, I could only cherish his words, so I made myself a wooden box and covered his letters with a beautiful purple cloth. I placed all the letters inside. I then covered the box with a square piece of coarse fabric and hid it under the tallest elm tree by Frost Fish Brook. Many afternoons that year I read the letters in the shadow of the branches. The writer’s hand was full of lovely twists and loops, and the ink was black.
Had I not of died so soon I might have lived my life with my ghostly lover and never come to know him as a man of flesh. I would have assumed that some lost spirit had written the letters and had found a way to leave them inside the house. But, that innocence was not to be, and it was not fate that made it so.
It was Urbain, Urbain Grandier, and the power given him.
About the Author
Vera Jane Cook, writer of Award Winning Women's Fiction, is the author of The Story of Sassy Sweetwater, Lies a River Deep, Dancing Backward in Paradise and Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem.
Jane, as she is known to family and friends, was born in New York City and grew up amid the eccentricity of her southern and glamorous mother on the Upper West and Upper East Side of Manhattan. An only child, Jane turned to reading novels at an early age and was deeply influenced by an eclectic group of authors. Some of her favorite authors today are Nelson DeMille, Calib Carr, Wally Lamb, Anne Rice, Sue Monk Kidd, Anita Shreve, Jodi Picoult, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Her favorite novels are too long to list but include The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Cheri and The Last of Cheri, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wuthering Heights, Look at Me, Dogs of Babel, The Bluest Eye, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Body Surfing, Lolita, The Brothers Karamazov, She's Come Undone, Tale of Two Cities, etc., etc., etc.,
Dancing Backward In Paradise, Jane’s first published novel received rave reviews from Midwest book review and Armchair Interviews. It also won the Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence and the Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction, 2007. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater received five stars from ForeWord Clarion Reviews. The Story of Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem is her first paranormal novel and will be followed by Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau and Annabel Horton and the Demon of Loudun.
The author works by day for an education publishing company as an account manager and lives on the Upper West side of Manhattan with her long term partner, her Basenji/Chihuahua mix, Roxie, her Chihuahua, Peanut and her two pussy cats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie.
Where you can find author Vera Jane Cook:
Book Trailer on YouTube