I’m very excited to announce our blog’s first author interview. This was a big decision on my part, mainly because it’s new territory for me, and because I want to avoid making mistakes that will turn people away. But I want to highlight other writers on their journeys toward getting their work out to the public. So, with great pleasure, allow me to introduce R. M. Clark, author of the upcoming novel, Dizzy Miss Lizzie.
Thanks, Cordelia. R. M. Clark is my author name because all the other variations were taken. My real name is Robert, but most people call me Bob. I'm sure you know what it's like to have several names.
I’m beginning to discover the difficulties of the numerous names game, Robert. I understand that Dizzy Miss Lizzie is not the first book you’ve written, but it’s the first one I’ve had the pleasure of reading. You did a great job of portraying the voices and behaviors of two 13-year-old girls. Is there a logical explanation for this, or are you just really good at what you do?
Lizzie is my debut novel, but the third of seven I have written. I have no daughters or younger sisters, so I couldn't rely on much personal experience when it comes to the thoughts and actions of young girls. The voices came through casual real-life observation along with what I've encountered on TV, in movies and other books. I unleashed my inner teen!
Ah, so you’re still a kid at heart. That’s a great asset for a writer of kid’s books. You did a very good job of showing your readers the area where Lizzie takes place, even though I am unfamiliar with the northern East coast of the United States. How much of this is from personal experience, and how much is a result of research?
I've lived in southeastern Massachusetts for over twenty years, so describing the present day area was easy. I had to research Fall River circa 1890s to get the details about the real Slade's Ferry Bridge (trains on top, all others below). I needed a large clock so I included Notre Dame Church, which actually wasn't built until a few years later. Yes, I took a little artistic license.
Well, Robert, that’s what writing is all about, isn’t it? Taking what we know and adding our own imaginative workings into the mix. You did a great job with the details, although the bridge sounded a bit frightening to me when I read that section of the book. So let’s get back to the book itself a little bit. Would you like to give the audience a quick overview of your novel, or would you prefer to keep it a mystery?
Thirteen-year-old Kasey Madrid finally has the freedom she's always wanted. Instead of putting up with sitters or camps, she can spend the summer home alone in their "new" house. Never mind that the house is a creepy old place built in the nineteenth century. The creep factor skyrockets when Kasey meets a nineteenth-century girl named Lizzie Bellows in the basement. It takes some time for Lizzie to convince Kasey she's not a ghost, though neither girl understands why they can see each other when they live 120 years apart. The difference in their worlds doesn't stop the two from becoming fast friends. Lizzie's life isn't easy, though. In her time, her parents died in a fire many believe Lizzie started herself. As the summer passes and Kasey learns more about her own past, she is shocked to discover Lizzie is part of a terrible Madrid family secret. It's up to Kasey to go back to Lizzie's world to unlock the secret and clear Lizzie's name.
I love the mystery aspects of the story, and the inventive way you made the whole time connection believable. You describe the work as a paranormal mystery, which it definitely is, but there are other elements that need to be mentioned. The Portuguese aspect, which I thoroughly enjoyed, gave it a multicultural twist. Again, I am curious to know, were you able to make this so real from your own personal experience, or are you simply quite thorough with your background research?
I'm not Portuguese, but the region has a large Portuguese population, and most came from the Azores like the characters in the book. The food, clothing and names all came from research. One of the characters goes by Avo (pronounced uh-VOH), which is a Portuguese word for Grandmother. I ran my findings by some Portuguese-American friends who gave me the "chorizo" of approval.
Oops! I never got the pronunciation right as I read it. I always read ‘Avo’ with a long A sound. My bad. In addition to the cultural tidbits, you’ve given us an amazing view into the historical details of Victorian New England. I was surprised at the vivid descriptions you managed to provide into vintage costumes and furnishings. Care to elaborate on that?
Sure. It involved many hours of internet research on Victorian-era life. Good thing no one was looking at my computer screen to see me scrolling though pictures of Victorian underwear (Hey! I needed it for the story). Hoop skirts. Bathing "costumes." Speech patterns. Even hair styles. All researched for the sake of accuracy.
I’m glad you put in all that research. I loved the descriptions, especially the difficulties Kasey had with the corset. But the book has a lot more to it than fashion. I have to admit, when I read the portion of the story where Lizzie Borden’s name first came up, I began to fear we would have a bloodbath by the end. I don’t want to drop too many spoilers, and I understand how she’s connected with all of it, but did you worry that it might turn readers away? Or do you think she adds a dimension to the book that will help draw a larger audience? I’m not being critical, mind you, because I think she definitely adds to the story in both logical and historical value.
Good thing you didn't read the original draft! In it, Kasey, the main character, befriends a young Lizzie Borden and even goes back to Fall River on the day of the murders. What fun reading for the kids! A few readers pointed out the darkness of the draft, so I lightened the tone considerably and changed her to fictional Lizzie Bellows, whose own family tragedy coincided with Lizzie Borden's. Lizzie Borden is relegated to a very important cameo. No bloodbaths, of course. Just good, clean fun!
So when does Dizzy Miss Lizzie make her debut, and where can we find her?
Dizzy Miss Lizzie will launch on January 27. You can pre-order it from Stanley Publishing at http://www.stanleypublishing.com/store/). Coming soon to Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and the usual internet sites in hardcopy and e-book as well as bookstores everywhere.
Thank you so much, Robert, for your time, and for allowing us this sneak preview into the lives of these interesting characters. I appreciate your willingness to share with us today and for giving me this opportunity to conduct my first author interview. Hopefully it will lead to more, and hopefully it will help the audience to find out for themselves why I found this an interesting read.
Thanks for having me. It was fun.