Is anything in Brimstone based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
A lot of things in Brimstone are based in real life. First of all, the Brimstone Grand Hotel and the town of Brimstone are very similar physically to the Jerome Grand Hotel and Jerome, Arizona. Jerome is a historical hotspot, a copper-mining town that was nearly a ghost before it was saved. The hotel was originally a mining company hospital and still looks very similar to the way it was back when it was operating. It’s also loaded with ghost stories; it even has one about an elevator ghost, though it’s very different from the one in Brimstone.
Other things from real life include my own experiences – altered, of course – with anomalies and “ghost hunting.” When I write about cold spots, for instance, I’m speaking from experience. But my plot, characters, and ghosts are all made up of whole cloth.
What research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I love to research and am usually researching the next book while writing the current one, so it’s typical for me to spend six to twelve months gathering information. The research continues while I’m writing, as well. For Brimstone, I stayed in the Jerome Grand half a dozen times, spent evenings talking with desk clerks, soaked up atmosphere both in the hotel and all over town, and read everything I could on the area. For me, place is as much a character as any other and I don’t feel ready to write about it until I know it intimately.
Other research included refreshers on fashion, music, and politics in 1968. Though I don’t deal with politics in the book, it was important for me to know the era well, to know the feel of it. And there are small things; Holly’s mother smokes Virginia Slims in the book – they appeared in the same month the book begins in. It was fascinating learning things like this.
How do you select names for your characters?
The best ones are told to me by the characters. They’re just there. Brimstone is full of them. Delilah Devine, the protagonist’s grandmother, is a 30s-40s movie star, long retired. She emerged fully formed and told me her name. Her daughter, Cherry Devine, also whispered in my ear. Then, Delilah huffily told me Cherry’s birth name is “Charlotte.” It made sense; I’d hate that name, too. And our protagonist, Holly Tremayne, simply showed up and informed me that this was her name and that she liked her last name because it made her think of the book, Johnny Tremain. That told me she was a big reader. In turn, she was inspired by a painting called The Girl I Left Behind Me by Eastman Johnson. The pensive look is all Holly. The landscape is all Brimstone.
The bellman’s name, Meeks, was whispered in my ear as well. I immediately wondered if part of his horrible personality stems from growing up with such a name. Other names are chosen for various reasons. Steve Cross is a nod to my oft-collaborator, Alistair Cross. Fluffy the cat is named Fluffy because that makes it pretty obvious he’s a furball, not a human.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few readers will find?
You mean Easter eggs? You bet. In Brimstone, the pharmacist’s name is Ben Gower. Ring any bells? And there’s a woman named Edna Garrett who has a big freckled bosom. In all my books, you’ll find wordplay. One of my favorites is in The Cliffhouse Haunting, which I wrote with Alistair Cross. A vile, egotistical writer is named Constance Welling. Say it out loud. In Mother, another collaboration, there’s a Phyllis Stine. In The Forgotten, a solo, there’s Professor Dan S. McCobb and his wife Vera McCobb. And a Wallis and Flora Tilton. You’ll find names like these in every book. And if you spot a street name in Spanish, odds are good that if you look it up, it’s rude or funny. I found out early on in my career that I could get away with murder with names and foreign words because copy editors don’t say the names aloud or look up what the Spanish words mean.
Other Easter eggs come in the form of the Thorne & Cross universe itself. It spans all our books, solo and collaborative. In Brimstone, you meet a barely-teenaged Coastal Eddie Fortune. He was first introduced in Candle Bay as a middle-aged disk jockey who’s into conspiracies. He has since served a narrative purpose in all our books. (In our recent collaboration, Darling Girls, he’s a supporting character, not just a voice on the radio.) In Brimstone, he’s a young soda jerk at Gower’s Drugs and gets his first real taste of the supernatural in that book. And in the collaboration we’re working on now you’ll see adult Holly and David Masters, the protagonist of Haunted, embroiled in a mystery together.
Can you tell us about your upcoming books?
Alistair Cross and I are working on the third book in our Ravencrest Saga. It’s called Exorcism. We just released the fifth installment of the serial novel and are closing in on the climax. It’s a very different twist on possession and we’re having an absolute blast with it. You can get the installments in ebook on Amazon as they come out or the complete novel in paper (or ebook) next winter. We’re also waist-deep in a big thriller that takes place in Snapdragon, the town where our novel, Mother, was set. Only this time we’re on an island with a gaggle of writers and a lot of Agatha Christie references. And ghosts …
As for my next solo, I’ve begun a new series. Sheriff Zach Tully, who starred in Eternity – a Jack the Ripper-themed novel – and appeared in our collaborative vampire novel, Darling Girls – has moved to a town called Fort Charles on the California coast and, in the first book, is beset by serial killers, surfers, small town politics, and, maybe, mermaids. Or maybe not. Only the League of Old Salts knows for sure and those ol’ boys aren’t talking.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
About age seven, I discovered Ray Bradbury and I devoured his stories and books. I still do. His descriptive powers are boundless – his prose is poetry to me – and he always turned locations into characters. Bradbury is, without doubt, my biggest influence. The others were Arthur Conan Doyle – I started reading Sherlock Holmes in third grade and developed a taste for mysteries. Then, at age eleven, I found The Haunting of Hill House in the library and I have forever more searched out good ghostly novels. Later that year, I was given LOTR. Although I don’t write that kind of fiction, Tolkien helped shape my story-telling, particularly because I spent a lot of time reading about his influences and got into mythology in a big way because of his stories.
What is your favorite childhood book?
My mother read to me from the very first. I have memories of sitting on her lap at the kitchen table following her finger as she read. I especially loved the Oz books and the drawings in them – the old originals. The one book that stands out in my memory most was Return to Oz. It was the spookiest of the books and I adored it by far the most. I was about three the first time she read it to me. By six, I was reading it on my own.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. It energizes me while I work and after a long day I’m exhausted, but in the best way possible.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
No, because I don’t believe in it. I feel it’s an excuse. I get stuck, yes, but that just means I begin writing down anything. It might be a complaint about why I can’t figure out what comes next or it might be a dirty limerick. I just write and write and within minutes I’m back on track because I’ve forgotten to be intimidated by my inner critic. Inner critics need to be shut up before they do damage.
Author website: http://tamarathorne.com