Images of a dark forest, a screaming woman and blood haunt Emma Mathews from the moment she meets Joe Castlellaw, and everything she thought she knew about life, her family, and herself is about to change forever.
Emma Mathews never believed she was like everyone else, but neither did she think herself crazy. Meeting Joe Castlellaw, Henry Dearborn High’s newest student, was like waking on a cold rock in a strange place, the world bathed in liquid moonlight. Everything is different now…and fraught. Visions of a dark forest, a screaming woman and blood haunt Emma’s dreams, and not only at night. But Joe’s lonely beauty makes her float on air, and she would follow him anywhere: out of high school and through the great tree, to a world of poetry and political savagery, of magic and murder, to a life that is entirely theirs and yet unlike anything they have ever known.
Interview with Mary Beth Bass
1. With this being your second book, did you find the overall process a lot easier?
I wish! The more you write the better you get at it (hopefully) and I’m definitely much more comfortable in my own writer skin now, but the process is never what I’d call easy. It’s a good kind of difficult, though. Working hard on something and having it turn out is pretty amazing.
2. What do you love the most about writing?
I love listening to a story unfold in my head and following characters to places I hadn’t thought about before they showed up. Being surprised by a character you made up is one of the coolest things about writing. It feels like actual magic.
And I love words. I love how they sound – by themselves or working together. I love how they look, densely clustered or surrounded by white space. And I really love that yesterday, last month, or 400 years ago some writer arranged 26 letters over and over again and shifted the perspective and the emotions of a reader he or she will likely never meet. Writing is a game with 26 pieces and two players, not limited by time or distance.
3. Do you struggle with any part of it?
I don’t like the first draft. I don’t like beginning or starting anything. I’m also a very slow writer. I have to tell myself the story and then cut out a lot of it. For anyone interested in the opposite view on the appeal of those beginning stages, Libba Bray (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Going Bovine, The Diviners) wrote a hilarious love-note to the first draft: “Writing a novel, a love story.” (http://libbabray.wordpress.com/2008/07/15/writing-a-novel-a-love-story/)
I also have a hard time with the promotional aspect of writing. I don’t like asking people for anything. If I had to ask someone to change a light bulb I’d teach myself how to make a candle. I love to talk about other people’s books, though. I adore that part of social media. When a book I’ve been waiting months to read finally comes out, and I’m swooning through that story-born haze of bruised bliss, and dozens or hundreds or thousands of people feel the same way and want to talk about those characters and that world…well, that is awesome.
4. What authors/books have influenced you?
Gosh. I think almost everything I read influences me a certain level. Right now I’d say I’m most influenced by Amanda Quick, Susan Squires, Elizabeth Hoyt, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Ellen Kushner, Keats, Melville, Hawthorne, Dickens, and George Eliot. I love fairy tales, Greek mythology, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, the play Our Town. And I love biographies, especially The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery by Wendy Moore, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer by Richard Holmes, and Boswell’s Presumptuous Task by Adam Sisman.
5. Do you have any “weird” habits when writing?
I eat a lot of candy toward the end. Most recently I was eating (almost exclusively) handfuls of Good & Plenty all day, and black beans, rice and tofu at night. There may have been some brandy in there somewhere. And more than a few margaritas.
And I always end up with terrible, terrible revision hair. I have stormy-looking hair on a good day and as a deadline looms nearer I start to look like one of the witches from Macbeth.
6. Do you have any advice for those writers just getting started?
A few years ago Maggie Stiefvater (The Books of Faerie, The Raven Boys, The Scorpio Races, The Shiver Trilogy) wrote a great blog post about how she learned to write and paint and play musical instruments so well (http://m-stiefvater.livejournal.com/154727.html). She said, “you have to be able to listen to yourself suck.” I’d never heard anyone else say it quite that way and I think it’s true. Yes, you have to write all the time (and read all the time) but you have to be okay with sucking sometimes, especially at the beginning.
I would also say it’s important to know why you want to write and what you want to achieve. Be honest with yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone else why but you have to know. And take yourself seriously, even in the beginning, even if you’re terrified no one will ever want to read your stories. Stephen King says, “Never come lightly to the blank page.”
7. Can you share one interesting tidbit about yourself?
Hmmm, this is never an easy question to answer. Okay, here goes. Until I was around twelve years old (I wish I could say I was younger than that but…) anyway, until I was around twelve I thought if I tried hard enough I could go back in time. I remember walking up an enclosed staircase in a Revolutionary War era house where Lafayette had stayed, thinking I could feel him walk past me, and if I concentrated well enough I could follow him. My family visited a lot of historic sites when I was a kid – house museums, battle fields – and I was obsessed with old buildings. One summer I planted myself on the steps of an old hotel that was going to be torn down in my little North Dakota town, firmly believing that my scrawny ten-year-old self could stop a bulldozer (needless to say, the hotel was torn down and I wasn’t a real threat to the construction crew).
8. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I try to hike in the woods every day. I listen to loud music and sing very loudly in the car. And I love to talk and eat with my friends and family.
9. Do you have a particular social media outlet where you like to interact with fans?
I love twitter. And I love Pinterest, probably a little too much.
10. What can we expect next?
I’m working on a sequel that picks up where everything you know ends. And my agent is shopping The Language of the Thread, a paranormal romance set in three time periods about a Victorian poet, an eighteenth-century astronomer, and an old house with a dark secret.
My ***3 Star*** Review
I really connected with the characters in this story, and not just the two main characters, Emma and Joe, but with a couple of Emma’s siblings, too. I cared about them all. Joe’s character was missing a little something in the romance department, but it was easy to understand why he was the way he was. I also enjoyed the paranormal/fantasy aspects. I had no trouble picturing many of the places described. The story was unique and unpredictable.
On the downside, I found several scenes rather confusing. At times I couldn’t make heads or tails of what exactly was happening. Sometimes the point of view shifted without warning. These factors diminished the quality of the overall story for me.
Overall, it had some issues, but I still felt like there was a strong story there. And, despite the issues, I still strongly connected to the characters, and that was a big plus! I think this is a good story and with some editing could become great! So, 3 stars. I’d definitely read more from Mary Beth Bass, and I look forward to the sequel!
*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.*
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About the Author ~ Mary Beth Bass
More than a little obsessed with Keats and Moby Dick, and fueled by loud music and cold grey days, Mary Beth Bass is the author of young adult fantasy and romantic women’s fiction. Her debut paranormal-women’s fiction hybrid, Follow Me received the Book Buyers Best Award for Time Travel, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance.
An occasional travel writer, Mary Beth has written about Paris, Bordeaux, and Yorkshire, where she hiked the moors to the legendary setting for Wuthering Heights and stood breathless in the parsonage room where Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Bronte talked out their stories with each other.
And if I seem a little strange, well that’s because I am.
Also loves octopuses.