Kathy: In HOUSE OF ASHES we find Cassandra Mitchell living in a brooding Queen Anne style family home that is reputed to be haunted. Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think spirits can be tied to a place?
LM: I was somewhat ambivalent about the spirit world until I had my own experience. Now I’m convinced they do exist. I think spirits are very much bound to a place that holds meaning for them – be it happy or sad, good or evil. It’s possible they have unresolved issues with the living world, just as Percy and Celeste do in HOUSE OF ASHES.
Kathy: Have you ever had any ghostly encounters?
LM: Yes. My first encounter occurred when as a child I was spending the night at my grandmother’s old country farmhouse. I’d completely forgotten about it until recently when the memory resurfaced. I was sleeping in my grandmother’s room and something awakened me. Upon opening my eyes, I saw my Nonna roaming about the living room. Except it couldn’t have been her, because she was sleeping soundly in the other twin bed. I shut my eyes tightly, hoping whatever it was would go away. Finally, the safety of morning arrived, and I could go home. I never told anyone about it, but it was my last sleepover at Nonna’s house.
My second experience was more significant. When living in rural Connecticut, our property abutted a 300-year old cemetery, and one of its dearly-departed residents decided he much preferred our home to his tomb in the graveyard. For many years, the mischievous spirit roamed our house, playing pranks on us and annoying our dogs. Initially, it was disconcerting, but eventually we grew accustomed to his presence. In the years since leaving our Connecticut home, I’ve found that I miss our ghostly visitor.
Kathy: In addition to a haunted house, local lore in HOUSE OF ASHES presents us with a family curse. Have you personally ever known a family said to be cursed?
LM: Interesting question. Having grown up with an Italian grandmother (my Nonna mentioned above), I do recall references to “the evil eye” which is a superstitious belief that a curse has been cast upon someone. In our family, it was usually mentioned in jest (I think). Certainly, there have been families I’ve been acquainted with who seemed to be cursed with misfortune, but not in the same vein as the Mitchell family in HOUSE OF ASHES, where someone has specifically cast a wicked oath against them.
Kathy: Although categorized as a supernatural mystery, House of Ashes has elements of the Gothic genre. Are you a fan of Gothics?
LM: Since I’m open to so many genres in my reading, I never gave much thought to this. THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and REBECCA are favorites of mine and both are considered gothic mysteries. I was recently introduced to Simone St. James and was very fond of THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE. I also enjoy Kate Morton, Wendy Webb and Ann Rice. So, the answer is yes, I’m a fan of Gothics.
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
LM: I’ve always been a voracious reader of mysteries, having consumed every Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, PD James, Lawrence Sanders – and then the more contemporary mystery writers like Patricia Cornwell, Elizabeth George, Stieg Larson, Tana French, Arnaldur Indridason, Camilla Lackberg…I could go on. Initially, I hadn’t thought to write mysteries. I began with the women’s fiction genre, however, an element of mystery kept insinuating itself into my work. Maybe it evolved from my own love of mysteries, or perhaps it’s because I’m a puzzle person – crosswords and sudoku primarily. Regardless, I find it infinitely satisfying to plot out a mystery and then weave together all the threads to solve it with an unexpected conclusion.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
LM: Nothing that’s been published yet, but I have some ideas cooking in the historical fiction genre.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
LM: The Haunted Bluffs Mystery series takes place in the fictional Cape Cod village of Whale Rock and centers around the world of Cassandra Mitchell and the spirits of her great-grandparents, whose essence has remained in the bones of the family home. Each book weaves together a present-day mystery with an unresolved historic tale. In HOUSE OF ASHES, the mystery to be solved is the disappearance of a young, nomadic couple, while the historic account involves the legendary century-old curse which continues its hold over the Mitchell family.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
LM: It’s difficult to choose a favorite character because they’ve all become a part of me. I like them all – even the wicked ones – because they have a job to do. I should say Cassie Mitchell is my favorite, for she’s the heart of the book. But I also have a huge crush on police chief Brooks Kincaid, because…well, you’ll just have to read the book and see if you agree.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
LM: I’ve been visiting Cape Cod for over two decades and it’s become my favorite writing retreat. It was natural for me to create a fictional town there and offered a way to spend more time on the Cape – even if only in my writer’s imagination.
My own ghostly experience inspired me to add the paranormal element. Also, in my tween years, I was a fan of the television series, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I imagined how cool it would be to have my own ghost…and then one day I did! It was great fun to create a ghostly presence for HOUSE OF ASHES.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
LM: I enjoy writing for its own sake, but I was also interested in knowing if I was creating stories that others would enjoy reading. The only way to make that determination was to put the work out there.
I independently published my first book, THE FOOL’S TRUTH – a twisty tale of mystery and suspense, with whispers of romance. Desperation, dark secrets and danger emerge when Cordelia Richmond and her toddler daughter become stranded in the backwoods of Maine where she’s taken in by a witch-like hermit living off the grid.
A year after releasing my debut novel, I was fortunate to be offered a publishing contract from Crooked Lane Books for the Haunted Bluffs Mystery series.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
LM: Only four? Since there remains a chance of having dinner with a still living renowned author, albeit quite remote, I will select four who are not: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
LM: THE GREAT ALONE by Kristen Hannah is the current selection of my book club. I’m half way through and enjoying it very much!
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
LM: Outdoor pursuits such as walking, hiking, biking, kayaking and tennis. Travel and exploring new places and cultures. My quiet hobby – aside from reading – is knitting.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
LM: Peanut butter. Dark chocolate. Cheese. A well-stocked fruits and veggies drawer.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
LM: I am currently finishing the second book of The Haunted Bluffs series – it is as yet untitled.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
LM: Spending time with my characters.
HOUSE OF ASHES by Loretta Marion
The First Haunted Bluffs Mystery
Cassandra Mitchell has been in a dark place. A failed marriage resulted in near bankruptcy along with the possibility of losing her family home. While her sister won't come within a hundred miles of the place, Cassie has always felt a kinship with The Battersea Bluffs and feels the presence of her great grandparents who built the home. Desperate to keep the house, Cassie allows the two strangers she meets to become tenants. The young couple will work on turning the carriage house into a rental unit as well as keep Cassie company. Everyone in the small town is more suspicious than welcoming to Cassie's new friends, however, and when the young couple goes missing Cassie realizes she doesn't know them at all.
HOUSE OF ASHES is an interesting book which is comprised of a few stories. Not only do we get the story of Cassie Mitchell and the mystery of her disappearing tenants, we follow the history of the original owners and discover the beginnings of the family curse that may currently be plaguing Cassie. The manner in which the stories are intertwined is disconcerting, however. It's not that there are two timelines with which the author trades back and forth, instead she goes back and forth within those timelines as well. This lack of chronological progression slows the pace and disconnects the reader. Rather than getting caught up in the story, the reader constantly has to readjust perspective and so never is fully immersed in Cassie's world.
The first Haunted Bluffs Mystery is a book of secrets. Everyone has them and some are more dangerous than others. Cassie is an extremely flawed character, but she has an intrinsic sense of goodness and loyalty, sometimes much misplaced. Other characters, even those readers inherently know are "good" have their own share of secrets. The teasing out of these secrets is what gives the book its depth.
HOUSE OF ASHES is a layered mystery that combines the past and the present. Family history, strength, and flaws combine with a world of secrets. The hint of the paranormal adds a gothic touch creating a unique tinge to this modern mystery.
House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery by Loretta Marion
About the Author
Supernatural Mystery 1st in Series
Crooked Lane Books (November 13, 2018)
Hardcover, 336 pages
A family patriarch’s dying proclamation, an enigmatic disappearance, and a century-old curse converge in the shadows of a majestic home on Cape Cod’s craggy coast.
Thirty-seven-year-old painter Cassandra Mitchell is fourth-generation to live in the majestic Battersea Bluffs, a brooding Queen Anne home originally built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, and still standing despite tragedies that have swept the generations. Local lore has it that there was a curse placed on the family and the house is haunted, though opinions are divided on whether it's by malicious or benevolent spirits. Cassie believes the latter―but now she stands to lose her beloved home to mounting debt and the machinations of her dream-weaving ex-husband.
Salvation seems to arrive when a nomadic young couple wanders onto the property with the promise of companionship and much-needed help―until they vanish without a trace, leaving behind no clue to their identities. Cassie is devastated, but determined to discover what's happened to the young couple...even as digging into their disappearance starts to uncover family secrets of her own. Despite warnings from her childhood friend, now the local Chief of Police―as well as an FBI agent who pushes the boundaries of professionalism―Cassie can't help following the trail of clues (and eerie signals from the old house itself) to unravel the mystery. But can she do so before her family's dark curse destroys everything in its path?
About the Author
An author of fiction, Loretta Marion’s writing bridges the genres of mystery and suspense and women’s fiction, always with hints of romance and humor, sometimes delving into the psychological and paranormal. She creates strong but flawed and struggling characters as appealing as the rich atmospheric settings in which the stories take place.
Loretta is a true bibliophile and has loved reading and creating with words since she was a young girl. And that affection for the written word followed her like a shadow throughout her life as she put pen to paper crafting marketing and advertising copy, educational brochures, and newsletters. But her passion for writing fiction evolved from the unlikely world of hospice. As a volunteer, she set out to establish a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the rich heritage of the fascinating people who were soon to leave this world. The meaningful experience inspired her to create her own interesting characters and stories. Her debut novel, The Fool's Truth, was a twisty and suspenseful mystery with whispers of romance. Her newest novel, HOUSE OF ASHES – A Haunted Bluffs Mystery, is the first in a series published by Crooked Lane Books.
Though born and raised in the Midwest, Loretta fell in love with New England and has made it the setting for much of her writing. When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey, and their beloved Mr. Peabody, a sweet, devoted and amusing “Corgador” (Corgi-Labrador cross). (www.LorettaMarion.com)
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