I really enjoyed answering these questions. But when I talk about books I tend to gush. As I read the interview, this became very apparent. http://kaistrand.blogspot.com/2015/02/three-times-charm-with-alyson-larrabee.html
The sequel to Enter If You Dare: Ebook only, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Whiskey Creek Press. Print edition soon to follow. I’m loving the cover art and its uncanny resemblance to the real version of the setting for my second Annabelle Blake novel: Church Street Burial Ground in Easton, MA (photo above). There really is a woman with two headstones and she’s buried right here in Easton. Her name was Hannah Hayward and she has a Puritan style headstone and a reform style headstone because members of her family belonged to two different religions. However, Catherine Littlefield Hayward, the fictional character in my story, has two headstones because no one wanted her to be buried in their family plot. Her husband’s family refused to inter her remains on their side of the cemetery. They put up a marker for her, but there’s no body buried there. She had to be buried on the Littlefields’ side. Even then, they placed seven heavy stones over Catherine’s final resting place, to keep her evil spirit down where it belonged. But now someone has moved the stones and she’s free to wreak havoc once again.
Here it is! Available on Amazon, in ebook only. The print edition will be ready soon. “Grab a flashlight. Let’s go find a ghost.”
Anthony is so obsessed with Annabelle Blake that he would die for her. Except he’s already dead. He’s the ghost of the legendary Lonesome Boy but he’s not lonesome anymore because now he has Annabelle. He’s with her all the time. Stalking her. Waking her up in the middle of the night with his constant weeping and his ice cold wordless whispers.
She needs help. Fast. Enter the mysterious new boy in town. Wyatt Silver is an amateur medium, but he doesn’t just see dead people. He becomes them. Anthony takes possession of Wyatt’s body and their terrifying adventure begins.
June 13, 2014 – 9:09 PM (10 hours ago)
Mrs. Larrabee, I would like to inform you that my friend and I are so inspired by your work Enter If You Dare that we decided: why don’t we write a story ourselves? So we’re getting to work! It’s going to be a bit like the format of Nothing But the Truth by Avi, (which our class is reading now) because we are going to change the P.O.V. (Point of View) between the two main characters who are a girl named Ariel and a boy named Edward. Here is basically a summary of our story (We haven’t come up with a title yet.):
“Ariel is one out of three children and having divorced parents isn’t the easiest, especially when you’re the youngest and still living with your parents; or shall I say parent? Ariel moves across the country from a small town in Massachusetts to California with her Dad while her mom and siblings stay in Massachusetts. Ariel meets a boy named Edward who doesn’t have it so easy either. He lives with an alcoholic mother and his father left him when he was just a baby. Edward is considered the “Emo” of the school because he feels hurt by the words of many of the students. Ariel and Edward’s friendship grows closer, as do their feelings for one another, but they make a promise. As much as they love each other they can’t show it because they don’t want their friendship to end. But Ariel smokes and ends up dying and Edward is in great grief and so are Ariel’s parents and siblings. When Ariel was alive he showed his love for her and it grew stronger everyday as she grew weaker 😦 but he couldn’t do anything to tell her but hoped one day they would be together. But now that she’s gone he has no chance, and still loves Ariel and only her. So Edward comes up with an idea to write her letters and read to her at her grave site and he always brings her some sort of gift and tells her he misses her and that he loves her. While Edward knows Ariel’s physical appearance is gone her spiritual one still lingers in the lives of her loved ones. Ariel tries to communicate with Edward but always fails. Ariel also regrets not telling him she loved him while she was still living……” that’s the idea of our book so far. I was wondering if you could give us some tips and stuff because our moms think that we could actually publish this (but with our parents) and people could read it. I came to you because I love your work, Mrs. Larrabee, and I honestly can’t wait to read it in August while I’m in Brazil. But if you could give us some tips about our book that would be great!
Larissa D and Her Friend Sarah
8:16 AM (0 minutes ago)
Dear Larissa and Sarah,
Number One: The fact that you’re writing to me on a Friday night in June (when many students are not thinking about their English teachers or writing) inspires me beyond anything most people can imagine. Your idea for a story is original and interesting. It has both physical action and an emotional and spiritual message. Mark Twain said that every good book should have action, adventure, romance and a lesson about life. (I’m paraphrasing.) Lesley Fiedler was an American literary critic and we had to read his book Love and Death in the American Novel when I was in college. He basically said, in his book, that all great literature is about Love or Death or both. You two girls seem to understand this, even though you’re not in college, yet.
Number Two: Here are a few words of advice.
Begin your story with an action scene that no one can turn away from. The reader will only want to turn the page to find out what will happen next. Make the stakes high for a character who’s important. Make the readers care about your character immediately by having her/him do something everyone can relate to right away. Something that makes her human (awkward, bumbling, idiotic). You have a great premise (basic inspirational idea) and it’s filled with opportunities for high stakes action. You have an alcoholic on-board, a rocky marriage. People can scream things and throw things. Go for it.
Change the way Ariel dies. I think it usually takes a lot of years for someone to die as a result of smoking cigarettes. You want her to die young, right? Not when she’s fifty or sixty? Also, cancer has been done big and recently, by John Greene in The Fault in Our Stars. Brainstorm some good death ideas: accidents, illnesses, murder Then choose one. I think that you want her to linger? Is that right? Not a sudden death? And that’s cool because then the two main characters can have some emotional scenes together and you can wring some tears out of the readers. People enjoy crying, especially teenage girls, hence the success of The Fault in Our Stars.
I LOVE the Point of View idea. You’re really challenging yourselves with that one, but it’s a great idea. And you can do it. I have confidence in you.
Also, change the guy’s name. The romantic interest in the Twilight series is Edward. Your ideas are unique and exciting, so let’s take out anything derivative (copying other famous, popular books).
I would like to publish your email to me and my response to you in my writer’s blog. Do I have your permission? Let’s get this thing going and keep it going. I’m PUMPED!
PS. There are a lot of good blogs, written by writers that might help you. I’ve read some blog articles on co-writing books and I think you’ll find them both helpful and inspirational. I’ll give you some blog web addresses in school next week.
Usually the realization that it’s Saturday morning fills me with joy. I roll over and go back to sleep for another half hour. I make a pot of coffee and an extra piece of toast. I play Words With Friends in one of the ongoing games I struggle through with a friend who always beats me. But it’s a huge thrill when I actually win one against her because it’s only about five percent of the time. The rarity of my victories makes them all the sweeter. Also on Saturdays, I write. If my husband tries to talk to me I put in my earbuds and I visit another world. A world I love where everything’s less stressful because it’s not real. I made it up.
Except now this world is real to me. And, more important, the people are real to me, too. They’re no longer characters. They’re walking, talking, kissing, running, breathing, fighting, struggling human beings. And the best ones deserve to win their battles. I finished the first two books in the series. The first one comes out this August. I sent the second one in to my publisher a couple of weeks ago. I’m working on the third. Hence, the stress. It’s killing me.
I don’t have writer’s block. I know where the book is going. I’m about 3,000 words in and feeling pumped to write the next 70,000. The research will be fascinating: Native North American legends, spirits and lore; falconry and fencing. An epic battle of Good versus Evil, as every third book in a series should be. The characters from books one and two are all in their places, like chess pieces arranged on the board. The new characters are about to enter the story. A mixed bag of quirky and romantic, fascinating and unpredictable people. There’s only one giant, elephant-in-the-room type quandary.
This is the third book, and, even if I never become a Suzanne Collins or a Veronica Roth, someone has to die. Someone important. Someone I love. I’m not anywhere near writing the pages where this character breathes his (or her) last. But the stress, the anxiety, is killing me. I haven’t even decided who, yet. But I promise it will never be the dog. I’m thinking of putting all of their names in a hat and just picking one. Then whacking him, as the mob says. Or her. I might have to sacrifice more than one person. HELP!
I saw an online joke where a bunch of famous authors are playing cards and the loser has to kill off a character, chosen by the winner. But I’m not a famous author and I don’t play cards with any famous authors. Probably because I don’t know any. Oh, wait… T. Jefferson Parker once commented on something I posted on his Facebook page. I don’t think that counts as a friendship, though, and I don’t think there are any card games in our future. I don’t even play cards, not since Crazy Eights, with my kids when they were little. I do like cards, however, and if card games didn’t involve staying up way too late, I probably would play. But I’m digressing, because I don’t even like writing about the possibility of killing someone I love, never mind actually wielding the knife, or the gun, or concocting the freakish accident.
So instead of deciding who to kill off, right now, I’m going to do something I’m really good at…procrastinate. I’ll do some research, write a few thousand more words and worry about death another day. Ugh. Damn. This could ruin my whole summer.
Titling and Naming
Sometimes books are born with a great title. Not mine. My first book’s first title: Opening Doors. A terrible title for a ghost story. Not scary. Bland. Generic. Opening Doors eventually evolved into Enter If You Dare. Same idea but much scarier. Open the door to the haunted cell in the old abandoned insane asylum. Then enter, if you dare. When the title of the book appears in the story, the reader should perk up and think, Something significant is happening here. I’d better perk up and pay attention. Also, the title is often closely related to the theme.
Unless you’re already a popular author, your title needs to be part of your marketing strategy. You can’t afford to be self indulgent or pay homage to some esoteric and impressive bit of knowledge that you’re proud to possess. For quite awhile, my book bore the title Wild Wood, taken from Kenneth Graham’s novel The Wind in the Willows, one of my favorites. But, it’s not very scary or attention grabbing. So I changed the title but kept it as a name within the novel. I expressed my love for Badger, Mr. Toad and Mole by naming the haunted asylum Wild Wood Psychiatric Hospital. There, anyone who’s a Kenneth Graham fan will be pleased and I didn’t sacrifice the chance to frighten people with my title.
“It’s your last chance to make a good first impression.” My husband always says this to our kids. They ignore him and roll their eyes. Authors who are titling a book should not. The sequel to my first novel is called Her Evil Ways. The story is about the vengeful spirit of a woman who had led an evil life. When she rises from the grave, she wreaks more evil upon the innocent citizens of Eastfield (named after my hometown, Easton).
As for naming characters within the book, it can get confusing when the word count piles up and the story gets more complicated. I try to make associations, like naming the pediatrician in my first book after my kids’ pediatrician. I also throw in the names of my friends, families and students, book characters, authors, artists, poets. No one’s safe. The love interest in my first book was called Christian Silver until Fifty Shades of Grey came out. Then I changed his name to Wyatt Silver. There are some associations I want to avoid even if they’re accidental.