Wednesday, March 23, 2016

MOTHER: Sometimes Your Past is Worse Than You Remember (Guest Post: Building Characters!)

Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross
Glass Apple Press
Release: Spring 2016

Psychological Thriller


A Girl’s Worst Nightmare is Her Mother ...
Priscilla Martin. She’s the diva of Morning Glory Circle and a driving force in the quaint California town of Snapdragon. Overseer of garage sales and neighborhood Christmas decorations, she is widely admired. But few people know the real woman behind the perfectly coiffed hair and Opium perfume.

Family is Forever. And Ever and Ever ...
No one escapes Prissy’s watchful eye. No one that is, except her son, who committed suicide many years ago, and her daughter, Claire, who left home more than a decade past and hasn’t spoken to her since. But now, Priscilla’s daughter and son-in-law have fallen on hard times. Expecting their first child, the couple is forced to move back … And Prissy is there to welcome them home with open arms … and to reclaim her broken family.

The Past Isn’t Always as Bad as You Remember.
Sometimes it’s Worse ...
Claire has terrible memories of her mother, but now it seems Priscilla has mended her ways. When a cache of vile family secrets is uncovered, Claire struggles to determine fact from fiction, and her husband, Jason, begins to wonder who the monster really is. Lives are in danger - and Claire and Jason must face a horrifying truth … a truth that may destroy them … and will forever change their definition of “Mother.”

Guest Post from Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross 

Building Characters 

When it comes to storytelling, few things are as important as characterization. Characters are what ultimately build and carry a story, and our philosophy is that if you treat them with respect - and listen to them - they’ll do right by you. When writing our latest thriller, Mother, we had a lot of fun building the cast - an entire cul-de-sac full - and it’s interesting to look back at where these characters got their beginnings. Characters always know best when it comes to plotting and we bow to their opinions even when they do things we wish they wouldn’t. That said, here’s a little bit about some of our main players, how they came into existence, and how we used them to develop Mother.

Timothy Martin is the first character readers will meet in Mother, and though his time with us is short, he’s a fascinating guy - as we see from the journals he left behind. Tim was Priscilla Martin’s son, older brother to Claire, and at the age of twenty, he decided he could no longer live with his past. For his devel0pment, we delved into the psychological effects of various types of abuse. How would a boy, stunted and controlled by an obsessive mother, grow to be a man? What would this kind of upbringing do to his self-image? How would having a mother as tyrannical as Priscilla Martin affect his relationships? These are just a few of the questions we had to ask when developing Timothy. Researching these topics proved both fascinating - and revolting.  

Well … what can we say about Priscilla Martin? She’s the self-proclaimed ruler of Morning Glory Circle. She’s also a little bit Norma Bates, a pinch of Medea, a dash of Margaret White, and a dollop of Corrine Dollanganger, all smothered in a creamy layer of Donna Reed. With faith as rigid and unwavering as her hair, we think Priscilla does what she believes is right - assuming of course, that the “right” thing is whatever best serves her purpose. Despite her ever-helpful appearance, Priscilla has control issues that range from executing perfect bake sales and block parties to keeping her invalid husband, her friends, and her daughter, Claire, in strict subjugation. We developed her with one objective in mind: To bring terror to the reader’s very doorstep. There are so many stories about the dangers of the unknown. The fear that the word “stranger” strikes into our collective hearts is more evidence of our illusion that the “real” dangers are “out there” somewhere. But that’s not often the case: Where do you hide if home is where the horror is?

Expecting their first child and facing a set of life-changing circumstances, our protagonists, Claire and Jason Holbrook, are forced to move back into Claire’s mother’s house. When creating this couple, we first had to establish the reasons that Claire has vowed never to see her mother, Prissy Martin, again. Then we needed to pit them  against such overwhelming odds that Claire would buckle, admit defeat, and return home, albeit temporarily. We intentionally gave Claire a sprinkling of her mother’s less-than-favorable characteristics because we are all affected, for better or worse, by our parents. But Claire fights against her upbringing at all turns. As for Jason, we made him honorable and trusting - and a little naive. Coming from a stable, loving, and very normal upbringing, it was important that he be wholly unprepared for what awaits him at Mother’s house.

Father Andrew Pike became head of Holy Sacramental Church a few years ago when Father Dave took early retirement. Andy is still young, a little naive, and wants nothing but good for his parishioners. In developing him, we wanted to show a Catholic priest who is intelligent and kind. Father Dave Flannigan treats him like a son and counsels him as best he can, but Dave is tormented by his own dark secrets - secrets, we must confess, that have nothing to do with altar boys. When Mother began, Father Andy was a very minor character who grew to be so important to the plot that he asked us to create Dave so he’d have someone to consult. We love it when that happens.

Paul Schuyler, Timothy Martin’s former best friend, and Stephanie Banks, Tim’s former girlfriend, came from two very different places. Paul was one of those surprise characters who sneaked up on us to help tie things together and ended up telling a story of his own. Stephanie goes way back to an old notebook of characters we’d developed before we even knew exactly what novel she belonged in. Paul and Stephanie have a few things in common: First, their connection to Timothy Martin, which goes back to elementary school days. Second, they share knowledge that sheds light on the shadows Claire and Jason face. Paul, a pilot, and Stephanie, being in the mental health field, not only gave us fascinating topics for research, but also helped us explore the pasts of Timothy Martin and his mother, Priscilla, adding some nice (well, not nice, exactly) layers to the novel.

In writing Mother, we knew that her cul-de-sac, Morning Glory Circle, would be a character in itself - and a portrait of a typical neighborhood. What street doesn’t have the mean old guy who yells at kids to stay off his lawn, the neighborhood gossip, the beauty queen, and the person who calls the cops at one minute after ten to complain about loud music?

The residents of the cul-de-sac are a conglomeration of all the neighbors we ever met or heard about. First, there’s Phyllis and Clyde Stine. Phyllis’ style is stuck in the past - her platinum hair is teased and her mold-blue eyeshadow goes all the way up to her eyebrows (a considerable distance since the woman has obviously undergone so much plastic surgery.) We enjoyed writing Phyllis so much (detestable as she is) that we felt it appropriate to make her a relation to another of our detestable characters: Constance Welling, from our novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting. Naturally, we turned to Constance when it came to developing Phyllis … which isn’t to say Phyllis isn’t a character in her own right; they’re quite different. In fact, we doubt very much that the two of them ever got along.

Stan and Aida Portendorfer are well-liked grandparent sorts. Stan likes to take walks around Morning Glory Circle in order to see what’s up on the Sac and shoot the breeze with his neighbors. Aida prefers her ever-present field glasses. She’s the neighborhood gossip and the best cook on the street, so she’s very popular at Morning Glory’s frequent block parties. The Portendorfers served us well, lending this book a helping of humor as well as giving us another point of view from which to view the world we’ve created in Mother.

Earl and Earlene Dean are the neighbors who refuse to participate in any street parties. Why, they won’t even erect the street’s giant candy canes on their lawn at Christmas.  And those two girls of theirs - the neighbors call them “The Shining Twins.” Odd little things. In a way, the Deans mirror Priscilla’s hidden nature - which even she refuses to look at with honesty.

Roddy Crocker is an officer with the Snapdragon Police Department but his real claim to fame is an unusual personal talent which serves to bring our story full-circle. He’s become great friends with the Lowells - relative newcomers who only moved in six years ago. Prissy Martin intensely dislikes Hank and Crystal Lowell. Crystal’s lipstick-red hair and tattoos and Hank’s beard and cycle shop make them white trash as far as she’s concerned. Most of the other neighbors, Roddy included, look past their eccentricities.

Milton and Candy Sachs live in a cotton-candy colored house next door to Prissy Martin. Prissy loathes Candy because of the pink paint - and because she is a statuesque blonde that every man - and woman - on Morning Glory can’t help but stare at. Candy is as sweet as the color of her house. Their son, Billy, is beloved by all for his lawn mowing and car waxing prowess. The Sachs are perhaps one the best tributes we made to our theory that everyone has secrets … that even the most beautiful people aren’t exactly what they seem.

And then there’s Duane Pruitt and Jerry Park. They keep their yard up so Prissy doesn’t mind them despite the fact that she considers their marriage an abomination against the Lord. She still can’t believe Duane is gay - he’s a contractor and drives a pick-up truck for heaven’s sake. But there’s far more to Duane and Jerry than meets the eye ... and theirs is a secret that helped us take Morning Glory Circle into full, uninhibited bloom.

Geneva-Marie Collins and her family live next door to Duane and Jerry. They recently rebuilt their Colonial home into a huge hacienda-style house that doesn’t fit in with the traditional homes on the street. Prissy Martin finds it appalling, though others don’t complain. Geneva-Marie is a pillar of the neighborhood and almost as important in the Ladies Auxiliary as Prissy - and in Prissy’s eyes, that makes her a rival. Through Geneva-Marie, we got to see what mettle Priscilla was really made of … and even we were alarmed.

Ace Etheridge and his daughter, Iris, live in that house just over there. Ace is owner and editor of the Snapdragon Daily and Iris teaches fourth grade at the elementary school. If you’re a regular reader of our work, we think you’ll take great delight in discovering Ace’s other “identity” in Mother.

Nellie and Bertie Dunworth. We’re not sure exactly where these sisters came from. We only know we enjoyed giving them the kind of jobs that would have Priscilla frothing at the mouth with fury and disgust. As minor antagonists to Prissy, it was also important that the Dunworth’s yard not have nearly enough landscaping for her tastes.

Babs and Carl Vandercooth live in a beautiful pale gray Colonial. Babs is a sweet, kind woman whom everyone loves. She has always been Prissy’s right hand, but more importantly, she is “Aunt Babs” to Claire - they’re very close. In developing Babs, we often thought of Betty White circa 1985, which may or may not become apparent when readers discover the names of Babs’ two sisters.

And that’s how we went about building the characters for Mother. Each must further the story, or add a needed layer, especially when dealing with such a large cast. Characters should never be static; they should grow and adapt and change according their circumstances. We’re firm believers in breaking stereotypes, which is part of the reason we created Morning Glory Circle. It is, in itself, a stereotypical neighborhood … but, as it is in real life, when you dig beneath the surface, the truth emerges, and few things are what they seem.

About the Authors

Alistair Cross

Alistair Cross was born in the western United States and began penning his own stories by the age of eight. First published in 2012, Alistair has since written several more books. His debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, a vampiric tale of terror and seduction, was an immediate bestseller which earned praise from veteran vampire-lit author, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and New York Times bestseller, Jay Bonansinga, author of The Walking Dead series. In 2012, Alistair joined forces with international bestselling author, Tamara Thorne, and as Thorne & Cross, they write, among other things, the successful Gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their debut collaboration, The Cliffhouse Haunting, reached the bestseller’s list in its first week of release. Learn more about Alistair at:

Tamara Thorne
Tamara Thorne’s first novel was published in 1991. Since then she has written many more, including international bestsellers Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, and The Sorority. Tamara’s interest in writing is lifelong, as is her fascination with the paranormal, occult, mythology and folklore. She’s been an avid ghost story collector and writer all her life. Tamara’s novels range from straight-out ghost stories to tales of witchcraft, conspiracies, UFOs, elemental forces, and vampires. No matter what topic she chooses, chances are you’ll find a ghost or two lurking in the background. Today, she and her frequent collaborator, Alistair Cross, share their worlds and continue to write about ghosts and other mysterious forces. Whether collaborating or writing solo, there is no shortage of humor, sex, blood, and spookiness. Learn more about her at:

Thorne & Cross
In collaboration, Thorne & Cross have written The Cliffhouse Haunting, The Ghosts of Ravencrest, and Mother, as well as the ongoing Ravencrest Saga, a serialization with new installments appearing every four to six weeks. They are currently at work on their next solo novels and a new collaborative project, and whether writing individually or as a team, neither has any intention of slowing down anytime soon.
In 2014, Alistair and Tamara began the internet radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, which premiered to great acclaim and has featured such guests as Chelsea Quinn Yarbro of the Saint-Germain vampire series, Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels that inspired the hit television series, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels, Peter Atkins, author and screenwriter of HELLRAISER 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, and New York Times best sellers Preston and Child, Christopher Rice, Jonathan Maberry, and Christopher Moore.
Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! Check it out HERE! 
Connect with the Authors Online!

Twitter: @crossalistair


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