Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Returning Bestselling Author DAVONNA JUROE!

Fantasy is pure magic. Ask Davonna Juroe, the bestselling author of Scarlette, Seeing Red and her newest hit with co-writer John Bladek, Winterbay Abbey. Several years ago, I interviewed Davonna here on Writing Belle to talk about what was then her new debut novel, Scarlette. Since then, Davonna has been a very busy lady, and her success is well earned! 

I love Davonna's books because they mix fun with fantasy and Gothic lore with ghostly chills. Her books are well researched and she's an all-around class act! I encourage you to check out her books online and give them a try. 

Today, we're visiting with Davonna for the first time since 2014 (although the first time she visited with us was in 2012 - time flies, right?). Are you ready? Let's go! 

Welcome back to Writing Belle, Davonna! It's a pleasure having you here again. What have you been up to lately? Tell us about your new novel, "Winterbay Abbey". 

Thanks for having me, Summer! Besides playing my harp and taking enchanting photos for social media, I just released a new novel this Fall, which I'm thrilled about. The book, "Winterbay Abbey", is a modern Gothic ghost story that I co-wrote with author John Bladek ("Lost in Ghostville", Capstone Publishing – “Roll Up the Streets!”, Kane Miller). Inspired by classic ghost tales, "Winterbay Abbey" is a contemporary thriller, reminiscent of Susan Hill’s "The Woman in Black" (twice adapted for film) and Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar's "The Others". It also actually landed onto the Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes Top 100 Bestseller Lists over the holidays, and went to #1 in ghost fiction on Amazon, too!

The story follows Seattle architect Will Larson on his last chance to save his stagnant career: design a grand restoration for a long-abandoned abbey. Looming above the breathtaking, windswept coast of Maine, Winterbay Abbey offers a picturesque spot for a charming hotel. But the locals harbor a peculiar distaste for the ruined Gothic convent. 

After witnessing a drowning within sight of the abbey, Will wonders why the police seem disinterested in the case. He begins looking deeper into the incident, gradually uncovering chilling secrets behind the old nunnery’s walls. Will’s wife, Emily, becomes convinced the drowning is a ghostly replay of a past tragedy. But their investigation into the abbey’s frightening history soon becomes a desperate struggle to escape Winterbay’s dark curse.

It's the perfect book to read with a warm cup of tea in front of the fire this winter.

I personally love books with a little chill, a little fantasy and a little mystery. Who are some of your favorite authors/books? 

I'm absolutely crazy about creepy Gothic ghost stories, and I think we're starting to see some revival in that genre. People still like to be scared, but many prefer these tales without gore etc. Some of my favorites are ALL of Susan Hill's ghost stories, Michelle Paver's "Dark Matter", and "This House is Haunted" by John Boyne – all contemporary stories. I also love the classics, "The Turn of the Screw", "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", "Carmilla", "The Picture of Dorian Gray", "The Fall of the House of Usher", "Dracula", "Frankenstein". I could list forever.

What was it like collaborating with John Bladek for Winterbay Abbey? 

Now that I've co-written a book with another author, I'm not sure I want to write solo again. Collaborating is truly one of the best experiences I've had in my writing career.

John and I live 300 miles apart, so we used Google Docs to bridge the distance. We started with an outline and then took turns writing chapters and then passed the manuscript to each other for full edits.

I can't over emphasize how wonderful it is to have instant feedback and to problem solve with a writing partner. Novel writing is solitary and sometimes difficult with having to manage an entire storyline in your head. While critique groups are helpful, having someone who knows the story inside and out like you do is invaluable and produces high-quality work.

How long did it take you to complete the novel - from conception to finished product? 

Exactly two years from conception to the publication date. Two months before Halloween in 2014, John and I challenged each other to write a ghostly tale based on a list of supposedly haunted buildings and locations in the U.S. We settled on a combination of a haunted hotel and a lighthouse, which morphed into the Winterbay Abbey setting along with its brooding lighthouse offshore.

What kind of research went into this novel?

This novel, unlike my historical novella "Seeing Red" and my historical fairy tale retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" ("Scarlette"), did not require as much research. However, we did investigate the Magdalene laundries that inspired our setting, and John has a PhD in History, so he brought a lot of knowledge to the table on the topic.
We chose an abbey as the setting based on my research from my previous book, "Seeing Red". Set in the 1960s, "Seeing Red" tells the story of a young woman navigating the "Mad Men" era in NYC. My investigation into that period led me to discover a disturbing yet common practice for handling many unwed pregnant girls. Their ashamed families sent them to asylums or convents for the duration of their pregnancies to avoid public humiliation.
These asylums comprised an expansive institution throughout Europe and North America for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. They were an untalked-of secret that society knew were places for “bad girls.” And they were often much more than places where middle-class daughters hid from shame. For the poor, they could become prisons with virtually no way out. Forced to purchase their freedom at often exorbitant prices, some girls were enslaved for many years.
The Magdalene asylums or laundries, Irish institutions run by Catholic nuns that housed unwed mothers, prostitutes, and other “wayward girls”, became popularized by films like the "Magdalene Sisters" and "Philomena". These movies dramatized life for the destitute and abandoned women living in convents. The films, admittedly fictionalized accounts with some accuracy problems, depict true horror, as women suffered incredible abuses and were robbed of their children and their freedom. A mass grave uncovered in 1993 near one of the Magdalene laundries in Dublin, Ireland contained the bones of 155 forgotten women and children.
These stories stuck with me, and John and I decided to make "Winterbay Abbey" a place of terror while integrating in some of this history. However, “Winterbay” is a work of fiction and not intended to depict any real events.

John Bladeck
Are you planning on releasing any more novels soon? Anything you're currently working on? 

John Bladek and I are at it again on two projects. We are in the middle of adapting "Winterbay Abbey" into a screenplay. Additionally, we are working on an action-adventure novel (set to release in 2019) in the same vein as the "Indiana Jones" films. This new project entitled, "Origin" is about a paleoanthropologist who has just discovered the possible existence of mermaids. We are super excited about it!

"Origin" is a very research-intensive project. I’ve already talked to a paleontologist to make sure the marine science aspect is sound, not to mention John Bladek and I are drawing on John's extensive anthropology/history knowledge. It’s important to get the science right, as this book grew out of my love for mermaids and wishing they had existed ever since I’d been a child. It’s been fun to come up with different scientific — and I will even say somewhat plausible — angles of how they could have come to be.

You live in Washington - a very rainy, very beautiful state! Have you found inspiration for your stories from the world around you?

Very much so. Writing "Winterbay Abbey" during the winter here with all its rainstorms and being close to the coast helped me channel the mood for the novel. Part of the story also takes place in Seattle around the neighborhood I live in, so yes, there is a lot of inspiration here!

Any advice for aspiring young writers out there who would like to see their own books in print? 

If you are looking to have your book printed by a New York publishing house, be prepared for how long it could take to master your craft and research the right agent to get you in the door. I've known some people who took ten years to break in. Don't give up, though. Everyone who continues to keep trying in this business, eventually gets into print.

It's also crucial that you make friends with other writers. People in my critique groups from eight or so years ago have become my good friends, and those friendships have inadvertently led to opportunities in publishing.

In regards to independent publishing, I only recommend it to those who have some marketing savvy and are prepared to spend upward of $2500 for good editing, a cover, and marketing. It's hard to be successful without a product that competes with what you see in bookstores. Knowing your competition and having high quality is important. If you book isn't top-notch, you run the risk of damaging your reputation as an author and not being taken seriously by publishing professionals. I can't stress that enough.

Where can readers can connect with you online? 


Website: http://www.davonnajuroe.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davonnaljuroe
Instagram: @davonna_juroe


Website: http://johnbladek.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JohnBladekAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnBladek

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Davonna! Always a treat! 

Thanks for having me and Happy Holidays!

All images provided by Davonna Juroe

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Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!