I am a writer and avid reader of romances particularly historical romances. Please join me on my journey through time
Please welcome Blair Yeatts author of This Madness of the Heart.
Blair Yeatts will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
This Madness of the Heart
by Blair Yeatts
GENRE: gothic mystery/thriller
I’ve been writing ever since I learned to read. My older brother’s first grade reader (something about Dick and Jane and Spot and Puff) inspired my first short story, which I wrote in one continuous line, in red crayon, around the walls of our very tidy house. Like Madness’ main character Miranda, my mother considered Southern Living to be the bible of a Southern wife and homemaker: she was not amused. In first grade I went on to create stories (unfortunately never written down . . . maybe it was a shortage of available walls) about my collection of tiny stuffed animals, which I shared with all the other primary grades in my elementary school. Undoubtedly a sign of things to come! I suspect the cats in Madness may have links to these first animals.
This Madness of the Heart was first written almost 20 years ago, in response to the outrage I felt over religious “dirty tricks” that were becoming more and more common in protestant denominational takeover attempts. I wasn’t in the midst of that uproar, but I saw my neighbors’ hearts broken, their trust abused, and faith destroyed. I watched it happen up close and personal too many times to just let it go. So my villain JJ and his cohorts are creatively fictional patchworks of scores of self-serving, glib, and power-hungry religious charlatans across the country. The college where Miranda teaches is a fictional college similar to many of the colleges caught in that crossfire. After letting Madness sit on the shelf for 15 years or so, I decided I really liked Miranda and her world, and wrote a second, and then a third, book in the series—these last two yet to be published.
What expertise did you bring to your writing?
I earned a PhD in religion, a task that will teach anyone how to write—even without the dissertation! Since then I’ve written 8 novels, several published under another name, others not yet published.
Actually, my bio is a bit vague—although what there is, is true—because “Blair Yeatts” is a pen name. I’ve written and published a number of novels in a different genre, and wanted the freedom to get outside my established readers’ expectations. I’ve taught religion at a number of small colleges, and Miranda Lamden is based on many women I’ve known, as well as on myself in some ways. In particular, the paranormal dimensions Miranda explores are often drawn from my own experiences, since hands-on research into unusual religious practices has been part of my work. For instance, Blackoak Manor, with its angry ghost and bizarre meteorological phenomena, is based on my experiences in the ruins of a real Virginia plantation.
I’m still writing books under my original name, as well as preparing the next two Miranda Lamden books for publication. I have to say, it’s a rather schizophrenic existence! But I’ve learned one thing, much to my distress: I should finish one book at a time, at least in draft form, before turning to a second one. Two totally separate books contaminate each other hopelessly, and the “voice” gets really mangled! I’ve had to rewrite the book I started this spring almost completely because of unconscious crossovers.
Although I’ve never wished to be a man, I think I’d have to pick Jack Crispen, Miranda’s significant other. I like everything about him—although not as a partner—I fear we’d be at each other’s throats. I like his complexity, his depth, and most of all the magical vision of his art that comes through in his stained glass. That’s a world I’d love to live in. I like his controlled violence, and his stubborn determination to keep it under control. And I like his ponytail. I fear I’m a hippie at heart. Maybe he’s an animus image—you know, the Jungian notion of the masculine archetype living within a woman (or anima, the feminine within a man) . . . And then he’s a carpenter. What is it about carpenters? Something sensual about the skill in their hands? Some lurking connection to Sunday School stories that cross over into assumptions that a carpenter will be kind and honest and noble? LOL Anyway, Jack Crispen. I wish I could create something as beautiful as his glass.
OK, be patient with me here. Since I’ve started writing fulltime, I’ve stopped our cable TV, and I don’t often find time to watch movies, so my actor choices may need dusting off.
Miranda Lamden: Natalie Portman . . . She has the intelligence and flexibility to make Miranda’s character interesting (and of course) attractive
Jack Crispen: Christian Bale . . . he just fits the part
Marinja Baude (Djinn): Taraji P. Henson . . . an actress with many faces—she’d be great in the role
Rev. Jasper Jarboe (JJ): who else? John Malkovitch
Welby Bayless: Lucas Grabeel . . . if he doesn’t age too fast
Elmus Rooksby: Robert Duvall . . . the kindness could be real in this role
I don’t really think about things I do as hobbies, just things I love. Photography probably comes first, but photographing wild nature rather than people or cityscapes. I love hiking into forests, mountains, deserts, and seacoasts—anything wild—preferably alone, with my camera, and then just looking. Seeing as if I were a camera lens changes how I perceive the world. Everything takes on magic. Often I have a sense of walking a fine line in a space between worlds. If I’m lucky the photographs capture that overlap of dimensions. Sometimes I do digital collage with my photography as well—hours and hours of layers with Photoshop. For instance, Madness’ cover is one I created. All my books reflect my sense of the mystery present in wild nature.
Tough question! I’m not good at “favorites.” Then, too, they change as I change. Because of my fascination with faith, and why people believe the way they do, my favorite books almost always have something to do with spirituality. So I think I’ll have to offer a list of books that’ve been favorites at one time or another in recent years: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series, Paladin of Souls; Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, The Other Wind; Sharon Lee’s Archers Beach series, Carousel Seas; Charles Williams, Descent into Hell; Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night; P.D. James, Death in Holy Orders. They’re all books I read and reread, worlds I enjoy inhabiting. And the list goes on . . .
My next book is called Blood on Holy Ground, and takes place on the grounds of a rural Tennessee convent and a tiny Native American reservation. Miranda goes there on a summer research project to try to unearth details of a local legend about the healing power of a Conicoke spearpoint. But she stumbles into a terrifying web of violence, where the overlap between ordinary reality and Spiritworld keeps shifting and tangling her feet. Miranda and Jack find themselves at the heart of a cruel firestorm, where their battle to survive fuels unexpected passion in their own relationship.
Again the “favorite” question! (I always did badly on true-false and multiple choice tests). I’ll try for a short list, anyway: Maggie Smith, Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett; Morgan Freeman, Viggo Mortensen, Richard Gere.
Actually, there are two, at different levels. The first has to do with a brutal murder and Miranda’s encounter with a deadly supernatural rage stronger than any defense she can summon. She is shaken to the core by the power of this dark force and its presence on her own home turf. Her myth of the “ordinary” world—the myth that allows her to live her daily life—is demolished. In the second moment, Miranda’s failure to read the cues in the people around her leaves her vulnerable to an old and implacable human evil that seeks her death with calculated cruelty. She must summon enough strength to overcome her crippling terror and summon resources she doesn’t believe she has.
Writing a series seemed a natural thing to do. One thing that keeps me coming back to an author I enjoy is a sense that I have a relationship with her characters. So once I realized I’d created characters that I wanted to spend more time with, writing a series was the obvious next step. I’m only three books into the series, but so far I’m enjoying adding complexity to Miranda’s and Jack’s characters and seeing where their relationship will carry them. It’s fascinating picking new environments and different challenges for each book—I have all the advantages of a new novel, with the delight of revisiting old friends whose company I enjoy.
Bad religion can be deadly. So Miranda Lamden, small-town religion professor, discovers in This Madness of the Heart. The dark hollers of Eastern Kentucky offer fertile soil for shady evangelist Jasper Jarboe, new president of Grace and Glory Bible College, as he beguiles the small mining town of Canaan Wells with his snake-oil charm.
When Miranda isn’t teaching at Obadiah Durham College, she’s investigating paranormal phenomena—or enjoying a turbulent romantic relationship with backwoods artist Jack Crispen. JJ’s inquisition-style gospel has alienated her long since, but when he announces his plan to transform her forest home into an evangelical Mecca, complete with neon cross and 40-foot Jesus, Miranda girds her loins for war. But JJ isn’t finished: he goes on to launch an attack on her friend and fellow professor Djinn Baude with an avalanche of vicious rumors. Not only does he accuse Djinn of demonic communion with the old Voudon witch whose curse killed the college’s founding family, but he also smears her with insinuations of lechery and vice.
With JJ’s urging, hate boils over into violence and tragedy, sweeping Miranda up in its flood. One death follows another as a miasma of evil overwhelms the tiny community, and only Miranda can see clearly enough to halt its spread.
This Madness of the Heart is the first in a new series of Gothic mystery-thrillers featuring Professor Miranda Lamden, whose spiritual gifts have drawn her beyond university walls to explore the mysteries of other world beliefs. Her unique vision brings her into repeated confrontations with evil, where too often she finds herself standing alone between oblivious onlookers and impending disaster.
The large woman beside me slid to the plank floor with surprising grace, twitching and jerking on her back, eyes glittering sightlessly under half-closed lids. Worshippers stepped around her with hardly a thought. Her lips fluttered in prayer, inaudible amidst the tumbling chaos of sound rolling through the tiny church.
“Hallelujer! Hallelujer! Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus! Praise-a the Lord!
Oooooooohhh, glory be to God, honey! Praise-a his holy name!” The preacher’s voice roared over the babble.
I rocked contentedly in the midst of a storm of joy. Ecstasy beat against me like a rising spring tide. I loved my work. No matter how many hours I spent observing people celebrating their faith, their joy always lifted me up—perhaps bearing me on the wings of their prayers. And Appalachian Holiness congregations had to be among my favorites. I loved their lack of pretense, their tolerance of diversity, their unselfconscious enthusiasm. I envied how easily they gave themselves up to spiritual ecstasy. Comparatively, I was a clam, tightly sealed in a riotous bed of wave-swept anemones.
Several white-shirted men carried cardboard boxes into the center of the floor while the worshippers danced close around. One by one, two by two, three by three, coiling copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes were scooped from the boxes and passed from dancer to dancer, man or woman, whoever held out a willing hand.
Panic knocked the breath from my body like an adder’s sudden strike. My gut clenched, writhing with the coiling snakes. Tremors shook my hands. Shadow threatened to overwhelm my sight. I’d forgotten myself, relaxed my guard, let slip the rigorous discipline I wore like a second skin in my field studies.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Blair Yeatts grew up in the midst of a large, old southern Virginia family, much like the family of her main character. She followed her parents into a career in academia and taught religion at the college level in Kentucky for many years. Her special areas of expertise are psychology and Earth-based religions, in which she has done considerable research.
From childhood, Ms. Yeatts has been a fan of mystery fiction, starting with Nancy Drew and moving through Agatha Christie to twentieth century giants like Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Nevada Barr. She is fulfilling a life’s dream in writing her own mysteries.
Ms. Yeatts shares her home with her photographer husband, two cats, and a dog. She has a lifelong love of wild nature, and prefers to set her stories in rural areas, where threads of old spiritual realities still make themselves felt. Her first three books take place in different parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.
This Madness of the Heart e-book will be free during the tour.
(CreateSpace will be up on May 1)
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Blair Yeatts will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.