Monday, November 23, 2015

Special Guest Post: Interview for "An Improbable Truth"

Good morning, beloveds!

I'm back from the craziness that is con-season and with a special guest post today.

Author Melissa McArthur joins me today to talk about her story in the Sherlock Holmes Anthology  "An Improbable Truth," edited by A.C. Thompson and published by Mocha Memoirs Press.

Your Name:  
Hi! I’m Melissa McArthur. Thanks for having me today. Blog interviews are the best thing ever!

Tell us a little about yourself?
 Starting with the hardest question, I see.
I was born and raised in Harlan County, KY, but I moved to South Carolina when I was 17. So I’ve spent about half my life here now. Wow. I didn’t realize that until I’d typed it out. I do lots of things. I teach college, I work as a freelance editor, I write twice monthly for Magical Words, I tell stories. I have a large orange cat named Garfield, but he does not like lasagna. I am utterly fascinated by books. There’s something just magical about holding them in your hand and watching as the words disappear and the story unfolds before your eyes. I hope I can do that for readers. That’s my ultimate goal as a writer: to create stories that engulf you, change you, scare you, bewilder you, make you laugh, make you cry. Through stories I hope to reveal a deeper truth.
Well, that got weird fast. Next question, please?

What made you want to become a writer?
I am not sure I had any specific moment or realization that made me want to become a writer. It’s something I’ve wanted to do as long as I can remember being alive. I’ve always loved reading, and I had great role models in my parents and my grandmother who all emphasized the magic and importance of reading, so I suppose it was a natural progression. Stories float around in my head all day, every day. If I didn’t get at least some of them down on paper, I think my head might explode. Well, probably not, but it would certainly feel like it could.
In a different direction, I have focused more on the act of writing than the dream of writing in the past few years. I have had some really amazing folks who have mentored me, encouraged me, helped me through the process of publishing, and answered my (sometimes ridiculous) questions with great grace and patience. I am forever grateful for them. Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, John Hartness, David B. Coe, Alexandra Christian, Tamsin Silver, and so many more.
Probably the thing that most solidified that I wanted to make my dream a reality is the wonderful community of writers that I have met and now call friends.

Could you tell us a bit about your story?
My story, “The Chase,” is about a case that Holmes thinks is really not a case at all, just a crazy woman with a crazy story.  But, when a young girl starts mysteriously haunting him, leaving wet footprints in his apartment and speaking to him, he realizes that there may be more to the case than he first thought. Watson thinks, at least at first, that Holmes has been using drugs again and has imagined it all. Once the chase begins, they both realize that this is not a case like any other they’ve solved.

What gave you the inspiration for your story? 
When I was working on my undergraduate degree at Winthrop University, I took a class on the Neo-Victorian novel. One of the books I read for that class was The Seven Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Reading that book was the first time that I realized the role drug use played in Holmes’ stories. I’ve been fascinated ever since. The mystery of it intrigued me because I began to question the stories entirely.

What aspect of Sherlock did you change or focus on?
I focused on the idea of perception versus reality and how drugs can blur that line. Or do they? One thing that I really wanted to show was the questioning that Watson does of Holmes’s grasp on reality, particularly when Watson realizes that he’s been using the drugs again.
 The juxtaposition of illusion and truth is something that I have always found fascinating.

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? 
Sherlock is real, right? And Watson? Moriarty was definitely real.
 Otherwise, no. None of my characters are based on a real person. Actually, unless you count the dog, there’s really only one other character in my story besides Holmes and Watson. That character is entirely from my imagination. Thank goodness.

What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
 I have to pick just one?
My favorite thing that has been said directly to me was said to me by David B. Coe.
“Finish the damn book.” – David B. Coe
My favorite writing quote in general is actually in my email signature so I see it all the time!
“People think there is something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.” – Harlan Ellison

What else have you published?
I have published three short stories in my Maggie the Gatherer series: The Weaver’s Fate, The Magician’s Secret, and The Water’s Edge. The fourth in that series, The Gatherer’s Power, is scheduled to come out in November. In this series, we find ourselves in a world where magic is real—but it’s also dangerous, powerful, and finite. Maggie’s job is to gather loose magic as magic users die and return it safely to the Guides, those ethereal beings who control and distribute the power to the worthy.
I have a few other projects in the flux phase as well. Hopefully I can announce those before too long!

Tell us a little about your plans for the future.  Do you have any other stories or books in the works?
Yes, always! I am actively working on three projects: the planning stages of a short story for an upcoming anthology, drafting the fourth Maggie story, and working on a novel as well. The novel is quite different from the paranormal things I usually write. It’s a mystery with no supernatural things at all! So far…
I am also looking for places with open calls for short story submissions!

Where can we find you online? (please cut and paste links):
I love the internet, so I am all over the place!

Melissa McArthur grew up in Harlan Co. KY, but now she lives in SC with her husband, daughter, and fluffy cat, Garfield. She teaches writing at her alma mater and works as a freelance editor at her company, Clicking Keys. She loves writing because she believes that through language we can create magic in our otherwise mundane world.

From “The Chase” by Melissa McArthur
Her laughter echoed through the night; she longed for the chase as much as the detective himself. Holmes jerked his head to the left and broke into a run.
I straightened and tried to follow him, but he was gone. I ran in the direction he’d headed, stumbling over fallen branches and ruts in the earth. I cursed the man and the girl. How they could navigate the night woods was a mystery to me.
The woods broke and I emerged from the forest into a clearing, the mist of the night hanging low over the dead leaves and grass.
She waited for us. Hovering in the center of the clearing, she held her arms out to her sides and threw her head back as she twirled around, laughing as she spun. Holmes stood near the center of the clearing, facing me, eyes trained on the ghastly child. Her bare feet dangled below the hem of her stained cotton gown. Her golden hair fanned out around her head. She’d allowed him to find her. A twisted game of cat and mouse where she was both predator and prey.
Holmes looked over her shoulder and found me. His eyes locked onto mine; I knew he had a plan and I wouldn’t like it.
Breaking eye contact, he snapped his gaze back to the girl and reached out to touch her arm. His hand passed though without grasping her as she moved far too quickly for him to catch. He stumbled forward and fell to his knees. Her laughter filled the clearing as she lowered herself to the ground, once again to look into his eyes.
“Cursed child. What are you?” Holmes sat back on his heels, turning his head to the side and looking at her. She was a puzzle to him, a nightmare to me.
“I am nothing. I am everything. I am the darkness cloaked in light.” Her singsong voice belied her words, words shrouded in danger and born of evil. She lowered herself to the ground and turned to run again.
Holmes slumped to his side, the dried leaves crushed beneath him. “Holmes!” I shouted and ran toward the center of the clearing. I dropped to my knees beside him and put my fingers to his throat. He pulse was racing, his breathing shallow and quick.
“My left breast pocket. It’s there.” His words were soft, strained. I felt his coat pocket and pulled out a small leather case containing a syringe and a cork-topped vial. The seven percent solution. His only weakness.