This is new for me, but back when Playing Mrs Kingston was launched, Tony asked me if I’d like to do an interview on my blog. I’m not sure why I didn’t at the time, but I asked if I could take him up on the offer when I reviewed Ghost Maven. Tony is incredibly generous, which is conveyed in his writing, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him a little better. Enjoy!
Julia: Where did the idea for a Ghost Maven come from? And the term? I love it!
Tony: I lived in Monterey for two years, so I know the region well, and I wanted to write about the beauty, the history and the supernatural lore of the region. All of these combined to form the idea for ‘Ghost Maven’. I was also inspired by the JM Barrie play, ‘Mary Rose’, about a young woman who disappears on a Scottish island and reappears unaged twenty years later. The working title of the book was ‘Evening Tide’, after Henry’s boat, but I changed it to ‘Ghost Maven’ about half way through, because I thought it would appeal to paranormal romance readers, and there is something more evocative when you have the word ‘Ghost’ in the title. The idea for a Maven arose from this premise, someone who has command over spirits, and Alice who is preoccupied with the afterlife having just lost her mother, seemed like a good candidate to go on this incredible journey to becoming a Maven.
Julia: Why move into Young Adult Fiction – what is the attraction for you as a writer?
Tony: I’m a storyteller and am keen to reach a wide a readership as possible. Young Adult readers are also very demanding, and need a fast paced plot and less exposition. They lose interest quickly, so as a writer it is challenging to create scenes which keep readers turning the pages. I specialize in mystery and suspense because of my background writing about Alfred Hitchcock, so I use his tools and techniques for creating suspense. I talk about these principles in my book ‘Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass’, which is a writing manual on how to construct a thrilling screenplay.
Julia: Do you think that Ghost Maven is more love story or suspense/thriller?
Tony: I think it’s more of a love story as Alice and Henry’s romance is the central part of the book, and the sections I enjoyed writing the most. Their meeting occurs at a point when Alice is suffering tremendous grief and bereavement from losing her mother. They are both very lonely characters, and find solace in each other, as they have shared interests in literature, nature, the outdoors and the colour purple.
Julia: I’m sure you won’t tell us, but did Henry Raphael die? And what might be next for Alice?
Tony: At the end of the book, O’Reilly, the enemy survives, so someone will have to fight him in the sequel, which may give you a clue about Henry’s fate. In the next chapter, Alice discovers her powers to be a Ghost Maven, and it’s a very exciting time for her, but also very dangerous. So the book is going to be very dark, as Alice comes to terms with who she is and what is her destiny. Writing a sequel is very rewarding for a writer, as your characters are already fully formed, you know their likes and dislikes, and so does the reader, so you can push the characters further.
Julia: Last we heard, you were doing a follow up of ‘Mrs Kingston’ when you were in Italy. Is she coming back?
Tony: I wrote the sequel for ‘Playing Mrs. Kingston’ last year and Catriona Benedict is definitely coming back. The title of the book is called ‘The Two Masks of Vendetta’ and follows Catriona and her Italian boyfriend Mario in glamorous 1960s Italy. She also comes face to face with her old adversary Louis Ferrero and the twists and turns are so unexpected. I had so much fun plotting and writing the novel, which was an excuse to visit Italy four times last year, as I spent time researching the novel in Rome, Florence, Arezzo, Santa Margherita and Portofino. The book is set in the La Dolce Vita period and follows Catriona and Mario as they are on a quest to find the True Cross of Jesus Christ.
Julia: Now that sounds really intriguing. If I can ask some questions about you as a writer. It’s something I’m very curious about. So, what’s your writing day like?
Tony: This depends on whether I have deadlines, but a typical day when I’m working on a novel is writing about 3000 words. I’m more of a night owl, so I write better in the afternoons and evenings. I wrote an article about Blue Sky thinking which is on the Ghost Maven website and is full of interesting tips on how best to achieve creative insights.
Julia: When do ideas come to you – and how do they come.. Fully formed, or in little morsels?
Tony: I often have the tagline or synopsis for a book, and if I’m very keen to pursue it, I spend hours thinking how to flesh the idea out. I was at my most creative when I lived in Monterey Bay. There is new evidence that being outdoors, and colours like blue and green, can facilitate creative insights. I also derive many of my ideas by going to the cinema. I’m a member of BAFTA, and many of my novels started off as ideas for screenplays, my scenes are often cinematic, and I’m very preoccupied by how my characters look and talk.
Julia: Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘panster’ as a writer? By that I mean do you plan/map everything out before you start writing, or go with the idea, the characters and see where the story goes?
Tony: A combination of both. Normally I have the basic idea mapped out and know the beginning and the end. The middle is often the hardest chapters to write, as you have to engage the reader and not lose them half way through. Sometimes my characters take a life of their own, and dictate where they want to go, and I’m always thinking of how they would behave in a situation. I would say I’m more of a plotter overall. As Alfred Hitchcock said, everything has to be planned out on paper, so I do like writing a detailed synopsis if I have problems with a plot, so I can step back and see where the story beats are.
Julia: That’s all fascinating. Thank you so much Tony. Let’s hope that Ghost Maven flies off the shelves. To find out more about Tony and his latest book, Ghost Maven, head over to his website:
Tony’s lovely photo was taken from his Twitter feed, @TonyLeeMoral
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