Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Author Interview w/Excerpt & Giveaway - This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts


This Madness of the Heart

by Blair Yeatts

GENRE: gothic mystery/thriller

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BLURB:

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.

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EXCERPT:

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.

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Talking with author Blair Yeatts!


What is your writing environment?

I couldn’t ask for a better writing environment! I live in a quiet house near the Appalachian Trail, with only trees, hills, and river within sight. I have an office in my home, painted forest green, with cat runs built in over my desk and bookshelves everywhere else. A lifetime’s worth of favorite rocks collected from all across America fill my desk-top shelves. My husband isn’t the quietest of men, so I have studio-quality headphones to block him out with Mozart. (I read years ago that Mozart is more stimulating to the brain almost anything else you could listen to, so I tried it, and have pretty much stuck with him.) My hours are my own. When the words flow, I write. When they don’t, I do other things. This Madness of the Heart is set in Appalachia, although not near here, and the forests are much the same: spruce, hemlock, tulip poplar, beech, maple and oak. As one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s titles says, The Word for World Is Forest (that’s the book the film Avatar was based on).


Who is your perfect hero/heroine and why?

I’m a lifelong fan of mysteries and thrillers, so when I decided to write my own series, I did my best to create my ideal heroine in Miranda Lamden. Until that point, I was most intrigued with Harriet Vane (Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries) and Anna Pigeon (Nevada Barr’s NPS Ranger mysteries). I suppose you can see them both combined in Miranda: she’s a scholar like Harriet Vane and Dorothy Sayers, and an athletic lover of nature, like Anna Pigeon. Also like her predecessors, Miranda is an independent women who doesn’t define herself by the male company she keeps, but who nevertheless likes men, and likes being in relationship with them. She’s attractive, but not alarmingly so: she’s never had the curse of exceptional beauty tempting her to ignore her more interesting qualities. She also has old wounds that make her shy of commitment and trust, but she knows where they’re buried and doesn’t let them govern her life. She’s relentlessly honest, and fiercely protective of anything and anyone she loves, from individual human beings to animals and plants and the broader natural world. Relieving her students of their ignorance is one of her life’s greatest joys . . . although it ranks below her favorite pastime of digging around obscure folklore and spiritual traditions.

What authors have caught your interest lately and why?

I’ve stumbled onto several new (to me) authors this year who have absolutely delighted me. Oddly enough, all are writers of fantasy. Here are just three:

Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls. I wasn’t quite sure about Curse of Chalion, but it grew on me, and Hallowed Hunt was a little too dark . . . but Paladin of Souls! How do you explain why some books touch your heart? The heroine is a royal widow and mother at midlife who is solicited by the 5th person of the land’s godhead, the Bastard (who looks after the outcast, oddball, and unwanted) to bear his power into the world—because, you see, these gods are helpless to act into that world without the consent of a human who can channel their power. One of her nastier tasks is eating demons, but no matter. The whole world and worldview was fascinating, and oddly similar to some of my own experiences of spirituality.

Sharon Lee’s Archer’s Beach trilogy is lighter, but nonetheless completely engaging. Like Bujold, Lee is better known for her science fiction/space fantasy than the books I liked. Archer’s Beach is a fictional place in Maine, where Earth spirits collide, and cooperate, with magical beings from the other four worlds. Lee has created a complete universe here, with its own laws and necessities, among them the balance of the power of Ocean with the power of Land, both of which have more or less human local guardians. I loved it. I never wanted it to stop. I wanted to live there! Ah, well.

Robin McKinley, Deerskin. I had the fairytale this book was based on (Donkeyskin) in a children’s collection years ago. McKinley’s book is no fairytale (except in the sense that some fairytales were truly horrific), but it’s probably the most powerful retelling of the trauma of sexual abuse that I’ve ever read. Oddly enough, the book is lyrically beautiful. The horror, which is never denied, is relegated to the place of a shadow and a curse running beneath a life of beauty and ultimate redemption. I’ll never forget Deerskin, and I’ll certainly read it again.


What type of book have you always wanted to write?

The kind I like to read! Which means fiction. I’ve spent most of my life reading—and writing—academic books, and I’m tired of them. In the end, it’s stories that stay with you and change your life, not facts. And the stories I love to read are never purely tales of horror and hopelessness, or violence and pain. Violence is part of life, and so is pain and tragedy, and as such they belong in novels, but without what I call “spirit” or “faith” or “redemption”—pick whatever word you like—unremitting darkness grinds human beings into something subhuman. So, what have I always wanted to write? A gripping novel of danger and intrigue, with depths of love and pain, where characters find meaning and redemption in their struggles: a book where someone might like to live. That doesn’t necessarily mean a happy ending, but it does rule out despair as an end in itself.


Top 3 things on your bucket list?

Touring Petra—slowly (and in winter!)

A summer spent roaming ancient Celtic ruins and sampling single malt Scotch.

Visiting all the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe with plenty of time to just sit and absorb the beauty of the glass—days in each one if I choose.


How did you get the idea for this particular novel?

This Madness of the Heart came partly out of my own experience. During the 1980’s and 90’s there was a movement afoot in some American church groups for a minority of power-hungry individuals to take over control of the churches and drown out the voices of everyone who didn’t agree with them. I watched from the sidelines as people’s lives, dreams, and faith were destroyed and too often pockets were lined as well. I originally wrote Madness to get the helpless rage out of my heart, but I let it sit for almost 20 years, and then wrote the rage out of it, leaving it as a fast-paced story about a slimy charlatan in a haunted hollow in Appalachia.


What is your favorite scene in your new release?

I think my favorite scene would have to be Miranda’s and Djinn’s visit to Blackoak Manor. It’s based on a haunted plantation ruin that I visited several times many, many years ago . . . and definitely found to be haunted. In Madness Miranda and Djinn go there on Halloween to observe villain Jasper Jarboe, DD, strut his stuff as a self-proclaimed demon exorcist. The bone-chilling regard of an angry ghost who’s been waiting for more than a hundred years to complete her revenge makes for a harrowing All Hallows Eve.


What are you working on now and when can we expect it to be available?

I’m in the midst of editing Blood on Holy Ground, the 2nd book in the Miranda Mysteries series. Miranda and Jack end up dividing their time between a tiny Native American reservation and an adjoining Tennessee convent. The Conicoke elders’ powerful support is almost all that stands between them and the ruthless violence inundating the two communities. I hope to have Holy Ground ready for release before Christmas. As with each of my books, paranormal experiences make up an essential part of the storyline.


What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Hiking and photography are my two greatest loves. There’s nothing in the world like walking off into the wilderness alone, with only a camera for company! Owls are nice, though.

What is one interesting fact about you that readers don’t know?
I met the Beatles face to face when I was 12 years old . . .  I came away with their autographs, and a recording of myself trying unsuccessfully to speak two consecutive words aloud!
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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.


Author/Book Links:

blog/website:  http://blair-yeatts.com




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Buy Links:

This Madness of the Heart e-book will be free at Smashwords during the tour.



(CreateSpace will be up on May 1)


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GIVEAWAY:

Blair Yeatts will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


37 comments:

  1. Fantastic interview! It makes me sad when Faith becomes manipulated by one's pursuit of control and power and unfortunately that happens often. The subject really fascinates me. I am really enjoying this book tour! Thank you for the post and the giveaway! :)

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    1. I'm delighted that you're enjoying the tour--and that you find the subject intriguing! For me, it's an unending source of (I hope) great ideas for writing.

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  2. I enjoyed the excerpt, thanks for the chance to win :)

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  3. Good Morning! Have a terrific day and thank you for the chance to win

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    1. Hello, Robert, thank you--and good morning to you! I plan to spend my day writing; I hope your day will be full of good things.

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  4. Thank you for hosting my blog tour!

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  5. Great post - I love the cover of this one. Thanks for sharing the excerpt :)

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    1. Thank you, Victoria! It's my own creation, taken from a mixture Edward Burne-Jones art and my photos. If you read "Madness," you'll find a similar stained glass window described . . .

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    2. Pretty impressive - the use of color is awesome :)

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    3. Glad you like it. Work hard with color--it's important to me. And what would we do without Photoshop!

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  6. I liked the excerpt, sounds like a great read.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt, Rita--I hope you download the book!

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  7. Thank you, Nicole! I hope you'll download and enjoy it!

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  8. Frightening but exciting excerpt.

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    1. You don't like snakes, either, Jane? I almost stepped on one this morning. Ick. I hope you'll take a look at the rest of the book!

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  9. An interesting point about how the story was inspired.

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    1. I'm pleased that it caught your interest, Mary. It's a chilling thing to find evil where you assume you will always find good!

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  10. I enjoyed this entire post. Thank you so much for sharing this exciting post!

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    1. You're very welcome, Ree Dee! I so glad you enjoyed it!

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  11. Sounds like a great read, hope I'll have a chance to read it soon!

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    1. Thank you, Dario, I hope you will, too!

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  12. What kind of research did you do for this book?

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    1. Another good question! Since I was born and bred in Kentucky, I didn't do much research on the culture, environment, or people themselves, and education/religion/spirituality are my areas of expertise and experience, so most of my research was in peripheral subjects: Victorian mansions, stained glass, KY's coal history, forensics, KY and VA law-enforcement, etc. I'm a bit obsessive about details!

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  13. Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!

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  14. Love the interview! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Samantha! I hope you'll try the book!

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  15. Love the interview! Thank you for sharing!

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  16. GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR BOOK AND THANKS FOR THE GIVEAWAY! SHELLEY S. calicolady60@hotmail.com

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    1. Thank you, Shelley! I appreciate the good thoughts!

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  17. I enjoyed the interview. Thank you for sharing!

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  18. I enjoyed the interview. Thank you for sharing!

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