Thursday, May 4, 2023

#AuthotrInterview with Christina Maraziotis, author of Curse: A Novel (Loveletting, Book 2)


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Christina Maraziotis, author of Curse: A Novel (Loveletting, Book 2).
FQ: What a pleasure to have the privilege of reading Curse, the second book in your Loveletting Series. The preface in your book truly sets the tone and understanding of you as a writer and your approach. I was drawn to your sentiment: "...The vernacular of dialogue in this series is meant to be natural for the modern reader, so while efforts are made to imply the period, background and dialect of the characters, the purpose is to tell a story...not be a textbook..." I love this! I’m curious if the inspiration to write this statement was born out of random feedback from a reader? Your editor?
MARAZIOTIS: Thank you so much! I am so happy that you enjoyed reading Curse, and I sincerely felt flattered reading your review on it. I am very excited to be answering some very thoughtful and intriguing questions now!
So to start with the preface in my book, and what the whole statement entails. First of all, I have had many readers refer to it as historical fiction — and while I take it as a compliment, because I highly respect the genre and academic integrity involved for it to be properly created — I needed to address the difference. While I have done all the research that I could possibly do regarding the 19th century (and still do), it is impossible to be accurate in every single matter because of the lack of information available to me. That being said, while I try to strictly work within that century’s limitations, if I may elaborate, I also involve a steadily slithering subplot of dark magical realism that only grows stronger as the series progresses. That alone breaks the strict rules of historical fiction, but I’d rather not label it as historical fantasy either as it is very subtle; we’re not dealing with cowboys riding dragons.
Of course, the dialect of characters greatly differs from each other, and this in itself is for the purpose of character development. In Haunt, we had William Griffiths; the aristocrat, speaking in a more proper and period-accurate dialect. But we also had the protagonist, Charlotte, speaking in a more modern and casual manner; reflecting that she is unlettered, coming from a poor and rural background in the Old West. And in Curse, we find the Marshal; being rather blunt and vulgar, which very much establishes the basis of his character. In doing so, I personally feel like it gives color and life to the characters, and perhaps the reader can relate to them more. To be exactingly period accurate would take away this nuance of character development, which is really the foundation of this entirely fictional series. It only needs to be accurate enough to allow suspension of disbelief that the characters exist in 1899, which of course may vary from person to person. I hope this explains the statement from my point of view, but the actual concept came from my editor to clarify things after we received a lot of historical fiction feedback on the book.
FQ: In your prologue, you capture a passage from ‘World of Damage’ by William Griffiths: "Legends are not simply parched, begrimed old myths. They are ethereal entities; still lurking amongst us, as we retell their folk tales’ lies, that express the deepest of human desires." What a profound opening. I found myself reflecting back on this statement periodically throughout the read. Sometimes when I write, I have a quote that I post in a prominent place as a reminder for me to stay true to my pen. Was this the case for you to continually inspire you while writing Curse?
MARAZIOTIS: Thank you so much, and it is very interesting to hear of your own thought process when you write! I can definitely see how looking back at a quote could help one stay true within a story. The prologue in Curse is most certainly a hint of what is yet to unfold in the whole series, but it was not strictly a guideline for my writing, if that makes sense. This “book” is going to come up later on in the series in mysterious ways, and it is essentially an anchor point for the reader to go back and reflect upon, more than for myself — and this is exactly what you will find in all the upcoming prologues and epilogues. They are very quizzical; entirely out of order in relation to each book, and yet all connecting to an important event, meaning, or even cliffhanger. There are many answers that readers can find within, if they study them long enough, for upon a first read they are not meant to be understood. Even my editor doesn’t fully understand them. Haha. But I promise, they will make sense once you dissect them, bundle them up, and connect them together like puzzle pieces.
FQ: There is a strong conceptual anchor of good versus evil that travels across the pages of Curse. When we first met, you explained you had completed the writing of all seven books in this series. There are many elements that I can see where this book has the ability to stand alone. What made you choose the theme you chose for Curse?
Author Christina Maraziotis

MARAZIOTIS: Indeed, the concept of good and evil is very prominent in Curse. When I first started to write this book, I had no plans for how it would unfold — and if I’m being completely honest, the invention of the character, James, has helped me establish a deeper, darker meaning and philosophical theme throughout the whole series. So, I would say he chose the theme for this book, as wicked as that may sound...but are we really surprised about that? Haha. I truly believe James (which, I guess I can say freely now: you can find traces of him in the shadows of Haunt) was the deciding factor of how the series would continue on. The theme gets only darker from Curse onwards; a lot more challenging and thought provoking.
FQ: You paint many faceted layers of Charlotte’s character. When the story opens, she is quite broken. I was captivated with this passage when describing her demeanor: "...Charlotte, disconnected from him and the same old reality around her, stared in his eyes, and tears started to form within them. “I’m sorry..." She sobbed, faintly loathing herself for what she had become. Unrecognizable. An embarrassing excuse of a soul, within a fa├žade’s hideout..." Your gift to infuse emotion is fantastic. When you write something like this, how much of it comes to you and how much is it dropped on the pages as a gift from the universe?
MARAZIOTIS: That is truly so sweet of you to put it like that, and to be completely honest, I never realized that it was something to be worthy of mention until I started receiving a lot of feedback on my style of writing — or complaints that it was too lyrical. Haha. So, it means a lot to me that you feel this way about it. As far as how it comes to me, I will humbly say it flows naturally. I never much think about the words I write, as I don’t like to “force them out,” so to speak. Perhaps the reason behind it, is that I truly immerse myself within the characters and try to feel exactly what they feel in their present moment. Music is also a very important factor in my life, and I tend to listen to music when I write that inspires me.
FQ: Without too much of a spoiler, how difficult was it to write the scene concerning Charlotte’s horse Finn. By the time I finished reading it, I was crying!
MARAZIOTIS: That is a very good feedback to receive honestly, for I never am sure if readers connected with Finn the way I did. But so far, everyone seems to refer to him as a character of his own, so I can understand the impact that scene might have on them. It was very difficult for me to write it, and I was conflicted if I should do so or not. But for the sake of the story, and for Charlotte’s sake of tumbling ever deeper into her mental decline, I felt she needed one last punch in the gut. The actual scene was also very long-winded, because I felt it deserved such build-up and attention. I cried as well, and so did my editor. Haha. But this is why character development, even in regards to a horse, is so important for a story. If Finn and Charlotte’s relationship wasn’t described so exhaustively in Haunt, perhaps that scene wouldn’t have so great an impact.
FQ: The character James is beyond diabolical, and the power he wields over all who cross paths with him is unnerving. There’s a very deep nuance of evil that surrounds him, yet is there also some assistance with him using drugs to overpower those who he comes in contact with?
MARAZIOTIS: I will not deny that James is definitely my favorite subject of Curse, so I love that question! He is most certainly diabolical, and extremely manipulative. He is brilliantly sarcastic, very witty with his words, and extremely intelligent — something that makes him stand out compared to villains that are just “evil” and grouchy being so. Yes, he definitely employs the assistance of drugs to overpower those around him, but you will find later on, there are a lot more evil nuances within the realm of magical realism. He is not something supernatural, which was very important to me to establish. In this series, everyone can die, with the simplest of weapons. Everyone knows they are not immortal, and everyone fears death the same. But...there are certain things that can manipulate people into thinking there is something otherworldly. And such fear of the unknown, like the concept of James and what happens in his close proximity, causes hesitation and bewilderment. It is a mind game and he excels in it, for his power is knowledge.
FQ: By no means am I a prude, but there were certain scenes that were over the top erotic. Did you have to take a step away from crafting some of these passages or did you barrel through?
MARAZIOTIS: Haha! I am not a prude either, but this question alone made me blush and shy away. So, I will start by saying that I felt if all the gruesome scenes that I’d written are so raw and detailed to such an extent to cause discomfort to readers, then the erotic scenes needed to be written in the same manner. Why would it be okay for a murder scene to be explicit, but not something that is inherently natural and harmless? If consent is present, of course. In Curse, the very first erotic scene pops up at random and is very sudden, while being quite vulgar and descriptive. The one with the lady of the evening. This was definitely meant to cause shock and bewilder the reader for a moment, but to also establish that particular character’s personality right there and then — something that will be explained further and be a lot more meaningful in Book III. The whole series has a lot to do with psychology, so the reader needs to keep this in mind. None of my erotic scenes are just there to be there, and honestly they are perhaps 1% of a whole book. They all have a purpose; with very few exceptions of course, as the story progresses. So being that they are relatively few in such a large read, they have to be emphatic.
Aside from that, Haunt was very mild in comparison, and that too was because it reflected Charlotte’s lack of experience and point of view. Her first kiss alone was a deeply felt and cherished event for her. So we see her now, under the influence and guidance of someone that likes to cause havoc upon others, exploring herself for the very first time, freely. In a way, that evil someone helps her to do so; to heal from the past. And in all her own confusion, we see her lose herself again under that influence. So, it was very important to me for her to experience something natural and beautiful in a very detailed way later on, for every touch and physical contact meant something to her. And of course, there was excitement. It was all new to her, after years of having that desire pent-up within. She unleashed it all. Perhaps not in the most moral of ways, which again is the very theme of Curse.
On that note, the character she experienced all this with — as you will find later in the series — his scenes will always be more raw and vulgar. Because that is who he is. But generally speaking, all characters will have different dynamics and descriptions within their erotic scenes. This is again a facet of the way I consider character development. Not every kiss or touch will be the same between people. Others will have their own preferences; their own way of talking, their own way of movement. Every little detail will matter, without it being like a sexual guidebook. Others will be more sensual, more romantic, more tender, and others more intense. Just like in real life, I wanted to give this impression to readers. I wanted for them to be able to see what I describe, and to feel the difference between characters.
FQ: In line with my previous question, were there certain bodies of work that you referenced for inspiration in writing such descriptive moments to get the cadence down as specific as you did?
MARAZIOTIS: I can say with confidence, that there were no bodies of work that I took inspiration from. This is the first time I am writing such descriptive moments, so what I did after I had already written them, is I looked at other bodies of work to ensure I wasn’t being too distasteful. Haha. It is not easy to write erotic scenes, because there is always a fine line between it being too vanilla and too tasteless. I hope I managed to strike a balance between these, but of course opinions and perspectives on that will vary and this is understandable. I do try to warn readers as much as I can about this series, thus the extensive trigger warning.
My main concern was how well these scenes flowed. I didn’t want there to be an awkward pause for the reader; I wanted it to be viewed and felt as a fervent movie scene, if that makes sense. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t wish for it to be read as an anatomical guidebook, and I strongly avoided metaphors when describing sexual organs. Just my personal preference on what fit these scenes, and the characters within them. There is no objective right or wrong, however.
FQ: I adored Frida’s character. She had an angelic quality about her and was depicted as quite a spiritual guide. Was it difficult to play out her role (and ultimate outcome)?
MARAZIOTIS: Frida was a joy to write about. She also made a brief appearance in Haunt, where we subtly see her special gift for the first time. But I really fleshed her out in Curse, and it was definitely a challenge of its own. She is very angelic, and very spiritual, and the way she spoke was cryptic with a constant stream of metaphors connecting to nature. I felt it suited her well, for nature was all she really knew around herself. The ultimate outcome was a big revelation as to how vulnerable a person she actually was, despite her seeming omniscience and ability to decipher certain visions. Frida possesses a pure heart and is far too giving, but is lonely in the world she is being “lovingly” contained within. From this stems the effects of such loving and over-protective acts, and the desire to escape it in the only way she could.
FQ: I asked you about the bracketed letters in the titles in this series in my previous interview with you. My ‘lightbulb’ went off with your explanation; especially after reading Curse. I enjoy your interaction with your audience and the ‘puzzles’ you create. You’re quite clever in doing this. How did this come about when you began writing this series?
MARAZIOTIS: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that! To be honest, I was trying to come up with something different as a titling convention, because the nature of this series as a whole is rather quizzical and cryptic. I felt the title needed to be simple, and yet reflect that puzzling nature as well.
FQ: I have to say again how much I enjoy your work. It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss this phenomenal read with you, and I thank you for your time. When can we expect the release of your third book in this series: Ghost?
MARAZIOTIS: Thank you again, that is so very kind of you to say — I greatly value your feedback and enjoy the compelling questions as well. Always a pleasure to discuss them with you! Ghost is now available for pre-order (http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Novel.../dp/B0C1BN5GMV ) with a tentative release in early 2024. However, I’m working with my editor to have it out much sooner; after we are finished with Haunt’s audiobook edition, scheduled to be released mid 2023!
On that note, I should also say: there are now twelve fully written books in the Loveletting series, and I’m currently writing the thirteenth one. I hope to engage in these conversations with you for a very long time to come! Haha.

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