I’m so excited to have Rosemary Clement-Moore as my guest today to talk about The Splendor Falls, which was released on September 8th.
Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who can’t dance. A broken leg ended her career, but Sylvie’s pain runs deeper. What broke her heart was her father’s death, and what’s breaking her spirit is her mother’s remarriage—a union that’s only driven an even deeper wedge into their already tenuous relationship.
Uprooting her from her Manhattan apartment and shipping her to Alabama is her mother’s solution for Sylvie’s unhappiness. Her father’s cousin is restoring a family home in a town rich with her family’s history. And that’s where things start to get shady. As it turns out, her family has a lot more history than Sylvie ever knew. More unnerving, though, are the two guys that she can’t stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, seems to be perfect in every way. But Rhys—a handsome, mysterious foreign guest of her cousin’s—has a hold on her that she doesn’t quite understand.
Then she starts seeing things. Sylvie’s lost nearly everything—is she starting to lose her mind as well?
DFT: Could you start things off by telling us a little about the book?
Rosemary: Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who breaks her leg and can’t dance any more. When she washes down some pain pills with a little too much champagne at her mother’s wedding, she’s sent to stay with her late father’s family in rural Alabama. As you can imagine, she’s less than thrilled. But weird stuff is going on. There’s something mysterious about the town, and she’s getting a lot of attention from the local golden boy, and there’s another guy with whom she feels an inexplicable familiarity. But the worst is that she’s seeing things that aren’t there–ghosts and shadows–and she’s worried that on top of everything, she’s losing her mind now, too.
DFT: What motivated you to write The Splendor Falls?
Rosemary: I wanted to write an old fashioned gothic tale, with romance and mystery and ghosts, but with a modern character and story. Something both spooky and romantic, but with my voice (I tend toward dry humor) and a strong heroine with her own journey. There are elements of real history, folklore and mythology, mixed together with threads of fantasy elements like ghosts and magic–basically all my favorite things. I wanted a story where those naturally came together, and a gothic type story seemed natural.
DFT: Tell us something about your research process and the choices you make when creating the story.
Rosemary: Old Cahawba is an actual ghost town south of Selma, and the legend of Welsh settlers who traveled up the Alabama river from Mobile is a real legend. I decided to use as much of the real history and landscape as I could. Most of my books combine elements of real history, geography and nature with a fantasy twist. When something strikes me as interesting, I play “what if” with the idea.
I took advantage of being able to visit the ghost town. (I did take my dog, just like Sylvie does, and they did warn me about alligators.) Even without real ghosts, it was a little eerie walking the empty streets of a once bustling town. Driving around Alabama, I got a sense of their small towns, and I’m lucky that my best friend lives in the state (she’s the one who told me about Old Cahawba) so I had a resource.
Some things were deliberate changes–I added a fictional town and the Davis and Maddox families. Bluestone Hill is, of course, a figment of my imagination, as is it’s namesake stone. But it was a fun idea to play with.
DFT: What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing The Splendor Falls?
Rosemary: The “Gothic Novel” combines elements of horror, mystery and romance. Not necessary a love story–or at least, not always a happy ending one–but a romantic sensibility. The classic examples, a young woman, often alone in the world, often after having experienced a loss, comes to a spooky old house/mansion/castle, where there are mysterious things going on, family secrets, hidden rooms, secret diaries, often a brooding romantic interest whom she doesn’t know whether she can trust. Jane Austen parodied these early (and rather over the top) novels in her “Northanger Abby.”
The best examples are Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and even Jamaica Inn. I wanted that same sense of jeopardy and atmosphere, though I was going for a bit more of a modern feel with my heroine. Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels are two more modern authors that I think I drew from.
DFT: Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
Rosemary: I love Sylvie. She’s so prickly at the beginning of the book, but she’s got a dark sense of humor, and a self-awareness (she knows she’s cranky) that keep her from being too emo. But she’s hurting and she doesn’t want to give anyone or anything the chance to make it worse. It was challenging to get her to open up and show her heart, but when she does, it was very rewarding as a writer, and I hope it will be for the reader, too.
(That said, I confess that Gigi is close in the running. She’s just so sassy and cute!)
DFT: Do you have a long-term plan or goal for this story universe? What happens next?
Rosemary: I can tell you that my next book takes place in the same story universe, though it’s a different facet of the magical world. You will see some of the same elements of The Splendor Falls (history and myth combined with magic and mystery), but it’s a different place and very different characters.
What happens to Sylvie next? I rather like that reader is free to imagine that for herself. I know she will use what she learned in this book to become the person she’s meant to be. Maybe will see some of that someday.
DFT: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell us about?
Rosemary: I’m working on another modern gothic mystery (as I mentioned above). And then– Well, I’m never short on ideas.
DFT: If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for The Splendor Falls to be award-winning, or for The Splendor Falls to be bestselling? Why?
Rosemary: Gah! I tried to answer this question, I really did. But I’m just too superstitious! I feel like I’d be jinxing myself to choose either one. I WILL say, I’ve been lucky enough to have one awards for my books in the past (my Maggie Quinn novels), and boy that feels great. But bestselling would be great, too.
What means the most to me is knowing that my books are being enjoyed, maybe even touching people’s lives. Whether that’s shown by awards or sales, it’s an awesome feeling.
DFT: Why do you think there is the misconception that young adult books are not as deep or as complex as books for adults? What is your response to this misconception?
Rosemary: Besides the obvious reasoning (i.e., kids can’t/won’t understand complex themes, ergo, anything they’re willing to read must be simple and shallow), there’s also the fact that because a lot of YA literature doesn’t concern itself with what are weighty issues to adults (global warming, economics, keeping a marriage together, health care reform…) people ignore that these books contain complex and deep issues that are important to young people. Pressure to perform, to grow up and be a functional member of society, to be oneself while still fitting into a group. Not to mention stuff like sex, drugs, peer pressure, school shootings, teen pregnancy, steroid use in high school athletics… All things that are topics of books that have come out in the last two months.
Granted, there are some very prominent examples of sensationalist books that only seem to reinforce this thinking. (Oh, kids only want to read about pretty, rich kids drinking and hooking up and backstabbing each other.) But there are always examples that reinforce the (erroneous) stereotype of any genre. (Romance novels are all formulaic, Fantasy novels are just for geeks who live with their parents, etc.) But then, Dan Brown continues to reign on the mainstream fiction lists. So who are mainstream adult readers to talk.
My response is that people shouldn’t dismiss or sell short the readers of ANY genre or age.
DFT: What books/genres do you read when you have the chance? Any must read authors or series?
Rosemary: I read just about every genre. I probably read more mystery and fantasy, with romance to mix it up. But my favorite books combine and cross genres. (Which is something I love about YA; because you don’t have to pick a shelf (are you mystery or romance?), you can’t blend with more freedom.) For romance, I love Marjorie M. Liu’s paranormal books. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series wraps urban fantasy up in a detective noir bundle. Scott Westerfeld does great YA science fiction. I love anything by Rachel Caine, her YA series, the Morganville Vampires, and her adult Weather Warden’s series. For YA, Meg Cabot’s mediator series is great, and I will buy anything by Robin McKinley. I love Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series (mainstream fantasy, lots of literary wackiness), and Ruth Downie has a historical mystery series (Medicus is the first) that I enjoy.
Oh, and for a perfect example of a modern gothic novel, I recommend The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Amazing.
Those are just a few I can think of off hand!
DFT: What is your definition of a “bad writing day”? How do you deal with bad writing days?
Rosemary: A bad writing day is one where I stare at the screen for eight hours and write, delete, write, delete, write, delete all day. Or possibly just stare at the screen. It happens. This is not writer’s block. I can always think of something to write. This is fear that I will write the wrong thing. (Which is stupid. There is nothing so “wrong” that it can’t be fixed in the next draft. But that doesn’t keep me from doing it on a bad writing day.)
I deal with it by moving on to a new scene, moving myself to a new location (like the coffee shop, or even the backyard on a nice day), or just… writing and deleting until I cowboy up and stick with something, anything, so I can move on!
DFT: If you could be any paranormal creature. Which one would you be and why?
Rosemary: A fairy. Magical, beautiful, capricious (though I’d be a nice fairy, like a fairy godmother), attuned to nature, impatient with foolish mortals. (That last part is probably too much like me!)
Thanks for interviewing me!
Can love last beyond the grave?
The Splendor Falls — coming September 09
Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil
Prom Dates From Hell — Hell Week — Highway to Hell
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