Storm of Secrets Author Interview, Review and Giveaway
Storm of Secrets: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery by Loretta Marion
Interview with the Author, Loretta Marion
How did you meet your agent, Jill Grosjean? Is that still a good method for aspiring authors?
I was fortunate to meet my agent at a writing conference. I had reached a crossroads in my writing journey when my critique partner wrangled me into attending a conference with her, even to the point of calling the organizers to arrange a space for me when I’d learned that registration had reached capacity. It appears I was destined to attend the conference, because in addition to Jill Grosjean Literary Agency asking for my manuscript, two editors also requested to read it. I spent the following week feverishly applying all that I had learned at the conference to polish up my manuscript before sending it out. Two weeks later, Jill called to offer representation, and she has been a stalwart believer in my writing ever since. Lucky me!
It’s been years since that fateful day, but I think that writers having the opportunity to pitch their work face-to-face with editors and agents can only improve the odds of sparking interest. Plus, there is so much to learn from the conference workshops as well as from other writers who attend.
Your first book, The Fool’s Truth, was a thriller. What made you decide to change to the paranormal cozy mystery sub-genre?
To this point in my writing career, I haven’t written any of my books with a conscious decision about the sub-genre. I’m more focused on the story, the characters and the mystery itself. I would consider all my published novels to be mysteries, with greater or lesser degrees of suspense. The books in the Haunted Bluffs Mystery Series somewhat straddle the conventional mystery with cozy elements.
In the Acknowledgements to your first haunted bluffs mystery, House of Ashes, you said the ghost of Oswin Dickinson inspired the ghosts in the series. What type of inexplicable events did you experience in your former house?
Oswin was more of a mischievous presence, his uninvited spirit never doing anything malevolent that would make me frightened of staying in my own home. Mainly, he excelled at moving things or hiding items in unusual places. I’d find clothing stuffed into the oddest spaces or reach for my teacup or wine glass and they wouldn’t be where I left them. Our unearthly lodger could also be noisy at times, emitting loud banging sounds from the attic. Maybe he was just trying to get our attention. Well, it worked. I did walk through some weirdly cold masses that were hard to explain. Our bloodhound, Bartleby, was especially spooked by his presence. The dog would pace nervously and growl at empty air. More telling were his frequent stops at Oswin’s grave to growl and whimper. I should mention here that we lived next to a three-century-old cemetery at the time and the grave of Civil War soldier Oswin Dickinson was located just beyond our back gate. Our niece claims a sighting of a man standing in our kitchen, wearing an old-fashioned blue uniform. But I think the most convincing experience was the morning when we found large footprints in the snow leading from our front door to Oswin’s grave.
I’ve seen some bad covers, even from large publishing houses. Yours are fantastic in evoking the gothic feel of your novels. Are you involved in selecting the covers of your novels? If so, what do you look for in a cover?
Thank you! I have been very fortunate with the book covers. Because The Fool’s Truth was independently published, I selected and worked with a design artist. He quickly understood what I was looking for and delivered a great cover. For the books in the Haunted Bluffs Mystery Series, the publisher – Crooked Lane Books – selected the designer. As the author, of course I have input. Initially the publisher asks for important aspects of the story setting, characters, scenes, threats, excerpts, anything relevant that may be incorporated into the cover. The publisher selects several options provided by the artist for evaluation by the team.
Obviously, in House of Ashes, it was important to feature the house which is so important to Cassandra Mitchell’s story and the history of her family. The cover for Storm of Secrets does evoke the ominous beauty of a storm, which is the center of all the secrets being “harbored” in the book. (Apologies for the irresistible pun!) In the cases of both Haunted Bluffs book covers, there were only minor changes I suggested. The designer proved to be quite impressive.
How did you decide to make your first novel available on Kindle Unlimited? Was it a good choice for a first-time author?
I didn’t begin with Kindle Unlimited for The Fool’s Truth. I was just learning the ropes of independent publishing and did a good deal of research. I followed the advice of several successful authors by marketing the e-book version through Draft2Digital. After giving that a test run, and with more research, I decided to switch to Kindle Unlimited. It gave me more control and allowed me to offer Countdown Sales which I could advertise to give the book more exposure. My recommendation to new authors is to do their homework and determine what avenues work best for them and their books. They can always change course. As for the print version of The Fool’s Truth, I have always kept it available through all outlets.
How do find beta readers before you are a published author?
I was fortunate to have a critique partner that I met very early on at a pitch conference. We have been offering guidance to each other for over a decade. I also give my manuscripts to several people whom I trust will be honest in their assessments. Some are ruthless! But I respect their input, knowing they would never want me to put out anything that wasn’t good enough. Besides which, they have helped me to become a better writer. It’s important to be open to what readers have to say and to develop a thick skin.
Another way to find beta readers is by getting to know the local librarian. He/she can select a few regulars who enjoy the genre the author writes and ask them to offer an honest and anonymous critique of the manuscript.
Describe A Storm of Secrets in five words or less?
That’s a challenge for any book! This may be cheating, but I don’t think I can say it better than Kirkus Reviews did: “Modern and historic mysteries collide”
What’s next for Cassandra? Are you working on book three of the Haunted Bluffs series?
I have some intriguing ideas in mind for Cassandra and her Whale Rock pals. I’ll leave you guessing for now…
With a small-time drug dealer dead in a dumpster, a small child missing, and a hurricane on the way, small Whale Rock Village on Cape Cod Bay is waiting on disaster amid a Storm of Secrets.
Cassie’s wedding is scheduled but canceled by the upcoming hurricane. To make the day worse, she finds a dead body in a dumpster. Cassie doesn’t let it get her down. To help people living in low-lying coastal areas, she opens her huge house, Battersea Bluffs, to a multitude of friends, wedding guests, and strangers. She serves them the catered food that was purchased for her now-canceled wedding reception.
With three-year-old Lucas still missing after the storm, the entire village searches for him. Was he kidnapped? Or was he swept out to sea? Is he to have the same fate as the nameless “Barnacle Boy” who washed up dead on the coast fifty years earlier?
There is a lot going on here. It truly is a Storm of Secrets. In addition to the mysteries mentioned above, later in the book Cassie and her family resolve several old issues. Two other families also have secrets that are discovered and unraveled. My favorite part of the novel was the family dynamics that are portrayed. When each family’s secret is exposed, honest and genuine feelings are shown. I did have a concern with so many people introduced during the first several chapters in the book. Luckily, I was reading on a Kindle so I could highlight them in case I needed to know their story later. By the middle of the book, all the different characters were easily sorted in my mind.
With a total of two crimes and three family secrets, this book will appeal to both women’s fiction and mystery readers. The pacing is not as fast as a thriller. Also, the emphasis is on the characters’ actions and emotions more than solving the mysteries. Probably not a good choice for action thriller readers—unless they want to try something different. I enjoyed it a great deal for the excellent characterizations of the main protagonists. 4 stars!
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a $25 gift card plus plenty of signed books and book swag below!
A deadly storm, a missing three-year-old child, a suspicious death, and the eerie presence of the spirits of the dead set the stage for the second mesmerizing installment of Loretta Marion’s paranormal suspense series.
A powerful storm descends upon Cape Cod’s Whale Rock at the peak of tourist season–and the weekend Cassandra Mitchell’s and Daniel Benjamin’s wedding is set to take place at The Bluffs, the magnificent Victorian mansion Cassie inherited from her family. In the wake of the storm’s destruction, three-year-old Lucas Kleister goes missing–and the body of small-time drug dealer Lee Chambers is found in a restaurant dumpster. Now, the WRPD are faced with a murder to solve, a missing child to find, and the aftermath of one of the worst storms in recent memory.
While aiding with the clean-up and helping the displaced, Cassie has been receiving cryptic messages from the spirits of her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, the original residents of The Bluffs. At first, the messages are benign, but soon, they begin to point to something more sinister. As Cassie works to decipher their meaning, the specter of a mysterious local legend surfaces. The tale of Barnacle Boy–and what happened to him during another destructive storm decades earlier–will weave through the desperate search to find Lucas and the identity of a killer.
“Modern and historic mysteries collide in Marion’s bittersweet storytelling.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] gripping sequel…Marion seamlessly weaves the multiple story threads together. Fans of tales of regional intrigue will be satisfied.” —Publishers Weekly
About Loretta Marion
A true bibliophile, Loretta Marion‘s affection for the written word began in childhood and followed her like a shadow throughout her life as she crafted award-winning marketing and advertising copy and educational brochures. She then applied her writing skills as a volunteer, establishing a Legacy Story program for hospice patients, which inspired her to create her own fictional stories. Her debut novel, The Fool’s Truth, is a twisty mystery set in Maine. Her Haunted Bluffs Mystery Series is set on Cape Cod and was introduced by Crooked Lane Books in 2018 beginning with HOUSE OF ASHES. Her newest release, STORM OF SECRETS, is the second book of the series.
When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey.