Tuesday, December 4, 2012
RED HOUSE: Play it loud – Sonya Clark #guest
December's a busy month, it would seem. Today I'm celebrating with one of my favourite authors, Sonya Clark, with whom I've worked on a number of titles. Her novel, Red House, the follow-up to Mojo Queen, has released this week. Over to you, Sonya...
Music serves as a gateway when I write. It's how I enter the world of the story, how I get to know the characters. It helps shade in the colors I see in my head so that I can (hopefully) bring the story more fully to life on the page. Like the first in the Mojo series, MOJO QUEEN, my latest release RED HOUSE is built on a foundation of Southern music. Blues, soul, and classic country were the primary genres that played in heavy rotation while writing this book.
Paranormal investigator Roxie Mathis is also a hoodoo practitioner. She didn't start out that way, but as my own love of blues seeped deeper and deeper into the story I changed her generic magical practice to hoodoo. Her vampire ancestor Daniel is more of a classic country fan and loves to belt out Conway Twitty tunes at karaoke. They both love Memphis soul. Roxie's maybe-boyfriend Blake is usually more of a Nine Inch Nails kind of guy but even he is beginning to develop an appreciation for artists like Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley.
There are three specific songs that were important to the writing of RED HOUSE. Bob Dylan's High Water (For Charlie Patton) matched Roxie's experience of losing her home in a devastating flood and the constant hum of dread and trauma that stayed with her afterward. Charlie Patton's original High Water, about the Mississippi flood of 1927, is mentioned in the book. Dylan's version is one of his more haunting songs, which is saying a lot. There's a relentlessness to it, much like a flood itself, that makes you want to grab onto to whatever you can as the guitar threatens to pull you under. Roxie's holding on as tight as she can but the loss of her home and her business may prove too much for her.
Blake Harvill has been a tough character to crack since the beginning. Originally intended to be a bad guy, somehow he wound up the love interest. In RED HOUSE I had to find a way to bring out his humanity. He may be a dangerous sorcerer but as he tells Roxie, he can't be Master of Darkness all the time. So I had to figure out some things about Blake, like what he wanted and why. Roy Orbison's In Dreams helped me do that. The song's melancholy wistfulness is a perfect fit for the parts of Blake he tries to hide.
The third song is a version of an old blues song that's been recorded by countless artists under various names, usually either Stagger Lee or Stack-O-Lee. The version I latched on to is one I discovered in the underrated movie Black Snake Moan, in which Samuel L. Jackson channels the late bluesman RL Burnside. Jackson gives a blistering performance of Stack-O-Lee that is also extremely not safe for work, kids, and probably pets. I would love to talk about why this song is important to the book, but it would pretty much spoil the ending. I will say this: every time I had doubts about the plot line this pertains to, I would turn it on and play it loud. Stack would chase those doubts away. Er, shoot them, actually.
The Mojo playlists I have saved include some of my favorite songs. It makes it easy to slip back into that world. Almost like conjuring a spell.
There's high water everywhere and she's about to drown on dry land.
Roxie Mathis lost her home and her livelihood to a devastating flood. She's lucky to be staying with her vampire ancestor Daniel but she wants to put the pieces of her life back together. Trouble is, Roxie's lost her mojo. The trauma of almost drowning and losing her home left a deep mark on her.
Blake Harvill left a mark on her too and she's been missing him in the four months since he left town. Now he's back with plans to stay. Roxie wants him like she's never wanted anyone else but can she trust the sexy sorcerer with her guarded heart?
Hired to evict ghosts from the bed and breakfast called Maple Hill, her confidence takes another hit when she encounters a violent spirit she's crossed paths with in the past. When the spirit traps innocent people in the house Roxie's going to have to tap reservoirs of magic she's never touched before. Like physics, everything in magic has an equal and opposite reaction, and Roxie can only hope her desperate spellwork won't kill her--or conjure up something even more dangerous.
Learn more at http://lyricalpress.com/red-house and www.sonyaclark.net.
Sonya will have a Twitter release party on December 5 from 8 to 10pm Central US time where she'll be playing the soundtrack, talking about the book, answering any questions about it, and giving away a copy. She'll use the hashtag #redhouse and her Twitter handle is @sonyabclark.