Blair Yeatts will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
This Madness of the Heart
What was your first book?
My first book was actually my PhD dissertation, which was incredibly long, very wordy, and half taken up with scholarly asides and footnotes . . . not a likely read for most people. My second book was an autobiography: the product of several years of intense journaling and an attempt to make sense of my confusing life . . . thank God I never succeeded in publishing it! I would’ve had to change my name and move to Las Vegas. The third book I wrote was actually This Madness of the Heart, but I put it aside for 20 years or so until I could get enough distance from it to edit out the rage. I’d written it after watching cadres of power-hungry fat-cat egotists take over various Christian denominations and then re-create them in their own images—after destroying the lives, hearts, careers, and faith of many, many good people. Do you think I might still be angry? Yep. But it’s manageable. Anyway, Madness is no longer a rant, but an entertaining gothic mystery/thriller with a nefarious villain who happens to be a preacher, and the first in the series, Miranda Lamden Mysteries.
Describe your first break.
Break? What break? I never got a break! I did the whole 100-letter-to-publishers-and-agents routine more than once, with zero results. I’ve self-published all my books. I should mention here that “Blair Yeatts” is a pen name: I’ve published 3 books (and counting) in a different genre and decided not to confuse my readers by publishing an entirely different line of books in a different genre under the same name. I suppose the good reviews my books have received might be called a good “break,” but I feel more like I earned them!
What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
I have two favorite genres to read: fantasy (Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Lee) and mystery/thriller (Dorothy L. Sayers, Nevada Barr, Charles Todd). So I suspect my gothic mystery/thriller Miranda Lamden series is a cross between those two: mystery/thrillers . . . with paranormal spirit-world dimensions! I’ve loved mysteries all my life, as well as fantasy, beginning in my teens with Mary Stewart’s wonderful books. Those two streams have run parallel through my reading all my life. Mixing them together in a single series is endlessly fascinating to me.
Are Happy Endings a must in your stories?
I wouldn’t say happy endings exactly, but I wouldn’t ever end a book with shattering loss of meaning and despair. Bittersweet, perhaps, but always with light. And since I set out to write a series of books with two continuing central characters, I can’t imagine killing off either one of them unless I eventually write them into old age! I know I never forgave Elizabeth George for killing off Inspector Lynley’s wife Helen . . . it seemed so unnecessary. Debilitating tragedy is not something I want in the mysteries I read, or write. There’s enough of that in real life.
What makes a protagonist interesting?
More than anything else, for me an interesting protagonist is complex. Both Miranda and Jack Crispen have pasts with trauma and depth, which result in depth in the present. Both have passions that run deep, and areas where they feel intensely conflicted. Each works at an intriguing job: Miranda as a religion professor and hands-on paranormal researcher; Jack as a master carpenter and stained glass artist. And I could never develop a character without a spiritual dimension: for me, questions of meaning, eternity, Truth, and deity lie at the heart of every human life.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Spending my days doing something I love! I remember that even in the more creative passages in my dissertation there was an intense flow of what I can only call magic. Some depth of wonder inside me opened up and filtered into my imagination, and magic flowed. I’m not sure it’s necessary for this magic ever to be recognized by the outside world. It has meaning and delight of itself, and creates new richness in the writer as the words move through her.
What is the worst thing?
Publicity. Without a doubt. I know many writers say the same, and I suppose it’s in the nature of many creative people to be intensely private, but the fact that many writers share this equally doesn’t make it any easier. I daydream about the good old days of solicitous publishers who stood between authors and the bothersome details of publishing . . .
Pantser or plotter?
Both. The tiny germ of a new book grows like a seed, in darkness, until it takes on enough substance to make sense in the light. Then I start making notes, a story begins to take shape, and something like a broad plot evolves. Research takes over around this point, as I realize that some of my ideas are too vague to work with, and in the process of research I find new twists I hadn’t thought of before. There’s no particular time when I start to write: just a moment when the book develops a voice and calls out to be written. I may not know how it will end when I begin, or I may see exactly. But I rarely know how the details will take shape—how scenes will play out, how new characters will evolve. My books grow like trees. Then I have to go back and prune them, or even graft on new branches!
What do you see the direction of your future writing taking? What can we expect next? Give us a little taste.
I’ve already written the 2nd and 3rd books in the Miranda Lamden series. The second, Blood on Holy Ground, is in the editing stages, and I hope to have it out in the autumn. In Holy Ground, Miranda and Jack delve into a Native American legend about a frontier convent and stir up a firestorm of violence and murder. Both Miranda and Jack become more vividly themselves as their characters deepen in this second book. Their personal intimacy intensifies as well, adding fierce anxiety for each other to the disasters that overtake them both.
Just for fun
Cat or dog person?
Cats for sure, from the cradle. There’s one on my lap at this moment, shredding yet another favorite t-shirt.
Leon meringue icebox pie, with enough lemon and rind to pucker an elephant’s mouth!
Impossible. I could never choose. Paladin of Souls? The Other Wind? Gaudy Night? Maybe.
Again, impossible. Chocolat? Practical Magic? Finding Neverland? Fried Green Tomatoes?
I like wilderness camping best. Of all the places I’ve been, Utah’s Canyonlands in the spring is my favorite.
Would you rather be the princess or the villain? Why?
Can I say neither? I’ve seen enough darkness in my own life—I have no wish to contribute more. And princesses are often such foolish creatures. Perhaps a princess with the strength and resilience of Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, but she had to go through hell to become who she was . . .
Who has more fun, orcs or hobbits?
Are you kidding? Hobbits! Gourmet cookery, snug holes, lush gardens, and beer, vs dank holes, decaying teeth, maggoty bread, and exhausting warfare?
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.
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.
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.
This Madness of the Heart e-book will be free during the tour.
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blair-yeatts-21325911a?auth
Free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/624868