Welcome to Day 2 of the Blog Tour! Today, I got to ask Mary some questions about her books, narrating her books, and what she likes to read! Enjoy! Are there any questions YOU have for Mary?
What kind of books do you like to read?
I love reading and listening to historical romance and mysteries. They’re my chocolate! I recently discovered Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby Mystery series, Debra Holland’s Montana Sky series and Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker series. I devour anything by Jess Michaels, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jacqueline Winspear, Deanna Raybourn, Susanna Kearsley and Simone St. James.
But when I’m actively writing, I can’t read for pleasure because the story in my head is much more exciting. During that time, I do “supportive reading” and delve into nonfiction books about psychic phenomena, law enforcement, true crime and historical periods relevant to the story currently in development.
How do you come up with your story ideas?
Lost in the Light came to me after I finished “Till Death Do Us Part,” a novella in an anthology, Names I Call My Sister. It is the story in which Dori, her sister Sela and Grammy first appeared. When I finished it, I had a strong connection with Dori and I thought: what if she bought the old house she loved as a child and walked in one day to find a dead guy wandering around?
From there the story grew and when I finished Lost in the Light, I knew she wasn’t done with me yet! Story ideas come like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind. The ones that stick with me and never let go are the ones I focus on. The others, well if they’re meant to be than they’ll show up again. I let the characters tell me who they are and what they need to do to grow and do my best to stay out of the way until revisions and editing.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. I just didn’t realize it until I was a sophomore at USC that I could make a living at it! My first goal was to write screenplays but it was never quite satisfying because the form is very lean. There’s no room for descriptions of anyone’s intense eyes, or the feel of the sea on their faces because that is the actor’s job! Finally, in 1996, I decided the heck with this, I’m just going to “try” a novel about a recovering alcoholic who can see ghosts. I kind of finished it … okay, I didn’t! But once I started, I couldn’t stop.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
When I’m actively writing, or editing a book, I write an hour a day, preferably first thing in the morning after my son goes to school and before I begin my client work. Cloud storage is the answer to my prayers because if I get a little chunk of time – even five minutes – I can open the document and pick up where I left off or capture a bit of dialogue or action that pops in my head. Writing novels is not my full-time occupation now so I’m trained to write anyplace, anytime no matter what’s happening around me.
How do your stories change as you work on them?
I always outline books and do a great deal of character work before I start writing. But I’m not married to the outline. When the character stops, and says, “Nope I’m, not doing that, I’m doing this,” they’re always right. Even if it’s painful that their change will require some revision in previous chapters, they’ve yet to steer me wrong. In fact, if they start changing things, I know the writing is working!
You narrated your own novel. Which is easier? Being a narrator or being an author? Why did you decide to narrate your own novel instead of hiring it out?
Narrating is much easier because the hardest part – mining the story – is done. Now I get to play act like I did as a little girl playing Wonder Woman in the back yard. I’ve always been told that I have a lovely voice and well, I sell way more books at events where I read than those where I just sit a table and try not to look desperate for attention.
I decided in the fall 2015 that it was time to produce my books into audiobooks. I heard Beth Yarnall – she’s the author of super-hot romantic suspense – say that not producing audiobooks is like leaving money on the table. As a Capricorn who stops to pick up pennies off the sidewalk, I couldn’t do that! Looking at the cost and remembering the compliments about my voice and reading style, I challenged myself to narrate and publish a weekly chapter as a podcast. It was a steep learning curve but in March 2016, I launched that podcast and I had a ball. (And Beth was right: listeners were buying the ebook and print book before the podcast ended!)
Narrating the audiobook was also helpful because I was also revising Lost in Whispers and it helped to remember details for the series.
While I may not do a podcast again soon – I have a day job, after all – I am narrating my back list and will narrate my future books!
How similar are you to your main character Dori?
We grew up in the same hometown and like her, I fell in love with a creepy Edwardian mansion on the hill above the public swimming pool where I learned to swim.
We’re also not as tough as we look! Inside we’re squishy marshmallows but on the outside, we can be a little scary. Dori has taught me it’s okay to be soft with our loved ones and not to be afraid of our power.
What kind of research did you have to do for Lost in the Light?
Most of my research focused on prohibition in San Diego. I imagined that with alcohol at a premium and San Diego’s proximity to Mexico, smuggling had to have been a huge industry. But I didn’t have the research to back-up my gut feelings. Rather than get bogged down with tons of questions, I went with what I knew about Vicente and let my imagination do the rest. Once I had that first draft, I went to work by scouring the archives at the San Diego Museum of History, San Diego Public Library and the National City Public Library for evidence.
A great deal of what has been written about Prohibition focuses on the East Coast. But I found crumbs of information that formed a picture of San Diego in the 1920’s and 1930’s where there was a great battle between smugglers, federal agents, the KKK and the U.S. Border Patrol. I found photos of cars modified to hide Caribbean spirits and Tecate beer. Smugglers took to the air and sea; there were floating liquor stores off the California coastline where boaters could legally purchase alcohol. The Coast Guard deployed a fleet of powerful boats armed with machine guns, while the U.S. Border Patrol teamed up with Treasury Agents when they wised up to the schemes of smugglers. The Klan took a very strong stance against alcohol and there were rumors of horrific lynchings in the remote foothills.
But my biggest triumph was when I discovered the online archives of the Los Angeles Times and found the following headline: “Rum Smuggler to Start Term.” It turned my instincts were right in that a kingpin running an operation like Vicente’s had existed. On February 13, 1933, the Times reported that a big shot liquor smuggler was sentenced to a three-year prison term at the McNeil Island Prison. Through Ancestry.com, I traced his address, marriage certificate and his intake record at McNeil Island. Suddenly this world came to life and, without saying too much, Vicente and his boss gave me a great story to tell.
Is your family as colorful as Dori’s?
Ohhhhh yes. Grammy Cena is my Aunt Irma, who passed away in September 2012. When my mom read her the first chapter of Lost in the Light, my Aunt Irma said, “I would never wear mango!” She died the next day. But she had always sat in the front row of my book signings and barked at people who didn’t stop to look at my books. I’m so happy that she knew how much I loved and admired her by creating this character.
My family gets a kick out of the whole thing and of course, they read my books to see whom I’ve based the characters on. They never guess who is who and I just nod my head and smile when they say that I based the heroine on them!
What plans do you have for another book?
Girl in the Mist audiobook, the romantic mystery novella that follows Lost in the Light is next. I just completed recording and I’m now editing the chapters before it goes to my beta listeners. It is scheduled for release in May 2017.
Lost in Whispers, the second book in Dori’s series will follow in Fall 2017. I just received the line edits from my wise editors and from what they’ve told me, it shocked the heck out of them (in a good way which always puts a smile on my face). Once I complete the polished draft, I’ll be narrating it into an audiobook.
Thank you, Mary! I’m so excited you stopped by! Be sure to check back tomorrow for a Guest Post!
About the Book
One October morning in 1932, Vicente Sorolla entered the white house on the hill and was never seen again.
Now, Detective Dori Orihuela witnesses his brutal murder in her nightmares.
Drawn to this tough but tender woman, Vicente materializes out of the butler’s pantry and asks her to find his lost love, Anna. Dori wonders if she’s not only about to lose her badge, but also her sanity.
Dori has always been drawn to the mysterious Queen Anne Edwardian house in her hometown. But after a devastating injury that puts her career on the line, Dori isn’t sure if she made the right decision purchasing this rundown old mansion.
Her wisecracking Grammy Cena has waited too long for her independent granddaughter to return home. She hires a a kooky psychic to banish the ghost and a handsome contractor with whom Dori has an unhappy past.
With a promise to Vicente, Dori may solve a forgotten Prohibition era murder. Or she may exhume secrets someone died to protect.
March 13 – Rebekah Martin Writes – Excerpt
March 13 – A Southern Girls Bookshelf – Excerpt
March 14 – A Novel Thought With Jess – Guest Post & Excerpt
March 15 – Living Life With Joy – Guest Post
March 17 – Authors and Readers Book Corner – Excerpt
Now Available in Audio!
Audible subscribers: http://adbl.co/2kBCb0e
New subscribers: http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B01MZD7Z2I
About the Author
Mary Castillo is an Amazon bestselling author and audiobook narrator. She writes chilling paranormal mysteries and sexy, heartwarming romantic comedies, all with compelling characters that keep you turning the pages long past your bedtime! Her debut, Hot Tamara was selected by Cosmopolitan magazine as a Red Hot Read and Latina magazine called Mary “an author to look out for” and selected In Between Men and Names I Call My Sister for the Top 10 Summers Reads in July 2009. Lost in the Light was a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Paranormal Mystery.
Mary grew up in a haunted house in National City, CA. She cries every time she sees the movies, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Casablanca, and may have developed a mild addiction to listening to audiobooks while she knits.
GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/47331.Mary_CastilloAmazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Castillo/e/B001ITYOWC