I am delighted to have the multi-talented Marie Lamba stop by the Dark Dimensions as part of her Drawn Blog Ghost Tour. The tour is in support of her third novel, the YA paranormal romance Drawn.
The novel follows Michelle who moves to England and encounters a hot medeival ghost with a haunted past. This is one of those books that has it all: romance, adventure, time travel, some creepy elements, a plot steeped in medeival history, and ghosts. What really makes the story work though is a lead protagonist that is impossible not to love. Her life is filled with adversity, from her psychic mother who left her to her grieving father to trying to fit in at school, and her troubles only increases when Christopher starts appearing to her. Yet she never backs down, and while uncovering the secrets of Christopher’s past, she also starts to make sense of her own life.
Drawn can be purchased on paperback here or on Kindle. Keep reading for the interview.
What was it about Drawn that made it stand out for you as a story among all your other ideas?
I guess because it’s a mash up of some of my deepest interests. I’m fascinated with ghost stories…not the bloody sort or the silly sort, but the ones filled with strangeness and regrets.
I’m also completely head over heels about England and especially medieval stuff. One of my favorite books of all times is still The Once and Future King by T. H. White (which I first read in high school) because he humanized that time, yet still presented an air of mystery and magic to it. I majored in English in college and lived in England as a student for a semester. You can bet I spent most of my time wandering through old graveyards and castles (with a few side-trips to the pub tossed in).
Plus, like Michelle the heroine in my novel, I’m an artist too. Along with being an English major, I was also a Literary Arts major – a degree that I created at my university so that I could take all the writing and fine arts courses I wanted. Telling this story through the eyes of a character who was an artist was wonderful because Michelle can observe all the nuances of a scene with, hopefully, a believable voice. Like in this scene between Michelle and Christopher in Drawn:
He pulls the horse to a stop and jumps off.
“So, this is where you’re dumping me?” I ask as he helps me down.
He gives me an odd look. “I am not dumping you.”
“Oh.” The view is sensational. The ground drops beyond the hill, spreading out into a quilt of wide lush fields, patched with varying shades of green and tan that fade into a haze in the distance as if their colors were mixed with more and more of the tint Payne’s Gray. Clusters of trees are here and there. It would make an incredible painting. “Is your home near?” Is anything near, I wonder.
“No,” he says with a sigh. He undoes his bear pin, removes his cape and spreads it on the grass and motions for me to sit. I hesitate, but set my messenger bag down and sit on the cape. He drops down beside me, fixes the pin onto his collar and leans back on his elbow, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. “What of your home? Is it far?”
“Good question.” I hug my knees. Our eyes lock for a while.
He says, “What are you? Will you tell me now?”
“Nothing special. Seriously.”
“So you will not say, then?”
I shrug. “There’s nothing to tell.”
He rubs his chin. “Yet there is something, indeed. And you wield some power over me. I feel it.”
I shake my head but I think there is something about him. Christopher has this rugged appeal that makes even William Wallingford ordinary in comparison. I can’t seem to look away. It’s as if I’m studying him for a portrait. I notice he tends to raise his chin. The very corners of his mouth curve up, making him seem slightly arrogant. And his eyes. Their light color gives them endless depth. Yet they seem so full of…of what?
So, yeah, you can see how writing about a teen artist who draws and then meets a medieval ghost was such a blast for me!
What parts of the novel were most fun to write?
I think I most enjoyed the moments were Michelle walked the edge between sanity and insanity, normal and paranormal. She’s a grounded girl from New Jersey, but her family history is mottled with hefty doses of mental illness and eccentricity. When she finds herself seeing what defies logic and having feelings for someone who is most assuredly the manifestation of a budding mental illness, I had to steer the reader through her fears and doubts, and to search for answers of what is real? And how can we take a leap of faith and somehow believe?
This made for great conflict, and these scenes just poured onto the paper, feeling like they wrote themselves.
Why do you feel that the paranormal genre is so successful with a teen audience?
I think it’s the same reason that adults enjoy it so much: it dabbles with the fears and the taboos that tease us at the edges of our reality.
When you’re little, these fears are all too real. You can’t tell the boundary between what is real and safe and what is terrifying but only imagined, and you can be a victim to it. Who hasn’t had endless nightmares as a child? Or believed someone when they grabbed at your face and then said, “Got your nose!” I’ve seen kids cry, begging someone to give their nose back! When one of my daughters was little, she believed that all the mannequins in the shop windows were actually dead people! Talk about horror.
As frightening as this blurring of reality was, it was also exciting, dramatic, tantalizing. Anything was possible, wasn’t it? You could instantly become a princess, or an astronaut, even though you were 4 years old!
As a teen you know what’s what, yet you can escape back into that world of blurred realities through paranormal books. You can once again feel as if anything is possible, from the terrifying to the sublime. And you can explore the what if’s, wherever they take you.
What was the biggest challenge in crafting Drawn’s story?
DEFINITELY the complex storyline! Going back and forth in time, and then having those actions changing what happens in the present and in the past throughout the entire novel just about fried me. And add to that the shifting reality that occurred when Michelle learned which truths in the past were lies, and yikes!
It tangled me up big time. I had to actually spend an all-nighter just to pull the book apart into pieces and to re-piece it together. During that frenzied night I made giant posters that listed things like: The Way It was Known; What REALLY Happened; Interactions Michelle has that Alter Things; Things that Changed in the Past; Things that Changed in the Future; Things that Don’t Change.
Blah. What really saved me was deciding that only a few essential things would change throughout the book. By having all sorts of alternate realities appear in every character and in every facet of the story after each time Michelle messed with destiny, well, that was only making a mess.
Simpler ended up being MUCH better.
Who are some authors that have inspired you along the way?
T.H. White and Edward Eager for their wit and whimsy. Anne Tyler for her sumptuous imagery. Audrey Niffeneger for her complex plotting and passion. Jane Austen for her tart tongue. Sarah Dessen for her astute view of the teen world. John Green for being just plain brilliant. Jude Deveraux for showing me how smart romance can be.
And that’s just a start!
Being both an author, literary agent, and a writing teacher, what would you say is the most important thing any aspiring novelist should know?
I guess that writing is a mix of both passion and of hard work. It’s not enough to have an idea, or a love of writing. You have to put in the hours and do everything you can to learn and improve every day. I worked on my first novel for over 10 years and submitted it endlessly, getting great feedback and critiques from crit groups and editors and agents. I never sold that book, but I learned a ton. And I didn’t give up. My next book only took 4 months to write and within a year of that, I’d gotten my agent and a book deal.
Every day I still work hard to improve my writing, and all the professional writers that I know do the same. It’s hard work, but completely worth it when you are able to produce a novel that is as good as the one you dream of writing.
It can be a long hard road. And it can be plenty discouraging at times. But if writing is what you love, then stick with it, put in the time and see where you end up. If this is your dream, don’t let anything stop you.
What is a little-known fact about you that your readers may like to know?
How about this: I was a varsity and Junior Olympic fencer in high school and into college! My weapon: foil…that’s all women were allowed to do “back in the day. “
Actually, having a fencing background helped me a lot during the battle scene in Drawn. But that’s the closest to a real bout as I’ve been in a while… Touché’!
Thanks for having me on your blog, Lucas! A real pleasure.
Marie Lamba (marielamba.com) is author of acclaimed young adult novels including What I Meant… (Random House), Over My Head, and Drawn. When she isn’t writing or racing through the streets with a sword shouting en guarde!, she’s working as an Associate Literary Agent for The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in NYC. Marie lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Teen artist Michelle De Freccio moves to England in search of a normal life…instead she finds a hot medieval ghost with a sketchy past.
It all begins when a strange guy appears in Michelle’s drawings. When she actually meets him at the town’s castle, she’s unmistakably drawn to him. But something is definitely not right. For starters, he wears medieval garb, talks of ancient murders and tends to disappear each time they kiss.
Could he possibly be a ghost? Could Michelle be losing her mind? Or has she simply uncovered a love so timeless it’s spanned the centuries…
Praise for Drawn:
“A lushly romantic ghost story…captivating and haunting. I didn’t want it to end.” –Cyn Balog, author of paranormal YA novels Fairy Tale, Sleepless, and Starstruck
“…a wonderfully spooky tale of romance and discovery. It’s a magical exploration of the unconquerable power of love. Highly recommended!” —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and Dust & Decay
“In DRAWN, Marie Lamba deftly entwines romance and mystery, past and present, into a page-turning adventure. Buy it today and I promise you’ll be finished reading far too quickly!” —Joy Nash USA Today bestselling paranormal romance author of The Immortals series, The Grail King and The Unforgiven