I recently read and reviewed Mary Lindsey’s YA gothic novel, Ashes on the Waves, and really loved it. So I couldn’t resist inviting Mary to She-Wolf Reads to discuss gothic literature, Edgar Allen Poe, and roaches. Yes, roaches. It’s a great story so stick around and read it!
Please welcome Mary to the blog!
SWR: Your latest book, Ashes on the Waves, is based on the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe. What is it about the poem that inspired you to write your novel?
There is a sweeping story in that brief poem. Whether you take the narrator at face value and believe there were supernatural forces at work, or whether it is simply a justification in his mind of the death of a young woman, there is so much more than is on the page. To me, it was a natural source for expansion and exploration.
SWR: What was the most challenging aspect of building a world based on a poem?
It was only difficult in that I tried to tie it to Poe in as many ways as possible. Not only did I give Liam a voice that would make it possible for the poem to be his creation, I tried to make it reflective of the dense, vividly descriptive, romantic narrative found in Poe’s works. Not only is Liam the voice of the narrator in Poe’s poem, he also has biographical similarities to Poe, from not being able to work for his foster father (Poe struggled with this), to his isolation from those around him not only by his choices but by the fact he was an orphan, to the loss of the women in his life and his contentious relationship with his foster father.
SWR: Ashes on the Waves is pure gothic romance. Did you research gothic literature prior to starting the book and what are some of your favorite gothic novels?
Absolutely. I researched Poe and gothic elements for months prior to writing anything. I love Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Dracula especially, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the genre before I took this on.
SWR: What are some of the tropes of gothic romances that you used in Ashes on the Waves?
There were already gothic romance components present in the poem, “Annabel Lee,” so it was not a far stretch to expand it into a gothic romance novel.
The poem had a tormented hero, supernatural elements, a feeling of being apart, a living setting—the sepulchre and the sea itself, as well as the tragic, endangered heroine, and like most of Poe’s works, it had the psychological barriers to match the physical.
The setting is a living, breathing character. I modeled Taibhreamh after the mansion in The Fall of the House of Usher to some degree. I included hidden passageways and tunnels, all part of the genre. The island is also part of the Gothic component, supplying limitations that are not only physical, but psychological and emotional as well.
SWR: Liam was an interesting character. He’s not the typical male lead that populates most YA literature today. Liam is very sensitive and is more of a romantic hero in the traditional sense. Did you model him on Poe?
Yes. Liam is modeled on Poe, not only through biographical ties, but in voice. I chose to have Liam’s speech and narrative touch (though primitively) on the style of Poe’s own writing which means it reads often as “purple prose,” a term used to describe, lush, heavily descriptive, often melodramatic narrative.
SWR: What was the most difficult scene to write? And the easiest?
The easiest scene was the opening because it had played in my head for months while I researched. The hardest was the ending for obvious reasons if you have read it. Initially, I proposed two endings to be published, allowing the reader to pick the one that best suited him/her, but my publisher suggested we go only with the “most correct” one.
SWR: What is your favorite line from the poem and how did you apply it to your story?
“We loved with a love that was more than love” is my favorite line. I even have it tattooed on my arm. I think it sums up the entire poem, and my book as well. Love can transcend even the finality of death.
SWR: What was the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend?
Code Name Verity is AMAZING. Everyone should read this. Now.
SWR: Tell us about your upcoming projects.
Fragile Spirits, the second book in the Shattered Souls series releases on January 23, 2014. It is a standalone companion book to Shattered Souls set in the same world, but featuring a different hero and heroine. It was a blast to write.
I also have a paranormal romance series for adults coming in late 2014 from Entangled Publishing called the Underveil Series. I’m writing under the pen name Marissa Clarke and the first book is called Love Me To Death.
SWR: I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire series in which every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” – what is the Mary Lindsey motto?
My motto is that of my debut book, Shattered Souls: “There’s hope until the last second.”
SWR: Finally, please tell us about the roaches!
Ah, the roaches. Yes…well, I have pet roaches. They are not very good pets, really. In fact they are kind of disgusting. They are, however, mine to care for—forever.
I used to teach at a private school and the science teacher was a dear friend of mine. She had Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches on display in her classroom. 5th grade boys will listen to any teacher with roaches as pets, right? And she acted like she loved the bugs. *shudder *
Well, my son, who was 4 at the time, decided to mix it up and shuffle her roaches around for whatever reason one afternoon while I graded papers in my own classroom across the hall.
The next thing you know—weeks later, maybe, my friend runs into my room shrieking that her roach cages were full of white beetles.
I run over to take a look and realize the horrible truth. My son had put a female in the male cage and a male in the female cage (you can identify gender by the shape of the thorax). You can figure out the rest.
And then…and then, my friend went nuts. “I’ve been trying to let these things die off of old age for two years. Now I’ll never get rid of them.”
I confessed she was a grandmother because of my son. Terrible idea to confess.
“You will take every one of these babies home. I don’t care what happens to them, they just won’t be in my classroom. I had them isolated by gender to prevent this. Now, it’s your problem.”
And it was certainly a problem. My initial plan was to let my daughter’s Australian Bearded Dragon eat them, but she had no interest. Then, I figured my huge Tin Foil Barbs would eat them, but I ended up playing lifeguard and rescuing the poor roaches from the top of the tank when the fish refused to eat them too.
My husband offered to introduce them to Raid, but by that point, after throwing them to the dragon and nearly drowning them, I couldn’t do it. They were my pets now. And generations later (I have over 100), they are still my pets.
They eat lettuce, bananas, and dog food. They don’t fly or move fast (thank goodness). They make rounds with me when I go talk to elementary school kids about insects or middle schoolers about biodiversity and conservation.
SWR: Thank you so much for the interview!
Thank you so much for having me!
Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.
With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make awager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem, “Annabel Lee,” Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.
Have you read Ashes on the Waves? If so, what did you think of it? If not, tell me some of your favorite gothic romances!
About Mary Lindsey
Mary’s writing is a natural expression of her love of reading and a fascination with the flexibility of the human imagination. Books make the impossible possible.
Prior to attending University of Houston Law School, Mary received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama from the University of Houston. She has taught drama and playwriting in a large public high school and English in a private school. Currently, Mary teaches acting to children and teens at a private studio in Houston, Texas.
Mary lives in Houston with her husband, three kids, two dogs, her daughter’s pet rats, an Australian Bearded Dragon and dozens of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. (The roaches are long story—don’t ask.)
Mary loves connecting with readers so please visit here at the following sites: