Thursday, April 23, 2015

Interview with Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross (authors of The Cliffhouse Haunting)

Good morning, all! Joining us in the Ruins today for a suitably rainy, foggy, chilly April morning are Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross, here to talk about their latest collaboration, The Cliffhouse Haunting.

Q: Thanks to both of you for taking the time to stop by today. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy The Cliffhouse Haunting, The Ghosts of Ravencrest, or any of your solo works, please tell us a little about yourselves and what we can expect.

We are lifelong lovers of books, ghosts, and writing. We've come together to have even more fun scaring and thrilling ourselves and, we hope, our readers. The Ghosts of Ravencrest is a gothic serial novel that is scary, sexy, and filled with more ghosts than the Haunted Mansion. It pays homage to everything gothic from Rebecca to Dark Shadows. The Cliffhouse Haunting is a big horror novel that takes place in a mountain lodge full of strange guests, some living, some dead. In addition, a phantom called the Blue Lady has joined forces with a serial killer and together, they’re creating violence and havoc that local law enforcement - and the hotel owners - can’t even understand, let alone solve.

Q: We’ll get back to the books in a moment, but as both a horror reader and a haunted tour guide (best job I ever had), I have to ask you about Haunted Nights LIVE! How did the show come about, and what’s involved in preparing for a show?

We were asked to be guests on Authors on the Air with Pam Stack. After our interview, Pam made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: To have our own show, with her as the producer. Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! is a weekly one-hour walk on the dark side where we discuss horror and the paranormal with bestselling authors, renowned paranormal investigators, and even occasional crime buffs and psychics. To prepare for the show, we gather a list of questions we definitely want to ask the guest. For the most part, we try to let the show flow naturally and conversationally and enjoy seeing where it goes.

Q: You have an impressive list of guests (including Douglas Clegg, Chet Williamson, and Elizabeth Massie), with even more scheduled (including Christopher Rice, Richard Christian Matheson, and Jonathan Maberry), but is there one guest you’ve been chasing, one guest you absolutely have to land?

We’re pretty amazed by our guest list already. There were a few names we really wanted - Charlaine Harris, Christopher Moore, Christopher Rice, RC Matheson - and we got them. We haven’t actually chased anyone, but we’d love to chat with Stephen King. Who wouldn’t?

Q: Okay, as promised, back to the books! If we can begin with you, Alistair, your debut novel was published by Damnation Books, LLC in 2012, with your collaborations with Tamara beginning in 2014. What was your journey to publication like, and how has it changed with the two of you working together?

My journey to publication was much like anyone’s: Long and hard. I met Tamara just as I received my first “YES,” and by the time that book was released, Tamara and I were discussing doing a collaboration. I was honored to write with her, and we quickly found that our styles meshed in a smooth effective way, making it impossible for us to stop after just one novel together. We still have our solo projects, but we work together in our virtual office every day for at least eight hours regardless of what we’re each writing. We’ve always had more than one book in the works. That, along with fantastic interviews like this one, keeps things from getting stale. Currently, we’re juggling four projects between the two of us.

Q: Your history goes back a bit further, Tamara, with your first book hitting the shelves in 1991. What was your journey to publication like, how has it changed over the years, and how different is it publishing as part of a team as opposed to a solo author?

Way back when I began publishing under another name, I had a collaborator and that did not go well. I swore never to collaborate again; it was too draining. My solo years went just fine, but I must admit that I’m having more fun twenty years later with my new collaborator than I do when I work on my own. Neither Alistair nor I ever intended to try collaborative work again, but some things are meant to be. We have very similar natures and both despise drama in real life - we want it on the page, where it belongs! This makes for a very pleasant work environment.

Q: Together, your interests run the gamut of the paranormal, horror movies, the occult, photography, mythology, offensive books, folklore, and blaring music. Clearly you’re not struggling for ideas or inspiration, but how do you narrow down your inspirations to determine what’s going to fuel the next book?

Usually, it begins with something that gets us both excited. We begin researching that topic to see if it’s something we want to spend a lot of time on. In the case of The Cliffhouse Haunting, it was the five nights we spent investigating an allegedly haunted cabin in California. We put our current works on hold and buried ourselves in this story. There is no shortage of ideas. Currently, we have an easy half-dozen storylines that are already pretty well-rounded and waiting to be written.

Q: If we can talk specifically about The Cliffhouse Haunting for a moment, here we've got history, a haunted house, a ghost story, and a killer. How did the story come together for you, and what do each of you bring to the storytelling?

Although we’re very similar, we each bring our own strengths to the table. For example, Tamara has a deep love of atmosphere and history, and Alistair is fascinated by the minds of serial killers and these merged quite easily to create the entire tale that is The Cliffhouse Haunting.

In Cliffhouse, we wanted to touch on folkloric elemental forces (represented by the Blue Lady) and we wanted plenty of history to draw on. That makes for a richer story. The tale takes place in California, and there is a history of gangsters and movie stars canoodling among the Prohibition Era rumrunners in the San Bernardino Mountains where our own fictional town is set. We used some of that history (and that from other eras) to build our background story, which plays directly into the contemporary one. Basically, we wanted to write a very big haunted house story and bookend it throughout with the kinds of festivals the real mountain towns throw - from Civil War to Wine to the annual Oktoberfest.

Q: What’s the writing/editing experience like when you collaborate? Do you each take a chapter or a scene, run with a character, or take it in pieces?

We write our books together in the Cloud, where we can literally watch each other work while we talk via Skype. While we do occasionally find ourselves personally drawn toward certain characters, we are both fully invested in everything - and everyone - in the story. Once the first draft is done, we begin a series of read-throughs - which we read aloud. At this time, we’re looking at sentence structure, plot consistency, word choice, and character development. And we’ve never had a disagreement about the way something should be done. We have a firm respect for each other and a strong work ethic that doesn’t allow squabbling. We also take a lot of pride in our work, both of us insisting that it be the strongest story possible. This allows us to look at the book from every angle, together, and make necessary adjustments one sentence at a time.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

It’s always amusing when people read things into a story that we never intended. Usually they’re way off, but sometimes they hit on things that are true that we hadn’t consciously considered.  We haven’t heard any crazy theories about Ravencrest or Cliffhouse yet, but years ago, Tamara wrote a short story about an old man taking vengeance on a boy who killed his dog - which was the old man's only companion. She was amazed at what was seen by readers in this simple tale. People thought the old man was Satan because he took revenge successfully. To Tamara, it was just simple human justice. The boy deserved what he got, but to others, this made the lonely old man into a demonic figure.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

For Tamara, it was Ray Bradbury, and to a lesser extent, Arthur Conan Doyle, Richard Matheson and Shirley Jackson. Bradbury’s prose inspired, and Dandelion Wine so transported her that she read it every June from third grade through high school - and still rereads it occasionally. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was an early influence on her love of mysteries, and when she discovered Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House at age eleven, her course was set.

Alistair was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and a slew of other writers, many of them contemporary. He is currently loving the works of Jeffrey Deaver and Kevin O’Brien. Also, he is a lover of Agatha Christie novels.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Another collaboration, or a solo novel, perhaps?

Both. Alistair’s solo debut, The Crimson Corset, will be published sometime this summer. Their collaborative novel, Grandma’s Rack, will also appear when the weather warms. Grandma’s Rack is a witchy tale and The Crimson Corset involves some of the kinkiest vampires you've ever met. The serial novel, The Ghosts of Ravencrest is ongoing and a new episode appears approximately every 6-8 weeks. Another collaboration - the title has yet to be revealed - will be published at the end of the year. It’s a very tense, fast-paced psychological thriller.  And 2016 holds more surprises.

Awesome stuff - thanks again for taking the time stop by!

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About the Authors

Tamara Thorne's first novel was published in 1991. Since then she has written many more, including international bestsellers Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, and The Sorority. Tamara's interest in writing is lifelong, as is her fascination with the paranormal, occult, mythology and folklore. She's been an avid ghost story collector and writer all her life.

Tamara's novels range from straight-out ghost stories to tales of witchcraft, conspiracies, UFOs, elemental forces, and vampires. No matter what topic she chooses, chances are you'll find a ghost or two lurking in the background.

Today, she and her frequent collaborator, Alistair Cross, share their worlds and continue to write about ghosts and other mysterious forces. Whether collaborating or writing solo, there is no shortage of humor, sex, blood, and spookiness.

Tamara also conducts real-life investigations of anomalous phenomena and has seen a number of odd things over the last twenty years. As an open-minded skeptic, she's spoken to many paranormal groups and has appeared on the television show, Ghost Adventures. Most recently, she and Alistair Cross went on a five-day investigation to an allegedly haunted cabin in California's Gold Country - an adventure that inspired The Cliffhouse Haunting. She has also been featured on many radio programs and in various newspapers on the topics of haunted places and local lore. A journalist by training, she occasionally writes about ghosts and hauntings for a syndicate of southern California newspapers, but her first love is, and has always been, telling ghost stories to make people scream. . . and laugh.

Tamara and Alistair co-host Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! every Thursday night on Blog Talk Radio.

You can also visit Tamara on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog with Alistair.


Alistair Cross was born in a small town in the western United States. He grew up on horror novels and scary movies, and by the age of 8, began writing his own stories. He was first published in 2012 by Damnation Books, LLC. In 2014, he and acclaimed horror novelist, Tamara Thorne, released the first of several subsequent installments in The Ghosts of Ravencrest, a serialized Gothic Horror novel. Since then, they have penned The Cliffhouse Haunting, and Grandma's Rack together.

Mr. Cross' influences include, but are not limited to, the works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul, Ira Levin, William Peter Blatty, and of course, Tamara Thorne. His turn-ons include horror movies, photography, offensive books, blaring music, Swiss cheese, bloodletting, leather boots, and making people feel uncomfortable.

In his spare time, he can often be found playing with fire, conquering ant colonies, flogging his friends, appearing pensive and thoughtful for no real reason, and exploring the various stages of hypnagogia on the freeway.

Mr. Cross is currently working on the next collaboration with Tamara Thorne, as well as a solo novel, which is expected to be completed in summer of 2015.

You can also visit Alistair on TwitterFacebook, or at his blog with Tamara.

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About the Book

The Cliffhouse Haunting

When the Blue Lady Walks...

Since 1887, Cliffhouse Lodge has been famous for its luxurious accommodations, fine dining… and its ghosts. Overlooking Blue Lady Lake, nestled among tall pines, Cliffhouse has just been renovated by its owners, Teddy and Adam Bellamy, and their daughter, Sara.

Cliffhouse has not always been a place of rest and respite, though. Over the years it has served many vices, from rum-running to prostitution – and although the cat houses have been replaced by a miniature golf course and carousel, Cliffhouse retains its dark history; darkest during the Roaring Twenties, when a serial killer called the Bodice Ripper terrorized the town, and a phantom, the Blue Lady, was said to walk when murder was imminent.

Death Walks With Her… 

Now, there’s a new killer on the loose, and the Blue Lady sightings have returned. The Bellamys are losing maids, and guests are being tormented by disembodied whispers, wet phantom footprints, and the blood-chilling shrieks of mad laughter that echo through the halls of Cliffhouse in the dead of night.

The little mountain town of Cliffside is the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer… and the Blue Lady. Police Chief Jackson Ballou has bodies piling up, and between the murders and the mysteries, he can hardly pursue his romance with Polly Owen. And Sara Bellamy may lose her true love before they even have their first kiss.

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