Maria answers some questions for us and and comes to us with a paperback copy of DRAWN for one lucky reader! Leave a comment under this post for your chance to win DRAWN! Deadline is Tuesday, Jan 31st (International entries are welcome!) But first, let’s talk about the book:
The grounds of Blanchley Castle seem the perfect spot for some afternoon sketching. But Michelle soon learns that within these walls are rooms and artifacts filled with the stories of the people from its past. Tourists are shown around the castle-turned-museum by guides costumed in Medieval attire, however there is something strange about some of the “employees” who seem to play the part a little too well.
Past and present are blurred as Michelle comes to find herself part of a romance that bridges centuries. But is this romance real or is it time to start questioning her own sanity?
Mysterious and enchanting, DRAWN is a breath of fresh air. If you are looking for a page turner with a unique twist, then look no further.
TM: The premise behind DRAWN is such a unique one. How did you come up with, or develop the idea?
MARIA: The idea developed over many years, starting back in high school when an artist visited my class. She showed paintings she’d done of an old house. Within the shadows of her art were figures of a man in Revolutionary garb, of a woman in a wedding dress, and emerging from the darkness was an angry face. Spirits, she said. Ghosts that just appeared in her works. She said she channeled them through her art.
That got me thinking…
As a senior in college, I spent a semester living in England, wandering through old graveyards, and exploring castles and dreary castle dungeons.
That really got me thinking…
As time went on, I fell in love with the medieval era. Knights and quests and the ill-fated lovers in troubadour ballads. Adding into this mix was my own background as an artist. I started to wonder, what if an artist really could draw a ghost? And what if that ghost were from medieval times? If she could meet this ghost and they formed a bond, would that be an ill-fated love, or a love worth dying for?
Drawn became that story.
Is there a particular castle or castles in England that you modeled Blanchley Castle after, or histories that you drew inspiration from with regard to the medieval stories of the characters from Blanchley Castle’s past?
I definitely modeled Blanchley Castle on Warwick Castle in England. From the little chapel to the grassy green and the dank cobweb-draped dungeon, Warwick Castle haunts my novel, just as surely as Christopher haunts Michelle in the book. Warwick Castle is beautifully preserved, and part of it is populated with lifelike wax figures, which really brings the middle ages alive. You can’t help but imagine what it was like to live there.
Other true-ish details in the book: Michelle’s new school Wallingford Academy hosts a costumed banquet at the castle, and Warwick Castle actually does host themed banquets on its grounds.
Also, critical final scenes in the novel take place during a Ghost Tour at Blanchley Castle, complete with psychics and ghost hunting equipment. And, yup, you guessed it, these really have been held at the castle…and they continue to be! In fact there’s one coming up in April, if you’re interested.
Paranormal Nights, the site that runs the tours, talks about Warwick Castle saying, “Here death and revenge have bared their teeth, perhaps leaving a legacy so that in dark places here we may brush with shades of the past?”
Maybe they’re talking about Michelle’s brush with Christopher, like in this scene from Drawn when she first meets him at the castle:
With a jolt I remember the drawing of that guy in my sketchbook. To get his attention, I clear my throat.
In an instant, he stands, grabs my arm and shoves me against the wall. His face is close. His eyes filled with fury.
Sharp stones bite into my back. Tears spring into my eyes. “Let go!” I shout. I try to pull from his grip.
His glare softens, his grip loosens. “Forgive me. I thought…”
“You thought what?” I pull my arm from him.
He takes a step back. “I beg your pardon. I was taken by surprise. There have been dangers…”
I’m rubbing my arm. Blinking away tears.
“I have hurt you.” His voice is surprisingly gentle. He’s around my age and wears a brown woolen cape over an emerald-green tunic that fits him better than most of the rental costumes I’d seen tonight. His square jaw and strong chin add ruggedness to his face, and his eyes…
His eyes are studying me. I feel my cheeks burn.
Oh, wait, that all happened at Blanchley Castle, not Warwick Castle. My bad.
You’ve had a previous book, WHAT I MEANT…, published by Random House and then began your own publishing company. As an independent publisher and a writer, what have been the greatest rewards and challenges for you along the way to bringing your work to readers, without some of the advantages of having a “big name” behind you.
The greatest reward is having total control of your novel. It’s very old school. I have final say over the cover (and in the case of Drawn I got to draw the cover, too), I picked the paper color, the typeface used, and what appeared on the back cover. It’s all my vision through and through. Really exciting for an author.
The greatest challenge is letting people know that this book exists. Getting wonderful reviews for Drawn and for my other indie YA novel Over My Head has been so gratifying, but it doesn’t mean much if interested readers never find my books. That’s a bit of a heartbreak for a writer…
The good news is that my novels can be ordered through any bookstore and found online on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com and Smashwords.com, but unless folks know where to look, the titles can definitely get lost. Here’s were readers can really make a difference, honestly. If you find a book you love, any book, but especially independently published titles like Drawn, then you can give it wings just by telling your friends to read it, by sharing it online, posting reviews about it, blogging about it. Talking up your favorite books gives your favorite writers the boost they need to write more of the stuff that you’d like to see. It’s all word of mouth. Talk about old school!
It’s also noteworthy that you are an agent, too. You wear many hats in the literature industry! And must be full of wisdom and advice for aspiring writers. When you are going through countless queries from hopeful authors, what helps a story or idea stand apart from all the others? As an agent what kind of query grabs your interest?
It’s really interesting as an author to now be sitting as an agent on the receiving end of query letters. Endlessly fascinating, and I feel like each time I go to my agent inbox I’m on a treasure hunt. The submissions vary widely from the ridiculous to the brilliant.
When it comes to the query letter, I wish I could tell every single writer who sends me a wacky letter to be more careful, to not blow their chances by making goofy mistakes. Simple things like getting my name right (!) and spelling words correctly (!!) and following my submission guidelines (!!!) will mean I’ll actually read the full letter and start to read the first 20 pages pasted into the bottom of the email. You can find my guidelines, and the types of projects I represent by going here: http://jdlit.com/submitpages/mariesubmit.html
What grabs my interest in a query is a writer with a clear sense of story. Describe your book idea in a way that makes me sit up and think, hey, this sounds interesting. The stories that stand out are ones with a strong voice. Ones that are written with confidence. Ones that don’t remind me of something I’ve already read, but that feel fresh and real.
And here are some general submission tips: Get right into the heart of your story when you write a book. If the novel starts off with a lot of back story, or characters driving to a destination where the story starts, or a character looking to buy a property where things will happen, well you’ll probably lose me long before I reach the good stuff.
Also, don’t tell an agent things like “this is the best book you’ll ever read,” or “this will be a best seller,” or “I know Hollywood is going to want to make this into a movie.” It really marks you as an amateur. Instead, let the agent come to that conclusion. If your book is fabulous, it will definitely speak for itself.
And the best writing advice I can offer? Never give up. I spent 10 years writing and perfecting my first novel, and that one never sold. If I gave up then, I would have never written What I Meant… or Over My Head or Drawn. If writing is your dream, work hard at it, keep improving, and never ever get discouraged. Remember that big dreams always take time.
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 daydreaming about hot ghosts, she’s working as an Associate Literary Agent for The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in NYC. Marie lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
For Drawn purchasing info, go here: http://marielamba.wordpress.com/books-etc/drawn-excerpt/drawn-purchasing-info/
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
Thank you, Maria, for allowing us to be a part of your blog tour!