Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome the lovely Mandy Jackson Beverly to my blog.
Mandy and I met through our fantastic editor, John Hudspith, and have been friends for a few months. She lives in Ojai, California, with her husband, Brian Beverly, a crossed-eyed cat, Luna, a dog named Cash and, sometimes, her sons, Angus and Jack. Her bio is fascinating, and you can read more about Mandy here. A Secret Muse, Mandy’s debut novel, has just been published and it looks fascinating. Here’s the blurb:
UCLA art professor Coco Rhodes knows little about her family’s association with the ancient clandestine organization The Allegiance and wants to keep it that way. She dislikes secrets—they’re a painful reminder of her childhood experiences that were erased as a result of her parents’ tragic deaths when she was four years old.
After a brutal attempt on her life, and the arrival of a birthday letter from her dead mother, Coco demands explanations from her brother, Christopher, a high-powered D.C. lawyer and member of the Allegiance.
Christopher guides Coco to her birthplace, Italy, insisting she’ll find her answers there. Enter the enigmatic Gabriel, a powerful warlock with a vampire father, and the ethereal Prudence, keeper of the Allegiance.
When a close friend is murdered, Coco’s life takes a dark turn. With only a faded portrait torn from a lost sketchbook, and one of her mother’s unfinished paintings, Coco unravels clues from her past, in the hope of saving those she loves.
Tell us, Mandy, at bedtime do you prefer “relaxing so you can sleep sounds” or white noise, TV, soft music, ocean waves, forest or meadow sounds, babbling brook, or something else?
I’m a light sleeper and average about 4 hours each night. I need peace and quiet so I wear earplugs every night—they block out the dog snoring, the cat running around like a mad woman, the coyote’s yapping, and the occasional wild animal realizing it’s about to become another’s dinner.
Snap! I wear earplugs at night too. I need peace and quiet for sleeping but love loud rock music at other times. What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have an all-time favourite song?
I studied classical music at university and hold a place in my heart for this genre. Having said that, there really isn’t a genre that I dislike—but I’m definitely one who loves to buy a song here and there on iTunes, rather than a whole album. Music plays a big part in my writing, as evident in A Secret Muse.
When writing, where do you get your ideas from?
Everyday life, mostly, and for the past twenty-five years I’ve kept a dream journal. I’ve come to accept that nightly dreams reveal so much—I just needed to learn how to listen. During my life I’ve dabbled in many different jobs, travelled, and surrounded myself with people from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds. This makes for a vast and irresistible palette of characters and situations to pull from for creating stories.
What’s your favourite part of writing?
I enjoy every aspect of the writing process, from researching historic figures and eras, interviewing people who specialise in a specific area, and getting to know my characters to see where they end up taking me…it’s a scrumptious smorgasbord for my heart and mind. The editing process is fun too, that’s when it really takes shape.
How do you handle a writer’s block?
I used to fight it, but now I’ve come to accept it for what it is—time for some TLC. In the warm months, I swim everyday—there’s something about gliding through water that frees up my mind and allows ideas to enter. I walk early in the mornings and this is therapeutic too, but meeting with a friend for coffee, and getting out of the house works well when I’m stuck. Plus, I love coffee 🙂
I’m a coffee-addict too. Do you write long hand first, or does it go straight onto the computer?
I carry journals everywhere so that I can jot ideas or phrases down and use them later. I have about five journals full of ‘stuff’ for A Secret Muse, and these range from entire chapters to character traits. But I do love my Mac! My iPhone is great for snapping a quick shot of something that inspires me—anything from old and twisted tree trunks, to a smiling face. Painting is another source of inspiration—I paint my characters.
That’s amazing! When crafting the story do you go from beginning to end, or do you jump around writing the scenes that are pushing themselves forward in your brain?
I create a basic storyline and put it together on a storyboard, this is a trait left over from working in the film industry, I guess. I’m visual so I need to ‘see’ the story before I write it. But no matter how well I think I’ve planned, my characters often go on tangents and drag me along for the journey. This is evident in my writing room—one side is the storyboard, another my paints and canvases etc., another my library, and in the middle is my Mac and assorted journals. And somewhere amongst this mess is my cat, Luna.
Generally speaking, is your work based on real life experience?
A Secret Muse, has an undercurrent of good versus evil, light and dark, these attributes are around us all constantly, either in our own world or the greater collective. So, yes, what I write is, in some form or another, taken from real life experience. I can think of quite a few ‘dark’ characters that dwell in our everyday existence, I just give them a mythological title.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on A Secret Muse, book two, however, because I also enjoy writing non-fiction, I take breaks to write blog posts for the Huffington Post and Tasmanian Times. Writing non-fiction reminds me of what’s going on in the real world, and in a strange way I find that by ignoring my characters for a bit, they start plotting together in my sub-conscious until their whispers become screams in my head. At that time, I’m forced to listen while they tell me where they want to go next. Sounds a little odd, I guess, but I’m sure this is somewhat ordinary to many writers. Funny to think that I’m figuring out ways to outwit my characters…time for a swim, I guess!
So interesting, Mandy. I’ve got A Secret Muse on my TBR list and can’t wait to read it. How do we find you? Please let us have your stalk links!
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Mandy. I wish you every success with A Secret Muse and your future books.
Thanks for having me, Siobhan. I enjoyed the interview 🙂