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Wednesday 30 September 2015

ℚ♫ The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace [1] - Ellen Byerrum

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace (, Lethal Black Dress Press, 396 pages) a Novel of Suspense .

Author Q&A | Synopsis | Teaser | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

A big welcome to Ellen Byerrum, thank you for joining us!

Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace, or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?

"Benny Goodman’s Stompin’ at the Savoy and Moonglow are mentioned specifically in The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace, so I was listening to them.  I also listened to Artie Shaw’s Summertime, Nightmare, Begin the Beguine and Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook."

What was the inspiration for The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace?

"Many years ago when I first thought about Dollhouse I had a question: What if you woke up one day and found out you were rich, fabulously rich, stinking rich?  How would that happen? What would be the cause of it?  How did you wind up there, and what if you could only remember bits and pieces of that life?  Compounding the problem: What if you remembered other memories as well, memories of being someone else entirely, someone who grew up poor?   And finally, what are the problems of being that wealthy?  Would it corrupt you and change your basic morality?"
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"Every book contains part of the author, but this one is probably less reflective of me, except for the questions it asks.  It does incorporate some of the things I learned or questioned when I was a reporter in Washington, D.C.   I covered several government safety agencies, but I was fascinated with the idea of scientists who discover ways to block memories in the brain.  Also with the personalities of scientists, because they are so different than other people.

The setting is full of places that I love: the beautiful green Virginia countryside and the Middleburg Hunt Country, in addition to the charming streetscape of Georgetown in Washington, D.C."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"I can probably tell you way more about the cover than you want to know!  It began with the title, The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace.   Over the years I've tried other titles, softer, harder, edgier or more “thrillery,” but it's the title that stuck.  When it came time for The Cover, I didn’t want anything frilly or soft, or the “Addams Family” Halloweenish dollhouse.  Perhaps I could get away without a dollhouse, or with the mere suggestion of one?  But no matter what I tried, this cover needed a dollhouse.  In a crawlspace!  Not only that, the dollhouse had to suggest a "real" house in the story.

My cover designer for Dollhouse is the talented Robert Williams (also my husband).

After exhausting all the “easy” possibilities, we wound up building a dollhouse. But that was just the beginning. Donning hard hats with our new dollhouse, and grabbing lights, cameras, dolls, and tripods, we crawled into our very own gloomy crawlspace to set the scene, dress and light the dollhouse, cover ourselves in cobwebs, and take hundreds of pictures in the dirt and dust. Then all Bob had to do was choose the right frame out of 998 (or so), perform some digital image magic, and match it to the right composition, fonts, and color palette to create just the right look: Cool but hot, shadowy but eye-popping, gloomy yet glowing, as if lit from within.

I love how it turned out."
Why should we read The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace and what sets it apart from the rest? 
"Dollhouse asks the question: If you lost your memories, would you lose your soul?  It comes from the perspective of a woman who is in a unique situation, a woman with duelling memories, yet she proves intelligent, resourceful, and brave in finding her true self."
Can you tell us something quirky about The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace, its story and characters?
"The American South, including *Northern Virginia where the book is set, is beautifully specific with its history and accents and way of speech, so I loved getting inside the voice of those characters.  Naming them was also delightful, as family names are popular in the South as first names.  I’ve introduced Tennyson Olivia Claxton, the granddaughter of Abercrombie Foxhall Claxton and Octavia Standish Claxton, and daughter of Porter Quantrell Claxton.

Part of the book is also set in Maine, a very different context, so I loved the contrast between the steamy South and crisp North. (*I must add that a good friend who hails from Richmond, Virginia, says that Northern Virginia is really just “Yankeeville.”)"
Who would you recommend The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Thriller readers, people who enjoy books about strong women, people who like a good story, people who want a peek at this rarefied world of wealth and privilege.  You know, everybody."
If you could / wished to turn The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Having worked as a playwright, I try not get stuck on needing particular actors, because I’ve been wonderfully surprised by actors I’ve never heard of before.  They can bring a whole new depth to a character, inhabit that character, and make it their own.   They may not be discovered yet.  However, I really would love to see Dollhouse filmed on location in Middleburg and Northern Virginia and parts of Washington, D.C., and Maine.

I should explain that a couple of my Crime of Fashion mysteries (Killer Hair and Hostile Makeover) were filmed for the Lifetime Television Network.  While Lifetime shot some exteriors in D.C. (I have a walk-on in front of the White House), most of it was filmed in Canada.  They used mostly Canadian actors, who were very talented but who did not attempt any of my characters’ specific native accents, such as one from New Jersey and another from the Deep South.  It was interesting that the producers kept telling me that parts of Canada look exactly like Washington, D.C., and if they were going to film one of my books set in Paris, parts of Canada look exactly like places in Paris.  And I suppose if I set a book on the moon, parts of Canada most likely would look exactly like the moon.  Well. . . maybe. Maybe not."
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I prefer to write in the crime genre, mysteries and thrillers.  Even the plays I’ve published are about detectives, though they are funny plays.  I love to read this genre, but I also like to read romance and biography."
What is your writing process?
"That’s quite a question.  “Painful” is one answer.  My books start with an idea, many times years before I start the actual writing.  The simmering-on-the-back-burner part of it is very important, and generally has to get in line behind one or two other books that I’m writing or planning to write.

Once I start writing, it’s a mix of working on the computer and jotting notes and scenes on paper.  Also, I have to change my location when I write.  It’s not just at my desk in front of the computer composing with perfect posture.  Sometimes I go to the library, the bookstore, or the coffee shop where I won’t be distracted by household matters.  Also, I’m entertained by people and things outside my own environment.

I also have to exercise, without which I don’t think I could write.  I take walks when I get stuck, sometimes at the mall, sometimes in the park, and sometimes I take a shower to get the ideas coming again.  Sorry you asked?"
What is in store next?
"Next up: another book in my Crimes of Fashion mysteries, entitled The Masque of the Red Dress, a book set during World War II in D.C., about Mimi Smith, the aunt of Lacey Smithsonian in the COF series.  That one is entitled The Brief Luminous Flight of the Firefly. Then, I’ll be working on a sequel to Dollhouse, tentatively titled In Memory of Me."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"Recently I awarded myself a Grace Metalious Bobblehead as a special “You Can Do It Award.” It makes me laugh for several reasons.  One because Grace, the notorious author of Peyton Place, was hated in her home state, but times change and now the New Hampshire Historical Society proudly sells this bobblehead doll based on a photo of her (and priced quite reasonably, I might add).   Also known as “Pandora in Blue Jeans,” Grace's head bobbles thoughtfully every time she has an inspiration, staring intently at her empty typewriter.  And by the time I finish a book, my head has bobbled a thousand times.  Sometimes it bobbles right down onto my keyboard.

Grace Metalious was pretty much the writer who would be voted “Least Likely to Succeed.”  And yet she did. The odds were stacked against her.  She was a housewife and a mother who came from poverty and obscurity, but she was driven to write.  She succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.   I find her inspiring."

That's absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much for the fantastic and in-depth answers!

Thanks so much for having me here today.

The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace 
Available NOW!

UK: purchase from US: purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble find on Goodreads


Ellen Byerrum said...

So many interesting questions. Thanks so much for letting me visit here today. I'll be coming back to answer any questions you might have.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ellen. The movie version of Grace Metalious's "Peyton Place" was set in Camden, Maine, where "The Dollhouse" (which I loved, by the way!) reaches its climax. Was that a coincidence or on purpose? And I like the way your Northern Virginia is a little Peyton Place-ish, with secrets hidden beneath the placid Hunt Country landscape.

Ellen Byerrum said...

Camden is definitely important to Dollhouse, but its connection with the movie version of PP was a happy coincidence. And Hunt Country is definitely a place unto itself. Beautiful as well as layered with history and people.

Unknown said...

Incredible similarity. A piece of history.

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

Love the dollhouse! Great interview! And you know I loved the book as well. Cheers!