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Thursday 30 June 2016

ℚ♫ This Madness of the Heart: Miranda Lamden Mysteries [1] - Blair Yeatts

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about This Madness of the Heart (, Blair Elizabeth Yeatts, 243 pages), a gothic mystery thriller, book one of Miranda Lamden Mysteries series.

Download it FREE until 22 July 2016! (for Kindle format, visit Smashwords and choose the mobi file.)

"Yeatts fields an engaging cast of characters, and throughout she weaves a haunting pattern spun of the Appalachian wilderness and its people. The plot twists kept me guessing, all the way to the very satisfying ending. Fans of Joyce Carol Oates and Nevada Barr should relish this new series, and I look forward to more—the sooner the better!” - Kathleen Eagle, New York Times Bestselling author of Sunrise Song

Kudos to Blair Yeatts for an absorbing read and an original thriller with intriguing characters and hair-raising plot twists. Protagonist Miranda Lamden is quite fascinating.  Madness explores the genesis of hate and the power of forgiveness in a small college town in eastern Kentucky’s hill-country, where a haunting spirituality—both Christian and pagan–drives this fast-flowing mystery to an electrifying close. But beware: pick it up and you won’t be able to put it down–I couldn’t!” Nancy McKenzie, award-winning author of Queen of Camelot

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

A very warm welcome to Blair Yeatts; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in This Madness of the Heart, or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?

"I don’t imagine this is what you had in mind, but I listen to Baroque classical while I write!  Anything too assertive or with words distracts me.  I was probably listening to assorted concertos by Corelli and Telemann, and maybe Handel, during Madness."
I have compiled a few pieces from the composers your mentioned - enjoy!

What was the inspiration for This Madness of the Heart?
"Anger, even rage, was my inspiration.

I was at a liberal non-denominational college during the 80’s and 90’s when a number of smalltime power-mongers decided that they wanted to dictate the beliefs and practices of their religious denominations, and started plotting to do just that.  I watched while clueless parishioners gaped at the holocaust that blew up around them.  Pastors, professors, and church leaders were driven out, friendships, hearts, and lives were broken, doctrine was purified, and a lot of rich men with toothy smiles got richer—and more powerful.

There was nothing I could do . . . so I wrote a book.

A couple of the good guys in the book are modeled on real people, but the arch-villain JJ is a pastiche of many faces and names, with some fantasy thrown in.  But trying to read Madness’ original draft would have felt like Harry Potter opening the screaming book in the Hogwarts’ library restricted section: it was full of the rage I’d released into it.

I realized this, and set it aside—for almost twenty years—until I could come back and treat it as just a story.  So what you see now is (an exceedingly well-written and entertaining) gothic mystery thriller with a disgustingly nasty villain who happens to have an honorary divinity degree."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"Miranda Lamden is like my professional self in many ways: she’s a professor of religion who specializes in studying obscure spiritual practices, and uses phenomenological techniques in her study; mystical experiences have been a natural part of her life; she loves wild nature and feels more at home there than any other place; she’s a cat person.  All those things we have in common.

But our personalities and actual life experiences have been entirely different.  Miranda is a Virginia blue-blood and a career-driven academic . . . my parents were both shabby academics, and I married fairly early and began teaching after my children were born.  She publishes academic research; I publish novels.  Miranda jettisoned her Southern upbringing early; I’ve been more ambivalent.  She rarely guards her tongue; I seldom speak.

She’s probably a mix of my favorite female detectives, women I’ve taught with, and myself.  She may be the woman I would’ve liked to be, but it’s a rare woman who looks back on her children and says they weren’t worth it—and I’m not one of those women!"
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for This Madness of the Heart - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"I designed the cover myself.  I do a lot of photography, as well as drawing and painting.  Several years ago I started playing around with digital collage . . . and discovered I had a knack for it. So the cover you see is my own Photoshop original.

The central figure was inspired by several of Edward Burne-Jones’ images, both in stained glass and paint.  Ditto for the stars, flames, and water.  The church is one of my photographs, as are the rolling blue hills in the background.

The cover image as a whole is an image described in This Madness of the Heart by one of my fictional characters, Djinn.  I just decided to make it real!  To go into much more detail would result in a spoiler, so I’ll stop there."
Why should we read This Madness of the Heart and what sets it apart from the rest?  What makes your book unique?
"Part of my reason for dusting off Madness and deciding to create a series with Miranda Lamden is that I’ve been increasingly frustrated by the mystery thrillers I’ve read in recent years.  With a few notable exceptions, I’ve found the books I’ve investigated to be either poorly written, shallow, boring, overly violent or sexually unrealistic.  Maybe I’m just hard to please.  But in deciding to write this series, I believe I’m filling a much-needed niche in women’s light fiction.

The Miranda Lamden Mysteries offer an intelligent, intriguing protagonist with real spiritual and psychological depths, supported by a cast of equally strong secondary characters and set in an unusual environment that I know well (Appalachia).  The story lines are exciting and unpredictable, and the authentic paranormal/spiritual elements bring a richness many mysteries lack.  You won’t find anything else like them!"
Can you tell us something quirky about This Madness of the Heart, its story and characters?
"Jack Crispen, Miranda’s significant other, was named for my favorite fairy tale hero, King Crispin, in “Bluecrest,” [by Madame D'Aulnoy]  but I changed the spelling because there were too many Jack Crispin’s out there, including the one in the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

The Fairy Tale Book which contains the fairytale Bluecrest / The Blue Bird by Madame D'Aulnoy.  Illustrated by Adrienne Segur Illustration of Bluecrest by Adrienne Segur
Miranda Lamden was originally Abby Lampton, but then a young woman with that name popped up all over every possible social media site, so I changed it.  I try not to duplicate real people’s names in my major characters when I can help it.  Most of the Appalachian names came from old Kentucky cemeteries, where I spent many happy hours making notes of first and last names on the tombstones! "
Who would you recommend This Madness of the Heart to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"This Madness of the Heart is a book about a woman who suddenly finds her life shattered by violence and hate, so it may appeal more to women than to men: Madness is for women and for men who like women (and a good yarn).  Since Miranda is a professor, she likes words, and uses a lot of them: Madness is for word-lovers.  Miranda’s area is religion and the paranormal, so the book is full of spiritual matters of one sort and another: Madness is for spiritually curious readers.

There is real violence and suspense in the story, so don’t expect a cozy.

Madness is about a fundamentalist preacher who goes very, very wrong, and sets up a cascade of violence and death in his personal pursuit of power and revenge.  If you’re a fundamentalist Christian who thinks preachers can do no wrong, you won’t like this book.  If you’re a fundamentalist of any kind who believes that there is only one truth and you’ve got the corner on it, you won’t like this book, either.  Otherwise, Madness has no excessive violence or explicit sex, and only a moderate amount of strong language."
If you could / wished to turn This Madness of the Heart and the Miranda Lamden Mysteries series into a movie, who would be your dream team? ? (dead, alive or mythical!)
"Oh, it’s so much easier without age/date restrictions!  OK, Locations are easy: there are endless numbers of wonderful and haunted places in Appalachia.

Director: Chris Columbus.

Actors: Rev. Jasper Jarboe, DD: Jack Nicholson.
            Miranda Lamden: Cate Blanchett.
            Jack Crispen: Clive Owen.
            Viola Ricketts: Maggie Smith.
            Djinn: Alfre Woodard.
            Sheriff Lyle Embry: Clint Eastwood.
            Rev. Elmus Rooksby: Andy Griffith."

What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?

"This is probably where I should say that Blair Yeatts is a pen name.  I’ve published three other novels (with a fourth in the works) in a totally different genre, and with a different name.  I decided that switching genres in mid-career might be uncomfortable for my readers, so I decided to keep my other books separate from the Miranda Lamden series.  The facts about my life are true, if vague, and although I don’t stick to one genre, Blair Yeatts will!

I love reading mystery-thrillers if they’re well written (PD James, Nevada Barr, Charles ToddInspector Rutledge), and I’ve also had a great time writing them.  I enjoy reading as relaxation, so I tend to look for fast-paced, well-written stories, featuring engaging characters with psychological and spiritual depth, but without a glut of violence or sex.  I also like series, because I get attached to particular characters and want more of them.

Since I try to write books that I’d like to read, I hope that describes this series!"
What is your writing process?
"All my books begin with a germ of an idea that floats up out of nowhere—maybe while I’m walking, or cutting the grass, to going to sleep, or just sitting quietly in the evening when work is done.  If it feels interesting, I’ll write it down (always write everything down!!!), but then I’ll leave it alone.  If it has promise it’ll keep talking to me; otherwise it’ll drop away.

Once the idea manages to lodge itself in my mind, I start playing with the plot, making notes now and then, between other tasks.  Usually I’ll realize that some part of the plot I’m considering needs to be researched—in Madness, things like making stained glass, or quilting, or 19th century masonry.  Once I get into the research, I’m likely to get other ideas as well from the details I’m learning.

And then one day I start writing. I don’t plan it—it just happens. The writing is different every day.  Sometimes it’s a flood that carries me.  Other times it’s a delicately nerve-wracking wooing of fragile ideas that won’t quite come together.  Then there are the plodding, meat-and-potatoes days, when I’m just writing to move the book along.  I’ve found that it’s important to keep on plodding even when it feels pointless: something written is always better than nothing; at least you can come back and work with it.

Then I do my own editing as well, and that can be almost as time-consuming as the writing.  I probably do at least 10 read-throughs when I edit, the last 2 or 3 out loud, so I can hear the words in my ears. "
What is in store next?
"I have three Miranda Lamden books written: This Madness of the Heart, which is the subject of this blog tour; Blood on Holy Ground, which is in the editing stages; and The Gorge Runs Red (tentative title), awaiting edits.  Other ideas are hovering in the wings.

Holy Ground finds Miranda and Jack exploring Native American spirituality, Catholic convent traditions, and prescient dreams while caught up in a savage storm of murder and psychosis.  Gorge follows Miranda and a student seminar group to a retreat among the cliffs and arches of Red River Gorge, where sexual obsession and abusive power pit their dark strength against a priest’s faith and the soft coils of Appalachian Granny Magic."
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?
Thank you! That is a lovely picture.  It has been a pleasure having you here with us :-)

This Madness of the Heart
FREE until 22 July 2016!

purchase from purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble purchase from Kobo UK purchase from Smashwords find on Goodreads


Unknown said...

Thanks for hosting "This Madness of the Heart"!

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a great read.

Victoria Alexander said...

Great post - thanks for sharing :)

CJ said...

Another great interview! Thank you so much for sharing it with us! :)

Blair Yeatts said...

Thanks again, Rita!

Blair Yeatts said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Victoria!

Blair Yeatts said...

Thank you again, clojo, and you're welcome!

Nikolina said...

I really enjoyed reading your interview, thank you!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Nikolina! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

You have a wonderfully creative blog site, Books Chatter! I'm delighted to have had a chance to experience it!