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Tuesday 24 September 2019

ℚ A Parliament of Crows - Alan M. Clark

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about A Parliament of Crows (, IFD Publishing, 188 pages), a Southern Gothic Crime Horror.

"Crime and horror wrapped in a wondrous symmetry, made all the more terrifying by its factual basis, A Parliament of Crows has it all. Read it!" ~ F.Paul Wilson, author of Cold City 

"Anyone who liked Erik Larson's 'The Devil in the White City' will love this book. Full of ghoulish characters straight out of Charles Adams, it paints a portrait that screams the very essence of Southern Gothic." —Al Sarrantonio, author of Skeletons and Halloweenland

Holy hell! The end of that book! I mean, I was really enjoying it all throughout, and then BAM BAM BAM at the end, nicely done. How horrifying. Wow. It's perfect. Jeez! I was literally open-mouthed at the end. Two thumbs way up!” Molly Tanzer, author of A Pretty Mouth

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

A very warm welcome to Alan M. Clark; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

What was the inspiration for A Parliament of Crows?

"I like history.  When I find events, particularly crimes in history that make me scratch my head in wonder at how those involved might have thought their deeds reasonable or somehow necessary, I want to understand their emotional evolution on the matter.  With extreme acts, such as murder, I know there must be good drama within that evolution that will make a good story.

Writing A Parliament of Crows was my way of understanding the pivotal choices the Wardlaw sisters (name changed to Mortlow in the novel) may have made to arrive at committing their crimes.  Specializing in social graces, the sisters were educators of young women, yet they murdered family members to commit insurance fraud."
“The Mortlow Sisters”
colour illustration by Alan M. Clark  found in the ebook,
black and white in the paperback edition.
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"I have always been interested in the dark and disturbing.  I grew up in a family with a medical background and the attendant gallows humor that goes with that.

I have been a freelance illustrator for 35 years, specializing in horror, though I have done work in several speculative fiction genres, including science fiction and high fantasy."

The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for A Parliament of Crows - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"I am the illustrator.  I set out to depict the three sisters in mourning clothes, since they wore that almost exclusively for many years (yes, they were just creepy).

When I chose the title, I had already started the cover.  I got the idea of the mourning clothes as composed of crow feathers, and did that.  In trying to decide how to develop their heads, which had to have hats or bonnets with black veils, I decided to leave out their faces with the idea that they were faceless, soulless, in many ways."
"A Parliament of Crows" (medium-sized print)
Why should we read A Parliament of Crows and what sets it apart from the rest?  What makes your book unique?
"I write strictly from one point of view at a time.  I get very personal with the POV.  The reader is privy to the thoughts and feelings of the POV character in an intensely intimate way.  With crimes and horror, that approach seems to work best.

I’m not suggesting I am better at that than others, just that that is my main focus.   I strive to draw readers into the experience of even the most heinous of actors so that at the very least, they understand their acts, and perhaps even sympathize with their choices. We all are faced with impossible choices in life that bring out our worst.  Some just go so far down that road they are beyond the pale, and the rest of us are left to wonder at their deeds."
“What is your understanding about the search for the infant?” Mr. Hitchens asked.
     The idiot needed to get off the topic right away! Vertiline ground her teeth and said, “My sisters told me they tried to search for the infant, but had to depend on Orphia to tell them where to look, and she was no help at all.”
     “Objection,” Mr. Kalinowski said. “hearsay.”
     “Sustained,” the judge said. “Miss Mortlow, you will testify only to those things you directly witnessed. You cannot testify about something you did not experience yourself, but that someone told you about.”
     I must do better. Vertiline felt herself grimacing.
     He was just an infant! she thought. How many of them die every day without help? Orphia wasn’t clear-headed. Better to stay quiet about the loss of an infant that had yet to truly live than to destroy the reputation and life of a young woman.
     Vertiline was ashamed of her callous and unreasonable thoughts, but at least she wasn’t giving voice to them aloud. Still, the men of the jury watched her doubtfully.
     “Your sisters did not notify the authorities,” Mr. Hitchens said, “and you didn’t notify them either when you found out about it. You don’t deny that, do you?”
     She would if she could, but Orphia had referred to the infant in the suicide note found with her body. When Vertiline and her sisters were first arrested, they all claimed that Orphia had committed suicide because she was depressed over the loss of her husband and her child, Alberta. The omission of the second child, the infant, John, had raised suspicions. The police investigation went looking for information in Brooklyn at the tenement. They spoke to neighbors, found out about Orphia’s second child, and made a search of the tenement.
     “No,” she said curtly. Vertiline could only hope the jury understood that she was protecting a family member.
     “Detective Robert Walker testified that burnt fragments of the bones of a human infant were found in the furnace of the tenement where you and your family lived in Brooklyn. Do you know anything about the tiny bones, Miss Mortlow?”
     Although she had her suspicions about Orphia’s role, and that of her sister, Carolee, in the disappearance of the infant, thankfully Vertiline didn’t know the truth.

(excerpt from "A Parliament of Crows", Chapter 10: Vertiline—Anger)

"In the Furnace"
illustration by Alan M. Clark

Can you tell us something quirky about
A Parliament of Crows, its story and characters?
"The Mortlows in A Parliament of Crows are related distantly to characters who are twins in Molly Tanzer’s novel A Pretty Mouth." [find out more in "terrible twins and their easter eggs"]
Who would you recommend A Parliament of Crows to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Those who enjoy horror or Southern gothic literature would enjoy it.   Those interested in the American Civil War, and those interested in Victorian and Edwardian era America will also like it.

The real sisters—the Wardlaw sisters—are to me something like members of Charles Addam’s Addams Family, but real.  I imagine them fitting quite neatly into illustrations by Edward Gorey.  My fictional stand-ins, the Mortlow sisters, will probably be received well by those who like Gorey and Addams."
Charles Addams and the Addams Family
Edward Gorey's The Doubtful Guest

If you could / wished to turn A Parliament of Crows into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Joan Allen  would be a great Vertiline and then Catherine Keener, doubling for the twins, would do well for Mary and Carolee."
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 have enjoyed most writing stories set in other time periods, and having events that actually took place in history.  I tend to choose horrific events from history for my novels.  I call this Horror that Happened. "

What is your writing process?
"I outline loosely to allow room for discovery.  The discovery is how I remain entertained while I go about the work."
What is in store next?
"More short fiction.  I have been writing ghost stories and trying to sell them to anthologies and magazines."
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?
"My wife, Melody, and I have 2 dogs currently.  One is more attached to her, the other to me.  Jasper, a schipperke, is my pal."
Hello gorgeous Jasper; lots of head-scratches and belly-rubs to you from all of us at BooksChatter!

Alan, thank you so much for sharing Jasper and your work with us. We hope you are having a great tour and look forward to reading A Parliament of Crows.

Inspired by the true crimes of the Wardlaw sisters.

A Parliament of Crows
Available NOW!

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1 comment:

Alan M. Clark said...

Thanks for your incredible blog post. If anyone has questions about A PARLIAMENT OF CROWS, I am happy to try to answer them.