I am pleased to welcome to my blog Amy Croall author of 'A Cure For The Condition.'
Where are you from?
I almost want to say where am I not from! I was born in Santa Maria in Central California, then moved to Temecula when I was nine. My parents stayed there for a while, then we moved to Parker, CO. I'd never seen snow before, so living in Colorado was an interesting change. But we were only there three months, then we moved out to Northern California. I've been living in the Bay Area since 1999, but it's not a permanent home, as I am a creature not of habit.
Tell us your latest news?
Currently, I'm working on submitting a Young Adult series to agents. I've finished the first book and am in the process of writing books two and three with a fourth and fifth in the works.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing just about as soon as I could read at three. My father and I would come up with little stories. He'd usually write them, then I'd draw pictures to go along with them. More recently, I decided to write full-length novels because I'd always toyed with the idea of writing professionally, but was always overwhelmed with life. Once I buckled down and got myself into the mindset, it just flowed. And now I can't stop!
What inspired you to write your first book?
A dream. I had a dream of a young Princess thrown into governance after the murder of her mother, the Queen. Now that I think back on it, there was a handsome young stranger with silver hair in there somewhere, too!
Do you have a specific writing style?
It honestly depends on which book I'm writing. For my adult series, the style is very much third person; speaking to the reader objectively. However, my Young Adult series is first-person, so there's more voice and personality in the writing itself. It's more than just a simple telling of story.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I eat almost everything up. A Cure for the Condition has an author quote on the back cover by Leigh Bridger, author of Soul Catcher. When I read her novel, I was so inspired by her characters that I knew I wanted to write something of my own. Among others, I also love to read Dianna Wynne Jones and Rachel Vincent.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I would probably choose someone who's no longer living. Mary Shelley would be my first choice. She just had a knack for ideas.
What book are you reading now?
I recently finished "Before I Wake" by Rachel Vincent, and since then, I haven't been able to find the time to start another. I've been so bogged down with work and my writing projects.
What are your current projects?
My Young Adult series, starting with The Death of Me, is all that seems to be on my mind these days...
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Absolutely not. A Cure for the Condition is very near and dear to my heart. Malcolm and Catherine have become a part of my life.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Definitely from my father and those short little stories we used to create. Sometimes I miss those days.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure. Here's the opening to my Young Adult novel, The Death of Me:
Tires screeched across the asphalt, thumping over the curb. They ripped the well-manicured grass from its soil prison as the treads burned black trails in their wake. A huge oak sprang up in the middle of the lawn. The bumper crunched in two. Glass shattered. Glittering shine hurtled in every direction. A rogue branch punched through the windshield and pinned the passenger in her seat. Death was making its rounds in the small town of Dublin, California.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Honestly, I find that lately I have to take very good notes on where I want scenes to end up. My characters have a knack for re-writing things without my permission!
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I really enjoyed reading The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I can't say he's my favorite author, but that is definitely my favorite book at the moment. What really struck me about his work was that he wrote in short, disjointed sentences, and his imagery was amazing. The entire book just gave a feeling of uneasiness.
Who has designed the cover for your novel?
The cover design for A Cure for the Condition was done by a very talented graphic artist at Whiskey Creek Press, Gemini Judson.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finishing it. I didn't want it to be over.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned patience. Patience is a virtue. Books are never ready the first time you finish them. You need beta readers, editors, and time.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
My only piece of advise is that aspiring authors must persevere. The only sure-fire way to never get published is to give up.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
“The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.”
Chapter 1A forlorn, soft piano melody enveloped her as the book lay at an awkward angle in her lap. As her eyes remained closed, absorbing the musician’s brilliant performance, she had no idea her step-brother was watching her.
“Ah, Princess Catherine—there you are!” he said, barging into the room as he had many times over the previous two years.
Princess Catherine inhaled before his gravelly voice could release her daydreams. Sitting straight on the stiff sofa in the parlor, she placed the book next to her.
“Yes, good afternoon, Malcolm,” she replied.
Malcolm supplied her with a half-smirk and proceeded to lean against the sofa on which she sat. Princess Catherine couldn’t help but experience an ever-so-slight tingle when she peered into his crystal-blue eyes.
Although her step-brother’s nose was somewhat too large, his lips thin, and his face angular, Malcolm had a strong jaw, well-groomed silver hair, and a smile that could draw women from countries away. At times, his boyish half-smirk made it difficult for Princess Catherine to recall he was seven years her senior.
“I heard about your meeting with the suitor this afternoon, and I must say I am intrigued,” he said.
Catherine donned an immediate scowl. “Malcolm, is this going to be another instance such as when you barged into this room as I was learning that piano and tell me I am causing a ruckus, or will it be reminiscent of when I returned home wearing rouge and you mocked me endlessly?” she demanded.
Malcolm feigned ignorance, putting a hand to his heart. “Why, dear step-sister, I am saddened by your accusations! I merely wished to extend my…condolences that the meeting did not go as hoped.” He suppressed a half-hearted chuckle.
“Of course,” Catherine replied, clearing her throat. “I’ll have you know our feelings were requited. I did not much care for the man.”
“Oh? That’s not what was told to me. I was told he stifled a laugh at first sight of you, and then appeared bored and lazy the remainder of his stay,” Malcolm said, pulling on a lock of Catherine’s brown hair.
She pulled away and supplied him with a sharp stare.
“My, my, you certainly are a harbinger of rejection, aren’t you? Inquiring minds are dying to know, Princess—what’s that like?” he asked.
“I suppose you should ask the multitude of women at your feet, Malcolm; perhaps they would be a more fitting choice. Tell me, how many with whom have you been?” she demanded, attempting to quell the sting of emotion forcing its way through her middle.
Malcolm stopped for a moment and furrowed his brow. “I don’t know; I don’t count,” he replied smugly, turning his attention back to her.
“Of course not.”
“Oh, poor Catherine,” he continued. “No man will ever desire to be the Prince of a woman as plain as you. Why, your ridiculous freckles and mousy brown hair will never draw in a man of merit.”
Catherine inhaled a sharp breath and straightened her back. “How dare you! I am an educated woman, I speak three languages fluently, and I am heir to the Cannary throne!”
“Oh come now, you’re seventeen and still have yet to find a husband. How many suitors does that man make, anyway?”
At his words, Catherine stood and clenched her fists at her sides. “I will not stoop to your level of…affectionate teasing, Malcolm!”
For a moment, her step-brother said nothing, seeming to be surprised by her sudden outburst. However, after regaining his composure, he was hit with a fit of laughter so powerful he was forced to double over and clutch his belly.
“Affectionate! Oh, you are much too entertaining!” he said between chuckles.
Wanting no more of his belligerent behavior, Catherine stormed from the parlor and down the hall to the Queen’s study, the familiar twinge of despondency trying to force tears from the well behind her eyes.
“Princesses do not cry!” she told herself before knocking on her mother’s door.
Once she heard the unmistakable soft voice of her mother granting her entrance, she pushed the door open and barged into the room.
“Oh, Catherine, dear!” her mother said, a warm smile on her face. She pushed aside a pile of papers and supplied her daughter with her full attention. “I apologize about that abysmal meeting between you and Mr. Elgar this afternoon.”
“It is fine, Mother,” Catherine replied, seating herself in a plush chair across from the large maple desk at which the Queen worked. She straightened her back and folded her hands in her lap.
“You must understand that I feel you are at an age where you must find a husband.” The Queen smiled again, gentle wrinkles creasing into the skin around her eyes and mouth.
“It is no bother, Mother. However…”
Queen Victoria leaned forward, awaiting her daughter’s next words. “What is it, dear?”
“Well...there is this...man…” she stumbled with unease.
“Ah ha!” her mother cried, standing from her desk. “I knew it! I would recognize that look anywhere!”
“Nonsense! Why did you not tell me of this man sooner?” Queen Victoria demanded, rounding the corner and embracing her daughter.
“He does not share my feelings,” Catherine replied with a sigh. With purpose, she omitted the fact that this man was also her step-brother.
Her mother pulled away and looked deep into her daughter’s emerald eyes. “Any man who does not find you perfect is utterly mad,” she said with a smile.
Catherine returned her mother’s gesture with a strained smile of her own. “But, I am convinced he is the only man I desire, Mother.”
The Queen took a seat in the other plush chair adjacent to her large desk and sighed.
“Catherine, I’d like to tell you a story,” she began.
The Princess nodded and allowed her mother to continue.
“When I was not much younger than you, I married your father. I believed he was the handsomest man in the world. I doubted I would ever find another love such as he gave me. But…” she paused, a frown creasing into her long face, “when he died...well...I was torn, you know this.”
“Yes, but I would rather not speak of Father,” Catherine replied, her voice tight with decade-old anger.
“Of course, I understand. At any rate, when I met Malcolm’s father two years ago, my belief in love was renewed; Callum is a wonderful man. Catherine, I am sure one day you will find a man who will return all the affection and love you hold in your heart.”
* * * *After a late supper that night, Catherine was studying her books in a small den across from the castle’s dungeon. Many of the words and phrases in the books were familiar to the Princess, and she found herself submitting to a brief chuckle at the Cannary License Act of 1872, which prohibited civilians to operate bovine while intoxicated.
Soon, as often happened on late nights when studying, she found herself intimidated by a particular clause in one of Cannary’s oldest policies. Placing a piece of parchment between the pages to mark her place, she stood from the plush sofa and made her way down the hall toward the bedroom of the Queen and Prince.
“Mother?” she called, knocking on the door.
Silence followed, so the Princess rapped again.
“Mother?” she said with more force.
When no one answered, she turned the brass door handle and peeked into the room. What she saw was unimaginable.
Blood was spattered on the painting of her great grandfather and the pink striped wall above the four-poster bed. The sheets were soaked with the sticky red substance as it dripped off of the bed skirt into a puddle on the floor. The Queen and Prince of Cannary lay motionless, bathed in the crimson fluid. Catherine stared unmoving at the scene before her in utter terror.
Her lungs froze as she tried to call for help. All her prior schooling and instincts left her as she stared at her mother and step-father’s lifeless bodies before her. She was unable to remember whom she was to call in a situation such as this. At last, when her head began to swim, she pulled in a labored breath and opened her mouth.
Her step-brother was the first person who had come to mind, and she shouted his name with all the strength left in her body.
By chance, his room was just across the hall and he emerged a moment later, raking a hand through his tousled silver hair.
“For what reason are you shouting, Catherine?” he demanded, yawning wide.
“Moth...mother…” she stuttered.
Malcolm let out a sigh and trudged across the hallway to Catherine’s side. She was vaguely aware of his presence, but couldn’t tear her gaze away from her poor mother.
After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Malcolm pushed Catherine away and pointed down the hallway.
“Go, Catherine! Go to your room! Whoever’s done this may still be here!” he shouted at her.
Startled by the force of his voice, Catherine’s composure returned, and she scampered toward the end of the long hall, followed by her step-brother’s shouts for the guards.