I’m happy to be part of the Faulkner’s Apprentice Book Tour, put together by Jaidis Shaw of Juniper Grove Book Solutions. On this stop, you’ll find my interview with Val Muller, the author of Faulkner’s Apprentice. I’ve posted an excerpt of the book. I’m sharing my thoughts on the story, since I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy! And, finally, I have all the details on an awesome, tour-wide giveaway for you!
Let’s start with a brief introduction of the woman behind the words:
English teacher by day, writer by night, Val grew up in cold and haunted New England, which seems to have colored her works with a tinge of the macabre. She currently lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two corgis, a rambunctious and curious dog named Leia, and a kind and obedient (yet terrified) dog named Yoda. Val writes for children and adults and, when not performing her day job as an English teacher, attends book events and elementary schools to conduct writing workshops.
Connect with Val in the following places:
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Val-Muller/e/B005A81Z5Q/
Misfit and struggling writer Lorei Franklin has always struggled in life. Juggling an ailing mother, busy-body friends, and dead-end jobs, Lorei finally catches a break: she has won the L. Cameron Faulkner fiction contest, earning a three-week stay with the reclusive and famous horror writer. But her time at Faulkner’s mansion is not what she expected. She is plagued by a man in a fedora, two frightened assistants, and a series of strange visions–not to mention all the scratches on the walls. She also struggles with her feelings for Faulker–she’s had a crush on him since his cameo appearance in his movie, but he’s much more intimidating, and attractive, in person. The isolated mansion makes it difficult for Lorei to contact her dying mother, the only person who knows the identity of Lorei’s real father. As the novel progresses, Lorei learns that the creepy visions she’s experiencing are flash-forwards of her own future life in the mansion. As she discovers, the man in the fedora has a sinister purpose–as the devil, he has claimed Faulkner’s soul but will relinquish it in exchange for Lorei’s–as it turns out, she is his daughter, and he’s been out to possess her for years. Now desperate, the devil is pulling out all his cards. To beat him, Lorei will have to fight her growing lust for Faulkner, ignore her love for her mother, stifle her fear of the mansion and that which is hidden in the walls, and abandon her dreams of becoming an author. If she can only accomplish those things, perhaps she can escape the devil’s grasp and avoid becoming the tormented old woman in her visions…
The Writing Life Interview
Describe your writing environment.
If my work area is too neat, I go a little crazy. I have to have a bit of a mess scattered about—usually scraps of paper that contain ideas I jotted down at work or in the car or at a restaurant. I’m also a bit obsessive about pens. I usually write my first drafts by hand, and I’m particular about finding a pen that flows just right, with just the right amount of weight. Fine tip pens drive me nuts, but wide tips bleed all over the place—I have to find just the right balance. If I’m in the zone, I can work in total silence, but I usually start out with instrumental music or background noise (like rainwater or a chirping cricket soundtrack). On good days, when the track runs out, I don’t even realize I’m sitting in silence because I’m that absorbed in my work.
What do you find the easiest to write; the beginning, middle or end? Why?
The middle is the easiest for me to write. I know where I’ve started, I know where I’m headed, and I’m motivated to continue. I never know exactly how I’ll reach the end, but I know where I’ll end up. Once I reach a certain point, the mystery is gone: I see the ending, I see how I’ll reach the ending, and there’s no mystery keeping me motivated to write. Writing the endings—once I have them fully planned—is the hardest part of the process for me.
Do you outline first or take an idea and run blindly?
I always have some type of outline. I can’t quite write unless I have a semblance of an ending in my head. I don’t always know how I’ll get there, so I just start. Sometimes I scrap my start. Sometimes I revise it. In any case, I always reach a point where I can see how my beginning links up to my conclusion, and then I type an outline like mad while the idea is still held in the cache of my mind—before my brain decides to purge everything!
Do you have a specific writing routine?
I wake up at 4:45 a.m. After making lunch (to take to work) for me and my husband, I spend a solid hour or two writing/editing. I do this so that my writing gets me when I’m fresh, not when I’ve been tired out by a long day at work.
Where do your ideas come from?
Most of my ideas come from dreams of one sort or another. (The exception was my Corgi Capers series, a mystery series for kids ages 7 – 12. This idea came from my discussions with kids in the neighborhood as I walked my dogs.) Faulkner’s Apprentice, however, resulted from a nightmare in which I confronted a “bad man,” who turned out to be a major player in the novel. I seem to be preternaturally creative in the early hours of the morning, but my brain is partly in a dream state, so my creativity has a nightmarish quality. There have been nights when I awoke from a disturbing dream and could not fall back to sleep until the sun rose.
That explains the man in the fedora! Thanks for being here, Val!
Thanks for hosting me!
But when she looked up to greet the last customer in line, Lorei’s confidence shattered. The color on her cheeks drained with her adrenaline. It was a man in a worn, brown fedora and a weathered trench coat: it was the same man who had been creeping near her backyard.
This time, he was close enough for her to examine his face. The face was so gruesome that the man’s gaze terrified her, yet it was so horribly captivating that she could not look away. The face was wrinkled, leathery, and gaunt. Pouches of flesh sagged under his eyes, and when he smiled at her, the flabby flesh stretched tight against his lips. His gnarled and knobby nose reminded Lorei of a haunted old tree that grew outside her childhood bedroom window; it housed a spooky old owl that used to keep her awake with its ghostly hooting. He looked more like a scarecrow than a man. Lorei shuddered as the strange man stepped up to the table and cleared his throat. Other customers mingled around the store, each one clutching his newly-signed book like a precious treasure. They who had been so adamant to see her a moment ago seemed to have forgotten her existence. She was left horribly alone and had no choice but to confront the man with her gaze.
His countenance held all the properties of childhood nightmares—unexplainable and visceral and terribly real. His skin was weathered like the aging autumn; gnarled and twisted, it seemed to protest its own age. His bottom lip was swollen and split on one side with scarred-over stitches holding it together. Above the opposite eyebrow was a wide and leathery scar. Shadowed by a heavy brow sunk two piercing eyes, coal-black. The gaze that blazed from them pierced Lorei with shrillest of winter winds and yet burned through her core like fire.
“I—” was all she could mutter. She sat paralyzed. The man held no book for her to sign and said nothing. His hands he kept in his coat pockets, his gaze penetrating all the while. He seemed comfortable enough standing in silence.
Lorei looked again for the manager, but Diane stood absorbed in conversation on the other side of the store. Like the customers, she was oblivious to Lorei’s situation. Lorei and the stranger were enclosed in their own private sphere of existence. Even if she screamed, she knew that no one would hear. No one would look. There was something intangible that separated her from the rest of humanity just then.
She closed her eyes, hoping that it was all just her imagination. But when she opened them again, the man was still there. He had removed his hands from his pockets, and they were fondling the inside cover of Faulkner’s newest book. He ran his finger up and down the dust jacket, tracing the contours of Faulkner’s headshot. “Something sad about his face, don’t you think?” the man asked. His voice was at once wispy and gruff enough to match his appearance. It had the qualities of a lonely fall breeze rustling through the last of the dried leaves that were nature’s only stronghold against the death of winter.
4 Happy Stars
What would you be willing to do in order to achieve your dreams? How far would you go to protect someone you love? These questions are at the core of this wonderfully creepy story. We have a house that might or might not be haunted; Faulkner, a reclusive writer whose inspiration comes from dark places; and Lorelei, a young woman who desperately wants to explore that darkness. Their meeting is orchestrated by a mysterious man in a fedora, whose influence goes deeper than Lorelei could ever imagine.
I thought Faulkner and the man in the fedora were well developed and intriguing characters. Lorelei sometimes felt a little shallow to me, and her behavior was inconsistent. She accepted some extreme oddities in the house without much curiosity or exploration, and other times she reacted strongly to something that should have already been obvious to her. Despite this, the story definitely held my interest and kept me hooked until the end.
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
Winner may choose between print and eBook if located in the US. Winner will receive an eBook if international.
Enter using the Rafflecopter form below:
Faulkner’s Apprentice by Val Muller Tour Schedule:
- April 29th – Laurie @ Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews (Character Interview)
- April 30th – Sabrina @ Sabrina’s Paranormal Palace (Book Review/Guest Post)
- May 1st – Selah @ Come Selahway with Me (Interview)
- May 1st – Jaidis @ Juniper Grove (Spotlight)
- May 2nd – Nikki B. @ Storm Goddess Book Reviews & More (Book Review)
- May 2nd – S.H. Roddey @ A Haunted Head (Interview)
- May 3rd – Flora @ From the Bootheel Cotton Patch (Spotlight)
- May 3rd – Jessica @ The Writers Side of The Looking Glass (Book Review)
- May 6th – Darcia @ A Word Please (Book Review/Interview)
- May 6th – Elora, Marie & Layna @ Lunar Haven Reviews and Designs (Book Review)
- May 7th – Lisa & Sarah @ Girls with Books (Book Review/Interview)
- May 7th – Delphina @ Delphina Reads Too Much (Spotlight)
- May 8th – Sabrina N. @ The Book Town (Book Review/Interview)
- May 8th – E.M. @ The Reader’s Hollow (Interview)
- May 9th – Bianca @ Bianca2b (Interview)
- May 9th – Holly @ Full Moon Bites (Interview)
- May 10th – Ashton @ Everything of Horror (Book Review)
- May 10th – Daniel @ Parenting 2.0 The Child’s Perspective (Spotlight)
- May 10th – Darlyn @ Darlyn & Books! (Book Review)
Thanks for reading.