Vampire Review is very please to have Author Cara Marsi (pictured, right) visit today. She's participating in this interview as part of her larger blog tour. While her book is not horrifyingly dark, it does have some darker elements to it and the book was well-written enough so I thought it was worth telling my readers and subscribers about it.
Tami: In a fang or nutshell, who is your targeted reading audience?
Cara: Romance readers who want some suspense and mystery and like to go to the dark side.
Tami: If you had only five words to describe your book, what would those words be?
Cara: Love triumphing over great evil.
Tami: How did you pick Nicholas' age at 500 years? (Why not 300 or 700 years?)
Cara: I wanted him to be from Medieval times, but wasn't sure which period. A friend suggested the time of Henry VIII. When I was researching that period, I found something very interesting: Letters were discovered some years ago that proved Pope Clement VII had a spy in Henry's court. That intrigued me. I wanted Nicholas to be that spy. I was also intrigued by Cardinal Wolsey, who'd been Lord Chancellor for Henry, but fell out of favor and was eventually murdered by Henry. I originally had an 8-page prologue where Cardinal Wolsey warns Nicholas that Henry suspects he's spying for the pope. The Cardinal also tells him to be wary of Earl Montague, Nicholas' political rival, who is out to curry favor with the king by killing Nicholas. That set the stage for why Montague curses Nicholas. I loved that prologue, but contest judges and my critique partners said it was too long. The final version is only a half page and shows the witch Antica trying to save Nicholas. I tried to weave bits of information from the prologue into the story.
Tami:Which of your characters in Cursed Mates did you relate to the most and why?
Cara: Nicholas. I always relate to my heroes. Nicholas had a horrific curse put on him, but he's tried to stay as human as he could through the centuries. He's tortured, yet he's made the most of his immortality.
Tami:Your website's backdrop shows you as standing at Stone Henge. Did the physical experience of going there inspire your book in any way? (If so, how)
Cara: I've always been interested in mysticism and I believe there are some places on this Earth where spirits gather. From the first time I saw a TV show about Stonehenge, I knew I had to see it. I expected to feel something spiritual there, but I didn't. It's a fascinating place, but I didn't feel the spirits of the Druids or others as I'd thought. I've been to other places where I've definitely felt spirits. What inspired me the most to write this book was the movie, "Men in Black," even though "Cursed Mates," unlike the movie, is very dark. I love the concept of ordinary people going about their business while all around are covert groups dedicated to fighting the Otherworldlys who walk among us.
Tami: Your story takes place in Maine. How did you choose that setting and what, if any, personal experience do you have with that state in the New England region of the northeastern
Cara:I live on the East Coast and have been up and down the Coast numerous times. My family and I took a vacation to Maine some years back and I fell in love with the place. It's so beautiful, with its rocky, dark coast. Maine lends itself to mystery and the supernatural. After all, Stephen King lives there. When I saw Maine's beauty and wildness, I knew I had to set a story there.
Tami: You have written short stories in the past. Did you find it much more difficult writing the full-length book? (i.e., was your writing process different when creating a short story verses a novel?)
Cara:I wrote four novels before trying my hand at writing a short story. I sold the very first short story I wrote to New Love Stories Magazine. Then I discovered the Trues and I've sold nine stories to them. The process of writing short stories versus novels isn't that different. In each you need protagonists, a good plot, conflict and resolution. Only with a short story or novella, you have no subplots and secondary characters are kept to a minimum. I love short story writing. I also love the almost instant gratification of finishing a short story. I've published one novella recently and have just finished another one.
Tami:Because most of my subscribers and readers tend to lean toward enjoying horror/vampire genre possibly more than romance, what would you say is the most frightening aspect of Cursed Mates?
Cara:I think the demon Montague was the most frightening because he took his orders from hell and he's been waiting a long time to exact revenge on Nicholas. I had fun writing him because villains are always fun to write, but at times Montague even scared me. He was pure evil, yet I tried to imbue him with a touch of humanity in the way he'd loved Nicholas' wife in 1529. After I completed "Cursed Mates" I started another dark paranormal, but put it aside for a while and wrote a sweet novella. I'd been immersed so long in the darkness with demons and witches and werewolves that I needed to go into the light.
Tami: When it comes to writing under a pen name - what made you choose one, and what are the advantages of writing with a pen name?
Cara:My very first published book was written under my real name, Carolyn Matkowsky. I think Matkowsky is easy to spell and pronounce, but readers had a problem with it. I decided to go with a shorter, easier name. But the name had to reflect my Italian heritage.(Matkowsky is my married name). Hence, Cara, which is a shortened version of Carolyn, and Marsi, which is the name of an important ancient tribe in the Abruzzo region of Italy where my grandparents were raised. I like having a pen name. I can separate the two parts of my life. Carolyn is the private me and Cara is the writer.
Thank you for having me, Tami.
Tami: It's been a real pleasure working with you to create this interview, Cara. Thank you, very much, for agreeing to be here.
MY REVIEW of Cara's book: Cursed Mates
WHO WILL LIKE THIS BOOK? Anyone whose into highly idealized and charming romantic scenarios. Note to Vampire Review Fans - this is not a true horror tale. Don't let the fact that I'm writing a review mislead you.
"Cursed Mates" is very much an idealized love-story. It begins with Nicholas Radford, aka "Nick," a 500 year old werewolf who suffers terribly from "everlasting loneliness." That's it though. He doesn't have the stereotypical werewolf's guilty conscious for having killed people because Nick hasn't hurt so much as a flea.
Soon as Kyla, werewolf-hunter shows up on the scene, at his mansion on the hill-top, she instantly has flash-backs of her previous lifetime but it takes a while for her full story to unfold. Before that happens, she's more than ready to shed her clothes and be ravished by the pretty-faced 500-year-old under the assumtion that he's fully human.
Since neither of the above two mentioned individuals had many scars or regrets, neither of them were my favorite character. I felt the most connected to the old hag, named Antica, who lives a life of servitude with Nick and tries to save him from the werewolf curse. She's not the old-fashioned green witch from old fables that I idolize, because Antica lacks facial warts and seems much less powerful when she must rely upon her religion to formulate hexes and cures. Meanwhile, Antica knows suffering and she loves Nick like a devoted mom or twin-soul and she'd travel to the ends of the earth to save him. Here's an excerpt to that effect:
"She lay over him and closed her eyes. "I beg you, mighty powers, keep my master from death, and show me the way to undo the Demon's curse."
Other than having lived a very long life, Nick seems rather privileged, not at all like I tend to think of shape-shifters because he's not a predator. Then again, in spite of Kyla's stellar reputation for hunting werewolves, she doesn't seem to be at the top of her game either, not when she's constantly being pulled away by psychic visions and becomes mentally detached from her body even while standing inches from an unfamiliar werewolf. That admission aside, she does prove her worth later - when faced with a much darker wolf who gets his instructions from Hell. (For me, the plot got better soon as the reader was introduced to the more traditional sort of dangerous werewolf.)
When I first started reading, I didn't understand why Nick is just now beginning to struggle with the wolf inside of him - 5 centuries after being bitten. Beyond that, his physical beauty could be suitable for a demigod, which means, if had been a vampire? He'd probably have sparkles. Meanwhile, any readers who are attracted to pretty-pampered rich boys (I know that's what appeals to some of you) will really find this romance novel most favorable to read. In truth, Nick did go up a few notches on my "likability" scale after he proved unafraid to stand up to the demonic sort (much darker) werewolves who stole his "woman" and threatened to mate with her for life. That's when Nick proved willing to fight to the death.
Meanwhile, its Antica, who remains the real hero (in my mind). She was always watching over the two main characters so they could do their important work. Without Antica's magical intervention, neither hero nor heroine would ever have achieved the goals they set out to achieve.
IF YOU'RE NOT INTO ROMANCE AVOID THIS BOOK. That's because soon as "girl meets boy" they start kissing. I mean it. There really isn't a lot of foreplay before folks start going at it. Then again, I very seldom read erotica, so consider the source of that observation. I felt this book had enough of a compelling story behind the scenes, with Montauge, the evil werewolf, that I kept reading.