Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
A.F.L: Hi there, my pen name is A.F. Lamonte, and I’m 30.
Fiona: Where are you from?
A.F.L: Spokane, Washington State USA, born and raised.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
A.F.L: I went to Washington State University where I studied history, English lit, art, and creative writing. I married my college sweetie in 2007 and we have four cats and three daughters.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
A.F.L: Currently taking a short hiatus from writing because I gave birth to my twin baby girls this past April. But I’m hoping to start finalizing my first book, The Writer’s Ghost, so it can come out in paperback. (An unedited copy is available on Kindle now) and start the second book of the Eidolon series.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
A.F.L: I received a writer’s kit for Christmas when I was five, the same Christmas I received an unfinished wooden Folk-Victorian-style dollhouse. It was my first Christmas without my grandfather, who I called Papa, and that unfinished dollhouse had been from him, but sadly he died before he could complete it. So the dollhouse remained unpainted, stairless, and with window holes where little plastic windowpanes were supposed to be installed.
I loved reading, even back then. My headboard for my bed was a bookshelf! And my favorite place was the library. Receiving the writer’s kit was a treasure. I’d so badly wanted to create my own stories and often used notebooks and printer paper without asking. The kit came with three little paper books, a pen, a pencil, three markers (red, yellow, and blue) and a bunch of feathers, I suppose to decorate the cover with. I still remember my first story I wrote right after getting that gift. It was called The Fox and the Sheep and was about a fox and sheep who became unlikely friends when the sheep taught the fox to eat vegetables instead of sheep. (I guess that was the beginning of my vegetarianism as well!)
After I used up the writer’s kit books, that dollhouse became the setting of many stories that would play out, and that continued for many years until my dog broke the dollhouse.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A.F.L:When I started taking courses in the subject, that was when I knew I was serious about it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A.F.L: I developed a love of ghost stories when I was about eight or nine, when I picked up the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy by Alvin Schwartz and Haunted America by Michael Norman and Beth Scott, and these combined with the love of historical fiction when I discovered the American Girls series and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. From then on, I wrote historical paranormal fiction.
At seventeen, I created my beloved character, Lucian Cole, a Progressive-Era ghost who was born in 1899 and died in 1917. Being a huge fan of Mickey Mouse, I often refer to Lucian as my Mickey, (or my Dormouse), as he is to me what Mickey Mouse was to Walt Disney. He’s the character who started it all. He came into my life when I needed him the most. I grew up in a difficult situation, with my mom and adoptive dad (he legally adopted me when my mom married him) at their absolute worst. They’re recovered now, but back then, they struggled with alcoholism and were abusive both physically and verbally toward me. That same year, I lost my beloved cat and went through a very painful breakup from my first serious relationship with a guy I foolishly thought I’d be with forever. Lucian was created out of a need for affection and positive attention. I was also pretty lonely at school and didn’t have very many friends I hung out with, mainly because I was afraid to make friends. Making friends required inviting them to my house (which honestly should have been condemned in its moldycondition), and I didn’t want them meeting my folks. Writing and making these characters allowed me to basically create my own friends who would always be nice to me (as pitiful as that sounds) because I felt so alone.
In 2008, just a year after I married my husband, I got sick with an auto-immune disease that nearly killed me. Being that close to death, I realized I’d done nothing with my life that I had wanted to do. I decided then and there that I wanted to share Lucian with others.He had helped me when I was seventeen just by being the object of my attention, distracting me from loneliness, so I thought maybe someone else might see him as a friend. Of course, he’s not exactly Casper the Friendly Ghost, but at times he can be, and he always knows the right things to say to the second protagonist, Millie Wrinkler, when she feels down and out.
It took me a few more years to perfect his story, and after accidentally losing the story seven times due to computer crashes, various moves, and accidental file deletes, I finished it in March 2017, ironically on the nineteenth of March, which was exactly 100 years after Lucian’s death in the book.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
A.F.L: It titled itself, really. The original title was called Eidolon, but I realized the book was way too long and I could divide it up into four books. I called the series Eidolon, and came up with the title, The Writer’s Ghost, as the first thing that came to mind. The second book of the series is The Window People, the third is The Awakening (working title) and the fourth is The Medium (also a working title).
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
A.F.L: I favor third-person, because when I try first person, it tends to sound like a diary. In The Writer’s Ghost, I actually combined first and third person, as Lucian is a writer and has first person POV segments that “he” has written in between chapters.His writing, by the way, is totally better than mine. Even though I wrote it, it was almost like I got into a different mindset in order to write the bits that “he” was supposed to have written.
Most challenging about my particular book is trying to write everything going on in my mind down on paper. It’s like writing what’s going on in a movie, scene by scene, and what I’m envisioning is much scarier than what I feel I can put on the page. Like how a joke loses it’shumor when explained, a frightening scene loses it’sterror when explained. I find the “jump scares” especially difficult. I try my best to help the reader visualize what’s happening in the story, but in the end, it just isn’t going to be as terrifying as it would be on screen.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A.F.L: Lucian is a combination of everything I found attractive in a guy, plus physical and personality traits from a couple guys I knew. The second protagonist in the series, the girl named Millie Wrinkler, is an exaggerated version of me at seventeen.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
A.F.L: I’ve never been to New York even though that’s where the series is set. I looked up old photos of upstate New York and New York City, but I found it easiest to just make up a town in Upstate New York, that way I could describe it however I wanted. The setting of the book, in the fictional town of Lacey, New York, is a combination of Spokane, Washington State, and Port Townsend, Washington State, both places I’ve lived that are rich in history and old buildings still standing from Lucian’s time period. My great-great-great grandfather and his adult sons came to Spokane from Germany in 1889 and they built some of the old buildings in Spokane, such as Riverfront Park’s clock tower (once part of the since-demolished GN Depot). Some of these buildings make an appearance in the book, and many Port Townsend landmarks do as well. Readers familiar with Spokane and Port Townsend would recognize them, and the setting might inspire others to travel to these places to visit. I recommend Port Townsend especially. You lose a sense of who, and when, you are. Standing on the sidewalk on Water Street surrounded by 120-year-old homes and buildings, especially early in the morning when the sun is just rising over the water, gives off a haunting, surreal feeling, at least for me. It’s like walking back through time. Some places in Spokane are like this as well. A few neighborhoods, such as Browne’s Addition and Peaceful Valley, are filled with old homes. Peaceful Valley has my family’s 1890s manor house still standing (It’s no longer in the family name) and is such an example of one of the dozens of old homes that can really make a visitor feel like they are way back when again.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
A.F.L: I designed the cover myself, using the cover creating website, Canva.com. But I do want to give credit to a couple of myFacebook writing groups; Writer’s Retreat and Fiction Writing. Their members gave me some helpful cover critique to improve its appearance.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A.F.L: Not necessarily. The tagline of the book is “Everyone has an expiration date” and a recurring theme in the series is about letting go. Lucian has things to let go of, Millie has things to let go of. Each tries to rescue each other from loneliness and past baggage but he’s fire and she’s gasoline, and there’s a potential matchstick between them threatening to cause a huge explosion. But I didn’t write this with the intent of spreading a message. This was primarily written for entertainment.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
A.F.L: I like Jennifer Donnelly’s books, but I favor the classics. The Bronte sisters, H.P. Lovecraft, Poe, and M.R. James horror writing inspired my writing. I also drew inspiration for a few scenes in the book series from Stephen King’s The Shining, Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, and the movie Meet Me in St. Louis. Odd combination, I’m sure, but there it is.
I have many writers I enjoy but can’t put my finger on an absolute favorite. I like Poe’s and James’ voices, I like Lovecraft’s way with words, I like Dreiser’s scene descriptions and “overdetailing,” and I like how Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights vividly describes setting right down to the weather. I prefer slow-paced reads that really put me in the scene. In my opinion many books are too fast-paced now. I like being put in the story right down to the scenery. “Overdetail” doesn’t bother me most of the time as a reader. Sure I can picture a gloomy house in my own mind but if you tell me that gloomy house has blood-red wallpaper and charcoal-black wooden floors, those might be unnecessary details that do nothing for the story but those are details I now don’t have to fill in myself and I can actually be there in that very room with those characters.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
A.F.L: I actually didn’t have much support with my writing. I was told all the time that I was wasting my time and should do something more productive. I did have a third grade teacher who told me I was a great writer with a vivid imagination and if I wanted to be an author, I could. She said that was why I daydreamed in class. I appreciated she said that about me because many just thought I daydreamed because I was dumb or didn’t care about learning. Apparently, I was wired to be an artist from day one. Can’t do math to save my life but the pen is my magic wand.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
A.F.L: For me it is because, due to my auto-immune disease which I still have, I can’t work. I’m a butterfly net when it comes to seasonal illnesses and with TTP (the auto-immune disease I have) I get sicker than most and I have to be careful because even the common cold could cause a flare-up relapse of TTP which could land me in the hospital with failing kidneys again. I’m privileged that my husband’s job allows me to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. With this blessing, I can write as much as time allows and I can submit things for extra pocket money. My book doesn’t sell much, mainly because I haven’t done much marketing for it yet, but I get thirty-five cents a book. It’s not much, but it’s a quarter and a dime richer than I was the day before.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
A.F.L: I’d hire a professional editor. I have had to do all the editing myself, and just like with a romance, love is blind. Love of my own story and character makes it so I don’t easily see flaws in my writing. Beyond the obvious spelling and grammar mistakes I have caught and corrected, I’m sure there are ways I could have improved the book that an unbiased eye might have seen.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
A.F.L: I learned how to take criticism a little better and use it to improve instead of let my feelings get hurt by it.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
A.F.L: Funny story about that one. In 2005, I drew a picture of Lucian for the first time. In 2013, I had completely given up on The Writer’s Ghost, and it had been accidentally deleted from my computer, so I didn’t have a physical copy of it anymore. My husband and I were about to watch a movie called Ender’s Game and I thought it would be a great way to get my mind off of my failed writing. I went into the kitchen to get some popcorn. When I came back, I saw the lead actor in this movie, Asa Butterfield who plays Ender, on the screen, and I actually tripped over my daughter’s playpen I was stepping over to get to the living room, fumbled the entire bowl of popcorn from my hands, and I ran into my bedroom,where my husband found me weeping into a laundry basket full of clean socks I had yet to put away. The reason for this reaction? Asa looks, sounds, and even behaves like Lucian. He looks identical to the picture I drew in 2005, and I didn’t base Lucian on him at all because he wasn’t even an actor at the time I drew the picture. They even have many of the same facial moles in the exact same places. Seeing this actor’s face was like seeing Lucian alive, and it made me realize how much I missed Lucian and my story, so the very next day, I re-wrote the entire thing, and that’s the copy I have managed to keep and perfect. I’d say it’s better than the copy I had lost.
So, Asa Butterfield would play Lucian. No one else could do it. I never thought I’d see a living, breathing person who looks like Lucian, not to mention a living, breathing person whose job it is to play characters. It would have to be him and that would be non-negotiable if I ever did luck out and manage to get The Writer’s Ghost made into a movie.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
A.F.L: As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.” In this case, though, just keep writing. Practice makes perfect. Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. Someone out there wants your book, even if it’s just one person, even if it’s just YOU. All writers are just regular Joes and Janes who decided to go public with stories we wrote in our heads. Everyone has a story to tell, as my blog post motto says. So, tell yours.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
A.F.L: The other books in the series will have better writing and editing. The first book is not fully edited, but the printed copy will be. Having my book circulating the Web in its current, mistake-filled Kindle edition feels like I’m standing in the front yard with the wind blowing my skirt up for all to see, but hopefully you can look past any writing goofs and see the story for what it is. I hope you adore Lucian as much as I do.
Also, this will be the slowest-written series in history. Please bear with me. It took me a couple days just to do this interview because babies and sleep deprivation. I also struggle with anxiety and depression/postpartum and I’m not the healthiest person around. Maybe when my twins get a little older and when my oldest kiddo is back in school after summer break, I can get the writing going a bit faster.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A.F.L: The Long Long Trail by Cythia Harrod-Eagle. I’m on Chapter 7 right now. It’s pretty good.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
A.F.L: I don’t, but I remember my favorite books as a kid, and those were already mentioned as my answer to an earlier question.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A.F.L: Brian Regan is in my opinion the best comedian I have ever seen. He’s the only stand-up to make me laugh until I cried.
My kids and my cats are always good for a laugh, but touching moments or the thought of ever losing them can bring on the waterworks.
Oh, and it’s perfectly acceptable to cry over spilled coffee if that’s your last cup and you’re a sleep deprived Mama who needs a cup of it just to walk down the stairs first thing in the morning. And spilled breastmilk is okay to cry over as well. No judgments here.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
A.F.L: No one famous, but I’d love to see my grandpa: the one who built me my dollhouse I mentioned in an earlier answer. Though we did technically “meet”,he died when I was five, so I didn’t get to know him as much as know of him. I was his Little Wicket, or so he called me, apparently. And his “Pride and Joy.” All my older cousins got to spend more time with him than I did, and I never felt it was fair. I felt robbed. The only things I can truly remember, albeit vaguely, are when he would ride his lawnmower around the yard, even when the lawn didn’t need to be mowed, he just liked his mower that much, or when he would play on his Nintendo (Yes, he had a Nintendo and loved the Duck Hunt game) or when he would dress in his Halloween gorilla suit and hide around the corner waiting to jump out at unsuspecting family members. Occasionally I can recall him feeding grapes to me at the grocery store when my grandma’s back was turned and when he would play German music and I’d ride a rocking horse to it. But those are bits and pieces, and that’s about it.The time we spent together was time he was dealing with pancreatic cancer, so he was sick. Over the years, I’ve only gotten to spend time with him through other people’s bittersweet memories of him, listening to, “Remember when Uncle Max used to let us stand on his feet and dance us around?” or “Remember when Pap ran over Mam’s pear tree with the lawnmower?” For me it was like I was listening to an inside joke and I just felt a bit left out. All I have of him is his striped mouse that he used to cuddle with on the davenport while he was suffering the aches and pains and agony of his cancer.That’s a cherished relic of a man I never fully knew but wish I could have. And at least I know the type of person he was through advice that he told his kids and grandkids: “Never start a fight and throw the first punch, but when one is started with you, you better finish it.” (He was a boxer as a young man). I am thankful and blessed for the years I get to spend with my grandma, though. She’s still with us, at 90, and she is “my person” and always will be.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
A.F.L: Aside from writing, I like to read, draw, decorate, cook/bake, and garden. I don’t have much free time now as a mom of three youngsters and keeping up with house chores. Any free time I have goes straight to writing or reading.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
A.F.L: I enjoy most things as long as it’s not a gore-fest or one where a bunch of animals are dying or being mistreated. My favorite shows are Downton Abbey, Penny Dreadful, Meet Me in St. Louis, Mary Poppins, The Three Stooges, and old Mickey Mouse cartoons.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
A.F.L: Favorite foods: Mashed potatoes. Color: Blue. Music: I like the really old oldies best, but I listen to most everything.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
A.F.L: I want to run a cat boarding house and rescue. I’m sure this generates laughter with anyone reading this answer, but I’m totally serious. I’m sure I’m destined to be a crazy cat lady buttruly, my husband and I talked of doing this in our older years when the kids are grown and gone and he is retired. I plan to call it Mugsy’s Place or Mugsy’s Inn, named Mugsy after my childhood cat I lost when I was seventeen. His name was Magheera (named after Bagheera from the Disney Jungle Book movie. I just couldn’t pronounce Bagheera when I was four and named him).
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
A.F.L: I’d just hang out with my husband and kids and cuddling my cats, doing nothing but watching Netflix together. I don’t necessarily need to go anywhere or do anything. My world is them. Wherever they are, I’m happiest.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
A.F.L: The writer is already disturbed. Please come in!
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
A.F.L: My blog is Ramblings of a History Geek: https://lamonte402thehistorygeek.wordpress.com/about/ .
I can also be followed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aflamonte/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/aflamonte
thanks for the interview!
Armen Pogharian said:
You poured a lot into Lucian, I wish you the best of luck bringing him to paperback.