I’m excited to introduce you to author D. L. Marriott. I recently
completed reading her novel Souljourner and thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend you get a copy.
Let me tell you a little bit about D. L. Marriott affectionately known as
Although she loved the art of storytelling since very young, D.L. Marriott, didn't start writing professionally until five years ago. In early 2010, she had her first publishing success when her essay, Borrowingwas published in the Sun Magazine. A Bo Carter winner, her
stories, essays, and poetry have since appeared in several publications.
In late 2010, she took part in a project with Chapter One in which 32 authors came together to write a novel in one month for charity. Since then she has published two e-books, Finding Hope and Finding Life, a novella, Christmas Carole, and a novel, Souljourner.
Now please join me as I interview D. L. Marriott. Let’s get to know her a little better.
Michele: Your first novel, Souljourner, is different from most mysteries and is different from your other works. You even told me you hadn’t thought of this novel as a mystery when you were nominated for the 2013 Lovey Award for Best First Novel. If not a mystery, how would you categorize it?
Dody: That is the million-dollar question. I placed it in the category of thriller, since
there is a series of events and clues that eventually lead to a discovery, but it certainly has a taste of many different genres. There are bits of romance, chick lit, historical fiction, as well as supernatural components.
Michele: What was your inspiration for this novel? A person, place, an event? How did you
Dody: It started on a warm autumn day. My husband and I drove past a cemetery, it's one we've driven past often and the one featured on the cover of the book. On this particular day, I had the car window open and I started scanning the names on the headstones as we passed by.
As I read each name, I wondered - Who are they? What are their stories? I remember thinking that since it was such a lovely day, when we got home, I'd take a walk. I wondered if anyone would think I was strange if I took my walk through a cemetery to read the headstones. From there my imagination took over.
I thought to myself, wouldn't it be neat if a person could touch a headstone, and get to know a little bit about the person buried there? It only took a moment before I realized that although I couldn't do that, I could create a character that had that ability. When we finally did get home, I abandoned the walk and started writing.
Michele: How did you develop your characters and their motives in your story?
Dody: The easiest for me to write were the historical characters. Even though I did a fair amount of research to make sure the details were accurate, their voices flowed easily. The first one I wrote was the Civil War soldier. I was getting ready for work one morning and my husband was watching a program on television about the Civil War. I only overheard a tiny bit about how there were piles of amputated limbs just lying around at the field hospitals. I thought how horrifying it must have been for a soldier being carried in to see that, knowing his arm or leg would be joining the pile. I immediately sat down and wrote the entire sequence of Reginald being taken to the field hospital and facing his own amputation. I wrote it in first person without thought, and later decided to keep the “souljourns” in first person, even though the rest of the book is in third person. I felt like it pulled the reader into their lives just like it pulled in Kate.
As for the modern day characters, Elizabeth came easily and so did Kate's friends. In fact, I kept writing Elizabeth in, without knowing who she was, or why she was there. She was just the creepy old cat lady who lived downstairs. I was surprised when I finally figured out just who she was.
The same with John's role. At first, he was just the cute boyfriend for Kate and Angie to fight over, but he developed into a more important role.
The hardest for me was Kate herself. She was the only one I actually had to think about and plan out a bit, and I feel the least confident about. Since the idea was really centered on the souljourns themselves, I needed to find a reason for her to discover them. At first everything was going a little too easy for Kate, so although I originally had her with supportive
parents, I decided I needed more conflict, and rewrote her mother to be
I generally don't plan my characters out too much. I will jot down some notes with my general impression of their personality, physical description – but even that can change as I write the story. My characters tell me who they are as we go along.
In my latest book Christmas Carole it was my intention for Charles Dickens to make a cameo appearance. Just like the real person, my Charles wasn’t content to play a minor role, and he stole the spotlight. Who am I to argue with such a prestigious author?
Michele: If you could be any of the characters in your novel, who would you be and why?
Dody: This is funny because while contemplating this question, I made a discovery.
My first thought was Kate's friend, Janice. She is comfortable with who she is. She has a strong personality, and a great sense of humor. She knows she's a bit different and wacky and fully embraces that. She's not worried about fitting in, or what others think of her. She's confident but kind. Even when she doubts Kate, she does it out of concern and friendship.
Then I thought about John's Aunt Jane. She is also a step out of sync with everyone else, but is also very self-confident. As it turns out, (I honestly didn't realize this until just now.) they are the same person, at different ages. Both quirky, both strong and confident in whom they are. Even physically, they're similar. Janet with brightly painted nails and a matching
color stripe in her hair, and Jane with her funky bright blue cats eye glasses. I even gave them similar names, Jane and Janice. That was completely unintentional.
Michele: Are there any books or authors that have inspired you in your writing?
Dody: I think every book a writer reads inspires them in one way or another, even if
it's to inspire them not to make the same mistakes. The authors that top my list though are J.K. Rowling. Her books brought both adults and children together, and drew me in to the point where I never once questioned the reality that one could wave a magic wand, or that a child could save the world. Her own personal story is inspirational as well.
Stephen King is another writer who has inspired me with his emotion inducing stories, not just the horror, but stories like The Body a coming of age story. I also love his book On Writing, which I think is the best book out there on the craft of writing.
Another author who has inspired me enough to feature him as a character is Charles Dickens. His stories are always colorful, sometimes heartbreaking, and a vehicle to educate the public on a cause that was important to Dickens. His own story is also a story of determination. He came from adversity and set his mind to do whatever it took to follow his
My biggest influences though, are other local authors. They were the catalyst that pushed me from just writing for myself to putting my writing out there for others. They're people I take writing class with, people I chat with at the local coffee shop, people I meet at events. They are regular, everyday people, like me. If they can do it, so can I.
Michele: As I mentioned before, you have other published works that cross genres. Is it difficult for you to create these varying styles?
Dody: When I first started writing, I was stuck in one genre, which was very light romance,
none of which I have published – yet. I have always really enjoyed darker books, and admired how some writers could pull strong emotions from their readers. I had no idea how they were able to do that. I challenged myself to try and eventually wrote a short ghost story that was published in the Halloween edition of an online magazine. Once I broke through that barrier, crossing genres became easy and natural. So much so, that I have a hard time sticking to one. I find it so much more interesting to write all different types of stories. I also enjoy writing from the point of view of both male and female characters.
Michele: Many of the authors I’ve spoken with don’t necessarily enjoy reading the same type of novel they write. What types of stories do you enjoy reading in your leisure time?
Dody: I enjoy many different genres: horror, historical fiction, drama, romance, mystery, even young adult and fantasy/sci fi. Like my writing, it's not about the genre. I want a book that makes me think. A book that makes me laugh or cry out loud. One where I'm actually feeling physically nervous if I think something bad is going to happen. What hooks me is making me sympathetic to the main character. I like a book that pulls me in, and makes me believe. I also love an unexpected twist ending.
Michele: What type of novel are you looking forward to creating next?
Dody: I'm currently working on a more traditional thriller, as well as a non-fiction book. After that, I have pages of ideas including a historical romance, a children's book, and the third book in my Finding Hope series. Although I've done some short horror pieces, I'd love to see if I could write something novel length, but I'm not sure if I can hold that kind
of tension for that length of a story – yet. It's a challenge I'd love to try to meet though.
Michele: Writing is not an easy occupation. What is it about writing that makes you want to keep doing it?
Dody: I'm going to borrow a quote from Charles Dickens, since we've been joined at the hip lately. “I write, because I can't not.” It has become something I need to do. When life gets busy with work, family, marketing, etc. and I haven't had the time to do much writing, I find myself getting anxious and uneasy, even a little depressed. There’s a high I experience after I've sat down and done some writing. It's become a real addiction for me.
Since I don't outline my stories, there is also the discovery. Like the moment I had today when I realized Jane and Janice were, in essence, the same person. There are things even I haven't discovered yet in my stories.
There is something magical when you're just plodding along and suddenly one of your characters reveals him or herself and his or her motives to you. I think the reason the ending of Souljourner is a surprise to my readers is because it was a surprise to me as well. I was probably three quarters of the way through the book before it suddenly came to me.
I've often said, I'm just taking dictation for the voices in my head. That feels very true. There is some subconscious portion of my brain which does all the creative work. Luckily, it lets my conscious brain in on it from time to time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with D. L. Marriott. It’s always fun to get to know the authors who create the prose we love to read. If you want to learn more about Dody and how to purchase her works, please visit her website at http://dlmarriott.net .