I have a treat for you all today! I had the opportunity to put a few questions to the author of The Haunting of Alice May and Alfred Hitchcock expert, Tony Lee Moral.
First, here’s a bit about his book:
Blurb: Alice May Parker moves with her family to the sleepy town of Pacific Grove after her Mom dies, but little does she know the strange and terrifying events to come. When she falls into the bay during a kayaking trip, she is rescued from drowning by the mysterious Henry Raphael. Handsome, old fashioned and cordial, he is unlike any other boy she has known before. Intelligent and romantic, he sees straight into her soul. Soon Alice and Henry are swept up in a passionate and decidedly unorthodox romance until she finds out that Henry is not all what he seems. . .
Sounds spooky! So without further delay, I will hand you over to my earlier self and Tony Lee Moral for more details:
As a writer:
Do you have any writing quirks / odd writing habits?
I write often during the evenings or weekends. Actually I wrote an article on “Blue Sky Thinking” which you can read on my Ghost Maven website. I interviewed a psychologist who told me that creative thinking is best done in wide-open spaces which is where the phrase Blue Sky thinking originated. But if you want to be detailed and analytical, or if you have a looming deadline, confined spaces work best. As I lived in Pacific Grove and Monterey for two years, where my novel is set, I would visit and write scenes on location in note books so I could capture the sights, smells and vistas of Monterey Bay.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Travel is very important for my writing and I have been lucky enough to visit many places for my other profession as a documentary filmmaker. I have a passion for photography and love historic locations, and try to incorporate them in my fiction work. I’ve travelled a great deal in Italy, which is the source and inspiration for another murder mystery thriller that I am seeking to publish.
What do you most love and/or hate to write?
The great playwright and screenwriter Jay Presson Allen once said that writing is like a divorcement from life, which is very true as to be a dedicated writer you have to invest time in your craft. At the same time, I enjoy travelling and meeting people, so that has been a tremendous inspiration for my stories. Writers are natural psychologists and question the why of human behavior, so I find people and places intrinsically fascinating.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes I read my book reviews because it is useful to know what your readers like or dislike about your work. After all, I’m not writing stories for myself but for a wider audience. I try to take any criticism constructively and use it for writing the sequel or when doing rewrites.
As a reader:
What was your favourite book as a child?
I enjoyed The Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Three Investigators series of books, which are intriguing and carefully plotted mystery and suspense books, especially the early ones by Robert Arthur. I think The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot has to be my favourite because the clues are very well laid out and are a real brain teaser, with a satisfying ending and a suave villain.
With regards to THIS book:
You have written quite a lot about Alfred Hitchcock’s work; is he the inspiration that first drew you to the mystery/suspense genre?
Yes, Hitchcock was my intro to mystery and suspense. Hitchcock gave the audience more information than the character knew, which I use in my fiction writing. He said that you can’t expect an audience to have anxieties if they have nothing to be anxious about. For example, if there’s a bomb under the table that’s going to go off in five minutes, and the reader knows about it but the character in the book doesn’t, that’s five minutes worth of suspense.
What do you consider to be the key principles of Hitchcock’s writing/film-making, and how do you apply those to your own writing?
Hitchcock was the master of suspense, and he knew to sustain suspense by giving more information to the audience/reader than the character. He outlined the difference between mystery and suspense. Mystery is an intellectual process like a whodunit, whereas suspense is an emotional process. I use these principles in my novel. For example, when Alice goes to the Point Pinos lighthouse, the reader knows that something ominous is going to happen, but Alice doesn’t. As a result her trip to the lighthouse is very suspenseful. The suspense in the first third of the book, is what will happen when Alice finds out that Henry is a ghost? I lay clues for the reader so they are always thinking what is going to happen next.
What did you edit out of this book? Any behind the scenes peaks or bloopers?
I edited out sequences in the book which were redundant and didn’t move the story forward. Hitchcock caused these ‘no scenes’ as they slowed the plot. So scenes like Alice shopping in the farmer’s market had to go. As Hitchcock said, start with an earthquake followed by rising tension. I start The Haunting of Alice May with the heroine in deep water and facing her worst fears – fear of drowning. This immediately puts your central character in jeopardy and encapsulates the main theme in the book, which is fear of death and whether there is an afterlife. I would say the opening chapter is the hardest for an author to write, because that is what hooks your reader, not to mention agents and publishers.
Is there anything you would like new readers to know before they dive on into your book?
I lived in Monterey Bay for two years so I know the region incredibly well. I walked along the same coastal paths that Alice walked, and visited the Monterey Aquarium many times, as well as Point Pinos Lighthouse, Big Sur and Point Lobos. In fact, I lived in the very same house on Forest Avenue that Alice lives, a couple of blocks from Lovers Point, as well as worked in the Old Cannery on Cannery Row where Alice goes for the step back in time dance. I also delved into the supernatural history of the area. For example, I discovered that Point Pinos lighthouse is supposedly haunted, and I used that as a pivotal plot twist in the story.
Tony Lee Moral is an author specialising in mystery and suspense. He has written three books on the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass (2013) published by MWP books; The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds (2013) published by Kamera Books and Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie (2005) published by Scarecrow Press. Hitchcock was a master storyteller, using plot, character, location and props to tell engaging stories of mystery, suspense, crime and retribution.
Tony was born in Hastings, England in 1971, before moving to California. He lived in Monterey and Big Sur for two years which forms the inspiration for his latest thriller The Haunting of Alice May, which is published in March 2019 in Paperback and Kindle.
The Haunting of Alice May is available on Amazon right now and I will be back in August with my review!