08 September 2013

Guest Blog: Ginger Myrick

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Ginger Myrick, whose latest novel WORK OF ART is set in 19th century New York. The author will offer a free copy of To Work of Art to a lucky blog visitor - please leave your email address in the comments for a chance to win. Here's the blurb:

Work of Art is a Cinderella story with a violent twist set 139 years in the past. From the mean streets of Five Points to carriage rides in the park and lunch at Delmonico’s, it evokes all of the extravagance of the age along with the stark disparity between classes.

Every girl dreams of a handsome Prince Charming to whisk her away to a fairytale ending. For Del Ryan it seemed unlikely, but that’s exactly what happened.

In 1874, New York booms with prosperity and conspicuous consumption with a clear social divide between classes. Families have lost their men to the Civil War and do what they can to get by. Del Ryan, an intelligent and talented Irish immigrant, works as a lady’s maid for a society matron to support her invalid mother. Although plain and unassuming, she is an accomplished artist with the gift of clairvoyance. She meets Killian Arthur, a golden god from a privileged New York family. He is flawlessly handsome with impeccable manners and a penchant for bare-knuckle boxing. Fascinated by her, Killian transforms Del into a fine lady, the toast of her new class of friends.

But things are not always what they seem. Rough Jimmy Sheehan is from the same Irish community and has always thought of Del as his own. He has known Del her entire life and has a keen understanding of her plight. Hot-tempered and hard drinking, he is Killian’s polar opposite in form and deed. Jimmy has seen enough of the world to know that there is something not quite right about Del’s suitor and warns her to that effect. Is he simply jealous, or does he want the best for the woman he loves?

Then the fairytale takes a violent turn when girls from the neighborhood start turning up dead. Del witnesses the murders through her disturbing visions and documents them in startlingly accurate detail with her artistic talent. She realizes that with each new victim, the killer is getting closer. Will his identity be revealed before he comes for her?

**Q&A with Ginger Myrick**
How would you encapsulate Work of Art to pique a reader’s interest?

I am my own worst publicist, but I’ll give it a go. Work of Art is a story of love and loss, romance and mystery, with a smattering of tenderness and humor. It is a fairytale gone wrong in which the upper class meets the mean streets of New York. Throw in a love triangle, a bit of bare-knuckle boxing, a serial killer, and a plain Irish clairvoyant who is transformed into the belle of the ball, and I hope I have a story with enough intrigue and action to satisfy a wide variety of readers.

Work of Art is set in the late 19th century in Five Points, New York City. How did you choose the era and setting for this novel?

I was drawn to this era because some of my favorite classic books are set during the late 19th century: Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Anna Karenina, The Age of Innocence, et al. I knew I wanted to set the book on the east coast of the US, after the war and in a city with a large Irish community. I also have a slight obsession with Jack the Ripper, and I guess my subconscious mind chose a time period that would allow me to make the connection.

As Work of Art is a bit of a twist on the Cinderella/My Fair Lady theme, it was imperative that the main characters, Del and Killian, be from two disparate social classes, but their communities had to be located within walking distance of each other. The most notorious Irish neighborhoods in New York at the time were Hell’s Kitchen and Five Points. Of course, there are enough swanky areas in New York that would have suited my needs for either location, but the capper was the proximity to the museum, which was integral to a book titled Work of Art! Besides, I always like to have a visual of the setting I’m attempting to portray. The film versions of The Gangs of New York and The Age of Innocence were invaluable resources. Martin Scorsese is meticulous in his attention to detail, ESPECIALLY when it comes to his beloved New York.

Who was your favorite character to develop in Work of Art?

When you create a character it is very much like giving birth, and you become very attached to him/her regardless of virtues or faults. In fact, sometimes their faults make the characters even more engaging and more fun to write. Del and her mother were both very sweet and endearing, and Killian was so suave and such a gentleman. I even had a great time with the two bad guy boxers, but I loved Mrs. Chester, Mrs. Arthur, Jimmy, and Deirdre for their forthright manner. I have a soft spot for an unabashed, uncensored personality, and these A-type personalities are a writer’s dream. Of course, I am writing for others to read, but I might as well have fun while I do it.

And regardless of the brief mention of him in the book, I really loved Del’s dad. In my mind he was a fully formed person who influenced Del’s character and in turn much of the story. There is something very honorable and valiant about the ideals he represents. A strong bond between father and daughter fascinates me, partly because it’s something I have never experienced myself. The chapter when the ladies were going through the remnants of their life in Ireland was one of my favorites to relate.

If the police came to your house and seized your computer, do you think they would be shocked at your Google searches? Would it be enough for them to open an official file on you?

If the cops came to my house, I would probably be writing my next book from behind bars! My search history would definitely raise some eyebrows. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with serial killers, and even before it ever dawned on me to write, I used to google all sorts of twisted stuff. One of my fascinations is with the Borgias. Their preferred method of eliminating opposition was by poisoning. They used a concoction called La Cantarella, which was supposedly prepared by: “removing the abdominal organs of a sow poisoned with arsenic, salting the organs with more arsenic, then letting them slowly putrefy. The fluids that dripped from the rotting viscera were then evaporated to dryness and collected as a white powder resembling sugar.” Of course, this is highly impractical for a modern-day murderer, so I settled for a less artful but more reliable hands-on method!

Your stories often include mysticism in the form of subtle magic or dreams. Do you have any personal experience with such, or do you simply enjoy incorporating it into your fiction?

I’m sure that by now some people view me as a writer of supernatural love stories, but that is not entirely the case. As is typical of my creative process, the inspirations come fairly complete and the mystical elements are simply what the stories dictate. As for me, I don’t have visions, but I do get little insights now and again. They can be very accurate, but they aren’t crystal clear the way Del experiences hers. However, the way she records what she sees parallels the way my writing takes over.

And I have a touch of healing. Nothing like Arlais in The Welsh Healer, but I can feel where the painful spots are in another person and am able to draw them out to a certain extent. I also have an instinctual knowledge of herbs. I think it must come from genetic memory. My great-grandmother on my father’s side was a curandera, sort of the Mexican equivalent of a shaman. As of this moment, I have no further working ideas that involve the supernatural.

Your other two books, El Rey and The Welsh Healer, are historical novels, but this one falls more under the mystery/thriller genre. When you set out to write this novel, did you know from the start that you were switching, and possibly with a new audience?

Again, the story dictated itself, and there was not much I could do to the contrary. I had concerns that my readers might not make the switch, but my worries turned out to be unfounded. The book hasn’t sold enough to garner very many reviews, but my handful of loyal readers have loved it. I think that if you strike a chord with readers and they come to love your use of language, the way you portray your characters and tell your story, they are more willing to listen to what you have to say, even if it is a bit out of the norm for them. I am the same way. I will go along with just about anything as long as the storytelling and compatible writing style are there. The real risk will come with the book I plan to write after my current WIP. If my readers will stick with me through a pre-zombie apocalypse love story, they’ll be loyal for life!

What’s next?

My current WIP takes place during the US Civil War and is a return to a simple old-fashioned love story with extended historical backgrounds for the pertinent characters and no supernatural elements. It was shelved in favor of The Welsh Healer and Work of Art, because I thought putting out a couple of books that were shorter in length would help build a following before I returned to the type of sweeping saga of El Rey. I don’t like to jinx myself, because things in our household never run according to plan, but it should be finished mid-autumn. 

Ginger Myrick was born and raised in Southern California. She is a self-described wife, mother, animal lover, and avid reader and knitter. Along with the promotion for THE WELSH HEALER, and EL REY, she is currently crafting her third novel, which takes place during the U.S. Civil War. She is a Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core. She hopes to persevere with her newfound talent and show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion.