Tag Archives: Romantic Suspense

Why I Write Stories about Big Mysterious Houses

Mansion image“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Joan Fontiane voice-overs that at the beginning of the Hitchcock film Rebecca. The first time we see Manderley we understand why it won’t leave her. Why it won’t even let her sleep without revisiting there.

I come from a place with many big mysterious houses. Manderley wasn’t just a large house. It was an estate. My personal history houses weren’t that grand but they were grand enough. At least the seemed so to me.

My family lived in an ordinary house. A Craftsman style bungalow with a wide porch and a peaked roof and dormers. I loved that house but I was fascinated by the big mysterious ones.

They lined the streets of certain neighborhoods of the town where I grew up in a remote area of New York State we called the North Country. But those weren’t the only big old houses in town. Sizable domestic structures could be found just about anywhere. Though not on our one-block street which had been built on a more human scale.

Maybe that contrast was part of what drew me to these oversized piles. I’d walk slowly past them after school even though they were out of the way from my shortest route home. I’d gaze between the broad trees across their deep lawns. Then upward floor after floor until my neck bent back at a right angle.

Who could possibly need all of that space? What went on inside that required so many rooms to happen? When I was young most of these places were still owned by single families. They hadn’t yet been split up into apartments as many of them someday would be. I imagined them occupied by eccentric elderly ladies. One of the most famous actually was.

This particular mansion was on the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets. My elementary school was walking distance from there. Every spring we would parade to that corner – one classroom’s worth of kids at a time. The teacher was always in the lead. Her most trusted pupil was assigned to travel up and down the rest of the line herding strays and stragglers back on route. I was never assigned that responsibility.

I was more likely to be a stray or straggler along the blocks between Academy Street School and the mansion. But as soon as we arrived a hush would settle over me despite my reputation for never being hushed by anything. The purpose of our expedition was to look at the gardens but I barely noticed the flowers – profuse as I’m sure they must have been.

My entire attention was captured by the house. As if each of its many windows was a magnet pulling me out of myself to be sucked into one opening after another. I longed to be carried inside but I was a little terrified too. Especially the day I saw a white lace curtain move aside for a moment beyond a bed of tall blue delphiniums – as a pale face appeared at a window pane.

Was this the heiress I’d been told lived here? Was it anyone at all or had I conjured her from my hunger for a glimpse inside? If she was an heiress with wealth and a mansion why would she steal a single peek then drop the lace curtain and retreat as if spooked by a gaggle of eight year olds gawking at her nasturtiums?

Meanwhile I was intoxicated myself by the spooky possibilities. I understood that big old houses have secrets. They are built from secrets and each secret is a story. I would probably never know those stories. They belonged to people rich enough to own such places. People powerful enough to hold onto their hidden tales and keep them hidden.

My only recourse was to recreate those stories myself out of the whole cloth of my imagination and populate them with the stuff and characters of dreams and sometimes of nightmares. I’m still doing that. Each of the books of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series so far has a big mysterious house at its center and a murder in the darkness of its heart.

I delight as much in unlocking the rooms as I do in unlocking the mystery. You’re welcome to accompany me – back to my version of Manderley again.

 Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Wrong Way Home is a FREE eBook at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APC22E and most other online book retailers. All of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.  A Villain for Vanessacoming soonwill be Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4.

 

How A Story Becomes THE Story – THE VICTIM

AliceOrr_AWrongWayHome_POD[1][1]I write Romantic Suspense novels which for me means that just about every story includes a murder or sometimes a couple of murders. The murder that happens first usually gets the story going. It is also what forces my heroine and hero into involvement with each other and with finding the murderer for whatever reasons may apply to their particular story.

Which means there’s a Victim. A person whose life has been taken by someone whose identity is as yet unknown with a motive for killing also as yet unknown. The suspense part of the story is about ferreting out this murderer’s identity and motive. The victim may actually appear only briefly in the story but he is crucial to making that story work.

Frequently Asked Question: Do you kill off real-life people in your stories? My Usual Answer: Not usually. Which means I might kill off real-life people in my stories sometimes. Here’s the victim of A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1. What’s your guess? Am I fictionally bumping off a nonfiction person here – or not?

Excerpt from A Wrong Way Home

Anthony Benton wasn’t in the habit of walking across the lawn to his condo complex, especially not on a miserable night like this one. He valued his Bruno Magli’s too much for that. What if somebody saw him slipping and scrambling through wet leaves like a snake in the grass? Good thing nobody important enough to care about would be out here in this damned weather. It was supposed to be spring, but you’d never guess that in this godforsaken place.

Spindly young trees whipped in the wind as far as their short trunks would bend while Anthony counted the weeks backward in his mind – one, two, three, four, a month. This crap had only been going on for a month. Aggravation made it feel a lot longer. He woke up each morning with anger churning inside him. He could barely remember when he didn’t have to think about things like whether taking the straight route across the lawn was safer than the longer way around the curved sidewalk.

How could he have ended up in such a humiliating position? Scurrying from his car to his house like a scared animal. He’d worked too hard making himself into Anthony Benton for this to be happening. Worst of all, there was nowhere in this jerkwater town he could turn for help. What was he supposed to say? “My dim bulb ex-wife is persecuting me?”

He’d be the butt of jokes from every hayseed in the county. Too many people envied him, and most of them were dim bulbs too. He’d have to put up with their sneers or be roasted all the more. That’s how it was in a place like Riverton.

The damp mist had turned into a steady drizzle. Anthony cursed under his breath and walked faster. He’d left his umbrella in the car. A month ago he would never have made that miscal­culation. He’d have had a plan all laid out in his mind with each step thought through and not a single flaw in the thinking. He’d have grabbed the umbrella from under the driver’s seat and had it at the ready in the outside pocket of his briefcase.

He’d parked under those dripping trees tonight because the walkway to the complex was only a few yards across the macadam from there. He’d done that because of her, to cut down on the chance she’d catch up to him between the car and the building, the way she did two nights ago.

She’d shouted and sniveled and grabbed at his clothes. He was sure some of his neighbors must have witnessed the scene from their windows. She’d made threats, too, said she’d get a gun and come after him.

He’d itched to pick her up and throw her as hard as he could onto the pavement right then. He was plenty strong enough to do that. He’d picked her up and thrown her before, but that was in private. If he laid a hand on her in public and somebody saw it, he’d be the one in trouble. That’s how it went these days…. End of Excerpt from A Wrong Way Home.

Anthony’s not a very likable guy is he? Don’t worry. He gets his comeuppance. In fact those just deserts are about to be served to him cold – very cold. Feel the chill eBook free at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APC22E and most other online book retailers.

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Villain for Vanessa ECover (1) 100 x 150px - 14.6KB - SmallAll of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.  A Villain for Vanessacoming soonwill be Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4.