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Author Interview: Christina Maraziotis

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Christina Maraziotis, author of Ghost: A Novel (Loveletting, Book 3).

FQ: I don’t want to gush ad nauseam, but I have to say, your Loveletting series is superb! With each release, the depths and the unpredictable journey that continues to evolve is incredible. I know we have discussed the lengths of each book (700+ pages) in past interviews, but there is something about this series that warrants each volume to have a voluminous girth! How spent are you after completing each novel in this series?

MARAZIOTIS: Thank you so very much for your kind words. I do really appreciate that immensely. And I truly love that question! Personally, I write with no set limit in mind, but somehow I always sense when I’m nearing the 700 page mark, and right at 650 or so, I begin to sculpt the ending of the book (or rather, the beloved cliffhanger) haha. Once I’m finished with it all, I’m swiftly onto the next prologue. I can say with honesty that I do not feel spent at all. I love it. I absolutely am so passionate about this series, the characters; the whole story, and I wish for it to continue and eventually complete before I’m literally spent.

I will say however, what tires me is the third round of editing I may do. I get very critical over every single sentence, and if it doesn’t flow a certain way, then I have to redo a whole paragraph. I do enjoy planting lots of easter eggs here and there, and I’m compulsive when it comes down to plot holes. So far, I believe there are none, but that is very tiring to think about. Writing itself? It’s freeing and cathartic.

FQ: Once again, I was drawn to the lyric by After Forever you chose to anchor this novel, "...I know I’m alone, but somebody’s watching me... Follows me everywhere I go... A cold flow surprised me again, I shiver..." There is a part of me that wonders if you experienced that ‘aha’ moment in selecting this passage because you discovered the tone you wanted to set, and it was your inspiration to set off on your next journey in the writing of this series.

Author Christina Maraziotis

MARAZIOTIS: I’m happy that you were drawn to this! It is a very meaningful lyric for me personally. Usually, when I choose such passages for each book, it is after I’ve already written them. That being said, I listened to that particular song (Beyond me by After Forever) incessantly as I wrote the book. Music is a very big part of my life, dark music especially, so it definitely helps set the tone as I write. There are particular songs that I choose for each character, as well as when I feel like waxing lyrical. Sapphire from Alcest inspires me so much, all the fluffy words seemingly come out in an instant; I don’t even have to think about it. It is the strangest thing!

FQ: This is a fantastic portrayal of good versus evil, and I wonder how you approach the analytics of this concept in your own life. Where is the balance between the two, and what would be your input toward how one can navigate both spectrums in order to remain relatively ‘sane’?

MARAZIOTIS: What a fantastic question! This is certainly something James himself would ask me, haha, and I appreciate such deep-rooted thoughts so much. To start with, we would need to decide what the definition of good and evil really is. Is there good and evil? Or are these simply subjective human labels? And can a balance be defined there, if we cannot define each spectrum with absolution.

I certainly don’t have an answer to that, and nor do I think anyone else does. But the closest conclusion I would come to on this, is to understand our own moral character. Reflect upon it from time to time, and really be open to change, if we, or others, sense there is room for it. I do think we are all good, and evil, at the same time. Some lean more to one side than others, but both elements are there. It is a very complicated subject however, for oftentimes evil is not something people truly contemplate about themselves; either due to denial, or complete ignorance. And what one perceives as evil, another may perceive as good, and vice versa.

Now, as someone who has always behaved “too good” with people, and ended up as a tarnished carpet beneath their feet, I will say there can be reason for such a person to lean more towards “evil” behavior to balance things out, and perhaps this is how society still stands, somehow. If there was only evil, or only good, perhaps we wouldn’t have a society right now.

I would like to add here a fairly unique fact when it comes to "evil" individuals like Mac. (Which, again, is he evil? If you break down his character, there arise many questions that could counteract that statement.) But let’s say now, that he is utterly evil. A psychopath. Well, in battle, which man would be more likely to be brave and fight like there was nothing to lose? And such a man, who then survives, could possibly pass on this trait into society more successfully. Meaning, is there a place for evil after all? There are some interesting studies on why this tendency towards psychopathy persists (and even thrives) in our modern world, having survived due to its usefulness through more barbaric times in our history.

Of course, I do not condone evil, whatever evil may be. But without evil, can good be?

FQ: I emphatically believe humankind is faced with battles of good versus evil. In your opinion, what do you think encourages a soul to seek the ‘evil’ over the ‘good’?

MARAZIOTIS: There are many factors that could contribute to a soul seeking evil. Of course, one of the most common ones is the manner in which one was raised. Childhood trauma can greatly impact brain development, and morph the structure and function of it, as well as the regulation of emotions. (Mac is a prime example of that, which also makes him not a born psychopath, but why would someone like James seek evil?)

There’s also genetics that wire someone’s brain differently. But if we take out the genetics, and childhood trauma, there’s still a yearning; a compulsion, for perhaps...power? As we saw with Sven, who is very focused on that aspect of life. We see that example with politics, war, and even corporations who become more powerful than the countries who govern them. Oftentimes people who do evil try to justify it, in some form or another, so it no longer appears to be an evil.

But there’s also people like James, who know evil, but are convinced they need to seek it in order to come close to something invaluable to them; and that alone justifies his actions as far as he is concerned. Then there’s people (like “the man” in association with James) that do it for sheer, sadistic pleasure.

Overall however, I would positively hope and suggest that the world as a whole is on the correct trajectory to become a less violent place; the more we educate ourselves, and the more we don’t forget the past...but it's still inherent to our world that battles of good and evil will exist.

FQ: Without creating a spoiler, how difficult was it to temper the balance between reconnecting (or not) characters Charlotte Browning and Mac Kinnon?

MARAZIOTIS: It wasn’t really difficult, unless I think of the way it made me feel. There was a lot of tension that I had to work with, also happiness and excitement, for I had kept these two apart for more than a whole book. It wasn’t easy, it was actually rather tempting to reconnect them in Curse. But I’m glad that it happened in Ghost, for I think it made it even more impactful. As far as the actual behavior between them, it came out naturally for me to write. I could just envision them both around the fireplace, feel what they felt, think what they thought. The little awkward and shy grimaces, the nature of their movements; I really enjoyed writing that part. It’s those small moments that make a book for me. The feelings, and the tension, and all the words left unsaid.

FQ: In line with my previous question, there are certain ‘truths’ that are withheld from Charlotte when it comes to Mac Kinnon. Has there ever been a time in your life when the ‘truth’ was withheld from you, and when you learned this, how did you handle the outcome?

MARAZIOTIS: Interesting question! I have to really think about that one. I’m sure there have been truths withheld from me in the past, but, at different stages of my life and maturity, I'm certain I'd have reacted differently than I would react now. I cannot think of a truth that would be major enough to compare to Mac’s, however. And thankfully, I haven’t needed to deal with that, yet. However, to give you a proper answer: if I was in Charlotte’s shoes, I would probably be very confused and disappointed — for Mac essentially allowed her to take another path, one she was now faithfully committed to.

FQ: You have a gift in your writing style in that you actively engage the reader with brilliant nuances. On one hand, there is a surreal element where the reader thinks he/she has it all figured out, and on the next page, you plant a seed of doubt and ‘predictability’ is non-existent. What is your guide to doing this so naturally? Do you spend hours among strangers mentally building a story of their life in your mind for use in a future chapter?

MARAZIOTIS: I really appreciate that. That is truly sweet, and it means a lot to me. This is all still very new to me, so that feedback is very valuable. To answer your question, not exactly; I don’t build up a story to use for a future chapter, nor do I plant those seeds ahead of time. I truly like creating characters with flaws, and allow those flaws to flourish and unravel, and usually that’s all it takes with vulnerable or fervent characters that are deeply developed. There’s many ways that a situation can change just by the individual’s perception; and there’s not always just one perception, or one reaction, but I think that is the key: provide the recipe for something chaotic to happen, and let the chips fall where they may.

FQ: To expand further on my previous question, when is your most fruitful time to write where your imagination is completely in charge? What makes this time the best time for you to write?

MARAZIOTIS: It usually is early in the morning, right after I wake up, when my mind is sharp and not distracted yet by what is yet to follow in a day, or, when it’s past midnight, and I’m extremely exhausted — this is when the lyrical writing happens most of the time — as well as all the dark chapters, of course. Hehe.

FQ: There are moments throughout this story when I had to take a moment to collect myself. Most of those occurred when you were writing a scene devoted to James Miller’s character. Did you ever have to set your pen down and take a moment to regroup after such times? "...There’s evil...her eyes shot at him, but she could scarcely find his, as though buried deep within a sheet of blackness. There was flesh, beneath that perished skin, stretched taut in solid thickness. But his look, it was from a man that had hungered for life, only to be adorned by the face of death itself..." (pg. 341)

MARAZIOTIS: Yes, indeed Ghost is very graphic, and I do apologize for any discomfort. James is definitely a very twisted character that will startle a reader, because he is so unpredictable with his thoughts and emotions. When I write him, the difficulty is to get "into" that personality, in order to write him. I think that is mostly the challenge when creating such a character, or any character that is so sinister; like an actor, in order to achieve realism with characters, you have to get under their skin and stay there a while.

That being said, I don’t take moments to regroup when it comes to him — however, that statement applies to writing Ghost. It actually gets a lot worse later on in the series, and in that regard there have been many times where I had to stop for a few breaths. There is a particular scene in the upcoming books that took me three whole days to write, stopping and starting again, purely because it was so very emotional and really devastating to experience even behind the keyboard...especially with the characters involved.

FQ: I want to thank you again for delivering an amazing read. I am honored to have had the opportunity to review another body of your work. The cliffhangers you pen at the end of each novel are fantastic as much as frustrating, which leads me to ask: When is the next book (Slave) due to release and are you able to provide a little something we can look forward to experiencing?

MARAZIOTIS: I want to thank you in turn for delivering such comprehensive and compelling questions! It is always a joy and an honor to answer them. I’m glad to hear the cliffhangers stir your curiosity for what’s to come next, and I will give a few hints. The reader is going to experience the way work was for a woman in the late 19th century, but of course, with a...very unique, and dark twist. It was very interesting to implement a few historical notes in Slave, studying certain details that really transported me back to that era, and I hope the reader will feel the same way. There will be new important characters, and different settings again within Mon Louis. Part of that will also be a rather dramatic court case that takes place in the city, and I am very curious how readers will react to that. Last, there will be a deeper backstory unraveled regarding Mac, and not in the manner of simple narration.

Slave will be completely different, again, than Ghost — which is my goal with every book. It will be a new adventure, for both the characters and readers. As for the release date? It is planned by Summer 2024...and, hopefully, you will approve of it again. Haha.

I would like to add that I have completely updated Haunt and Curse as of 2024, and included a few bonus chapters that sink into Mac’s past with his family. After my recent time spent in the rural regions of Ireland (which was solely for the purpose of enhancing the story; to understand traditional Irish culture, language, and its people more, so that I can deliver it more accurately) I have decided to include Irish Gaelic into the books, working alongside a professor and a teacher who both grew up speaking this endangered language that was far more common in the 19th century than it is today. I found it adds a new layer of textured depth to Mac’s past, and I hope my readers will enjoy the extra effort to improve the historical immersion.

Thank you so much, Diane! It's been such a pleasure, as always.

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