Q & A: The Cliffhouse Haunting


Our readers have been asking questions about our new novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting.  We’ve collected some up to answer here.

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Is the Cliffhouse Lodge based on a real hotel? Yes, in some ways. It was built by an architect associated with Gilbert Stanley Underwood, designer of Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, Grand Canyon Lodge, and the Timberline Lodge in Oregon among many others.  It also has roots in California’s Brookdale Lodge. The Brookdale’s natural stream in the dining room inspired the stream that runs through the lobby in the Cliffhouse Lodge.

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The story is set in the San Bernardino Mountains. Are they any real ghost stories attached to that area?

Yes, many, though we didn’t use any. Just Google “ghost stories San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear” and you’ll find plenty.

Is the Blue Lady a ghost from real life?

There are many blue ladies in ghost fact and fiction. They appear all over the globe. Our Blue Lady is a little different in that she isn’t a human spirit but an elemental one. A naiad if you will, a water spirit, a force of nature. Some characters think of her as a regular ghost, or as Santa Muerte, a female saint of death not condoned by the Vatican. She is also connected by some to La Llorona (The Weeping Woman). La Llorona is famous for having drowned her children in order to seduce a man who she thinks wouldn’t want them.  She is a Latina banshee who walks and wails and seduces children to watery deaths.

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What ghost stories did you base your story on?

Many. The Blue Lady partially hails from a spooky night Tamara and her husband spent in a lodge overlooking Boothbay Harbor in Maine. A strip of forest no more than 20 feet wide hugged the parking area and when they stepped from the asphalt into the woods, intending to check out the water, they experienced a dizziness and something that can only be described as a clinging chill that ran up their arms and remained until they nearly all the way upstairs to their room. A pervasive smell of dark water clung to the cold.

You two spent time in a real-life haunted cabin. Did it have anything to do with Cliffhouse?

We spent five nights in a haunted cabin at the request of a frightened owner and conceived of the basic story of Cliffhouse there. We experienced sounds and other anomalies we couldn’t readily explain while staying in the lightless little cabin. We don’t know what caused all the incidents there, but it was frightening and exciting. It was so intense that we set aside our work in progress to write Cliffhouse while the experiences were fresh.

Did anything happen in the cabin that you put into the book?

We fictionalize everything, but the description of Sara’s floating sandwich is pretty close to one of the real incidents we experienced.

What about the ghost cat, Omar Siam?  

There are many hotels with stories of resident feline spirits that leap on beds or meow, and we thought it would be nice to have one at Cliffhouse. Omar Siam is named for Tamara’s own Siamese kitty, who lived a fat and pampered life.

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And the perfume of Aunt Theodosia’s ghost?

This came from an experience Alistair had when he was very young. He remembers waking up in the middle of the night and seeing an unfamiliar woman in his room. He spoke to her and she didn’t reply. She disappeared without acknowledging him, but he remembers that she left behind a soft, flowery scent. When we wrote Theodosia, we gave her the signature perfume – we chose White Shoulders – that she left behind.

Was “Walleye” Gardner inspired by anyone?

He is based on a strange man who walked around the small town that Alistair grew up in. Alistair remembers that the man had strange eyes that seemed to look in different directions. Alistair was intrigued by – and a little frightened of – the man, and he and his friends would often follow him, trying to see who he was and where he lived. When Walter Gardner came into existence in Cliffhouse, Tamara and Alistair based him on this mysterious man.

Is Constance Welling based on anyone?

No, but we did incorporate all the worst qualities of egotistical would-be writers into her persona. We’ve encountered many people like her; those who consider themselves above genre writing, those who try too hard to be “literary,” those who are baffled by – and hateful toward – the publishing industry and prefer to spend their time bemoaning the difficulties of the business rather than writing novels. Constance is also the embodiment of vanity – she is a woman who refuses to accept growing older, and no longer being the young, beautiful center of attention she imagines she once was. Constance Welling is entitled – and not justifiably so. She is the ego personified. We had a lot of fun her and thoroughly enjoyed doling out the justice she deserved. It was therapeutic – for both of us – for reasons we can not publicly disclose.

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How did Dr. Siechert come to be?

Dr. Siechert is one of those “people” who decided he didn’t want to be just a secondary character; he demanded to be heard. He quickly showed more and more eccentricities as his intake of Blue Springs Water increased. We both broke out in laughter the day he called the mortician’s wife a very bad name in front of everyone. He took off with the story after that, creating his own thread by dating Constance Welling. We still wonder what he was thinking.

Did you know that H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, was really named Herman Mudgett?

Yes.

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Are a lot of your characters’ names based in reality?

Yes, in odd ways. For instance, Dr. Siechert’s name is lifted from one of the possible Jack the Ripper suspects. Also, there is a humorous link between the names Siechert and Cornhull, but we can’t say any more except that it has everything to do with the finger Siechert carries around. We also love puns. Try saying ‘Constance Welling’ and ‘Constance Leigh Welling’ out loud… Also, Sara Bellamy’s name is a hidden pun. Consider that she’s very intelligent and say her full name aloud.

Tell us about the old lady who likes to take baths. The bathroom was described just like the one in Kubrick’s The Shining. Is there a reason for that?

Yes. We wanted to do it since water horror is involved. Maisy Hart – said old lady – was originally a near throw-away character slated to be found dead in her tub. Her name, before she acquired a speaking role, was Mrs. Massey… You might also recognize the names of the young couple beleaguered by ghosts: George and Marianne Kirby. Change the spelling slightly and you’ve got another young couple who were ghosts who picked on a man named Cosmo Topper. There are lots more. Beverly Hill, for instance. She’s the most obvious. Generally we look for names and place names that won’t be noticed if they aren’t pointed out.

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Is Laurel Lutz a real actress?

No, but the name is a snark at a real singer/actress who constantly and inexplicably shows up in Alistair’s “likes” on Facebook. Revenge was necessary.

Shouldn’t the restaurant in Cliffhouse be called Le Chat Rouge?

No. We knew what we were doing when we added that extra “TE” to “Chat.”

Are the kids who befriend Walleye based on your own kids or nieces and nephews?

No. Think about the names. Carrie. Tommy.  Pre-high school Carrie and Tommy. Dirty Pillows. Proms. We were having fun. The last name of Collins can refer to the drink you want after dealing with them, or the family from Dark Shadows. Your choice.

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Sheriff Jackson Ballou has a sister named Kitty and a father named Lee. The names seem familiar but I can’t place them.

Like many other characters, Jackson Ballou was born fully named. Kitty Ballou and Lee Ballou came later – ever see a movie called Cat Ballou?  That’s probably why it sounds familiar. Kitty simply sounds like Cat, but Lee – Lee is special.  From the moment we knew Jackson needed a drunken dad, it was Lee Marvin, the king of drunken cowboys (in Cat Ballou and Paint Your Wagon among others.) While we rarely know what our main characters really look like – we like to be vague so the readers can envision them the way they want – minor characters often look like someone to us. And that’s true of Lee Ballou. In fact, we’re pretty sure his middle name is Marvin.

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Were there any characters you were surprised by?

Yes. Chad Armstrong. He began as a secondary character, grew into something much larger, and then in edits, he got cut back to a secondary status again. His sexual preferences went back and forth quite a bit, too, which made for amusing rewrites.

Was The Bodice Ripper a real serial killer in history?

No. We just love the name. It’s based on a book genre often referred to as “bodice ripper.”

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Is it true that Cliffhouse was originally 175,000 words? What happened the the rest of it?

Yes. We ended up having to cut over 50,000 words. One of our favorite character’s threads was removed, but we saved it, and intend to incorporate his already-written scenes into a very exciting, large apocalyptic novel  (working title is B.O. – Big One) which we’ll begin in 2016. Nothing is wasted.

Who wrote which scenes?

We both wrote them, equally. We work in the same document, side by side. We have a mutual email account and we write in the Cloud while simultaneously talking on Skype. When we say that we collaborate, we mean it. Our sensibilities and styles are so similar that we rarely even remember who thought of a scene, let alone who wrote what. Both our fingerprints are all over everything.

Have either of you ever stayed in a haunted hotel?

Of course! Long before we met, we were both into haunted hotels and each of us have managed to rent the most-haunted rooms in those hotels. While we have only experienced a few minor spooky incidents, we both love recalling the spooky halls and rooms, the expectations of scariness, and these get into our work.

Cliffhouse is set in California with Tamara’s other novels. Will you write more books in that area? Why does it appeal to you?

Yes. We are already writing more books that are set in California. Devilswood in The Ghosts of Ravencrest isn’t too far from Cliffside, and Crimson Cove, in Alistair’s upcoming solo, The Crimson Corset is also close by. We plan to continue creating our own fictional universe, and as you read our work, you’ll see references to our other towns and even occasional guest appearances by characters from other books. California appeals to us because it has everything – ocean, mountains, deserts, and it’s in the southwest, where we both live. We may venture out of state, but we’ll still be in the same fictional universe. We’ve adopted radio deejay Coastal Eddie from Tamara’s Candle Bay as a sort of narrator – the voice of unreason, so to speak. He’s making appearances in almost all of our novels.

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Alistair’s upcoming book is called The Crimson Corset. There is a Crimson Corset in Cliffhouse. Was this deliberate?

The idea for naming a nightclub The Crimson Corset goes way back. When we were writing Cliffhouse, we put a club there with that name, but Alistair’s novel, The Crimson Corset, was already underway. The original title of this novel was Crimson Cove, the name of the town the novel is set in, but as the plot thickened, The Crimson Corset became a more appropriate title. We figure that The Crimson Corset is a chain of nightclubs. More of them will likely be seen in other works.

How did you come up with that nasty immersion blender scene?

It was inspired by a hot pink immersion blender that Tamara’s close friend gave her for Christmas a couple years back. It was supposed to be red and the friend offered to exchange it, but the hot pink Cuisinart was just too perfect. “It’s like having a sex toy in the kitchen,” says Mr. Thorne.

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What about all the festivals? Do those really happen in the San Bernardino Mountains?

Pretty much, though if you want to see a huge Civil War reenactment in the area, you need to go to Calico Ghost Town around President’s Day. This is in the high desert by the mountains. (It’s also the inspiration for Tamara’s novel, Thunder Road.) Local mountain towns Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead are famous for their Oktoberfest celebrations.

Have you ever swum in a real indoor pool?

Yes, and it’s as scary as you think it is, even without ghosts.

Visit our websites at: tamarathorne.com & alistaircross.com

(Images retrieved form Google images)

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Haunted Things on Tales To Terrify


My collaborator Tamara Thorne and I were interviewed on Tales to Terrify with Sylvia Shults discussing the strange events and anomalies we experienced during our stay at an allegedly haunted cabin. We were asked to stay for three nights – which soon to turned into five – and give an account of our experience afterwards to help the owner conclude whether the place is getting a bad rap… or if it’s officially a hangout for haunts.

And here is our assessment at the Lights Out podcast on Tales to Terrify.

For a night-by-night transcript of our adventure, go to the Haunted Cabin links on my website.

Click the pic to go to Tales to Terrify

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Tales to Terrify – Lights Out Podcast


In a couple weeks,  Tamara Thorne and I will be guests at Tales To Terrify – on the Lights Out podcast, hosted by Sylvia Shults – where we will be talking about our experiences at the allegedly haunted cabin in California. Tales To Terrify was named the Podcast of the Year by This is Horror. Once we have the link, we’ll post it here and on our websites at http://alistaircross.com/ and http://tamarathorne.com/

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Grandma, Belinda, Haunted Cabins, and Author Interviews…


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Before getting into anything else, I want to share a great joint interview I did with my collaborator – horror legend Tamara Thorne – at Gingernuts of Horror. We covered everything from horror, erotica,  ghost hunting, and photography to our solo works, our process, our plans, and a bit about a future novel we haven’t discussed until now. Thank you to everyone at Gingernuts, for the fun and unique questions. Tamara and I had a good time with this one.

Also, next Thursday, April 17th, at 8:00 pm EST Tamara and I have a LIVE interview at Authors on the Air with Pam Stack that we’re very excited about. I’m not especially keen on live interviews as I find any kind of public speaking worrisome, but Authors on the Air is a considerable force that you don’t say no to! The show is about an hour-long and we’re looking very forward to it. I am usually only nervous about these things beforehand. Once the show starts, I’m sure I’ll be fine, so tune in and give us a listen. It’s sure to be a good time. As soon as I have a link to the show, I will post it in all the post-able places.

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(A promotional poster for Belinda)

In the meantime, the writing is going as strong as it possibly can. Tamara and I have been spending anywhere from six to nine hours a day, five and six days a week, developing setting, establishing characters,  composing plot, and polishing finished content. Our hands are full and we’re doing a bang-up job of juggling tasks, but we’re also having the time of our lives and are getting more excited every day to get our creations into readers’ hands.

Grandma’s Rack is in the final stages and once the last few scenes are completed – which will be done within the week – we intend to let the manuscript sit for six to eight weeks till we can return to it with a clear perspective before doing a final rewrite. Then it still has to go to the editor, back to us for any needed modifications, then finally, to the publisher. As soon as we have it ourselves, the release date will be revealed.

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(Cover for Grandma’s Rack)

Belinda is plowing along and full-speed. As per our publisher, Tamara and I have creative control over the cover art for the various installments and promotional material, so for the first time, I’m putting my years of photography experience to good use. The first photo session was last weekend, and there’s another one this weekend which will include one of the male models we’ve chosen. Also, I eventually want to revisit Billy the Serpent, as he was easily one of the most natural and photogenic creatures I’ve ever had the honor of capturing with my lens… so watch for further images of him as well as his beautiful human counterparts. A great big Thank You! to Avalerion books for allowing us the artistic freedom to pursue our vision of the Belinda series.  eroticacover

 (A promotional photo for Belinda)

And speaking of Avalerion, I just received my copy of A Mortal Glamour by living legend Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.  Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is a veteran horror author and very good friend who has several books being released through Avalerion. Between her, Gryffyn Phoenix, and Tamara Thorne, I am very good company and can’t express the gratitude I feel to be grouped with these great, great pros. Anyway, I have a lot of reading to do this summer and intend to get started on it within the next few weeks, beginning with A Mortal Glamour which I’ve already taken the confident measure of adding to my list of  all-time Favorite Books.

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(A Mortal Glamour by Chelsea Quinn Yarbo. And yes… that’s a blurb from Stephen King at the top!)

Lastly, we created a logo for the Cross & Thorne collaborations. We call it The Glass Apple and we love it dearly. You will be seeing this – and possibly, variations of this – on our upcoming projects.

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(The Glass Apple)

All best,

~Alistair Cross

www.alistaircross.com

 

Scandalous Interview!


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Gingernuts of Horror has just published a wonderful and scandalously fact-filled interview with Tamara Thorne  and me. You’ll find out how we met, how we work, news about our horror novel,Grandma’s Rack,  and our erotic serial novel, Belinda. You’ll see news of Tamara’s  Candle Bay sequel, and my solo novel, The White Room.

We also give the skinny on how we met, what scares us, what influences us, our favorite brands of breakfast cereal, our preferences in shoelaces, and what makes us fight like cats and… cats.

And at least some of the above is true, we swear it.

Current Status & Upcoming Events


Hello all,

My collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I have made substantial progress on Grandma’s Rack these past two weeks. I’ve completed all my scenes in acts one and two and am well into the remaining scenes of act three. Tamara is kicking out scenes of her own as well as spending a lot of time editing and getting this story put into some kind of sequence. We’re at the end of the story so the climax is rising and the tension is high. The Rack is still surprising us with new twists and turns, but we’re still hopeful it will be completed in spring and, hopefully, available to buy this summer.

I’m scheduled to appear on Writerly Wednesday which will be coming up soon. I finished the interview questions earlier this week and am just waiting to find out the date I’ll be on. Also, Tamara and I have been booked for an in-depth interview at Ginger Nuts of Horror, the site to go to for the latest news and greatest reviews of all things horror. As soon as we know, we will post the date that the interview will go live. Also, the two of us are scheduled for a live radio interview on April 17th at Authors on the Air. Visit my website – The Dungeon – for more information on interviews, past and future.

Finally, if you missed it, we have compiled into one post the records of the five nights we spent in an allegedly haunted cabin up in Gold Country late last year.

So, until next time,

Happy haunting…

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Interview


Hello all,

The interview at One Writer’s Journey is up and waiting to be visited. Thank you, Penny Ehrenkranz for the wonderful interview.

Soon, Tamara and I will be posting the final night of our Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin adventure. If you want to read the previous nights, you can go to my website: http://www.alistaircross.com and find the ‘Recent News’ section on the lower right of the home page. There, you can find a link to each of the nights.