USA Today bestselling author Sarah M. Cradit of The House of Crimson and Clover Series is a guest of the 2015 UndeadCon writers conference. Held each Halloween week in New Orleans, this year UndeadCon runs from Oct. 29 through Sunday, Nov. 1. The lovely Cradit. welcomed back to the conference for the second year in a row, is scheduled to speak during a panel UndeadCon is offering on Halloween, Saturday Oct. 31. Sarah is also a guest author of the annual Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Ball, this year entitled the Gathering of the Ancients.
The fact that she is the self publisher of more than 17 original titles makes Cradit an amazingly prolific writer, considering the novelist began her work only four years ago. She has chosen to set her epic saga in and around New Orleans. She begins The House of Crimson and Clover Series with Volume 1, The Illusions of Eventide, through the eyes of Nicholas Deschanel, heir to his family plantation and wealth. Nicholas, born to privilege, prone to cockiness, in love with his cousin, plagued by betrayal and victimized by tragic loss of loved ones, is intent to end his life on the family’s private island at 30 years of age.
There is a grace and ease about the writing in the first volume, so much so that it is easy to get lost within the voices of the characters. Cradit’s words flow in prosaic candor like a melody of the ages: pronounced, patient, lingering, and beautiful.
Outside, the heavy rains created a shroud between my windows and the Gulf. The cypress trees bowed and flexed in the wind, creating gaps in the canopy they formed over my house. The staccato beats from the intermittent rain…
Sarah M. Cradit. The Illusions of Eventide (Kindle Locations 634-636)
It is only by taking a step back that one can truly appreciate the mastery of an old soul breathing life into characters especially unaware of their own flaws.
It is in Chapter 2 that the reader is introduced to 3,000 year-old Mercy. Seeking solitude, Mercy happens upon the Deschanel heir. The mysterious nature of this woman slowly unravels through her thoughts. Each chapter bears the name of the narrator, which offers the reader the insights and perspectives of characters as they interact and perceive each other as well as their circumstances and settings. Mercy’s thoughts reveal that she devoutly follows a deity known to her as Emyr, refers to Nicholas as a “Child of Man”, and is close to the end of her own life. Mercy offers little more to Nicholas than feigned helplessness and a concocted story, which he falls for despite his years of womanizing.
The juxtaposition of two intense and unique personalities is a bold start that only intensifies as the tale ensues. Moreover, each character is more powerfully aware than the last, as new characters are cleverly interlaced throughout a fast-paced ebb and flow of conflict and engagement that beckons the reader page after page.
Volume 6 in the series, Myths of Midwinter, was released Thursday. There is a rich selection of prequels and lagniappe stories that pertain to the House of Crimson and Clover saga. Cradit offers helpful suggested reading orders to suit the different desires of readers per her website, The delightfully talented Sarah was kind enough to agree to an email interview for atombash.com New Orleans Literature.
Dionne Charlet: Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Please explain your chosen genre(s) in your own words, and why chose to write about the topics of your books.
Sarah M. Cradit: “I write in the Paranormal Southern Gothic genre, which combines my love of New Orleans, complex characters, witches, and family sagas. The main premise of my series is two mysterious New Orleans families with a profusion of secrets and ancient connections. The series dances between New Orleans (the center) and locations in Norway, Scotland, and beyond.”
DC: How do you generate your characters, then manage them as you write?
SMC: “I have a large and diverse cast, spanning centuries. Usually they begin by speaking to me when I least expect it. Once they’ve gotten into my head, it’s a simple matter to reciprocate and get into theirs (quid pro quo). I’m only the navigator; they tell me where we’re going and how to get there.”
DC: When it comes to writing intricately woven plot scenarios and covering multiple characters, how do you keep up the momentum of the story?
SMC: “Cutting repetitiveness is always at the front of my mind. Each character PoV (point of view) should serve to bring something unique to the story, rather than a rehashed version of the last character’s observations. Not every detail moves the story forward, but every detail should serve to broaden the world, and the story. I keep very detailed notebooks of how all these plot points weave together, and I seek to create the best story I can, without taking too many detours. A few are fine; too many and you lose the reader. I love the challenge of making it all come together.”
DC: Do you ‘get into character’ as the actions you write flow through your mind?
SMC: “I am very much a method writer. My characters feel like extensions of me (though, none are based on me, in case readers are wondering!), so getting into their head feels like tapping into another section of my own mind. There are certain characters who are “louder” for me. Nicolas Deschanel has a habit of screaming at me when I’m trying to sleep, which, if you know Nicolas, is utterly unsurprising. Others, like Anasofiya Deschanel, I need complete quiet to settle into. But I always attempt to see the scenes through their eyes, through their thoughts. I notice the things they would notice. Nicolas will be more concerned with extrinsic influences, while Anasofiya will be focused on the intrinsic, for example. I get to live a lot of very interesting lives.”
DC: I understand you design your own covers, and they are beautiful, particularly those of your House of Crimson and Clover series. What made you decide to design them yourself?
SMC: “Thank you! I’ve always counted my resourcefulness to be equal to my stubbornness. I had a couple experiences with designers that weren’t negative, exactly, but I never felt they were able to capture the essence of my series. I can’t fault them; they weren’t mind readers. It was that sentiment, though, that led me to learn Photoshop. Initially my designs were clunky but, over time, I learned to translate my vision into reality. What you see now is the culmination of a lot of determined, frustrated late nights. I’m thrilled with the results.”
DC: Who is your inspiration?
SMC: “I have several, all who played a part in gifting me the aspects of my writing that mean the most. From Leo Tolstoy I get my love of dynamic, flawed characters. From Charles Dickens I inherited my penchant for gothic, gripping storytelling that keeps you up all night. And from Anne Rice I obtained my life-long love affair with New Orleans, and the courage to write what’s in my heart.”
DC: Where do you find your mind wandering when you write?
SMC: “Everywhere but the page! Often I’m dreaming of my favorite travel destinations, but sometimes it can be as simple as stressing over the three piles of laundry waiting on me. To combat this, I often turn on background music, or change things up. Going outside to write, or other small environmental changes, can get me back on track.”
DC: How do your travels impact your work?
SMC: “If writing is my means of channeling my soul, travel is the balm. At home, I’m often reclusive, locked in my office writing away, so when I haven’t been out in the world in a while, I grow restless. I’m fortunate to have seen some amazing places. Recently, I spent a couple of weeks in Scotland; Part vacation, part book research, and part nerding out on history. We traced the steps of Mary Queen of Scots, visited all the great castles, walked historic battlefields. I can’t recall another time where my soul was at such peace. I’m still working on my campaign to convince my husband we need to relocate across the pond.”
DC: What are you most looking forward to during your upcoming appearance at UndeadCon and the Gathering of the Ancients Ball? And New Orleans?
SMC: “Spending time with so many great people. The attendees of these events are truly some of the best folks around!
“It goes without saying: I adore New Orleans. My series is based there, and my heart rests there. Being asked back for a second year as a featured author at UndeadCon is so richly rewarding that when I’m asked about it, it actually renders me speechless. For a writer, speechless is no easy feat. But I’m thrilled to be back in New Orleans with this great group of people I’ve come to know as family. I can’t think of a better way to cap a successful year.”
For more information on Sarah M. Cradit, click here. Find Sarah on Facebook, Google +, and Twitter.
Sue Quiroz, president of Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club (ARVLFC), had high praise for Cradit’s work. “I really enjoyed reading Sarah’s book St. Charles at Dusk, a House of Crimson and Clover Series lagniappe,” said Quiroz. “The beginning chapter was so different from other books I have read…and the story has unexpected twists and turns that really keep you guessing till the end…you want the characters to come together at the end but then, I can’t tell you what happens….just read the book! You won’t be disappointed!”
For those interested in attending UndeadCon and viewing Sarah’s panel, scheduled from 2 – 3:30 p.m. on Halloween, ticket information is available at ARVLFC.com. For more information on the Gathering of the Ancients Ball, click here.