Today I am interviewing Tina O’Hailey on the blog tour for Absolute Darkness. In addition to my interview, there are lots of things in store for this tour (including a giveaway)!
A thrill ride through time that will make you hold your breath.
Sitting by the campfire, Brandy admitted a secret to her friends. She swore she saw a ghost when exiting a cave earlier that day. Was she seeing things? Did they believe her? The next day, breaking a cardinal rule, she snuck back to the cave alone. No one knew where she was. What if she fell or was trapped? There would be no rescue.
For ten thousand years Alexander had kept the time streams of this universe safe from an eternal destructive force that continually threatened to tamper and destroy all. Locked in an unremitting battle, the two foes become sidetracked by an unexpected visitor. An entangled journey begins with chilling twists and turns until becoming locked into an inescapable death deep within a submerged cave.
Who will come out of the watery depths alive?
JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room): Tell us a little about yourself.
I have avoided this question – it is actually the hardest one to answer! Everything I write reads like a baseball card of stats. Here goes. I’m closer to 50 now but still feel like I’m in my 30s some days and like a little kid the other days, yet, I feel like I’ve lived five separate lifetimes worth of experiences. Maybe six. I have the divine luck of being a professor and having worked in a creative industry since my early 20s. Most of my life I’ve had amazing opportunities to travel the globe for my job and meet intriguing people. It has kept me ever curious. Mom of two great young adults (both artists), married to a fella’ that has put up with me for 28 years (also an artist). Together we form a fantastic creative force that usually results in a stream of sarcastic memes throughout the day via group text. If I was to sum me up in a plaque (which sits on my desk): “You can never have too much fun.”
My best weekend involves:
1) caving—which I don’t do as often as I would like but am working to change that.
2) riding motorcycles with my husband—I have a BMW r1200c, it is my favorite, and I think, an ugly bike. It fits me like a glove and I’ve had it for years. My husband has a Kawasaki Connie (Concours), which was mine but the day after I bought it I dropped it twice in a row because my legs are too short, got mad and said, “This is yours now.” He’s six foot. It fits him just fine. I am still shocked when I see pictures and finally realize I’m the shorter person standing there. I’m six foot in my head. (And gorgeous.)
3) watching a movie with a good a glass of whiskey (neat) or a glass of red wine and a good maduro cigar.
4) learning something new. Generally something nerdy involving computers.
JRR: Did you always want to become an author?
I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t a writer. Imagine an eight year old banging at a typewriter with some self-imposed word quota and deadline. Seriously. I constantly wrote and then hated what I wrote. Tore it up. Wrote more. I would buy Writer’s Markets and pour over them like girls my age mooning over teenage magazines. Oddly, I never considered getting an English degree. My other love was playing piano and that is what I wanted to study. So, of course, my degrees are in animation and computer programming. I’ve been writing text books for a number of years. The novels have always been a secret I wouldn’t let see the light of day. This one, Absolute Darkness, is the first one to escape.
JRR: And we are glad it escaped! Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up? Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?
I can’t single one writer out. It is more my love of books and reading that has propelled me. The very first book I remember reading was Erma Bombeck’s “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?” I was seven and obviously had access to my mother’s bookshelf. She was an avid reader. We lived in the country and I had no idea what a library was. So, I read at the library of Mom. That’s not really true. There was a small library at the wee school I attended – I tried to read there. I got in trouble for reading Peggy Anderson’s book “Nurse” because it was “too mature” for me. When I told mom, she handed me her copy of the book and told me to take that to school and read it. She was a bit of a rebel, that Mom. So truly, from then on I read from her bookshelf. What I read was not age appropriate. When I tried to read YA—I could not.
Somewhere in there, around age eight, I started writing. I had to, just as surely as one must eat. I remember my father giving me a Royal typewriter and I loved it. I would write plays. When babysitting my nieces and nephews, I would dress them up and put on fantastic imaginary plays with them, doing all of the speaking parts for them. They were 18 months old – they couldn’t speak yet. When I was a teen, of course, Stephen King was my mother’s favorite and therefore in my possession. “Thinner” was the first book of his that I read. It made an impact on me. Then my father bought an electric typewriter for me.
Ah, but then came the turning point. “Wuthering Heights”. Eighth grade English, I think. I had read the book ahead of the class because I had read everything at home and in the library – why not get ahead on the upcoming required reading? We had an assignment to write what Pip was thinking as he runs from the graveyard. Up until that point, I had only written research papers for school. All my other writing had stayed at home in my box of banned stories never to see the light of day. This was my first creative writing moment that I would share and I had such fun with it. Mr. Yothers, the mild-mannered English teacher, penned in red ink onto the paper, “You should think about becoming a writer!” and he read the paper in front of the class. It was such a wonderful moment for a shy, insecure, withdrawn, adolescent to be seen. That one moment of affirmation started an obsession. I then purchased a word processor with a printer from my savings and started to write more.
JRR: Who is your favorite author as an adult? Who inspires you?
I’ve continued to read everything in front of me for years never really paying attention to the name of the author, the series or anything. That’s weird, right? I’d grab anything or pick anything on Audible and read it. A book a day sometimes. Then I would go on hiatus and not read a thing. Nothing sung to me until I read Koontz’s snappy dialogue in—well, heck—I don’t remember the name of the book. Seems like it had a killer clown in it. And time was a big factor. I don’t recognize the cover when I look it up on Amazon. But the dialogue made me pay attention. I started to notice sentence structure and his phrasing. A tempo.
Then, Cormac McCarthy made me weep. I wanted to give up. Who could write like that? I’ve read Blood Meridian half a dozen times, Suttree a few half dozen more. I couldn’t read anything else after finding McCarthy for a while—nothing compares.
Hugh Howie captivated me with his books recently. I try to read from new authors now and leave them reviews. I understand how much that means. You sit there and look at the printed book that took so long to birth and wonder, “What did the reader think?”
JRR: The Dean Koontz book is Life Expectancy: I listened to the audiobook of that one a few years ago. That was my first Koontz novel!! Now, what inspires you to write?
A need. If I don’t have a story or character or chapter to chew on in the back of my head during the day I get very frustrated.
JRR: What does your writing process consist of? Do you research or just ‘go with the flow’, Handwrite vs type, music or no music?
I do a lot of research, and love that part. Then I outline the main points and what the characters are going to do. However, new characters just show up sometimes and they are the most fun – because I’m not sure what they will do.
I type very fast, no one would want to see my handwriting. Though I’ve employed various methods to help keep timelines straight: sketching them out on the back of a roll of wrapping paper. That way I could roll it up and take it with me. That’s mostly the key – I don’t have a set process. I can sit down and write anywhere. Anytime. Got a free moment? Let’s take a look at those pages and twiddle with this scene. So, I carry a backpack with my battered laptop with me at all times. I use Dropbox so that there is a backup not local to the machine so I have little risk of losing work should the machine see damage.
My favorite place to write is on long, international plane rides or on my back porch over looking the valley; both places that I am so very fortunate to be able to frequent upon occasion.
JRR: What made you choose to write this type of novel? Did you use your background in caving to help you write Absolute Darkness?
Brandy and Susan are characters I created for a murder mystery. They were hot on the case solving a serial killer who left his clues in very unusual places. I was deep into the first rewrite when I moved to Tennessee and found caving. In the murder mystery, “Running in Place”, I came up with various ways to kill the serial killer: death by alligator (a tip of the hat to my Florida upbringing), death by flaming guano in a cave (I had just found caving and found that guano, bat poo, was combustible), or death by drowning (a true fear of mine).
I paused the rewrites on that book and asked the question, “What if these ladies were cavers?”
So, I imagined the cave they would crawl in. Sitting in that cave was a character I had never met before. Alexander. He could see all of time. He was on the brink of madness. When Brandy and Susan crawled into his cave in the first three pages of the book—Alexander fell in love with Brandy. I, in turn, was completely intrigued by him. However, I did not want to write a love interest story. I stopped writing.
Now, having been at the typewriter since the age of eight—I knew that the writing muse would not be denied. She is demanding and I would find my mind slipping back to imagine how Alexander came to be. I wanted to explore his world more.
But I did not want to write a romance.
Stalled, I turned to research, since I do not read romance. (I had avoided those books on my mother’s bookshelf.) I started reading all kinds of books that my friends recommended including “The Outlander” and a romance/vampire series that a neighbor loaned to me—all of which caused me to sincerely blush. It was a struggle and I picked a tone for the romance portions that I felt were heartfelt and true but not too steamy. Once I figured out that portion I returned to writing the book and scavenged scenes from “Running in Place” for this new book “Absolute Darkness”.
My love of caving permeated throughout the book and I hoped to capture the world for the casual reader.
JRR: What is your favorite cave you have been to? Where would you recommend someone to visit if they are interested in caving/spelunking? I did a small bit of caving/ spelunking when I was in girl scouts many years ago. It was so much fun! There is something just fascinating about it.
Ah. There’s a cave that is special to me but I can’t name it as it is a privately owned cave and a closed one. It’s special because I mapped it and know every single rock it holds, except for the two places I did not crawl through and my buddy Mark can’t sleep at night because there is probably more cave to be found down that narrow crack which takes on water.
There are a lot of great places that are accessible including commercial caves too where there are installed lights and guides to help explain the surroundings. That’s actually what got me into caving. I found a public assessable cave listed in a hiking guide and took the family on a walkabout to find this cave. I stood in the gaping maw of an opening and peered into the darkness. Bats hung from the ceiling. A small stream flowed out of the wide opening. And—I had no clue what I was looking at. What was safe? Where did it go? I was hooked and had to learn more. I looked up a grotto via http://caves.org, read books, introduced myself to the grotto, and those wonderful people kindly introduced me to this new world. It is dangerous, even tourist caves. You have to go in educated and have a guide.
JRR: Did you base Brandy and Alexander off anyone you know?
Not really. Some small aspects from friends are attributed to these characters. The perfect shoes that Susan wears are from a good librarian friend of mine. The beer muse is based very much on a fellow from my grotto and with his permission I used his name. Mark, my caving buddy, in my head played the part of Mark in the book and with his permission I used his name for the character. I didn’t create that character to resemble Mark though – or I would have added in a love for McGriddles. Alexander. He’s a mystery to me. He just appeared as if sliding into my time from somewhere else.
JRR: If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?
My parents and my younger self (she needs a talking to).
JRR: Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?
I’d like to read Blood Meridian again in print and savour the punctuation or lack there of. There are some classics I haven’t read that I’d like to also study.
JRR: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
It wasn’t advice so much as it was encouragement to be creative.
My parents, my husband and many of my friends are the most supportive people ever. Or maybe they just indulge me. Growing up if I had a passion I was encouraged to follow it. I have continued to work at places that support passions and creativity. The people who stay with me as close friends are crazy passionate about their nerdy thing and I love that in people.
My advice to anyone – do the thing you want to do and be prepared to suck at it. That’s part of the process. Embrace it and keep going. You will get better. Some days you will suck again. Pick yourself up and keep going. Other days you will excel. Love the journey.
JRR: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Thank you so much for the opportunity! I hope everyone enjoys the book. Follow me at http://coffeediem.wordpress.com for when the next book comes out! Gosh, I need to get writing…..
JRR: Thank you for your time with this interview!
The #FORLINEARS puzzle: Please check out the virtual blog tour here and you might find some embedded fun in the imagery.
In fact, I dare you. Can you find the hidden puzzles that lead to an autographed book give away? First one to figure it out wins an autographed book.
About the Author:
Tina O’Hailey (author of animation text books “Rig it Right” and “Hybrid Animation”, professor in animation, visual effects and game programming, caver and occasional mapper of grim, wet, twisty caves—if she owes a friend a favor or loses a bet—whose passion is to be secluded on a mountain and to write whilst surrounded by small, furry dogs and hot coffee) was struck by lightning as a baby.
Absolute Darkness: Virtual Blog Tour: June 28 – July 4: https://www.rachelsrandomresources.com/absolute-darkness