I have never purchased a book solely based on the cover, until I stumbled upon this one:
The killer cover art intrigued me immediately, along with the title since I knew the meaning. I had to know the story about the man kneeling and why the dark-haired woman glared at him with such hatred or mistrust. Not to mention everyone had a sword and their shirt on, which to me was a good sign there’d be more plot than sex.
After I bought it, I read the blurb, then went straight to my Kindle to start reading. And I’m so glad I did. This is going on my list of favorites for the year.
I loved the richly drawn characters, the unique world, and the layers of conflict that kept me turning the pages. I’m ecstatic the talented Teresa Frohock agreed to come on to discuss her complex and compelling debut novel that captivated me from start to finish.
IR: In 50 words or less, how would you describe Miserere?
TF: Miserere is an adult fantasy about Lucian, a man who betrays his lover in order to save his sister. When Lucian finds that his lover Rachael is dying, Lucian overcomes his fear of his sister so that he can find Rachael and destroy the demon he unleashed on her soul.
IR: What inspired you to write this particular book?
TF: A dream, actually. I had this really cool dream where a tall, Slavic man in medieval garb talked to a boy dressed in modern clothing. Beyond the city where they stood was a dark forest and in the forest was a sign nailed to a tree that read: Jesus Saves. Beneath the sign was a fender from an older model car and on the fender was the bumper sticker: Nobody Saves You More Than Winn Dixie.
That juxtaposition of the religious and the secular intrigued me. I love reading and writing fantasy, so I thought about ways to examine those concepts and Miserere slowly evolved out of that initial framework.
IR: How many agents did you query for this book before receiving an offer of representation? And how did you deal with rejection/criticism?
TF: I queried four agents before I signed with Weronika and every rejection, no matter how kindly worded, was like a kick in the gut. I don't believe you ever become inured to it. Of course, I understood that it wasn't me they were rejecting, nor was it my writing. It was just that particular novel. Still, every rejection was a slap. Then the feeling would fade and I would send out the next round of queries. I knew Miserere would be a tough sell because the story could easily be mistaken for Christian fiction even though it is not.
IR: How long was the book on submission with editors before you received an offer? And how did you maintain your sanity while waiting?
TF: Miserere was on submission for about six weeks before it was picked up by Night Shade Books. I maintained my sanity like all writers do, by checking my email every twenty minutes for the first five days. Then I realized nothing productive was coming from that behavior, so I resorted to researching my next novel and writing a synopsis for it.
IR: You created such a unique world or should I say Woerld with a fascinating mythos. Your evocative storytelling and rich descriptions brought the characters and environment to life. What research did you do for this novel?
TF: Oh, man. I read a lot of Eastern Orthodox texts that had been translated to English to acquire the tone I wanted for Lucian's voice. I've always had an interest in religion, but it wasn't until I started working on Miserere that I realized how little I actually knew about Christianity. I had what I call the sound-bite education—that is where all my information came from the snips and bits that I heard online or while I was growing up.
When I started really researching the roots of Christianity and how Christian beliefs were formed, I developed an entirely different appreciation for the religion, especially for women's roles in early Christianity. I wanted to capture those early beliefs from the days before Christianity became mired in wealth and politics and intertwine them with good old fashioned fantasy magic.
I also read about Slavic vampire lore. One excellent source for me was The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism by Jan Louis Perkowski. The Slavic vampire was more of a sexual predator, and I tried to reflect that in Catarina’s character.
In order to learn about exorcisms, I read several sources, but really enjoyed Armando Maggi’s Satan’s Rhetoric: A Study of Renaissance Demonology. I’ll stop there. I could go on for paragraphs. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing.
IR: Although this is not a horror book, some scenes, especially the ones depicting possession were wonderfully eerie. What scene or chapter was the hardest to write?
TF: Believe it or not, anything with the kid. Lindsay was the hardest character for me to write, because I don't remember what it was like to be twelve. I'm more like Rachael in that respect and trying to write someone young and innocent really threw for a loop. My agent, Weronika, was super about pointing out what needed to be fixed with Lindsay and she really helped me ratchet down on that kid.
Oddly enough, the more violent scenes were the easiest for me to write. I really enjoyed writing Lucian’s walk through the Ierusal Barren and the exorcism scene. Those were my favorites.
IR: Did you have any doubts or concerns about the marketability of this novel with the religious/spiritual aspect at the center of the story?
TF: Oh, yeah. I still do as a matter of fact. A lot of people see "Christian" and their brains shut off. They don't give the story a chance, so they don't realize it's not a novel about religion, but about a man. Justin Landon really discussed this frankly in his review of Miserere at his blog Staffer’s Musings and he said it the best: “Miserere while grounded in Christian myths isn't really about religion.”
I didn’t even start out with the Citadel being Christian; it all stemmed from Lucian and the character biography I created for him. Given that he was from Wallachia in the twelfth century, it was almost certain that he would Eastern Orthodox. I could have twisted things around, but it wouldn’t have been Lucian. I just knew in my gut that this character was Christian and if I wrote him any other way, it would be a betrayal to the character and the story I wanted to create.
I had resigned myself to the fact that if the Christian character meant the novel never sold, then so be it. I will write other novels, but there will be only one Lucian and his story was not about religion but about the redemption love can bring. I figured if people were too dense to see that, then I had no business writing.
I’ve been so wonderfully surprised at the reception to Miserere. A couple of reviewers haven’t understood the novel, but an overwhelming majority of reviewers have, and they have given Miserere marvelous reviews.
IR: What can we expect from the sequel without you giving too much away?
TF: We're going to Hell.
No, really. Most of the novel will take place in Hell.
I’m not being evasive, but that’s about all I can say without giving too much away. Dolorosa: A Winter’s Dream will be more about Rachael and her point of view. She hasn’t taken Lucian back; she has only offered him a chance to win her trust again. There are other men who are equally interested in winning the attention of the fiercely intelligent Rachael. Everything is up for grabs and Lucian knows it.
IR: What message/theme do you want readers to grasp?
TF: I think everyone has been taking something a little different from Miserere and I don’t want to ruin that. Romance readers have loved the romance between Lucian and Rachael; young-adult readers are a little confused, because they tend to identify strongly with Lindsay, who has a very small role this novel [Lindsay’s time will come in the third novel, Bellum Dei]; genre fans like the horror and world-building; and people who don’t normally read fantasy have really enjoyed Lucian’s story of redemption.
I wanted to write a novel about redemption. If people take more away, that’s wonderful. My biggest goal was to make readers forget their troubles while they fell into Lucian’s story, anything after that is icing.
IR: Do you use critique partners and/or beta readers?
TF: Absolutely. I need the feedback, especially in the early stages. Once I roll into the climax of the novel, I feel like I have the story under control, but those first chapters are killers for me.
IR: When is your next book coming out? And what are you currently working on?
TF: Currently, I'm writing on spec, which means I am not contracted for another novel with anyone. I'm working on a novel that is tentatively entitled The Garden. Going back to the concerns about Miserere, I didn’t think it would be wise to start a sequel to a novel that people might not like. So I decided to work on a different novel while we were waiting to see what happened with Miserere. I enjoy writing The Garden; it's kind of a perverted Beauty and the Beast story, and it's about acceptance.
IR: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
TF: Write. Write and remain teachable. Those are the only two things I can tell someone. I read anything I can get my eyes on regarding story and plot. I read in and outside my genre, and I’m always willing to try new things.
Most importantly, have fun, because you will never be rich doing this.
IR: Okay, two final, fun questions. If money wasn’t a factor, what would be your dream vacation?
TF: SPAIN! I would live in Spain for a year. Then I would travel all over the world. I’d love to see Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
IR: What is one daring thing you’ve done in your life or something about you that readers would be surprised to learn (if you don’t mind sharing)?
TF: Hmm, must be legal … I was a real hellcat when I was a younger woman, and I loved to drive fast cars. I’m invoking the Fifth on everything else.
Thank you so much for inviting me for this interview, Isis! Your questions were a lot of fun.
Thanks for coming on!
Teresa will GIVEAWAY AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER. The winner will be announced on Friday.
Teresa has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying. Miserere: An Autumn Tale is her debut novel.
Teresa can be found most often at her blog and website. Every now and then, she heads over to Tumblr and sends out Dark Thoughts, links to movies and reviews that catch her eye. You can also follow Teresa on Twitter and join her author page on Facebook.
Miserere: An Autumn Tale
Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina's soul, but Catarina doesn't want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen’s hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven’s frontline of defense between Earth and Hell.
When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina's wrath isn’t so easy to escape. In the end, she will force him once more to choose between losing Rachael or opening the Hell Gates so the Fallen's hordes may overrun Earth, their last obstacle before reaching Heaven's Gates.
Read the FIRST FOUR CHAPTERS of Miserere FREE here
You can also check out the book trailer here.