by Lisa Haselton – first published here
Novelist Mandy Jackson-Beverly is here today and we’re chatting about her new dark fantasy, supernatural suspense thriller with a touch of the paranormal and occult, The Devil And The Muse.
Mandy Jackson-Beverly was born in the bustling town of Pyramid Hill, Victoria, Australia … Population: 419. This remote childhood kick-started Mandy’s imagination, as did the rugged coastline and rolling hills of Tasmania, where her family relocated when she was four years old.
In 1982, Mandy moved to London, where she discovered the importance of the creative collective: The 1980’s fashion scene. A year later, in Los Angeles, she found her own creative freedom among the thriving, no-holds-barred visionaries of the music video world. As a costume designer and stylist Mandy worked for photographer Herb Ritts, and directors Joel and Ethan Coen, David Fincher, and Julien Temple, and music icons David Bowie, Madonna, and Tina Turner, to name a few.
Mandy has taught Advanced Placement Art, written and directed high school theater productions, is a contributor to The Huffington Post and a book reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. She resides in Ojai, California, with her husband, Brian Beverly, a crossed-eyed cat, Luna, a dog named Cash and, sometimes, her sons, Angus and Jack.
Welcome, Mandy. Please tell us about your current release.
Hi Lisa, thank you for inviting me here to chat with you!
The Devil And The Muse is the second installment of The Creatives Series. This is a fast-paced, cross-genre series, about an ancient organization called The Allegiance. This group protects art and Creatives (mystic artists), and gives sanctuary to those threatened by religious zealots. Book two ventures into dark themes, and as one reviewer pointed out: “Be advised that there is some disturbing dark material.”
The story opens with my lead protagonist – newest member of The Allegiance and Creative – Coco Rhodes, viewing a horrific vision beneath her most recent painting: the violent attack upon a fragile young girl. This leads to the discovery of a link between an education-finance fraud, girls disappearing from Washington D.C. schools, and a corrupt congressman. Concurrently, the dark and twisted past of Kenan, the Allegiance’s sworn enemy, is revealed. With Kenan’s whereabouts unknown, members of the Allegiance begin to unravel his sadistic plan.
From New York and D.C., to Tuscany and the Dolomite Mountains of Northern Italy, the supernatural guardians of the Allegiance are guided by both the lessons of history and the shocks of present-day life. Through magical twists and otherworldly subplots, this supernatural thriller weaves a web of intrigue, love, and conflict.
What inspired you to write this book?
There are definite themes covered in The Devil And The Muse that I felt compelled to write about, specifically women’s rights. My research of the Inquisition and witch-hunts during the Middle Ages, and the horrific treatment of thousands of innocent victims who were tortured and often burned at the stake, seemed at such odds with the way women were treated in similar geographical areas centuries earlier. A good example is perhaps, Trotula of Salerno, a recognized female physician at the Scuola Medica Salernitana around the eleventh century. Trotula taught at the school and cared for female patients. She also wrote works on the diseases of women, conception and childbirth. And yet here we are centuries later, fighting against men for our rights as women to make decisions about our own health care.
This concept of the decline of respect that so many women faced in Europe during the Middle Ages, is the subject I consider to be the backbone of The Creatives Series. I can’t help but wonder if the suppressing of women during that time was the catalyst for the decline of growth in so many areas. While many men wanted to dominate and repress women, often through the strict confines of the Catholic Church, there were also men who honored the feminine – strong men who understood the need for equality among the sexes, and put their love for others before the words of fear spewed out by religious extremists. Sadly, these men with balanced egos seemed to be less of the populace.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Currently, my main body of work comprises of researching material and writing book three of The Creatives Series. I also continue to write essays and short blog posts for various platforms including the Huffington Post, and book reviews for the New York Journal of Books. There’s a play I’m putting the finishing touches to and another waiting to be written. I’m also dusting off my costume designer hat to work on my youngest son, Jack Beverly’s film, Far West And Fried.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my third-grade teacher told me I was an awful writer.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
At the end of the 2014 school year I stopped teaching full-time high school art and theater to focus on writing The Creatives Series. When I’m in the early phase of research and jotting down notes on legal pads, I take the time to write everyday, if not on my current book then an essay, blog post, or a piece of poetry. Writing is no different from exercise; if I go a day without using my creative muscles then it hurts like hell when I get back to it! I think my creative essence goes into mourning when I don’t reach out to her and put her to good use. Sometimes I paint instead of writing, but in reality, for me, this is an essential part of my creative process. I paint my nightly dreams, and have found this action pushes ideas past the clutter in my brain and storylines become clearer.
When I’m in full-blown hurricane-force writing mode, I find it difficult to stop writing. I think eighteen hours straight, stopping only to feed my much-loved dog, Cash, and cat, Luna, is my record for a full day of writing. That same evening I fell into bed, slept for four hours, and then repeated the same pattern for five consecutive days. From other creative people I’ve spoken with, this kind of schedule is fairly normal. When I’m on a roll and the characters are talking to me, time flies by without me knowing and I’m like a mad woman possessed! Those days are magical.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My desk and office are kind of out-of-bounds to anyone; this isn’t much of a problem due to the utter chaos of the entire area! Luna sits in a basket on my desk, like a kind of writing guardian – she is my Thalia (read A Secret Muse and you’ll understand what I mean). I need absolute quiet to write, and with a husband who writes and records music at the other end of the house, I’ve found that earplugs are essential. Because writing means I sit on my backside for hours on end, I tend to walk Cash early in the morning and either swim, or attend dance classes five times a week. Obviously when I’m in the middle of a full-on writing binge my exercise schedule suffers – and so do I. When I hit a brick wall it’s normally an indicator that I need to step away from my desk and exercise. Some of the most important plots of my stories have come to me while either swimming or hiking.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Robin Hood. (see photo – that’s me as my hero R.H.)
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Read whatever you can get your hands on – fiction and non-fiction, and read out of your literary comfort zone. Reading makes you smarter, and a more interesting person. Being unable to attend a community college or a four-year university doesn’t mean you need be any less educated than someone who has had that opportunity. The secret is that you have to want and love to learn. Go to your local library, find a subject that interests you, and read all you can about it. Read a varied assortment of newspapers and magazines – also available at your local library. Go online (hopefully available at your library) and listen to free classes and lectures given by professors and specialists in areas that interest you. And for those of us lucky enough to have a home library, please share and give books to others less fortunate, especially to under-funded public schools; trust me, they need and want them. Buy books whenever you’re able to support authors, and spread the word when you find a book and author you love.
Thanks for being here, Mandy!