My writing partner, Patricia Santos Marcantonio, released her latest book, Under the Blood Moon in August 2022. Since most writing is done alone, it’s always a mystery how a stack of blank pages turns into a story. Here are some questions I asked Patricia about her latest book and writing process.
In Under the Blood Moon you present a murder mystery that is also scary with lots of questions and horrific demons. Throw in a big dose of Latino culture and you have an intriguing whodunit. Please tell us a little bit about your writing process.
1. How does your newest release, Under the Blood Moon compare or differ from your other books?
Although I’ve written a horror/suspense anthology graphic novel, this was my first horror novel. And it was fun to write. I love to read books that scare me so I was challenged to write what would scare others. Since it was also supernatural horror, I really got the opportunity to let my imagination loose on what happens when hell literally comes to a small town and how the townspeople react to the terrifying stuff. To me, horror is all about the reaction of the characters. But I also mixed in a mystery so readers could discover, along with the protagonist, the reason for the murders and horror.
2. What inspired you to write Under the Blood Moon?
The Mexican ghost and folk tales that I’d heard and read about sparked this book. I asked myself what if they were real and descended on a small town.
3. Were you able to pick the title for this book and if so, what does the title signify to you?
My original title was “Blood Moon,” but the publisher changed it. Nevertheless, it still fits because what happens in the town of Guadalupe takes place all under the full moon. Like the eye of God is watching the drama below.
4. There are many characters in this book. How do you keep them all straight. Do you use a chart, etc? I’m not that organized for a chart. I usually keep a list to make sure I know who the characters are and that their names weren’t too similar.
5. In which genre do you prefer to write and why?
I’ve written mysteries, children’s books, young adult books, plays, a women’s fiction novel, and a courtroom drama. It’s hard to pick a favorite. I love them all. Each is a challenge. Because I like to write in different genres, I don’t have a specific brand as other writers do. That’s probably detrimental to my career, as far as marketing goes. But I choose to write what stories interest me.
6. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve written stories since I was a kid so I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. But when I got my first advance check, then I said to myself, “Okay, now you’re a professional writer.”
7. What inspired you to write your first book?
I worked as a disc jockey in college so my first novel was about a troubled DJ who could communicate well over the radio but not so much in his personal life. It wasn’t very good and I ended up tossing it. The next one was way better and got published.
8. What books have most influenced your life?
Oh, so many. To Kill a Mockingbird inspired me to be more understanding of others, to step into their shoes as Atticus advises Scout. In other words, to be more human. Catch-22 inspired me to keep a sense of humor in troubling times, and always strive for life. Jane Eyre inspired me to realize that even short, unpretentious women can be strong and mighty.
9. This book taps into many of the Mexican myths and folk stories. Can you share with us some of the myths you grew up with as a child and which ones scared you the most?
The one that really scared me was the llorona, which translates to the weeping woman. This is about a disfigured creature that killed her children and goes looking for more at night. My dad also told me a great story about a bruja’s curse, bruja being a witch. I told a version of it in Under the Blood Moon. Those tales enriched my life with their tradition and scares.
10. Which, if any, Mexican myths still haunt you today?
I’d say the llorona. I’ve retold her story in a book, short screenplay, and a play. I love that she is both a tragedy figure and a frightening one.
11. What suggestions do you have for someone beginning to write mysteries and horror stories?
For mysteries, plot the hell out of them because you don’t want any holes. Approach it as both the detective and the villain–the villain wants to get away with murder and the detective wants to solve the crime. I also heard a great suggestion to start with the murder and go backwards to see how the killer did it, and got away with it, that is until the detective solves the case. As for horror, start by asking yourself what scares you. For me it’s how innocent situations such as a young woman crying in a park, a boy splashing in a pool, or a cake that’s about to be decorated, can go sideways and transform into terror. That makes the world unbalanced. But for both genres, and in fact, for most of the others, it’s the characters that matter most. How do the mystery and the horror affect them? How do they react? Do they change? Do they become the best version of themselves or the worst? How do they overcome obstacles? Their humanity really tells the story.
Patricia Marcantonio is the author of the Felicity Carrol Victorian mysteries; the courtroom drama novel Verdict in the Desert; and Red Ridin’ in the Hood and Other Cuentos , which earned an Anne Izard Storyteller’s Choice Award and was named an Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature Commended Title. Her horror mystery Under the Blood Moon has been published by Dark Ink.
A member of the Dramatists Guild of America, she received Alexa Rose Foundation Grants to produce her play, Tears for Llorona, inspired by an old Mexican ghost story, and to workshop her new play Starring Jane Eyre.
Her screenplays placed first in the Willamette Writers Kay Snow and Reel Women of the West Screenplay contests, as well as placing in the top percentage of the Phoenix Film Festival, Stage 32 Blood List, and MORE Women in Film competitions.
As a journalist, she earned several state and regional awards and was named a Newspaper Association of America Digital Media Fellow. For several years, she covered crime and courts as a reporter.
Read more about Patricia at https://patriciamarcantonio.com/