An Interview with Marie Lavender, author of Directions of The Heart: A Romantic Drama Collection

      Great to have you here, Marie. Tell us about yourself.

I am from the Midwest, and I live with my family and three cats. I’m from a fairly small town. I pretty much always knew I wanted to write, at least ever since I could form a legible sentence! I love shopping, reading books, and my favorite color is hot pink. I’m a sucker for beautiful flowers – carnations are the best, in my opinion, but I love them all – and I have a weakness for animals. Especially kitties.

     Growing up, was there a book you read that made you go “Man, I just have to do this for a living”? Did you have a favorite author?

     There were so many! But, to name one, I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure stories that I read when I was a kid. I think the aspiring writer in me was fascinated by the plot options.


     What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Always, always a writer! Well, I’d go around telling my relatives that I was going to be a novelist someday. This was after that ‘princess phase’. I mean, how many people actually get to be a princess in real life?


Did you have another ideal career besides writing?

I think I just wanted to be close to books however I could. As a child, I loved visiting libraries and bookstores. They were my kind of toy store. So, yeah, I briefly entertained the idea of owning a bookstore for a time.


When did you first start writing?

I can trace it back to when I was nine years old. At least, that’s when I recall writing down all those crazy stories in my head.


 How did it feel when you started?

It was so exciting, like a new world was opening up to me!


What does your process look like? Any rituals? Necessary music? 

When I’m heavily immersed in a writing project, I write as many random scenes as possible. Eventually, I have to break down and create an outline, which inspires me to focus on each missing scene or chapter. From that I can piece it all together so it merges into a cohesive whole. The last stage of the book is comprised of fleshing out my characters so that they seem real to the reader.

I like to write in pretty journals, but I can just as easily compose in a cheap one-subject notebook or on the computer. When I’m writing, I usually prefer peace and quiet. That doesn’t always happen, though. Sometimes I listen to ‘mood music’ while writing; it really depends on what fits the story or character.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

I read, shop, and try different types of creative projects (such as designing my own book covers or promotional materials, and sometimes even DIY home decor projects). I also love listening to music, and I experiment with various recipes. It relaxes me. And, of course, spending time with my fiancé is my idea of a good day!


 Has your real life and writing life ever merged?

Not in the way you mean. But I draw a lot from personal experiences, and infuse that into my stories.


What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Most of my research is done online, but I always make sure the source is legitimate. I think every research project is different. Usually, I divide everything into small parts and focus on that in between writing sessions so it doesn’t feel as long.


     Where do you come up with your ideas?

I get my ideas from life, from the experiences of those around me, and even from current events. I like to believe that there’s a jumble of chaos, an unidentifiable ‘soup’ if you will, in my subconscious, and eventually my brain decides to dump portions back out in random order.


 I’m intrigued by Directions of The Heart. How did it come about?

Directions of the Heart is a collection of four novellas that I wrote years ago. Each story moved me in some way. I went back and fully revised all of the tales this year, and found that they all fit into a theme. This set of romantic drama stories relates in some way to PTSD, but it’s not about what happens to soldiers. These are everyday people affected by certain events in their lives, and Directions of the Heart is about their journeys.

 What was the hardest part of writing this book?

I definitely pushed some boundaries, stepped out of my comfort zone as a writer. This collection isn’t for the faint of heart. There are parts that are dark and gritty, and emotionally compelling. Yet I was trying to be realistic; I didn’t want to sugarcoat anything because life doesn’t often cut you a break. It’s how you react to those life events, how you survive, that makes you who you are. Still, the book was well received by all of my beta readers, so maybe I did something right after all! ;)

Did you follow the same process with this work or was it different?  

It was mostly the same if you count the moment of inception. I think it’s a little different when you’re working with stories from your backlist. You’re already familiar with the tales, so you have to take several steps back and approach them from a new angle. I think that’s what made these works shine, and I’m proud that I get to finally show Directions of the Heart to readers.

    Do you have a favorite chapter and would you like to share it?

This one is from my favorite novella in the book, ‘A Touch of Dawn’. I think this one begins to detail some of Caitlyn’s emotional journey. Here is the teaser:

Caitlyn Johnson could see the town a little in the darkness. Streetlights bounced sporadically where the car passed, and some buildings had lights, but they didn’t hurt her. It was so odd to see it all now. What he did was pretty routine, she could tell that clearly enough. But it meant more than she knew how to express. He had taken her out of that horrible, dark place, removed her from the situation. Now, she’d have to deal with life again. 
Oh, God. The idea of it was so daunting. Life. Real life. Not in a cellar, kept for someone’s needs. Doing something for herself instead. How was she supposed to do that?
“Are you still hungry?” the policeman asked her.
She shook her head. The flashes of her attacks were prevalent, and her stomach went into a tailspin she feared would never end. “No, not right now. They gave me some food at the hospital, but I kept losing my appetite.”
“That usually improves after a while.”
Good to know. Her hands clutched the care package the nurse had provided, the pills and such, whatever the doctor claimed might help her situation.
“Where are we going?” she asked Jack.
He seemed to hesitate. “Your apartment was vacated long ago. I guess the landlord wouldn’t cooperate. I thought about taking you to your mother’s. Is it all right? We could get you a hotel room, if you’d prefer that instead. And if it helps, I’d have an officer placed outside the door for security. But please believe me…you’re not in any danger now. Still, I promise we won’t take any chances with your safety.”
She shuddered. One thing she knew instinctively was she shouldn’t be left to her own devices. After what she’d been through, her grip on herself was tenuous. She had struggled to stay sane in the cellar. But if she had the opportunity, she might try to kill herself. Part of her wanted the release from life. Another portion was terrified of death. It was a bit odd, considering what she just went through. “I should probably go home.”
Home. Wasn’t that a strange word?
He nodded. “Okay. Sounds like a plan. I already called your mother after we found you. She’s expecting you. She would’ve gone to the hospital, of course, but I told her you should be treated before you had visitors.”
Her stomach clenched a little. So her mother knew she was coming. What would the woman expect from her? How could Caitlyn live a normal life?
She glanced over at Jack. He had an olive tone to his skin, with dark brown hair and pleasant blue eyes. His face was a bit scruffy as if he hadn’t shaved in a couple days. Somehow, he was more attractive for it. Mysterious.
Did it matter what the man looked like, though? She had too many issues to worry about her reaction to him. She had been kidnapped, kept in a cellar to serve as a sex slave for two men. How in the world was she supposed to deal with it, and somehow move on?
She cleared her throat. “How far away is she from here?” Caitlyn managed, trying to give her mind a decent distraction.
“A good twenty minutes.”
“Oh. Okay.” She sighed. “How long has it been? I mean…how long was I gone?”
He sucked in a breath. “Three months.”
Was that all? It was unfathomable. She shook her head, unable to wrap her mind around the seed of information. “How was I found?”
“Your case was never dropped, though the officer in charge was afraid the trail was cold. The police knew the identities of the men who’d taken you, just didn’t know their location.” He sighed. “One day, a random citizen called in claiming to see one of the men from the television report. We put out a bulletin to see if anyone would find you.”
She had been on TV? How strange. “And then what?”
“We looked into it, of course. Traced the receipts to the establishment they’d seen him in. He was using an alias, though. It was clear you were moved several times, once to Portland, then back to Newport, and here in Florence. We eventually found the house where they were living. And here we are.”
Caitlyn was quiet for a moment. It was a lot to take in. She just couldn’t dwell on anything right now. She wet her dry lips with her tongue. “I don’t remember my family. My life. I just recall fragments from the past, but nothing informative.”
“I know. It will come back to you. The mind has ways of blocking the truth to protect itself.”
She nodded, biting her lip, aware ever since she’d been rescued, tears were closer to the surface than before. “Is it always like this? The way it was today?”
“It never gets any easier.”
The strange tone in his voice caused her to glance at him. She couldn’t dismiss the pain flashing in his eyes, even in the dim illumination of the car. “I’m sorry.”
He frowned. “What do you have to be sorry for?”
She shrugged. “It must be hard on you, too, is all.”
He didn’t respond, though his silence made her curious.
“Why do you talk like you’re separate from them? The police?”
He shrugged. “I suppose I am, in a way. I consult on certain cases. I’m not a cop.”
She nodded. “And is this what you specialize in?”
He gave a brief nod. “Yes.”
They were quiet for several more minutes. Caitlyn was exhausted. She leaned her head back against the seat and closed her eyes. God, what she wouldn’t give for oblivion. Or her life back. Her memories. Why couldn’t she remember who she was?
“Your eyes still hurt?”
She looked over at Jack; saw the naked concern in his gaze. “No. Not so bad now that it’s darker.”
He nodded and grew quiet again. 
She shut her eyes again. It was for the best. Caitlyn feared she’d be terrible company besides.
She heard the car slow down, and then it stopped.
“We’re here.”
Her eyes snapped wide and she glanced out the window to see a small one story house. The details were fuzzy at night, yet it looked cozy. But honestly, what did it matter where she was as long as she wasn’t in that cellar anymore?
“Are you ready?” he asked, using a gentle tone of voice.
“I think so.”
She followed Jack out of the car, her anxiety easing when he put his arm around her as they treaded up the sidewalk to the house. The lights were on inside. They stood on the porch for a few moments. She glanced at Jack. “What will she want from me?”
He shook his head. “You’re her daughter. I think she just wants you safe.”
Caitlyn wanted it to be enough, but suspected her mother would want her to remember her life. And she couldn’t do that right away. She feared she never could. 
Suddenly, the door opened. She saw a brief swatch of dark blonde hair before the woman flew at her. She wasn’t prepared for the embrace or the tears from her mother.


Jack frowned. No way was Caitlyn ready for this reunion. She was barely coming to terms with what had happened, let alone the fact that she was safe. Now she would need to heal. It was hard to do so with her mother’s emotions overwhelming her. But, he supposed it would be much worse if she didn’t care about her daughter.
The woman pulled away, tears trickling down her face. “Oh, Caitlyn. My baby girl. What did they do to you?” she asked as she examined her daughter’s appearance. 
Jack fielded the question by clearing his throat.
She blinked. “Oh, I’m sorry, officer.”
“In fact, it’s just Jack. Jack Thomas. I’m a consultant with the Florence Police Department. We spoke briefly on the phone earlier?”
“Yes. Thank you so much for bringing my daughter home.”
“You’re welcome.”
She frowned after a bit. “Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Thomas?”
With a glance at Caitlyn, he led the woman aside. “Kidnappings are extremely traumatic on the victims. That’s why I offer my services anytime this happens.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “What…kind of services?”
“Counseling, anything I can do to help a victim get back in touch with the world. I’m a psychologist.”
She nodded. “I appreciate it, but I’m sure we’ll be fine. I can help my own daughter.”
He frowned. “I’m afraid you can’t. Not alone. And you’ll see the reason soon enough. What happened to Caitlyn was terrible, and I’d be amazed if she could cope with it. Three months going through that alone? No, she needs help.”
The woman’s face hardened. “We’ll handle this on our own, as I said.”
He had dealt with overbearing mothers before. “Sure, but just think about it.”
Jack turned back to Caitlyn. “You need something, let me know. If you just want to talk, that’s fine. If you think of anything at all, call me.” He handed her his business card. 
Caitlyn managed a small smile. “Thank you, Jack.”
He hated gratitude sometimes, especially in relation to abductions. Or a rape case. Or both, he thought with a grimace. The scars inside – what a victim was left to deal with after the nightmare was over – were sometimes worse than physical recovery. “Don’t thank me. I only want to help you if I can. You just get on with the business of living, okay?”
She nodded.
Mrs. Johnson tugged at her daughter’s arm. “Come on, honey. Let’s go inside.”
“Yes, mother,” she replied in a stiff voice. And he could clearly see the agony in Caitlyn’s eyes as her mom led her away. He knew she wasn’t ready for it yet, but he hoped the family home would allow her to break through to some happy memories.

       How can we get in touch with you?

Readers can follow me on social media at Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and even LinkedIn. They can subscribe to my author website as well as my monthly newsletter. I also have three blogs they can follow; Writing in the Modern Age, Marie Lavender’s Books! and the I Love Romance Blog.

     Where can we find your work?

My books are at the usual channels – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Smashwords, Kobo and CreateSpace. The works from my publisher, Solstice Publishing, are also available through their website. Readers can follow me on Goodreads as well. 

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial's Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader's Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, dramatic fiction, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.

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