Interview with Betty Rains Stewart, author of Hang Sorrow Hotel

Publisher: DRL Publishing

Publication Date: February 28, 2013

Order Links:  Amazon

Synopsis: Sarah Pepper had postponed leaving her family, going out on her own, and dipping her toes in waters of freedom far too long. Then, her brothers got married, roamed hither and yon, her father’s job transferred him, and the door to independence slid open. She was offered a marvelous new job in a place she’d never heard of and took it. From that point on, a series of innocent mishaps such as wrong turns, lack of cell phone service, blinding rain, drastic dip in temperature, and a hotel located in the back of beyond threw her into a brand new world. From her entrance into the front door of the hotel, Sarah was smacked with doubt, all the while under the guise of pursuing liberty. Strangely enough, in such an isolated bit of Ozark woods, meeting people she never hoped to meet before, she believes she recognizes someone. At the very least, there was something eerily familiar about one of the male guests. However, he gave no indication, and not even a momentary pause, that he felt the same sense of acquaintance. As her first night in the hotel progresses, Sarah discovers her room is isolated from the others, and while the dining room and dinner are welcoming, someone is spying on the guests as they eat. Strange sounds abound, the lights never work, an ice storm hits, and someone bangs on her door claiming to have been kidnapped  None of it sets her teeth on edge as does the knowledge that she knows the man banging on her door. C.J. Van Ausdale. Not only familiar, Sarah and C.J. have history. None of the weirdness of people and place is as disturbing as when Sarah returns to her dark room, stumbles over a dead body, encounters the local law, is blocked in by the ice storm, suspected of murder, and forced to defend herself by analyzing all the people sequestered with her. A tale of mystery surrounds each one, including the only one she knows: C.J. Van Ausdale. As each layer is peeled away, clues abound, reasons revealed, and people are accused or exonerated until the truth becomes clear.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about the inspiration for your current release.

A. When a child growing up on a rice farm, my family made the Ozarks our favorite get-away spot. It continued to be my choice even after I was married, my children came along, and I had been fortunate enough to travel to some pretty hot tourist attractions in other parts of the world.

Our accommodations in the Ozarks were always a bit primitive: a tent if we were lucky, an almost falling-down cabin upon occasion, and a couple of blankets on the ground under the stars in a pinch. Back then most of the river crossing places were underwater concrete slabs or a shallow rocky bottom. Loved it!

In Hang Sorrow Hotel, I could build a mystery around my favorite area, the terrain, the river, the weather, and turn loose of my memories for some of the background scenes.

Q. How did writing the book affect you?

A. It was almost a “back-in-time” for me. I could certainly visualize the water rising, the road becoming impassable, and when Sarah took the late-night walk over icy ground, I could hear the grass crunch under her feet. I liked being there again.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

A. I’m able to easily get started on a story, know what happens in the middle, and even have a couple of different endings that will work. What I have trouble with is pacing the events! I have a scene in mind, it jumps out and beckons, makes me laugh, cry, or get irked; then, I have to find the best place and time to showcase it. Also, once I get started on a story, I don’t want to stop. However, real life interferes and there’s nobody around to regulate the timing. You gotta eat, garden, go to kids games, attend to family, shop…

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

A. I like surprises. You know how it is. Good people do bad things, or get caught up in someone’s dilemma, or a piece of the sky falls straight down on top of good intentions. Sometimes I find myself being a little like the story of The Indian in the Cupboard. My characters come out on my desk to discuss what’s happening. I listen to them. It always pays off.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

A. Absolutely! I made up stories when I didn’t even know what putting them into a book meant. I love creating. I want to make someone laugh, cry, hiss, clap and stomp! Doesn’t have to last forever. . . just somewhere over a 100,000 words.

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. Just finished: The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, an old book entitled Dinner At Belmont by Alfred Leland Crabb, and of course, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!)

A. My first grandson just graduated high school, won academic and athletic scholarships to college, will play soccer, have fun, grow along with others, and get himself ready to join the challenging and amazing life of all us adults out there! He does show a talent for writing and drawing. What if he goes off to school, finishes his studies, does his service to his country, comes home to whatever path he’s chosen. But then, what if he decides to be a cop? He has a dreaded tattoo on his back, is certain he can relate to young people, can make a difference to society. . . and what if he meets a woman? A defense lawyer. A pretty one who has her own grandmother-taboo tattoo. . .

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

A. I’m a great cook. I just never write down a recipe which frustrates my daughters when they want to duplicate a dish that I’ve served to their children. I create in the kitchen, too.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A. I’m partial to a little romance in anything I read or write, but I don’t just like one particular genre. I’ve written about handsome Scottish brothers in historical settings, a nice western cattle drive (too bad for me about Lonesome Dove), lots of romantic short stories, children’s picture books — and I want some mystery in all of them. Try out Hang Sorrow Hotel, then watch out for others coming along after! If we go across the sea, head out to the desert, or explore our sensuous side, I think you’ll like going on an adventure with me.

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