SHORTS, NOVELS, AND OTHER THINGS

SAYLINGAWAY

SHORTS, NOVELS, AND OTHER THINGS

BRUNCH WITH ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS, MAE CLAIR, WHO STOPS BY ON HER BLOG TOUR

Mae Clair, whom I’ve called MC since I can’t remember when, has a new book out called The Keeping Place. She’s doing a book tour this month and I’m delighted to have snagged her in her travels for a brunch at Guglhupf (pronounced Googlehof by the locals) in Durham, a restaurant where local and seasonal ingredients are prepared with a contemporary southwestern German (swabian) twist. It’s one of the most popular places in Durham for brunch with both indoor and outside seating. It’s a warm day, so MC and I have opted to sit outside.

When the server comes with menus, I suggest we both order eggs goulash – two poached eggs with Hungarian mushroom goulash and a side of fruit, a Guglehupf specialty – with some passion fruit curd and toasted coconut Danish pastries and coffee. Since MC does not eat red meat, I am anxious to get her take on the mushroom hash. She asks that the eggs and hash come with no potatoes. I ask for side of grits – a Southern comfort food that I love.

After our coffee is served, I jump right into the questions I have for her.

NG: I’ve always been interested in an author’s childhood and how that might have shaped their writing. What about you, MC?

MC: My childhood definitely had a huge impact on my writing. As the youngest of four, I was a late-in-life baby. By the time I was in grade-school, my parents were on the downside of their 40s. As a result, most of the activities we did were more intellectual then physical. I could play a good game of chess by the time I was ten, and I devoured books on a regular basis­—thanks in part to weekly library trips with my parents, both avid readers. My father, who was classically trained in art, also enjoyed wordsmithing, and passed that gift onto me. He’d written numerous stories in his teens and twenties and encouraged me to engage in my own world-building. I started scribbling out tales at six and have never stopped!

NG:  What are your own favorite books?

MC: My tastes have changed over the years. I used to read a lot of westerns, fantasy, and science-fiction, and while I still enjoy escaping in those worlds now and again, these days I prefer thrillers, mystery, suspense, and Christian novels. I am a HUGE fan of the Aloysius Pendergast series by Preston & Child, and I LOVE Old Testament fiction.

NG: A gal after my own heart – I also love the Aloysius Pendergast books!

NG: What inspires your writing? What inspired this one?

Often something I see or hear will inspire an idea. I’ve also written more than one story inspired by dreams.

The Keeping Place grew from driving by a property several miles from where I live. The house sat empty and abandoned for nearly thirty years. There’s no question it should have been torn down because it was packed to the rafters with cast-off junk. All manner of garbage and scrap debris were visible through the (broken) windows. I used to think about snakes and rats every time I drove past. No one bothered about it in the early days because of the location on an old country road, but eventually the fields around that shack were developed with luxury homes on sprawling lots. Shortly, after I wrote The Keeping Place, the house was razed to the ground and replaced with a high-end custom home. The eyesore is gone, but not before inspiring me to include a similar derelict property that becomes central to the plot in The Keeping Place.

At this point, our food arrives, and we tuck in, mmming and ahhing. The hash gets a thumbs up. Once we are sipping coffee again (after refills) and trying the pastries, I ask:

Tell me two things about yourself that I’m unlikely to know?

MC: Hmm…In high school, a friend gave me the nickname “Starchild” because of my penchant for creating stories set in far-off worlds. I also dressed a lot like Stevie Nicks with scarves, fringes, and handkerchief hems. My yearbook is filled with comments about my “artsy” manner of dressing, LOL.

Second, I’m an extremely picky eater. I can never order an item “as is” off a restaurant menu, but always ask something to be withheld or substituted to suit my taste. It’s become a joke among my family and friends to see how I “adjust” a dinner, lunch, or breakfast order. It generally takes me twice as long to order as someone else!

NG: Hearing that I am doubly glad you liked what I suggested for brunch! What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your books?

MC: Writers are always researching something strange, aren’t we? Like most authors of mysteries, I’ve had to research various means of murder and death, which is not pleasant. I’ve also done a lot of dives related to urban legends, particularly “creatures” or “monsters.” I don’t know if that would be considered “odd,” but I’ve gone down some interesting rabbit holes. Researching the Squonk (a mythical creature) was fun and kind of sad at the same time, while researching hagfish (an eel-shaped fish) bordered on disgusting.

NG: What is the best writing tip you’ve received?

MC: Don’t sell your work short. I almost did that with The Keeping Place when offered a contract with a small press publisher. Though a reputable house with some nice perks, they wouldn’t guarantee print, nor allow me to create print copies on my own. Because I used to do a lot of local book signings, it was enough to make me say­ the heck with it—I’m going to do this one on my own!

As we finish up, I ask her one last off-the wall question: You write about ghostly things and places. If you had to spend a night in an old, crumbling haunted house, who would you take with you?

MC: I am PETRIFIED of haunted houses. I know that sounds really weird because the bulk of my previous novels feature some manner of paranormal creature, but in real life I am a wuss about all things supernatural. I avoid haunted houses at all costs, but if I was somehow forced to stay in one, I would want my husband with me—and I would take my Bible!

Thanks, MC, for being willing to be interviewed! Here is my review of The Keeping Place.

********

Most of Mae Clair’s readers know her as someone who loves weaving urban legends and threads of the supernatural into her stories. The Keeping Place turns a little from the usual, in that it is about relationships. She has succeeded making that turn very well!

Nicole Seabrooke returns to her hometown of Hornwood when the body of her 12- year-old sister Janie is discovered, ten years after she disappeared from an outdoor high school party she was brought to by Nicole. Police concluded that Janie drowned in a nearby creek, until two boys discovered her body in an old, run down rail shack miles where the party took place. In addition to Nicole, Janie’s death left two others in Hornwood feeling that they were at fault: Glory, her mother – a beautiful, aging, semi-famous Hollywood star told Nicole to stay home and take care of Janie the night of the party; and Vincent McCain, Nicole’s then boyfriend, who persuaded Nicole to bring Janie to the party. On her return, Nicole learns of new evidence indicating her sister was murdered, and with the help of now Detective Vin McCain, she and the reader start to piece together what happened the night Janie disappeared. Finding the truth may put Nicole in the killer’s crosshairs.  Who is it? And is there a ghost involved in the unraveling of the mystery?

Mae Clair has created a wonderful spider’s nest of possible suspects and I jumped from one to the other, along with Nicole. But the real impact of the story is the description of the complicated relationship of Nicole with her mother and its resolution, which comes packed with surprises, and her emotions going from suspicion to affection for her Vin, former boyfriend.  As usual, the author’s descriptions of place transport the reader into the scenes, in this case the small town of Hornwood and Glory’s home, redolent with smells, sights and sounds.

I recommend this book to everyone – five stars!

******

Here is an excerpt from The Keeping Place:

Nicole wasn’t certain what she expected to find when she stepped into her old bedroom. Modifications, yes, but not a complete transformation. Furnishings, lighting, wallpaper, even the color scheme…nothing was the same. The soft azure tones she’d loved as a teenager had been replaced by shades of burgundy and cream, her cherry dresser and canopy bed, swapped for a maple bureau and brass headboard. A rocker stood where her make-up vanity used to be, and prints of flowers hung on the walls, replacing posters and framed seascapes.

It was one matter adjusting to alterations elsewhere in the house, but the bedroom had been her personal space. Her haven. Finding it so drastically different awakened pangs of melancholy.

She took her time unpacking, finding the closets and dresser bare. Afterward, she walked across the hall to Janie’s room. Smaller, with contrasting shades of ginger and honey, the setting might have been a snapshot frozen in time. Stuffed animals on the bed, clothes draped over a chair, bureau lamp with dangling glass beads… everything exactly as Janie had left it.

Nicole fingered a few items on the dresser. Hair ties, a battered copy of The Hobbit, colored stones from a rock tumbler, a pair of dice, and a white eraser with a rainbow of polka dots. Janie had always collected odds and ends.

Fighting tears, she eased onto the bed. Her mother had done everything possible to strip any lingering vestige of Nicole’s life from her old bedroom.

She’d made Janie’s a shrine.

You can connect with connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up
Website | Blog| Twitter/X | Goodreads| 

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89 thoughts on “BRUNCH WITH ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS, MAE CLAIR, WHO STOPS BY ON HER BLOG TOUR”

  1. petespringerauthor

    Fun interview, Noelle. I learned that Mae and I share the similarity of being the youngest of four. Mom always said she wanted to make sure the youngest didn’t get spoiled. I liked to tease her about overcompensating.

    Best of luck to Mae with The Keeping Place. It sounds great!

    1. Thanks, Pete! And yay for the youngest of four! My siblings (especially my two older sisters) tell me my parents definitely spoiled me, LOL.

  2. Thanks for sharing Mae’s new novel, Noelle, and for this great interview/brunch. How fun to meet her live and be able to talk about writing and life with her!

  3. I get the picky eater thing, Mae. I don’t eat mayo, mustard, peppers, or onions – which usually rules out about 80-90% of a menu unless I make adjustments or substitutions. Great interview, ladies!

  4. Brunch. What a great place to chat about books. (I’m not a picky eater, but I always customize my orders, too.)

    Loved this interview and loved the book. Wishing Mae all the best. Thanks for this wonderful spotlight, Noelle.

    1. Thanks so much, Staci. I do love to chat with my authors on book tours. And I usually customize my orders too – to avoid onions and cilantro, which tastes like soap to me!

  5. Gwen M. Plano

    Wonderful interview, Noelle. All smiles here. And I’m several chapters into The Keeping Place. Mae is a beautiful writer and I wish her the greatest success with this latest jewel. ❤️

  6. Wonderful post, Ladies! Great to learn more about one of my favorite online friends, Mae Clair, and I’m eager to get started on this new book. Thanks so much for this entertaining read, and Mae, here’s to HUGE success with The Keeping Place! 🤗❤️🤗

  7. You definitely sound like me, Teri. I don’t do mayo, or onions and rarely peppers. I am, however, a huge fan of mustard and even dip french fries (when I eat them) in it!

  8. Many thanks, my Penderpal (it looks like we have another one with Noelle, too 🙂 )
    I’m so glad you’re looking forward to the book!
    Thanks for all the well wishes and support!

  9. Noelle, I LOVED our brunch and the interview, and I couldn’t be happier with your review. THANK YOU for the invitation for brunch, the wonderful spotlight for The Keeping Place, and for sharing your review here. One of these days, hopefully, we’ll actually connect in person. What fun that would be!

    And for some reason, I put half of my comments in the wrong place rather under the appropriate spots. I think I was a little too quick with the return/enter button on my keyboard! 😆

  10. Judith L Post (Judi Lynn)

    This was such a fun interview! I never knew Mae was such a particular eater:) No potatoes? My husband can’t pass up a spud. LOL. I love Mae’s writing. When I finish the book I’m reading, The Keeping Place is next on my list!

    1. Yeah, I’m a picky one, Judi, LOL. I will eat potatoes but only prepared certain ways.
      Thanks for visiting and checking out hte interview. I hope you enjoy The Keeping Place when it surfaces on your Kindle!

  11. What a fantastic interview. I love learning more about Mae and now if I ever go to a restaurant with her, I will know what to expect. 🙂 I finished the Keeping Place last night around midnight. I couldn’t stop so close to finding out the who, what, when and where. Great story I highly recommend! Thank you for sharing, Noelle!

  12. D.L. Finn, Author

    Great interview and brunch! I am a picky eater, too. I prefer to eat ar home over going out now.

  13. LOL! Yep, I’ve always been “MC” to Noelle, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I was such a “starchild” in high school, LOL!
    I’m glad to hear The Keeping Place has arrived on your Kindle!

  14. I do not even know how I ended up here but I thought this post was great I do not know who you are but certainly youre going to a famous blogger if you are not already Cheers

  15. What a fun interview, and yummy brunch! You always take your friends to the nicest places, Noelle. I learned a lot about Mae this morning including about her love of books and writing stories at a young age. My dad was similar to hers in that way, so I can relate to her early inspiration. I think we just grow up as book people. And a cool story about the inspiration of The Keeping Place. Those old “eyesores” seem full of stories. ou couldn’t get me to stay in a haunted house either. Congrats, Mae, and thanks to you both for the fun interview!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comments, Diana. I enjoyed putting this together for MC. I think she relates to a lot of people who stopped by the post.

  16. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview, Diana. It was fun to hang out and chat with Noelle.
    I like your reference to growing up as “book people.” Yep, that’s exactly how I see it, too.

    It seems odd that the old eyesore shack is gone now. I’m sure the neighbors in that area are happy. I would love to know the true story behind why it stood that way for so many decades. Shy of that, I guess I’ll just have to be content with the story I spun from it, LOL!

  17. How nice that you could meet! I enjoyed the time we met, Noelle, and had a lovely visit.

    I do the same thing when I order out, Mae, changed things up and take the longest to order. I get a lot of weird looks when I do it.

    Wonderful review, Noelle!

    I have enjoyed Mae’s books and look forward to reading this new one.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Janice. Glad you enjoyed the interview and I loved this book. As I get older, I also find I change things up when I order food. Onions and parsley are a problem!

  18. It seems like you’re repeating a set of comments that you might have come across on various websites or social media platforms. These comments typically include praise for the content, requests for improvement, and expressions of gratitude. Is there anything specific you’d like to discuss or inquire about regarding these comments? Feel free to let me know how I can assist you further!

    1. While we didn’t meet face to face, I assure you I did spend time chatting back and forth with this author, who is a friend, in putting this post together. So I find your comments rather specious. My review was written de novo.

  19. Certainly! If you have any specific questions, topics, or concerns you’d like to discuss, feel free to let me know. Whether it’s about technology, science, literature, or any other subject, I’m here to assist you. If you need advice, information, or just want to have a conversation, I’m available to help. Just let me know how I can assist you further!

  20. Thank you for reaching out! If you have any specific questions or topics in mind, please feel free to share them, and I’ll do my best to assist you. Whether you’re curious about a particular technology, scientific concept, literary work, or anything else, I’m here to provide information, advice, or engage in a discussion. Don’t hesitate to let me know how I can help you further!

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