Today I am interviewing Joseph Stone, author of the new horror and fantasy novel, A Perfect Night, first book in the Haunted Women series.
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DJ: Hi Joseph! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Joseph Stone: Hello, there! I am a historical and dark fantasy novelist. Aside from regular folks, my characters include ghosts, demons, werewolves, and now witches.
DJ: What is A Perfect Night about?
Joseph: This novel is about a girl named Fran who loses her mother at a young age, only to find the woman’s spirit remains by her side. The spirit comforts Fran when she’s sad or lonely, and disciplines her when she misbehaves. As Fran becomes a teenager, those disciplinary punishments become more severe and terrifying. One day, the estranged family of Fran’s father contacts her, and she learns what her abilities to sense spirits truly is.
DJ: What were some of your influences for A Perfect Night and the series?
Joseph: I’ve always wanted to write about witches since I read Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches as a boy. I loved the enormity of that story and the idea of a human bloodline having significance to the spirit world.
The idea for this story came from a dear friend of mine, also named Fran, who revealed to me how she and her family have been haunted by spirits all their lives. It’s not a matter they’re comfortable discussing, but each of them has had multiple, often unpleasant experiences with ghosts. Fran came to believe ghosts are attracted to her family because she and her siblings can sense the ghosts’ presence. To this day, Fran will not visit her aunt’s house because of the number of angry ghosts in the house who would taunt her as a girl.
The idea of a haunted house simmered with me for years before Fran also revealed that her mother’s spirit has visited her many times. They had a humorous relationship as adults in life, and to this day, her mother’s ghost plays pranks on Fran. A favorite keepsake will go missing for days or weeks, only to reappear on Fran’s pillow one night before going to bed. The idea of a parent remaining on earth to play with their child struck a chord with me, and a much larger story was born in my imagination.
DJ: There are many different definitions of horror in genre, so I’m curious, when you write “horror”, how is it that you try to scare your readers? Do you go for gore? Shock? Maybe build up tense moments? Or perhaps it is the unknown?
Joseph: For me, horror is about keeping the audience interested in the story and uncomfortable at the same time. Not too uncomfortable, but just enough that they’re willing to turn the page. A novelist doesn’t have the tools of a filmmaker; there are no quick, jarring edits or orchestral hits available to startle our audience. And while you might watch a scary movie with your friends, we usually read novels alone. So I create characters you trust enough to walk through a haunted house with. And once you trust them, I throw everything at them that you mentioned: suspense, tension, shock, gore, the unknown, and even good old-fashioned monsters they’ll need to escape.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Joseph: Fran Tarantino is my heroine; a young girl who beats the odds by surviving the chaos of her upbringing. Her mother dies when she’s only ten-years-old. Fran’s father is afraid to be alone with her, which she cannot understand but is crushed by. So she grows up without meaningful guidance until her aunt brings her to live in her house to grow up with her five kids. Most intriguing, the ghost of Fran’s mother is with her every day. If Fran is sad, she makes ladybugs appear to entertain the girl. If she’s naughty, the ghost disciplines Fran, at times violently.
When Fran’s father dies, his estranged aunt, Aurora Ciccone, arrives one day to welcome Fran into their family. Aurora is the matriarch of an old and wealthy family who walks and talks like Bette Davis in All About Eve. Aurora’s secret is that she’s one of the haunted women, and she knows exactly what is happening to Fran.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
Joseph: By far, my favorite side character is Richie, the youngest of Aunt Laura’s children. While every character is me in some way, Richie is about as close to my boyhood self as I could make him. He and I love and hate all the same things. He’s the kid that loves to go trick-or-treating but is absolutely uncomfortable when his older siblings fill the living room with cobwebs and spooky décor to throw a Halloween party. My favorite scene comes after the chapter where his dad lets him and his sisters watch The Bride of Frankenstein on television. Richie wakes up at three in the morning alone and scared. He has to overcome his fear to get all the way downstairs and into his parents’ bedroom, and I felt for him every brave step of the way.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Haunted Women series like?
Joseph: The first novel takes place in the late 1960s and early 70s; first in the Italian-American neighborhood of North Buffalo, New York, and then in the posh, coastal region of Westport, Connecticut. Going forward, there will be several American and European settings as Fran learns more about her family history and the curse that follows them.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing A Perfect Night?
Joseph: This time around I wrote with music playing, something I’ve never done before. Music has always distracted me, and so I’ve always written in silence, usually in the early morning when it’s quietest. This time around, I played a Beethoven piece that figures in the story. Fran often wakes to the sound of piano playing downstairs, and I played that melody on repeat for weeks straight, letting it direct her experience with it.
I also discovered thunderstorm recordings. The weather in San Diego, where I live, is fairly dissimilar to New England. “It was a dark and stormy night” happens infrequently in Southern California. By a happy accident, I came across the Thunderstorms playlist on Apple Music and fell in love with it. I can listen to rainfall and the rumble of thunder for hours on end without feeling distracted in the slightest. I may never write a novel without a storm playing ever again!
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Joseph: I think they’re going to be talking about a ghost named Daedrian and what he has planned in store for them.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Haunted Women series? A Perfect Night is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Joseph: My goal with this series from the start was to take readers on a journey through the lives of several women who have been coveted and controlled by supernatural forces only they can see. Guiding that journey is a young girl who becomes the woman who can break the curse that’s enslaved her family for centuries. At its heart, it’s an allegory for the liberation of women from the enslavement of western civilization’s patriarchy.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from A Perfect Night that you can share with us?
Joseph: I tried really hard to find something for you, but I don’t think I’ll ever be detached from humility enough to have a favorite quote from something I wrote.
DJ: Now that A Perfect Night is released, what is next for you?
Joseph: : I’m presently at work on the third werewolf book in my Lykanos series, which I hope to have out early next year. Then I head back into Fran’s mind to write the second Haunted Women novel. I also appear each week on the podcast Not A Life Coach: Lessons From A Life Lived Stupidly.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/josephstone
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about A Perfect Night and the Haunted Women series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Joseph: Please let me add a proper warning for potential readers that, despite being a coming-of-age story, this book is not for kids. It contains scenes with strong physical and sexual violence, and I’ve placed warnings in the product page blurb and at the front of the book to ensure readers are forewarned. To survivors of those crimes, please know this novel may prove triggering, and its the last thing I’d want you to walk into if you’re concerned you might not be ready. But if you give it a try, I think you will appreciate the care I’ve taken with the subject.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Joseph: Just my sincere thanks for allowing me to tell you about my latest work.
DJ: It was my pleasure! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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***A Perfect Night is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Goodreads
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About the Book:
Some families have secrets they must keep hidden for generations.
Frances Tarantino has felt her mother’s spirit by her side ever since the woman’s tragic death. Fran’s mother sends beautiful ladybugs to land on her dress whenever she feels lonely or afraid. The little red and orange jewels always bring a smile to the girl’s face. And on those rare occasions when Fran misbehaves, her mother disciplines her. As Fran falls in love for the first time, she learns how dangerous a parent’s discipline can be.
Fran’s grand aunt, Aurora Ciconne, vowed never to take another husband when she became widowed at twenty-two. To a chorus of would-be suitors, she insisted her heart could never belong to another. And now, at fifty-eight, Aurora insists she does not need a man. But in secret, she has always been a bride.
When Fran develops their family’s gift of sight, Aurora searches for a way to free them both from the diabolical enslavement they can speak of to no one else.
The first book of The Haunted Women series follows the lives of two extraordinary women capable of seeing the spectral world—and all they must sacrifice to free themselves from it.
**WARNING: Contains scenes of sexual violence and abuse.**
About the Author:
Joseph Stone is a historical, dark-fantasy novelist who lives in San Diego, California. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from San Diego State University and a Master of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.