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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

This Madness of the Heart

This Madness of the Heart
by Blair Yeatts


GENRE: gothic mystery/thriller



Bad religion can be deadly. So Miranda Lamden, small-town religion professor, discovers in This Madness of the Heart. The dark hollers of Eastern Kentucky offer fertile soil for shady evangelist Jasper Jarboe, new president of Grace and Glory Bible College, as he beguiles the small mining town of Canaan Wells with his snake-oil charm.

When Miranda isn’t teaching at Obadiah Durham College, she’s investigating paranormal phenomena—or enjoying a turbulent romantic relationship with backwoods artist Jack Crispen. JJ’s inquisition-style gospel has alienated her long since, but when he announces his plan to transform her forest home into an evangelical Mecca, complete with neon cross and 40-foot Jesus, Miranda girds her loins for war. But JJ isn’t finished: he goes on to launch an attack on her friend and fellow professor Djinn Baude with an avalanche of vicious rumors. Not only does he accuse Djinn of demonic communion with the old Voudon witch whose curse killed the college’s founding family, but he also smears her with insinuations of lechery and vice.

With JJ’s urging, hate boils over into violence and tragedy, sweeping Miranda up in its flood. One death follows another as a miasma of evil overwhelms the tiny community, and only Miranda can see clearly enough to halt its spread.

This Madness of the Heart is the first in a new series of Gothic mystery-thrillers featuring Professor Miranda Lamden, whose spiritual gifts have drawn her beyond university walls to explore the mysteries of other world beliefs. Her unique vision brings her into repeated confrontations with evil, where too often she finds herself standing alone between oblivious onlookers and impending disaster.


The large woman beside me slid to the plank floor with surprising grace, twitching and jerking on her back, eyes glittering sightlessly under half-closed lids. Worshippers stepped around her with hardly a thought. Her lips fluttered in prayer, inaudible amidst the tumbling chaos of sound rolling through the tiny church.

“Hallelujer! Hallelujer! Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus! Praise-a the Lord!

Oooooooohhh, glory be to God, honey! Praise-a his holy name!” The preacher’s voice roared over the babble.

I rocked contentedly in the midst of a storm of joy. Ecstasy beat against me like a rising spring tide. I loved my work. No matter how many hours I spent observing people celebrating their faith, their joy always lifted me up—perhaps bearing me on the wings of their prayers. And Appalachian Holiness congregations had to be among my favorites. I loved their lack of pretense, their tolerance of diversity, their unselfconscious enthusiasm. I envied how easily they gave themselves up to spiritual ecstasy. Comparatively, I was a clam, tightly sealed in a riotous bed of wave-swept anemones.

Several white-shirted men carried cardboard boxes into the center of the floor while the worshippers danced close around. One by one, two by two, three by three, coiling copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes were scooped from the boxes and passed from dancer to dancer, man or woman, whoever held out a willing hand.

Panic knocked the breath from my body like an adder’s sudden strike. My gut clenched, writhing with the coiling snakes. Tremors shook my hands. Shadow threatened to overwhelm my sight. I’d forgotten myself, relaxed my guard, let slip the rigorous discipline I wore like a second skin in my field studies.


1.When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I’m not sure. I was one of those little kids who was forever making up stories and telling them to herself and to anyone else who’d listen, even before I was old enough to start school. I remember a kindergarten teacher who took a special interest in my stories and wrote some of them down—even invited me over to her house for tea from time to time. (This was back in the days when teachers could do things like that without people looking at them oddly). But life and growing up took their toll on that free-flowing creativity, and for many years whatever stories came to me I kept to myself. I wrote for English classes, but turned my attention to academic subjects—and art. I don’t think the urge to write really returned until I started journaling during a particularly tough personal time. Those journals eventually grew into (a perfectly dreadful) autobiography, which I am endlessly grateful was never published! But the act of writing it, and the intensity of that creative experience, reminded me of the delight I’d once found in weaving words into story . . . and I was hooked. That was twenty-some years and seven books ago now, and it’s all I can do to tear myself away from my desk when the muse is speaking—no, let me rephrase that: if the muse is speaking, only a power outage could drag me away from my computer, and then I’d probably just switch to my laptop!

2.Besides yourself, who is your favorite author in the genre that you write?
That’s an odd question for me! It was only when I sent This Madness of the Heart out to a few readers that the word “gothic” came up. I had set out to write a mystery-thriller, for lack of a better description. I love mysteries, but not the formulaic ones that spend a lot of pages on alibis and timetables. “Gothic” was a surprise, so I looked it up online and found a helpful article by Robert Harris. According to him, the elements of a gothic novel include things like: a setting in an old mansion or ruin; an atmosphere of threat and mystery; an old prophecy or curse; omens, portents, visions; the supernatural; women in distress, especially from tyrannical males . . . well, bingo! So, in answer to your question, I haven’t read any gothic novels since my teens (I loved Mary Stewart), although I intend to. But I do read mystery-thrillers. My favorite author would probably be the mother/son team “Charles Todd,” who writes the Inspector Ian Rutledge series; I don’t care for their Bess Crawford novels. Nevada Barr runs a close second for me. She was my favorite for many years, but I’ve found her most recent mysteries to be increasingly dark and violent. I enjoy a moderate amount of violence, but not too bloody. I don’t care for too-sweet books, either, with happy-happy endings, but I do like resolution and justice and healing in the end, without lingering despair.

3.What are reading right now?
I just finished Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, and enjoyed it so much that I’m reading her more recent (vampire) novel, Sunshine, right now. Deerskin was pure magic, although shot through with harrowing pain. Yet she brought healing and justice to her ending. I’ll read it again. Books I really like leave me feeling that there’s more to be discovered in a second reading. As for Sunshine, I haven’t finished it, but I trust McKinley enough as a storyteller to believe she’ll bring it to a satisfying ending. So far it’s entertaining, and her vampire portrayals are creative and unique, although I don’t like it as well as Deerskin. I don’t often read vampire books these days. I went through a vampire phase, when I read everything Anne Rice (and others) wrote, but too often I find that they call to something dark in me that needs no encouragement. We all balance light and dark inside us, but I’ve discovered that too much darkness leads to places I don’t care to go.

4.Which one of your characters is most like you?
Miranda Lamden, the series’ main character, has a lot of me in her. Maybe that’s because I originally wrote Madness as an expression of my own disgust with villains like Jasper Jarboe, DD. Perhaps she emerged full grown from my brow like Athena, a kind of avenging “me.” Or not. Anyway, we have a lot in common: we’re both college professors who teach religion and have a particular interest in paranormal phenomena; we both find peace and healing in wild nature; we both have mystical bents, and we both love cats. But our personalities are quite different, as are the other elements of our lives. Although I think most writers start out writing what they know, some characters seem to insinuate themselves into a writer’s mind, taking on their own personalities, wisdom, and history: they just are. She’s somewhere in the middle.

5.Which of your books is your favorite? Why?
First I need to say that “Blair Yeatts” is a pen name that I chose in order to publish the Miranda Lamden series without confusing the readers of my other three books, which are in a completely different genre. And I’ve already written three books in the Miranda series: Madness is only the first. So when you ask me which is my favorite, first I have to eliminate the other three from consideration, which leaves me with Madness and two no one else has read yet! But still, I think I would choose the second one in this series, due out (with any luck) before Christmas: Blood on Holy Ground. The relationship between Miranda and Jack Crispen, her significant other, becomes more intense in every way, and the violence may be more disturbing. Both are essential parts of the story. In Holy Ground, Miranda goes to a convent in Tennessee’s hill-country to research an old Native American legend on the small reservation that adjoins the convent grounds. She and Jack stumble into a firestorm of savage violence and only escape with their lives thanks to the guidance of the Native elders and the power of an angry land. Everything in Holy Ground comes together for me: its flow, its intensity, the depth of the characters, and their healing, and the uniqueness and power of nature and land.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Blair Yeatts grew up in the midst of a large, old southern Virginia family, much like the family of her main character. She followed her parents into a career in academia and taught religion at the college level in Kentucky for many years. Her special areas of expertise are psychology and Earth-based religions, in which she has done considerable research.

From childhood, Ms. Yeatts has been a fan of mystery fiction, starting with Nancy Drew and moving through Agatha Christie to twentieth century giants like Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Nevada Barr. She is fulfilling a life’s dream in writing her own mysteries.

Ms. Yeatts shares her home with her photographer husband, two cats, and a dog. She has a lifelong love of wild nature, and prefers to set her stories in rural areas, where threads of old spiritual realities still make themselves felt. Her first three books take place in different parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Buy Links:

This Madness of the Heart e-book will be free during the tour.  The book is free on Smashwords.

(CreateSpace will be up on May 1)

Author/Book Links




Blair Yeatts will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Use the link below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Unknown said...

Thank you for hosting "This Madness of the Heart"!

Anonymous said...

Do you prefer digital or paper books?

Blair Yeatts said...

I fear I'm a hopeless traditionalist, Becky! I love the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of the paper and binding. I love looking at them on my shelves. They travel with me like family. I read in digital format only as a last resort, and then I find myself constantly frustrated by not being able to look at the cover/title/author (I have a terrible memory!) while I'm reading--not to mention touching the screen accidentally and ending up in an alternate universe. There are only three advantages for me: paper conservation, ease for traveling, and light weight if I want to read lying down.

Mai T. said...

What are your current projects?

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a great read.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed the interview and it looks like a good read :)

Blair Yeatts said...

Hi, Mai! I'm in the middle of writing a book under my previously published name (sorry, no clues), and going through the final editing process of the 2nd Miranda Lamden mystery.

Blair Yeatts said...

Thanks, Rita!

Blair Yeatts said...

Thanks, Lisa, and I hope you'll give it a try!

Victoria Alexander said...

Really great post - I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing :)

CJ said...

Awesome interview and excerpt! Thank you so much for sharing! :)

Blair Yeatts said...

You're welcome, Victoria!

Blair Yeatts said...

I'm glad you enjoyed them, clojo!

Nikolina said...

Good luck with the book tour, Blair!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Nikolina!

Mai T. said...

Who/what inspired you to become a writer?

Unknown said...

It was a lifelong process, Mai. I was creating stories and writing as a six-year-old, but it might have been the discipline of writing a very lengthy PhD dissertation that gave me the push I needed to write something more substantial. I know that it was journaling during a difficult time after my degree that was the final inspiration.