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Friday, 4 January 2013

2013 Debut Author Interview: Mary Gray


About the author of THE DOLLHOUSE ASYLUM!
Mary Gray has a fascination with all things creepy. That's why all her favorite stories usually involve panic attacks and hyperventilating. In real life, she prefers to type away on her computer, ogle over her favorite TV shows, and savor fiction. When she's not immersed in other worlds, she and her husband get their exercise by chasing after their three children. The Dollhouse Asylum is her first novel.

THE DOLLHOUSE ASYLUM by Mary Gray - debuting October 8th 2013 from Spencer Hill Press
The Dollhouse AsylumA virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when seventeen-year-old Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields--a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus--she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.

   At first, Elysian Fields,with its beautiful houses and manicured lawns, is perfect. Teo Richardson, the older man who stole Cheyenne's heart, built it so they could be together. But when Teo tells Cheyenne there are tests that she and seven other couples must pass to be worthy of salvation, Cheyenne begins to question the perfection of his world.

The people they were before are gone. Cheyenne is now "Persephone," and each couple has been re-named to reflect the most tragic romances ever told. Everyone is fighting to pass the test, to remain in Elysian Fields. Teo dresses them up, tells them when to move and how to act, and in order to pass the test, they must play along.

If they play it right, then they'll be safe.

But if they play it wrong, they'll die.

1. Describe your book in 5 words.

2. Your book THE DOLLHOUSE ASYLUM is slated for release in 2013. Is there anything more you can tell us about the story or the characters (the other couples)? And what kind, if any, research did you have to do?

Now there's a loaded question! To find the right line of intriguing you without giving away too much! Well, from the synopsis you're told they are forced to re-enact "the most tragic love stories ever told." So what romances can you think of? I'll suggest you'll get one or two right, but I have a few you probably have never heard of before, but they're all real stories found in literature. I did read up on the different literary couples while writing, and they were central to the story because my protagonist, Cheyenne, is obsessed with them. The villain--the man she loves but should hate--is also obsessed with these stories. It's what's brought them together.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started? What was your publishing journey like?

I wrote a crappy book (a few different drafts of it, actually) then set it aside. (I had it under contract for publication with a tiny press, but soon learned it wasn't the debut I wanted my first novel to be.) I then started writing The Dollhouse Asylum when I became obsessed with the idea of a girl becoming trapped by a man she both loves and hates in the most perfect of neighborhoods in the middle of nowhere. I don't know where that idea came from--it was always just there. The original version, which I wrote almost five years ago, had a lot going on on the line-by-line basis, but when I took the story to David Farland's Professional Novel Writers Workshop in Dallas (I was living near DC at the time) he basically told me I needed to rewrite the whole book. I had a lot of extra things, like Texas seceding from the union and zombies on, like, every page. He helped me see what kind of a story it was, and quickly, I wrote it the way he explained. Then I got super sick when I got pregnant, so sick that I couldn't write. It sucked, but it was worth it, because now I have my beautiful son. Nine months later I picked up the story again, and hired two babysitters once a week to watch my three small children so I could make the story shine, and after a summer of that, I pitched agents.

A couple months into pitching, Kat Salazar, formerly of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents, offered representation and she subbed to Spencer Hill Press, and my fabulous editor, Danielle Ellison requested that I rewrite and resubmit. I lived on caffeine and insanity for two weeks while I followed her excellent advice, then, Danielle said she wanted to buy my book.

4. How did your main character Cheyenne came to life? What was the inspiration behind her and do you have any quirks or hobbies similar to hers?

I took a lot of inspiration for her from Mary in The Forest of Hands and Teeth (her quiet power and obsessive nature). But Danielle actually helped me find her real identity. She helped me see that, in earlier drafts, Cheyenne was pretty stoic. When she asked for thoughts in different parts of the manuscript, I got to learn more of who she was and what was going on in her head. As for quirks, here's a funny one. I was actually filming my book trailer when I noticed my actress always twitched her fingers, and I loved it, because it suited Cheyenne. Nothing obnoxious, but just a kind of strange mix of pensive and relaxed. Cheyenne and I both love reading, and a weakness for tall brooding, sometimes evil men who we shouldn't like.

5. I'm really into books with strong romantic elements, is there anything you can tell us about the romance in your book without giving too much away?

JUST YOU WAIT. That's one of the great things Danielle did for me. She asked for more, and the floodgates sort of poured out of me. I remember this one time when I went to this private study room at the library to write this make-out scene, afterward I drove home all, you know, uh, happy. It took a lot of willpower not to call my husband and make him come home to er, fulfill the happy. But the book would be nothing about romance: the good, the bad, the sordid, the sweet. It's what I look for stories, too, so you should be in the clear.

6. What made you decide to write a Young Adult book? And how did you come up with the Elysian Fields?

At the heart of story is the importance of healthy relationships. I've seen some unhealthy ones in my life, and that sort of became my inner demon I needed to write about. Elysian Fields was the neighborhood I sort of wanted to move into when I was living near DC (at the time I was obsessed with living in TX). (Hey, another similarity trait between Cheyenne and me? Obsessive. Yes. Yes.) But the Elysian Fields name is important, but I can't give that away yet. :)

7. As a reader, what is the most important to you, the characters or the plot? And as a writer, is it different?

As a reader, definitely the characters. I want to fall in love with them. Any plot holes are easily forgiven. As a writer, I had to write the plot first, then go deeper (at least with this story). The one I'm working on now might be the opposite, though.

8. Aside from THE DOLLHOUSE ASYLUM coming out October 8th next year, what else can we expect from you? New books, new projects?

Yes! I'm working on a new book! But it's still in its infancy, so I've forbidden myself from talking about it.

9. What other books are you really looking forward to read in 2013?

The Madmen's Daughter by Megan Shepherd (don't you just LOVE that name?) and R.L. LaFevers next My Fair Assassin book (you know, the sequel to Grave Mercy--GAH, loved that book). Also, Reclaimed by Sarah Guillory since my editor said it made her cry when she read the manuscript.

10. And finally, how did you come up with the title of THE DOLLHOUSE ASYLUM? I love it SO much, it stands out and very unique! Were there any old titles that you can share with us? :)

I know, I love it, too! When Kat picked up my book, it was actually called MY FRAGILITY (for two different reasons, but that title didn't stand out--I didn't know anything about titling back then). Danielle and I kept texting back and forth titles before the posting for the book on Publishers Marketplace went up. We kept playing around with the word Asylum since it has a dual meaning (asylum from the monsters, and also crazy place) when she started asking her room mates. When one asked what my original title was, she explained about the need for conveying the word "fragile." He said "dollhouse" and everything clicked. Danielle went to my manuscript and realized I'd alluded to everyone as dolls all along. Then in the rewrites, I just brought out that aspect more. It really became perfect, and the cover fits the story so much.

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!

Thanks so much for having me, Jana! It means so much that you're excited about the story, and just to let everyone know, I'll be at BEA with ARCs, or you can request one via Spencer Hill's web site: http://www.site.spencerhillpress.com/Reviewers.html. Thank you!!

Find Mary at: Twitter - Facebook - Goodreads - Website


  1. Great interview! I'm dying to read the Dollhouse Asylum and this interview has made me even more excited for it!! :)

  2. I know Mary personally, and read that early draft of her book. She has done her "homework," never giving up, reading and reading and reading, and now translating her ideas to words that we'll happily soon get to read! She's an awesome writer; her obsessions work for her as a writer. I'm so happy that she found an editor who saw her great potential and helped her bring out the best in her story.

  3. I know Mary personally, and read that early draft of her book. She has done her "homework," never giving up, reading and reading and reading, and now translating her ideas to words that we'll happily soon get to read! She's an awesome writer; her obsessions work for her as a writer. I'm so happy that she found an editor who saw her great potential and helped her bring out the best in her story.


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