GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Author Kathryn Orzech guest post: “Thank you, Meryl Streep. You made me a better writer.” + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Author Kathryn Orzech guest post: “Thank you, Meryl Streep. You made me a better writer.” + giveaway

“Thank you, Meryl Streep. You made me a better writer.” 

Like ewe I-Smell-Sheep readers, I love stories. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m watching movies or TV dramas. From a film’s mood-setting titles to the end credits, I learn about character and plot development, and location setting.

Several Meryl Streep films influenced my writing. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, based on the John Fowles novel, weaves parallel stories set in Victorian and modern eras. I was so impressed by the clever plot structure, I thought, someday, I want to write like that.

And thank you, Mark Twain.

The idea for Asylum, a dark suspense saga set in 1899 and 1974, began a few blocks from the posh 19th century Nook Farm located in Hartford, Connecticut’s Asylum Hill neighborhood, home to Samuel Clemens writing as Mark Twain, next door author Harriet Beecher Stowe, and notable neighbors.

Six women executives from the city’s business community gathered around a candlelit table for dinner. By the time the hostess served dessert, laughter had subsided and conversation turned from career aspirations to all things spooky. One woman who worked at a 150-year-old hospital, claimed to have seen a ghost outside her upper floor office. I arranged for a private tour the following week and my interest grew.

With no story and no characters, I hoped to find inspiration in my research. My ghost-inhabited apartment was one of six in a converted Victorian mansion, so I felt at home in the period.

1900 average costs of living:
• Annual income: $430.
• Monthly rent: $4-$10.
• Average home price: $5,000.
• New steam-powered car: $1,000.
• Women’s shoes: less than $3. a pair
• Postage: 2 cents per ounce

Research, pre-Google.
Before the internet and Google, research was tedious and time-consuming, but also an adventure often resembling a treasure hunt. I gathered books from my shelves, but they weren’t enough. I spent hours at the public library cranking the microfilm machine, pulling stacks from the reference section, claiming a large wooden table in a quiet corner, skimming pages and handwriting notes about history, culture, architecture, fashion and foods—everything I needed for a believable period setting.

I vividly recall spotting an engraving of an asylum “treatment” so grotesque my mouth gaped in revulsion. That one image inspired a powerful scene.

Meryl Streep to the rescue. Again.

My writer’s voice struggled through infancy, further challenged by writing alternating story lines without confusing the reader. What was I thinking? The voices had to be distinct.

Meryl Streep to the rescue and her role in Sophie’s Choice. I’d heard that to perfect her character’s accent, she learned to speak fluent Polish. Who does that? A great actor dedicated to her art.

I followed her example and collected a half dozen books written c.1900, read passages aloud, and listed commonly used words I might sprinkle here and there to reflect the formal language of my characters.

I thought I remembered 1974. I was wrong.

With the hard work complete, I’d skate through the mid-1970s, so I thought. Back to the library to check ads in old magazines for popular brand names and products. Even though I’d lived those years, pesky questions arose. Had the airport changed its name by 1974? Were answering machines in common use? Was the Interstate open? What music might play on the car radio? What was news? Who was president?

The answers FYI: Yes, yes, and yes. Space Oddity, Kodachrome, Bennie and the Jets. The oil crisis, gas shortages, the cold war continued, the space race was evolving to the space station. Gerald Ford was President following Nixon’s resignation in August.

1974 average costs of living:
• Annual income: $13,900.
• Monthly rent: $185.
• New house price: $34,900.
• New car: $3,750.
• Gas: 55 cents per gallon
• Postage: 10 cents per ounce

Asylum’s plot grew more complex as characters demanded more intense roles, interacted, and faced danger. Asylum took thirty years to write, often set aside for two or eight years. In contrast, Premonition of Terror, a psychic thriller, was completed in six months. Though not first published, Asylum is my first novel. I’m currently working on a contemporary mystery.

I’ll say Good-Baa for now, and thank ewe for spending this time with me.

Asylum, a dark suspense saga
by Kathryn Orzech
June 19, 2017
366 pages
On an innocent day in 1899 while her father travels abroad, twelve-year-old Maggie Delito unwittingly witnesses a shocking scandal. The next morning, she’s dragged from her family’s estate and locked in an asylum along with the shameful secret. Beneath the noted asylum’s polish of respectability, a wicked conspiracy hides in dank shadows and Maggie fears she will be its next victim.

Seventy-five years later, Laura “Del” Delito inherits more than ancestral assets when her prestigious family’s mysterious past comes knocking. After sacrificing an independent career on the brink of success, she assumes control of Delito’s failing jewelry business while daring to expose its ghosts—a strange old woman, cryptic messages, and a rare antique key that might unlock the truth. As she pursues clues from the Northeast to North Africa, she’s unaware that danger looms closer to home.

About the Author:
Pinterest-YouTube-Author News
Amazon Author Page-B&N-Goodreads-Kobo
Kathryn Orzech, a seasoned world traveler, writes mystery, suspense, and thrillers set in “New England and other exotic locations.” Strong female protagonists flirt with romance, brush with the supernatural, and fearlessly confront extraordinary situations. A self-proclaimed news nerd, other interests include history and geopolitics, society and culture, science, and parapsychology, leaving few subjects off her literary table.

Her website,, true paranormal experiences of ordinary people, has been online since 1997 with visitors from every state and more than 50 countries. The idea for the site came in a dream.

ecopy of Asylum

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  1. Ummm how can the monthly rent be $185.00 for both eras?

    1. probably a typo...I'll find out what it was supposed to be and fix it :) Thanks for finding that!

    2. Yikes! Thanks for catching that. I meant to delete it but have since read the average monthly rent in slum areas was $4-10.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank ewe, Sharon, for inviting me to guest post. And thank ewe, readers and visitors. Books and movies are my favorite forms of entertainment. I'd herd great things about I Smell Sheep and am thrilled to join the flock today.