I spoke with Anne-Marie Ormsby, author of twisted tales The Tower, Purgatory Hotel & Dark London.
On a warm day in July 1978, a mother was admitted to hospital, awaiting the arrival of her new baby. She was reading Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie and the midwives thought it a gruesome choice for an expectant mother. A story of a long forgotten murder and repressed memories. As it turned out her new baby, Anne-Marie would grow up and find herself drawn to all things macabre, and would one day herself turn out a story of murder and memories lost.
Anne Marie grew up on the Essex coast with her parents and six siblings in a house that was full of books and movies and set the scene for her lifelong love of both.
She began writing short stories when she was still at primary school after reading the book The October Country by Ray Bradbury. He was and still is her favourite author and the reason she decided at age 9 that she too would be a writer someday.
In her teens she continued to write short stories and branched out into poetry, publishing a few in her late teens. In her early twenties she began committing herself to writing a novel and wrote one by the age of 20 that she then put away, fearing it was too weird for publication.
She wrote Purgatory Hotel over several years, but again kept it aside after several rejections from publishers. Luckily for her, she found a home for her twisted tale with Crooked Cat Books.
Her favourite authors include Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Denis Lehane and Douglas Coupland. She also takes great inspiration from music and movies, her favourite artists being Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, Interpol, David Lynch and David Fincher.
After ten years living in London, Anne-Marie moved to Margate where she lives with her husband and their daughter.
Please tell my readers a little about yourself!
Hi I’m Anne-Marie, eternally awkward writer, I like music, ghosts, graveyard walks and bats and the sound of rain. I also like mainstream 80’s movies so I like to think that makes me a well rounded person.
What inspired you to become a writer/author?
I read some short stories by Ray Bradbury when I was 9 and decided I wanted to write. I wanted to try and make people feel something soulful deep in their insides like Ray Bradbury had done to me
What is the best thing about being a writer/author?
Writing is like therapy or exorcism. If I have a bad day writing helps me get my head straight again.
What is your writing routine like?
I don’t have a routine really, I have a 5 year old daughter and a full time job and that means I only have a few hours in the day where she’s asleep and I’m awake so I take my writing time where I can get it. Sometimes I stay in a hotel in London to get some uninterrupted writing time.
How much time is spent on research?
It depends what I’m writing but I tend to research as I go. So if I’m writing and decide to mention something obscure about London or its history I’ll break to go look it all up etc. When I was writing The Tower I was looking into tarot card meanings and spiritual rituals for getting spirits to bog off. That was fun.
How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?
Very little. When I wrote Purgatory Hotel I started writing it with just the idea of a girl who dies and has to solve her own murder while trapped in an afterlife hotel. That was all I had when I started, the rest of the story just sort of happened along the way.
What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc
The plot, but also making the characters relatable, they need to have stories that people will recognize in their own lives and ultimately care what happens to them. That said I have made the locations the main character in both my books!
What is your latest book about?
My last book was The Tower, about a woman who discovers the tenants in the block of flats she manages for the council are starting to die in odd ways. Simultaneously her long buried talent for communication with the dead springs back up and she can’t control it, mainly because someone on the other side is desperate to talk to her. She’s got a past she’s been running from for a long while but its come back to mess up her new life.
What inspired it?
It was inspired by several things, I had the story about a bad ghost bothering a girl in my head for a long time and I had written it in different ways before but never liked it. The one day I read a story in the Hackney Gazette about a guy being found dead in his apartment under a wall full of holy pictures. So it kind of helped me create a new story around the old one.
Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?
The first book I ever read was when I was 6 and it was the novelization of the movie Ghostbusters. I think it set the tone for what I liked to read. Then I fell in love with writing because of Ray Bradbury and the stories of his that I read where always of a supernatural ilk. After him there was Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Lovecraft and Susan Hill, I just love a good ghost story. I blame growing up in an Irish household where ghost stories were evening entertainment.
How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?
I sent Purgatory Hotel out to various agents, and paranormal fiction was not hot at the time. But I always knew that one day my book would fall into the hands of someone who got where I was coming from. And then I sent it to Crooked Cat and they liked it! I’d basically found my literary tribe.
Any new books or plans for the future?
This year has been bad for me for writing – lockdown has been totally uninspiring but in the last couple of months I’ve been working on some short stories, hopefully I’ll write enough of them to put a collection together.
What authors have been an influence on your writing?
Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Nick Cave
What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?
Never never give up, and don’t be afraid to be weird.
What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?
Write what you really feel in your bones, you have to care about it to be authentic.
What has been your favourite book so far this year?
I’m pretty lame and don’t read many newly published books, but during lockdown a close friend sent me the book The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton, which I would probably have never read as I don’t often read autobiographies but it was absolutely beautiful, such an escape from what was going on in the world. A beautiful bold autobiography which resonated with me in many ways. And I discovered she is a huge Ray Bradbury fan which made me love her even more!
What is your all-time favourite book and why?
Argh I always struggle this question, how do I narrow it down? I have a favourite true crime novel, a favourite British literature classic, a favourite American literature classic, a favourite biography! Its endless. It depends on the mood I’m in on the day aswell which one I’m more likely to pick. Today my favourite is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson because I go to it when I’m in the need for a soulful scare. She was a beautiful writer and I think the opening paragraph of this book is the best opener I’ve ever read.
What genre do you read most often?
Most of the fiction I read I don’t really know how to classify it – Douglas Coupland, Jack Kerouac, Bret Easton Ellis, Andrew Kauffman. But if I’m able to define something as a genre I probably read more true crime than anything else.
What are you currently reading?
The Ticking Heart by Andrew Kauffman and Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman.
Anything else you would like to add?
Huge thanks for inviting me to your blog! Cant wait to read your new book!
Thank you for your time, Anne-Marie!
You can purchase The Tower on Amazon now! It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited members.
Blurb for The Tower:
Sometimes the dead come back. And sometimes all they want is to hurt you.
When residents on an east London housing estate start dying in gruesome ways, housing manager Ada begins to worry that her past is coming back to haunt her.
Once a powerful medium, able to talk to the dead with amazing ease, she became more comfortable with the afterlife than real life, and with that openness she attracted something dark from the other side. Terrified by the experience she swore she would never communicate with the dead again.
Ten years later at the scene of an apparent suicide, her long closed-down connection to the dead is reopened, and she begins to receive information she shouldn’t know about the victims’ final moments.
Stalked in her dreams and in waking life by an angry male presence, Ada begins to relive the dark days when something from the other side wanted her to end her life.
But as the bodies stack up and the visions intensify, Ada realises that in order to stop more people from dying she has to let the dead back in to find out the truth of what is driving her residents to violent acts – and face up to her own ghosts.
You can find Anne-Marie in various places around the internet:
If you enjoyed reading about Anne-Marie Ormsby’s The Tower, then you might also enjoy my interview with Jennifer Worrell, author of Edge Of Sundown.