I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree L. R. Trovillion to talk with me about her book, False Gods. L.R.’s love of the written word began at the early age of ten when she penned her first mystery “novel.” Since then she’s pursued degrees in Russian language and literature and has earned a living as a translator, teacher, reporter, and editor. When not writing, she’s at work training and showing her horses or caring for her Maryland farm which she shares with her husband, daughter, and two dogs who think they run the place.
Lisa, how you discover indieBRAG
My friend, critique partner, and fellow writer, Susan Yanguas was awarded the indieBRAG medallion several years ago. It is a great program and I’m proud to be an honoree.
Tell me about your story, False Gods.
On the surface, False Gods is the story of a teen, Cory Iverson, with some confidence issues taking a run at qualifying for one of the country’s most prestigious horse shows on a mysterious horse rescued from an auction. Along the way, Cory has to grapple with her own “demons,” which are urging her to just give up, along with some other very troubling events including a ruthless competitor, loss of faith in her trainer, and some disturbing actions taken by family members. Beneath the surface layer, however, it is really a story that examines the nature of desire—whether it is a force for good or bad.
What should readers know about Cory Iverson
From Cory Iverson’s point of view, she’s been ripped out of her home in Massachusetts and stuck living in a new town in Maryland and attending a new high school because of her parents’ recent divorce. She lives with her mother, who is still obsessed over the split and spends most of her time and energy finding a man to fill the void, and her sister, a driven ballet dancer who has her sights set on winning a spot in a top dance company. Cory doesn’t see herself as particularly talented at anything—unlike her perfect sister—and fears her mother’s criticism when she isn’t good at something or worse, when she doesn’t stick with it. Cory is a chronic quitter. It’s not out of laziness, but rather out of insecurity that she just won’t measure up to her own standards, or anyone else’s. But there is one thing she knows she’s rather good at—riding.
Please share an excerpt
This is a scene when Cory goes to visit her sister, Jess, in the hospital after she’s collapsed. Cory has guilty knowledge that her sister has a severe eating disorder, but hasn’t spoken to anyone about it yet. Jess has completely given up and is bitter and depressed. Here’s their exchange:
“Okay, so what do we talk about now?” Jess’s voice was flat. “Weather? How’re your classes going? And what about them Orioles?”
Cory struggled against the gravity of the chair to move forward. She perched on the edge, her feet flat, ready to bolt if she had to. She didn’t want to upset Jess, but she also didn’t want to be goaded into her sarcastic game.
“Sure, school. We can talk about that. Not much new there, though. That skater kid who always wears the knit cap is still dealing in the lot behind the donut shop, and Charlene, the Color Guard Captain, is still a big—”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m not going back,” Jess said, staring at the ceiling.
Cory wasn’t sure what she heard. “What?”
“I’m not going back. I decided. Especially not after this.” She held out her arms, connected to tubes.
“Okaaaay.” Cory grabbed a gossip magazine off the nightstand and thumbed through it. “What are you going to do, then?”
Jess sat up, propped on one elbow. “You know what? I don’t care. For once, I don’t have a plan. I don’t have anything I have to do, and I’m enjoying it. I’m not going to intensive dance camp in Massachusetts this summer—that’s for sure, especially not since dad refuses to let me live with him, for God’s sake. It’s not like I asked to move in with him forever.” Jess slumped back against her pillow. “Asshole.”
“That’s what mom says.”
“She’s right. What a selfish prick.”
“You could maybe still find somewhere to stay in Mass. We do have other relatives…”
“No.” Jess slumped down. “I’m done with that.”
“Done with what?” This conversation was taking a strange course.
“What do you mean? You can’t be done with dance.” The words ended, but the unspoken question, can you? hung in the air. Jess turned her face toward the wall with the high windows. The sucking air noise of a machine filled the silence.
Cory shifted in her chair. The fake leather squeaked. “Jess…” She didn’t know how to finish. She didn’t know how to start. She chewed on her bottom lip. “Jess,” she began again, “I know you must feel really bad right now, but—”
“Actually, I don’t.” Jess turned back to Cory, her chin lifted high. “Actually, I feel great. I feel like a huge ton of crap has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel light, like I don’t care about anything anymore and I can just sleep all day or get hugely fat or quit school or do whatever it is I feel like doing.” She took a deep breath. “And I don’t feel like doing anything anymore.”
“But after all the work, all the stuff you’ve been though, you can’t just quit!”
Jess let out an explosive laugh. “That’s funny! You telling me not to be a quitter. Huh”—she tapped her bottom lip with an index finger in a mock gesture of deep thought—“guess I’ve finally seen the wisdom in your approach to life.”
Cory slid away from Jess’s physical presence as if her words, like small ice pellets, had been flung in her face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, Cory, don’t act all hurt and everything.” Jess flipped the covers back and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her feet, her horribly scarred and calloused dancer’s feet, didn’t touch the floor but hung like bruised fruit at the bottom of her stick legs. “It’s not like you’ve never quit anything before,” she continued. “Oh, except for when you never even try because you’re scared of the consequences. Doing nothing is the same as quitting. Maybe worse.”
Cory sat in silence. Her throat felt tight. The nurses’ voices carried down the hallway. Laughter. Finally, Cory tossed the magazine she held rolled up in her hand back onto the bedside table. The dark ink had bled and stained her palms. She wiped them down the front of her pants.
“Okay.” She slapped her knees and stood up. “Guess I’m outta here. I’ll talk to you later.” She headed to the door and pulled it open but hesitated. Jess sat resolutely silent.
“Bye,” Cory said and left.
Outside Jess’s room, the corridor seemed abnormally bright. She walked slowly past the open doors of other rooms, past the nurses’ station, toward the exit sign.
Doing nothing is the same as quitting.
Jess’s voice echoed in her head. Cory turned and went back to the desk where several nurses had gathered. A woman with a long gray braid looked up from the computer. Her black nametag was etched in white letters. She had a dimple in her right cheek when she smiled. Every detail seemed burned into Cory’s mind as she opened her mouth to speak.
“I need to talk to someone. It’s about my sister…”
What is Cory’s relationship like with her sister, Jessica?
Cory admires her sister’s dedication to the ballet and her single-minded goal of becoming good enough to some day land a position in a national ballet company, but at the same time she is annoyed by what she thinks is Jessica’s self-obsession, her unsubstantiated worry about her career future, and her all-consuming drive. Cory wants to be more like her, deep down, but at the same time she takes every opportunity to ridicule Jess for those same qualities she envies. They are close in age but are total opposites: Jess is blond and thin, focused and confidant whereas Cory is thickly muscled, flits from one activity to another, and lacks self-esteem. They bicker and snipe at each other, but despite their differences, when challenged, the sisters will stick together and help each other out.
What is the history of The Enchanted Forest nursery theme park where a scene in your story takes place?
The Enchanted Forest in Maryland is the second oldest theme park in the U.S. after Disneyland. Opened in 1955, the park expanded at the height of its popularity when 300,000 visitors came annually. It appealed to families with small children because of its nursery rhyme theme, featuring fairy tale buildings and characters. Track rides were later added, including the Alice in Wonderland ride with teacup shaped cars. (The ruins of this ride are described in False Gods). In 1988 the park closed and a large part of it was used to build a shopping center. Interestingly, in 1990 it was one of the film locations for the movie “Cry Baby,” starring Johnny Depp. For years, the buildings sat in the woods behind the shopping center, falling into decay and being swallowed up by vegetation. I knew about the park and had even visited once when it was open, so one day I went behind the stores of the shopping center and pressing against the fence, I could make out the eerie turrets of “Cinderella’s castle,” lines of gingerbread men holding hands, a decaying candy-covered witch’s house and more. It was such a sad and poignant scene, symbolic of lost childhood. Everything was suspended in time, as if the caretakers just walked away and left it. I knew I had to find a way to include this Maryland icon in the book. Just this month, coincidentally, the last of the many buildings that could be salvaged have now been removed and restored at Clark’s Elioak Farm nearby.
Is there a message you would like readers to grasp?
The message of the book is a simple one: Be determined and go after what you want in life, just be sure it also feeds your spirit. And, it’s okay to try different things until you find it. As one character in the book says, “You quit out of fear. You change course out of self-knowledge and wisdom.”
Who designed the book cover?
My cover was done by a very talented artist and photographer, Regina Wamba, of the company Mae I Design.
Where can readers buy your book?
False Gods is available on Amazon in both ebook and print versions. I also sell copies when I appear at book events or speaking engagements, which I love to do! In particular, I enjoy going to Pony Club, 4H, or other youth oriented clubs to meet young readers.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on something very different: the story involves a young woman’s suspicious death in Baltimore hunt country in 1928. The investigation reveals plenty of people had sufficient motivation to want her dead, but was it really murder? Three individuals launch a quest for the truth, each with their own agenda. It’s a detective story with a real twist!
Where do you like to write in your home and what is your process?
I have a nice room all set up for myself with writing books at hand and other inspirations, but more often than not I migrate to the dining room table to write. I like to be able to look out the French doors to the pastures to watch the horses while I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. More truthfully, the real reason is perhaps that I like being nearer to the coffee pot and refrigerator. As far as process goes, I find that I still gravitate to pen and paper when sketching out the story line and characters’ backgrounds. I like to jot down scenes when they come to me, even if I’m not sure how they’ll fit into the novel. I also make notes in the margins and draw arrows and generally scribble a big mess that somehow gets transcribed into the computer. From that first draft, I work on the edits. Over and over.
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview L.R. Trovillion who is the author of, False Gods, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, False Gods, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.