Interview with Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross
Author of Shadowland (The Ravencrest Saga: Book IV)
Thorne & Cross are authors of dark fiction. Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross write together and separately and are best known for their series, The Ravencrest Saga. They also host Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, a podcast derived from their research into the strange, the unusual, and the unknown.
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What’s new at Ravencrest Manor in Book 4 of The Ravencrest Saga: Shadowland?
- Something peculiar is going on at Ravencrest Manor as Shadowland opens. Chef Niko Stavros can’t keep his vegetables from juggling themselves and new employee Ryan O’Brien is just as baffled when his mop sets sail across the room. They call Grant Phister and Belinda Moorland for some supernatural assistance and we soon learn that Ravencrest is being tormented by a polterghost -- the spirit of a young Manning ancestor who is looking for a little attention.
As Belinda researches this long-dead youth, other things begin happening. Indoors, a suit of armor comes to life. Outdoors, a mysterious figure in the woods beckons to Belinda by day and night, and she’s unable to resist the call even when Grant and his husband, groundskeeper Riley Doring, tell her she must stay far from this figure. It’s an elemental being -- a very dangerous one.
Belinda’s senses heighten. Her appetites turn voracious, and her senses sharpen. She can’t tolerate the scent of children and finds it difficult to be around her charges, young Thad and Cynthia. And when her forbidden love, Eric Manning, resists her out-of-character seductions, she turns to handsome mechanic Nathan Aubry for attention. Their visit to Devilboy’s All You Can Eat Buffet becomes a tale that will be repeated by the town gossips of Devilswood for years to come.
And that’s just the beginning. As the elemental lures Belinda, her burgeoning powers begin going astray. She tries to maintain control, but when the powerful supernatural creature lures Thad and Cynthia into the depths of the Raven Woods -- into the hidden Black Woods -- everyone is in mortal danger. It’s up to Belinda to save them all.
(You can find an overview of the series under Book 1, The Ghosts of Ravencrest, at https://profilecritics.com/book/5cYYzMyMTxMIM/interview.)
What are some things you drew inspiration from for Shadowland?
- Foremost, we wanted to write about nature elementals. These are non-human spirits that are very powerful and usually represent aspects of nature such as earth, air, wind, or fire. For instance native Americans have wendigos, the Irish have leprechauns -- elementals are common to all societies. They’re powerful but not evil. Tamara featured earth elementals in her novel, Bad Things, as well as in The Sorority. Since then we have mentioned greenjacks -- her earth elementals -- in other books, including the Ravencrest series and Alistair’s Crimson Cove series. In Shadowland, the elemental takes female form and is after Belinda for her power, and unlike most elementals, this one is evil through and through.
What else provided inspiration for Shadowland?
- Fairy tales. As kids, we both were taken by the scary woods from Hansel and Gretel, and the old witch with the apple in Disney’s version of Snow White. We wanted to subject Thad and Cynthia -- and the adults -- to some of that. Doing this brought Riley Doring and his intimate and preternatural knowledge of the woods to the forefront and he introduces Grant and Belinda to the Black Wood -- a portion of the Raven Woods that is so frightening and dangerous that he has hidden it from ordinary humans. We loved exploring that dark forest. Within it, you’ll find the Hansel and Gretel gingerbread house, but what’s inside it is even more than expected. There’s the old witch, cute little tweety birds that the Cheshire cat likes to eat, Disney dwarves in bondage, and even Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock beam in. We also get to find out a little more about perky head housekeeper, Essie Biltmore, who is possibly the most unflappable person in the universe.
How does Belinda change in Shadowland?
- We wanted to see what Belinda would be like under the influence of the elemental. Belinda is a good person, so the idea of “Bad Belinda” really appealed to us. Suddenly, with her heightened senses, she can barely stand the smell of children, the sound of them, or just about anything else she normally likes. She plays practical jokes. And she really wants to get laid. Eric Manning may be her one true love, but he understands something is wrong and behaves accordingly, so Belinda looks elsewhere to get her itch scratched. With her filters all but gone, we delighted in watching her do things that we only dream of. Poor Belinda!
What’s next in The Ravencrest Saga?
- Something spooky this way comes. We mentioned the subject of Book 5 very early in the series and have been waiting for the right opportunity to explore that particular haunt. You -- along with Ryan O’Brien -- will come face to face with the legendary ghost toward the end of Shadowland. All we can say is that an insane spirit is a force to be reckoned with. At the same time as this evil presence unlocks mysteries about Ravencrest’s past, Eric Manning’s ne’er-do-well older brother arrives for a visit. In the fifth book in the series, all hell is literally breaking loose within the walls of Ravencrest Manor.
Something ancient stirs in the Raven Woods. A creature out of the darkest fairy tales calls to Thad and Cynthia, seducing them with promises of gingerbread and magick. Belinda must keep them safe, but her patience with the children has run thin. Her senses are on overdrive, and her appetites are voracious as she wanders the woods, heeding a siren call only she can hear.
Meanwhile, in Ravencrest Manor, new employee Ryan O’Brien is tormented by a trickster spirit that seems harmless, even humorous. Belinda and Grant assure Ryan he’s safe, chalking up the paranormal activity to a harmless poltergeist, assuring him that levitating mops and flying vegetables are nothing to worry about. But as it gathers power, the entity turns dark, dangerous, and when a suit of armor comes to life with deadly intent, they realize that something more is going on in the mansion.
Deep in the bowels of Ravencrest Manor something is waiting and watching; something that will change everything Belinda and Grant ever thought they knew about the secrets … and the ghosts … of Ravencrest.