Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Character Interview: Marianne Reed

We’re back!  After a brief hiatus, the series of character interviews returns with Marianne Reed, the star of Loraine Hudson’s “The House on Beale Street”.

Here’s a little bit about the book.

A dream house in a small town. A cup of coffee on her porch. Her dog at her feet. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty. Bumps in the night, unwelcome visitors, an angry friend, and a lingering threat from a local robbery leave Marianne Reed wondering if her new home might become a nightmare. 
The question is: Is it new-house jitters, or is danger just around the corner?

Tell us a little about yourself:

Nice to meet you all!  My name is Marianne Reed. I recently moved from Peoria, Illinois, to a small house on Beale Street in Burtonville, Illinois, thinking—wrongly, I might add!—that it would be quiet and peaceful in Burtonville, allowing me the freedom to pursue some small, personal wants. 
I have a giant dog, Rowdy by name, but you shouldn’t allow his name to fool you into thinking he expends a particle of energy on anything he doesn’t wish to. He’s (usually) a lazy boy, but he’s my wonderful friend and partner. I love him to pieces, and through some of my adventures in Burtonville I’ve discovered a side to Rowdy that isn’t lazy in the slightest.

One more thing: I’m a widow.  My husband was killed in Afghanistan some years ago.  I am close to my step-daughter, Natalie, who is a graduate student at the University of Illinois. 

Here is a picture of me.

This picture isn’t super current, because I’ve since begun wearing my hair short and curly.  One question I always have is whether I should cover my gray or not. I’ve started to several different times, but I always seem to decide against it.  What do you think?  

Although my move to Beale Street hasn’t quite turned out the way I expected, I still love it here, have made some new friends, and am turning my little house into the kind of place I’ve always wanted.

How did your background get you involved in this novel?

Well, I really didn’t mean to get involved in the way that I’ve been involved, and I have absolutely no background in solving mysteries!  I moved to Burtonville for a new start—to let me do some whimsical, silly things, all for me, in the peace and quiet of a small town.  Little did I know that life in a small town at times can sometimes be anything but “peace and quiet!” 

Right after I moved into my new home, I discovered there had been a robbery next door, and after that someone started setting fires in town.  I seem to find myself in the midst of all the excitement, even though I never look for it; however, I’ve been able to get myself out of some pretty scary situations, and I can hold my own on the mystery front!

Who came first, you or the author?

Oh, I definitely came first.  Lori Hudson, the author, discovered me when she was thinking back to visits she made to Wyanet, a small town in Illinois.  I think Burtonville reminds her a lot of Wyanet, and when she found out about me, she started writing my stories.  She has a lot more to tell, and she’s working on more stories now.

By the way, Lori’s full name is Loraine Hudson, but since we know each other so well, I call her by her nickname. 

What’s your greatest strength?   And of course, we want to know the opposite, your greatest weakness.

Well, if this were a job interview, I’d employ the usual workaround and turn my weakness into a strength but since this isn’t an interview for a job (or is it?), I’ll just be straightforward.  My greatest strengths are that I’m courageous and strong and smart, and that I have a wonderful support system: Rowdy, my dog, of course; my wonderful step-daughter, Natalie; my good friends, Louise from Peoria, and Ashley, whom I met after I moved to Burtonville; Duffy, another wonderful friend from Peoria; the Prairie City Sheriff’s Department and that great-looking Brad (who, in fact, is now more than a friend, although we keep it on the DL so Brad doesn’t get teased mercilessly by his colleagues in the Department).

My weakness?  I’m really not over the loss of my husband, Duane.  Even though he was killed a number of years ago, I still mourn him, and I have a hard time imagining myself committing to another partner (other than Rowdy, naturally!).  Louise would probably say I should get some grief counseling, but truthfully … I don’t want to stop missing Duane. He was my great love, and I think he deserves my grief.  Where does that leave me with Brad (more about Brad later)?  I’m not sure, but you asked about my weakness, and there it is.  Or maybe it isn’t a weakness.  You be the judge! 

What is it about this story that sets it apart from the others?

I believe Lori’s books about me and my adventures in Burtonville would fall naturally into the mystery genre; however, Lori has chosen not to center each of the stories around a murder.  Not that murder isn’t going to play a role here and there, but she decided to try something different, and I support her!  There is certainly plenty of mystery swirling around me and my little town—much to my surprise!—and plenty of thrills and chills to be had. 

Tell us something about your background that may or may not be revealed in the book?

I don’t believe Lori has talked about this yet in her books, but I lost my father when I was about fourteen, and my mom when I was in my twenties.  Since I have no siblings, I’ve got a very small family.  I was close to them while I had them, though—and to my grandparents as well.  I have fond memories of my grandmother.  She was such a sweet, precise woman, and I stayed with her often when I was a young girl.  

Are you the type of person who always seeks out the company of others?

Not at all.  I’m very much at home being by myself.  I’ve always got some sort of project in mind, and I like walking with Rowdy and reading anything and everything.  My favorite times are sitting out on my porch and just listening to Burtonville—people going about their days and living their lives.  

On the other hand, there’s very little I like better than a get-together with friends, especially when we have lava cake for dessert!  

What do you do to relax after a day’s work?

Duane made provisions for me in the event that something happened to him overseas, which, of course, it did, and so now I no longer work outside the home.  I was in administration at Bradley University in Peoria for quite a number of years, which is where Louise, is employed now (she teaches and studies tragic literature).  A day’s work for me usually involves some sort of home improvement project—I’ve been fixing up my house on Beale Street, putting up drywall, wallpapering, painting, etc.  The next big project may be the basement.  It was a giant mess when I moved in.  With the help of Louise and Natalie, it’s all cleaned out now, but it still needs some TLC.

Which do you prefer, music or television?

Oh music, by far.  I almost never turn my television on, but I love to listen to music, especially when I’m driving and can turn it up good and loud.  One of my favorite car artists is Cat Stevens.  I particularly like “If You Want to Sing Out.”  I sort of think it’s my theme song.  Here’s a link if you want to listen and see if it’s your theme song, too J https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDq36YD1ESM

To tell you the truth, I think I had this song in the back of my mind when I decided to move from Peoria to Burtonville.  I lived in a gorgeous home that Duane and I decorated and renovated, but I wanted to try something different, and my house on Beale Street is a lot different, that’s for sure!  It’s very small and when I bought it, it needed a lot of work.  My friends in Peoria were baffled about why I decided to move, but, “if you want to sing out, sing out!”  See what I mean?

Who’s your best friend and what influence have they had on your life?

That would have to be Louise Klein, my friend for thirty years.  We met shortly after I started working at Bradley, and were instantly fast friends.  She was my matron of honor at Duane’s and my wedding, she’s helped me, supported me, cried and laughed with me, and fallen in love with my step-daughter, Natalie, and with Rowdy. Whenever I have some new scheme up my sleeve, she’s always “in.” Our favorite restaurant is Fibber McGee’s, a seafood place in Peoria, where we always eat too much, swear we won’t have dessert and always do, and generally solve all our and everyone else’s problems over a glass of wine.  She’s the sister I didn’t have, and the adult friend I would kill for and would die without. It’s astounding to me that she hasn’t met a significant other to whom she can give her heart—she’s so bright and talented. But her love life has been a rocky road. 

What has been the most romantic thing you’ve ever done or instigated?

Back to Duane.  We met at a fundraiser, started talking, talked some more and some more, had dinner and talked still more. After all that, we were hoarse, but still not ready to call it a night, so I asked him if he’d like to watch the Perseid meteor shower, which happened to be at its peak the night.  We crawled out onto the gently sloping roof of my garage in Peoria and lay there until about 2:00 in the morning, just watching the sky and getting to know each other.  Stargazing was one of our favorite pastimes, and I enjoy it to this day. 

Tell us about the one person you loved who got away.

I had a serious crush on John Nicholson when I was in high school, but he never gave me the time of day (LOL).  Seriously—and this will come as no surprise to you—the person I loved who got away is my husband, Duane.  He, of course, didn’t get away in the true sense of the word, but instead was tragically killed in Afghanistan.  Okay, enough about that.  You don’t need me getting all maudlin on you.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed sharing a little bit of myself with you!  I hope you enjoyed this interview, and that hearing about me will make you want to read some of the stories Lori (Loraine J.) Hudson has written about me!

The first in the series is called The House on Beale Street and the second is The Stars over Beale Street.  

 Spoiler alert: She’s got a third book in the works called Bones on Beale Street (and yes, there’s a murder in that one!)

Here’s an excerpt from the story:
I peeked out the window and saw a tall man on the doorstep, hunched against the cold and looking soaked to the skin. While I watched, he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, glared at the dark screen, and then put it away. He was lifting his hand to knock again when I unlocked the door and braced my foot against it to let it open only a few inches.
“Hi,” I said though the gap.
He looked at me, drops of rain on his eyebrows and dewing his hair. His nose was red from cold. “Hello,” he said. “I’m awfully sorry to bother you. Do you have a phone I can use? My car’s dead, and so is this worthless thing.” He held up his blank-faced cell phone. “I need to call my sister to come get me.”
“Of course.” I started to turn away. “You can use my …”
I intended to hand him my phone through the partially-open door, but he threw himself forward and shoved it violently inward. The door hit my shoulder with such force that it nearly knocked me over, and then he was in my living room, panting slightly and pushing the door shut behind him. I managed to regain my balance at the last minute and opened my mouth to let out a yell, but he leaped forward, hooked an arm around my neck, held me against his body and clamped his hand over my mouth before I could utter a squeak.
“Don’t scream!” he growled in my ear. “Do not scream. Do you hear me? Nod ‘yes.’”
I nodded quickly, feeling bile rise in my throat and my pulse thundering in my ears. Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! I cursed myself. It’s easy to get lulled into thinking everyone’s cozy and neighborly in a small town. Hadn’t I been warned?

About the Author:

Loraine J. Hudson lives and writes in a small town in Michigan.  The first book in her “Beale Street” mystery series is The House on Beale Street.  She released The Stars over Beale Street, in early 2019.  When she isn’t writing mysteries, the enjoys creating “tween” and YA chapter books under her pen name, Judith Wade, especially stories with a little bit of fantasy or adventure.  Her most recent release, The Dragon’s Nest, is second in a series about a young man who just can’t get the dragons out of his life.  She loves oldies rock music, stained glass, digging in her garden, playing with her dogs, horseback riding and, of course, writing.  She is active in a nationwide thoroughbred rehab program, and is often at her most creative when taking her own ex-racehorse out for an amble through the woods, imagining dialogues, plot twists and new tales to tell. 

Follow her on Facebook –
Check out her author page on Amazon –
If you like ebooks, but aren’t a Kindle user, copies for Nook, Kobo, etc., are available at:
The House on Beale Street just came out as an audiobook – visit audible.com for details!

Thanks to Marianne for stopping by.  Sounds like things in a small town are keeping her busy. 

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