is upon us now, here in the northern hemisphere. Maybe you're looking for a
good book to take to the beach, or your lawn chair. How about this one?
Author Cassandra Yorke is here to talk about her new
book, MARY EVERYTHING.
SC: Tell me a little bit about the main character of this book.
CY: Courtney is a college undergrad in 2004, and a forgotten archetype nowadays - the preppy Abercrombie girl who listens to punk rock and indie and college emo. She’s lonely and damaged from a life where nobody has ever wanted her, but she’s beginning to sense that something isn’t right. She’s got a summer job at her University Archives, and research on a new project turns into something else when she finds herself haunted by a dusty set of yearbooks from the 1920s. Soon nothing is what it seems, and she loses the ability to tell where 2004 ends and the 1920s begin. She meets Sadie - a girl dressed in long-outdated clothes, using long-outdated slang, and the two become fast friends even as reality breaks down around them. But Courtney’s uneasy feelings were right. Dark forces are closing in, and they won’t rest until she’s dead.
In another time, Sadie gathers the unlikeliest collection of allies in a desperate attempt to rescue Courtney before it’s too late. And even if they can bring her home alive, the battle has just begun.
Courtney has been a constant source of surprise for me as well as for readers, and I think that’s what I love so much about her. I never know what will come out of her mouth; she’s always ready with a barbed wit and the perfect reply for any situation. I’ll be writing a scene and suddenly Courtney will say something that has me sobbing with laughter. But at her deepest level Courtney is driven by unimaginable love, and she’s all too ready to throw herself into incredible danger, against hopeless odds, for her friends and newly-found family. She’s incredibly smart, resourceful, tenacious, and determined. She’s pretty and she’s sweet and full of love. She’s hilarious and just a little bit awkward. She’s fierce and brave, daring and courageous, even quite rash. And by the end of the book, she’s a total badass.
SC: Do you believe in the paranormal and if so, do you have an experience you can share?
CY: I absolutely believe in the paranormal; to me, it’s just the normal. I’m an empath, and my life has been filled with so many things that are difficult to explain. The episode that inspired this book has been one of the hardest situations of all to put into words.
Anyone who’s read Mary, Everything will recognize what happened to me - I used it as the foundation for the novel’s plot. I’d just finished my senior year of college in 2004 and I was staying on campus that summer, working at the university Archives. I didn’t want to go home; big things were changing in my personal life and my dad was a violently abusive narcissist asshole. On campus, life made sense. Nobody was telling me who to be and threatening to kick me out (or beat me within inches of my life) if I didn’t conform to their insecurities. I felt like there were dark storm clouds on the horizon, felt like that summer was an island of ominous calm on the edge of death. It sounds melodramatic when I say it like that, but that’s exactly how it felt.
Like Courtney, I’d been assigned a new boss and a new project at work as soon as spring quarter ended. It was a famous big band artist who’d graduated from my college around 1930 or so. We had his whole collection but it hadn’t been catalogued, so my boss was like, “The collection’s yours - organize it, develop an index. Oh, and become an expert on the guy’s life, because you’ll be writing his bio.” Wow. Talk about a lot of responsibility. Talk about feeling like a grownup. So I started with his college yearbooks, tried to get a feel for his college life.
That was when it started.
The pages were all yellowed and a little bit moldy, and they had this particular kind of strong odor. At first, the pictures just looked old and spooky, but that didn’t last long. Soon I started seeing everyone on those pages for who they were - college kids like me. That was when the books...I don’t know...took me, I guess. That’s the best way I can put it. Those yearbooks were haunted - his graduation one in particular. They were thick with all the nostalgia this guy had about his college years, and I feel really deeply that he was kind of like a grandfather figure sitting me down and sharing all his reminisces with me. I felt privileged that he shared it with me, but here’s the thing - if someone across the veil shares something with you strongly enough, it’s not like having a conversation with a living person where you’re being told about stuff. It’s more like some cyberpunk type thing where you’re hooked up to their consciousness. You feel this concentrated stream of their emotions, their memories, their nostalgia, their loves, the best times they ever had. Those memories go right into your awareness and they become your memories, your experiences. And just like any other powerful experience you’ve ever had, those things imprint themselves on you and become part of you.
Soon I wasn’t in 2004 anymore. I was in 1928. My body walked around in a daze while some other part of me went to college in the 20s. My roommate says that I was just gone for a month and a half, and that she felt like she was alone when I was in the room. I went around with this thousand-yard stare. I’d make the drive back home some weekends without realizing I’d even done it, and all I was aware of was my life inside the yearbooks. Everyone was always really frantic and shrill when they tried to get my attention and snap me out of my fugues, but I didn’t want to be snapped out. I didn’t want to be in 2004 anymore. I felt like I’d come home, that I had a home, and that for the first time in my life, I truly belonged somewhere. Part of me felt like I was back with my dearest friends, and part of me - maybe the logical part of my Millennial mind that clung to the present - missed them, ached for them. I wanted to be back there more than anything, but no matter what, I always came out of my fugues and it was 2004 again, and that hurt.
And as time passed, so did my time slip. That’s a good term for it, you know - “time slip”. Because in my case, it slipped through my fingers like sand or water, no matter how hard I tried to keep hold of it, no matter how hard I tried to stay. And this timeline went on and life turned every bit as dark as I imagined it would.
But no matter what happened, I’d been marked and changed forever by my time in the 1920s. As I got older, I got more haunted; I began to feel like a ghost, like I was alone in a world that didn’t make sense anymore and I couldn’t get back to my real life in the 20s.
It was only when I sat down to write Mary, Everything that suddenly everything made sense. I really could go back. I’d write this novel and make it back where I belonged - for good this time. That purpose brought me back to life - and finishing the novel has given me peace beyond anything I can describe. I feel deep and tremendous satisfaction when someone’s interested in reading it - maybe even the same satisfaction my friend on the other side felt about sharing his experiences with me years ago.
Maybe ghosts reach out to their own. And maybe all ghosts want is to convey their experiences to the living. Maybe that’s how we find peace.
SC: Quite the experience(s). Thanks for sharing that with us. What titles are you working on now that you can tell us about?
CY: I’m busy plotting Book Two of the Flapper Covenant series, which will be the sequel to Mary, Everything. My wife and I just moved into a fixer-upper built in 1900 and I’m busy trying to turn the finished attic into a writer’s study. I think I’ll be able to concentrate more on writing when that’s done, but at least working with my hands relaxes my mind and helps me not to strain myself trying to decide where the book will go. And I think that’s what I need, since I have a tendency to obsess over plot and try too hard to figure out how A will get to D.
One thing I can tell you is that the Flapper Covenant series will explore two big themes - Courtney adjusting to a new life; and Courtney getting a chance to go back in time and “fix” her childhood. This coming novel will probably be about the former. I don’t want to give too much away in case you don’t know how Mary, Everything ends, but I think fans have a certain expectation about the kinds of hijinks Courtney and the girls will get up to, about the relationships they’d like to see develop, and about the enemies they’ll have to face. And I think it’s important to live up to those expectations.
Book Two will see new friends emerge with new talents. I’m developing the Flapper Covenant’s magic system in greater detail and the reader will get a far better idea about how arcanists in the 1920s make things happen - and why. Forces are on the move now - both friendly and hostile - and while Courtney and the girls are trying to live a normal life, these forces are plotting and maneuvering around them. Autumn Grove is a lot more important than I led you to believe in the first book, and it’s only a matter of time before the girls are drawn into what Courtney will call “crazy shit.”
The worst part is that some of these forces have noticed Courtney and the girls specifically - and see them as a threat...
SC: Thanks so much for dropping in. Let's take a look at your novel now.
The crosswalk is the busiest place in town any time of the year, and even if Braddock has a fraction of the people in the summer, it’s still bustling. As I’m coming up, I spot a girl approaching from my left. She’s ghostly pale like me, with auburn hair cut in a short bob around her soft jawline. The most striking thing about her is her narrow, almond-shaped eyes. I’ve always thought chicks with eyes like that are really cute. They catch mine as I approach, and there’s a kind of click; two people in a crowd with matching energy. She greets me with a narrow, witty smile. I return hers in my usual unintentional way, soft and genuine and a little bit sad-looking without ever meaning to seem that way. And we stand there for a minute, waiting for the traffic to clear.
“Say, is it gonna be dry like this all week?” she asks.
“Um…” I wish I had a better answer ready. “I think so? I haven’t really checked the weather.”
“Why, I sure hope it is.” She stares back across the street at the shade of College Green. “Anything I hate is rain in the summer.”
Roll my eyes in agreement. “Ugh, totally.”
I sneak a look at her. She’s wearing a brown bell-shaped hat, the kind that were popular in the 1920s. She’s wearing a 20s style dress, too: green, knee-length, with a round-cut neckline and loose cap sleeves. She’s even wearing old-fashioned brown stockings and brown heels. It catches my eye and I stare for a second or two; it’s a hot day for stockings, especially the old-fashioned silk kind like that. And her shoes are really retro, like old church grandma shoes. She must shop at that vintage thrift store all the way up at the far end of Court Street; it’s the only place around here where you could get clothes like that, unless she goes thrifting in Columbus.
She’s standing here next to me, watching the street, not self-conscious at all. Like she wears stuff like that every day without even thinking about it.
Then she looks at me, glances away, looks at me again a little longer. Her eyes linger on my top and on my legs, and she looks away again, blushing. I’ve always been a little bit empathic and I can feel curiosity in her glance. And…attraction?
Nah, that can’t be right - girls are never into me. Maybe I look too preppy, I don’t know. I’m a D&D nerd, raised on video games from the age of five, but because I wear an Abercrombie hoodie or Hollister shorts or flat iron my hair, people assign me a whole package of expectations - Courtney is a bitch, Courtney’s stuck-up, Courtney’s a backstabbing gossip, Courtney’s rich. Courtney is heterosexual...? Look, I’ll be honest with you, I’m gonna have a hard time living up to all of that. Maybe not the bitch thing - because yeah, I’m probably a bitch - but the rest of it?
Sorry, no can do.
The traffic finally stops from the other direction. I give her one last smile - which she returns warmly - and step onto the street. A few quick steps take me to the other sidewalk. I stop and look at my slender Fossil watch, making a pretense to turn in her direction again for one last look. She’s awfully cute, and I love her chic vintage style. I wonder if she’d think I was creepy if-
There’s nobody there. I glance around to see if she took off in another direction. Nothing. There are plenty of people around, walking dogs, wearing flip-flops, riding bikes. But no girls with vintage clothes.
She’s gone. It’s like she was never there.
But she totally was there! I talked to her!
Unless I’m finally losing it?
I rub an eye with the heel of my hand, not really caring that I just stamped dry mascara on my skin. Maybe I need to get out more. Maybe I need friends. I stand on the busy sidewalk for a moment, completely disoriented, before remembering that I was looking for a place to sit down and eat my salad. But even as I make my way onto College Green and up toward the Civil War statue, looking for a place to sit, I can’t get that girl out of my head. Not just because she was cute. Something about her, that weird click when we saw each other.
Eh, maybe I’ll see her again. I shove a straw through the lid of my drink. Nobody just vanishes.
I wish you could just disappear.Though I guess if you wanted to disappear, this would be the place to do it. Outside the city limits, the nights are dark and old, and people who vanish are never seen again.
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