Beneath the Marigolds, the debut psychological thriller by Emily C. Whitson.
Author Interview + Book & Author Info + Rafflecopter Giveaway + Author Pet Corner!
Beneath the Marigolds
Playing on our universal fascination with reality TV, Emily C. Whitson’s Beneath the Marigolds is The Bachelor(ette) gone terribly wrong.
When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.
Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?
Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive.
Praise for Beneath the Marigolds:
“Cleverly plotted…Whitson’s debut novel is an intriguing new entry in the women’s suspense genre, driven by dual first-person narrators and tension-filled parallel timelines.”— Carmen Amato, Silver Falchion Award Finalist and author of The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series
“Exhilarating twists and turns…a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.” — Helen Power, author of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place
“A fun, propulsive read…this book cleverly combines the archetypes of “reality TV” and the “trapped-on-a-remote-island” mystery that will perpetually keep you guessing.” — Marcy McCreary, author of The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: September 21st 2021
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0744304202 (ISBN13: 9780744304206)
To purchase Beneath the Marigolds, click on any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books
The Interview — Beneath the Marigolds
What prompted your idea to investigate reality television as a backdrop to a psychological thriller?
The core of any good story is conflict, and reality television is rife with conflict. The stakes are high, emotions run wild, and the added pressure of a camera and an audience exacerbates any simmering tension.
Also, I’ve learned that many reality stars run on little sleep and little food, which can make even the sanest individuals crazy.
How well would you do as a reality TV star?
Not well! I get nervous and awkward on camera, so I admire people that can put it all out there.
The story structure for Beneath the Marigolds includes two, first-person narrators and parallel timelines. How did your writing process go to keep everything straight?
I’ve learned that this is a bit unusual for writers, but after I wrote the first draft, I had to edit the two points of view separately so I could stay in the right headspace. Ann was easier for me to jump into, but Reese gave me a lot of trouble. She thinks and acts drastically differently than I do, so I had to work on her scenes in silos to ensure her voice was consistent.
You are also interested in education, pursuing a Master of Education degree along with your writing. What is your dream work/life situation? How do you see your teaching and writing balancing out?
Yes, I am! I’d love to teach high school English. In Nashville, preferably. The two professions balance out nicely, since one requires a lot of socialization and the other is more isolated.
Both jobs satisfy my creativity and allow me to see the world from various perspectives. I’d love to say that I am able to write when I’m teaching or in school, but truthfully, the bulk of my writing is completed during school breaks.
You live in Nashville—are you a music buff?
You’d think so! Actually, I know very little about music, and I can’t carry a tune to save my life. I enjoy it, and I enjoy a variety of genres, but I’m no expert. In fact, the whole songwriting process baffles me. How do you create a melody? That seems impossible! Mad respect to those who have that talent.
Although I’m not musically inclined, I do think the creative spirit of Nashville has had a profound effect on me. The community is very encouraging to artists of all kinds—whether that’s painting murals, making music, or writing a book—and that openness allows its citizens to take risks and think differently.
I also love that Nashville is a melting pot. People from all over the world come to live here, and that diversity gives the city a richness and complexity you won’t find everywhere.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on research for my second book. I can’t reveal the premise just yet, as it’s still in its infancy, but I’m going to continue to explore the intersection of pop culture and suspense, the dark side of celebrity and Hollywood glamour.
I’d also like the setting to be exclusively in Nashville. It’s a special place to me, full of character and history and complexity, and it deserves its own story.
Words of wisdom for aspiring writers:
I highly recommend joining a critique group.
Writing can be a lonely job, and meeting other likeminded individuals is good for the soul. It also teaches you to give and receive feedback, learn tricks of the trade, and practice putting yourself out there. And, as with any profession, networking is invaluable. I met my publisher through a critique group, so I know I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t plucked up the courage and attended that mystery/thriller writing group at Panera.
Great advice! Thanks for hanging out with us, I look forward to having you back with book 2!
Author Pet Corner!
Hoss has a great story. My youngest brother, Alec, attended Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA) in Nashville, and every year for Homecoming, the school gave away prizes to students that sold the most tickets. One of the prizes was a Labrador Retriever puppy.
Alec was determined to win that puppy.
Mom didn’t want another dog, but she figured Alec would never sell enough tickets to win. Confident in the outcome, she agreed Alec could keep the dog if he won. But Dad, unbeknownst to Mom, also really wanted that dog. So, Dad helped sell about 100 tickets, allowing Alec to win. And since Alec was in eighth grade at the time, Hoss was his name of choice.
But don’t worry! Hoss slowly won over Mom’s heart. He’s the kindest, gentlest, most loving dog I’ve ever met. So kind, in fact, that Dad was eventually able to reveal his covert operation without fear of repercussions.
(Oh, and if you’re wondering, my dad has also bought 100 copies of Beneath the Marigolds.)
I would love your dad!! See more Hoss photos on Instagram, Emily & Hoss @emilycwhitson_bookclub
Excerpt Beneath the Marigolds
I knew too much. On that island, on that godforsaken singles’ retreat. I knew too much.
I ruminated on that thought, chewing it carefully, repeatedly, while Magda, the makeup artist, transformed me into a life-size nightmarish porcelain doll. Ghastly white face, penciled-in eyebrows, blood-red lips. I’d look beautiful from a distance, she had told me, leaving the other part of the sentence unspoken: up close, it’s frightening. She tsked as she dabbed my damp forehead for the fourth time, her Russian accent thickening with frustration.
“Vhy you sveating so much?”
I worried my voice would come out haggard, so I shrugged, a little too forcefully. Magda shook her head, her pink bob sashaying in the grand all-white bathroom as she muttered something foreign under her breath. My gaze danced across the various makeup brushes on the vanity until it landed on one in particular. I shifted my weight in the silk- cushioned chair, toyed with my watch.
“Magda, what do you want out of this retreat?” No response.
Did she not hear me, or did she choose not to respond? In the silence, I was able to hear Christina’s high-heeled feet outside the bathroom.
Click, clack. Click, click.
When I first met the host of the singles’ retreat, I was in awe of her presence, her unflappable poise. Shoulders back, she walked with a purpose, one foot in front of another, and though she was a couple inches shorter than I was, she seemed larger than life. Her icy eyes, colored only the faintest shade of blue, seemed to hold the secrets of the world—secrets she intended to keep. But I had stumbled upon them just a few short hours before, and I was now afraid her gait represented something more sinister: the march of an executioner.
Click, clack. Click, clack.
Her stride matched the even tick of my watch, and a drop of sweat trickled down my back. Was I being ridiculous? Surely Christina wouldn’t hurt me. She had been reasonable with me earlier, hadn’t she? “One meenute,” Magda shouted at the retreat’s host. She doused my fire-red curls in hairspray one last time before asking me if I was ready to go.
“I just need to use the bathroom.” I wheezed through shallow breaths. “I’ll be right out.”
Magda exaggerated her sigh before shuffling out of the white-marble immurement, closing the doors behind her with a huff. My last remnants of safety and rational thinking left with her.
I shoved the vanity chair underneath the door handle. I grabbed the makeup brush with the flattest head and hurried to the bathroom. I gingerly closed the lid of the toilet and slipped off my heels before tip-toeing on top so I could face the window. After removing the beading, I inserted the head of the makeup brush between the frame and glass. The brush’s handle cracked under the pressure, but it was enough to lever the glass out of its mounting. I placed the glass on the floor as gently as I’ve ever handled any object, trying not to make even the slightest sound, before hoisting myself up and through the window. I jumped into the black night, only partially illuminated by the full moon and the artificial lights of the mansion. I allowed my eyes to adjust.
And then I ran.
The loose branches of the island forest whipped at my cheeks, my limbs, my mouth. The soles of my feet split open from fallen twigs and other debris, but the adrenaline kept the pain at bay. I tripped over something unseen, and my hands broke my fall. Just a few cuts, and a little blood. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it.
I jumped up, forcing myself to keep moving. The near darkness was blinding, so I held my bloody hands up, trying to block my face. The farther I ran, the more similar the trunks of the trees became. How long had I been running? I gauged about a mile. I slowed down to gather my bearings. Behind me, the lights of the mansion brightened the sky, but they were only the size of my palm from that distance.
I heard the hum of a moving car come and go. I must have been near the road. I was about to start moving again when I heard the snap of twigs. Footsteps. I stopped breathing. I swiveled to my left and right, but nothing. I exhaled. It was just my imagination. I continued away from the lights. Away from the retreat.
And then someone stepped toward me: Christina. Her face was partially obscured by darkness, but her pale eyes stood out like fireflies. “It doesn’t have to be like this,” she said. Her expression remained a mystery in the darkness.
I turned around, but one of her handlers was blocking that path.
Christina took another step forward, and I jerked away, tripping over the gnarled roots of the forest in the process. My head broke the fall this time, and my ears rang from the pain.
Her handler reached for my left hand, and for a moment, I thought he was going to help me stand. Instead, he twisted my ring finger into an unnatural position. As my bone cracked, my screams reverberated through the woods.
It was showtime.
Emily C Whitson, author of Beneath the Marigolds
Emily Whitson received a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as a marketing copywriter for six years before pursuing a career in fiction and education. She is currently getting her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt University, where she writes between classes. She is particularly passionate about women’s education and female stories.
This interest stems from her time at Harpeth Hall, an all-girls college preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. When she isn’t volunteering, writing, or in the classroom, Emily can usually be found with her dog, Hoss, in one of Nashville’s various parks. Beneath the Marigolds is her debut novel.
To learn more about Emily, click on her name, photo, or any of the following links: Goodreads, BookBub – @emilycwhitson_author, Instagram – @emilycwhitson
& Facebook – @emilycwhitson
Visit all the Stops on the Beneath the Marigolds Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour!
10/02 Review @ Pat Fayo Reviews
10/05 Review @ From the TBR Pile
10/07 Interview/showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
10/08 Interview @ Author Elena Taylors Blog
10/09 Showcase @ Silvers Reviews
10/11 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
10/13 Guest post @ Novels Alive
10/14 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
10/15 Review @ I Read What You Write
10/16 Review @ Savings in seconds
10/18 Review @ Novels Alive
10/19 Review @ Margaret Yelton
10/20 Review @ Buried Under Books
10/21 Showcase @ The Bookwyrm
10/22 Guest post @ Nesies Place
10/23 Review @ Booking With Janelle
10/24 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
10/25 Reviews @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
10/26 Guest post @ Quiet Fury Books
10/27 Review @ Curlygrannylovestoread
10/27 Showcase @ CMash Reads
10/28 Review @ Lynchburg Reads
10/29 Review @ Nat Reads
10/29 Review @ The World As I See It
10/30 Review @ Books with Bircky
10/31 Review @ Books Blog
10/31 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs
11/22 Podcast @ Blogtalk Radio
11/22 Review @ Just Reviews
Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.
For more information on All We Buried, click on the link here to visit the home page.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020