An Interview with TK Thorne, Author of House of Rose
Ever since I moved to the Midwest three years ago, I’ve had a new appreciation for books set in the South, particularly my hometown, Birmingham, Alabama. I also love books featuring witches. So imagine how happy I was to hear my friend had written a book with both! Enter, House of Rose.
A fun fact about Birmingham is that its nickname is The Magic City because it boomed so quickly in its early days due to the steel industry. But TK imagined the “magic” in The Magic City another way in her truly original fantasy novel.
First, a synopsis of House of Rose:
Rookie patrol officer Rose Brighton chases a suspect down an alley. Without warning, her vision wavers, and the lone suspect appears to divide into two men—the real suspect, frozen in time, and a shadow version with a gun. Confused by what she’s just seen, but with no time to second guess it’s meaning, Rose shoots the real suspect in the back.
Forced to lie to detectives, she risks her job and her life to discover the shocking truth of who she really is—a witch of an ancient House, the prey of one powerful enemy, and the pawn of another.
And now, an interview with the author:
Mandy Shunnarah: How did this book come to be?
TK Thorne: It started with a toothbrush.
I was standing at the sink, brushing away, vaguely wondering what my next writing project would be, when three little words appeared in my head, along with the keen sensation that my fingers needed to be on a keyboard because a story of some sort was lurking about. So, I quickly spit the toothpaste and raced to my laptop where I typed those three words—“You’re a hero.”
Then I stared at them, bewildered, until the fingers started typing again. Turns out those words were directed to a young policewoman named Rose who was in the middle of every police officer's nightmare—a life-death situation where she was forced to fatally shoot a suspect. . . in the back. From there, I just had to figure out what was going on and let Rose respond to it. She was very strong-headed. Thus, House of Rose was born and two more books to follow.
MS: You're multi-talented and have now written historical fiction, nonfiction, and urban fantasy. How does the writing process differ for each genre? Any advice for writers who want to write across multiple genres?
TKT: Nonfiction is mostly about organizing and looking for an interesting way to tell the story and, of course, research. My preferred voice is a down-to-earth, easily understood style, rather than a distant, scholarly tone. Story structure is at the heart of communication, so I look for the stories. Knowing and understanding history is critical to our survival as a species.
For fiction, characters and settings pull the narrative. I like to write in close, first person (at the moment) so the characters’ voices and perspectives dictate the tone, what happens, and even the type of descriptions. For example, in my historical novels, Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate, which were set in ancient times in the Middle East, I had to think about how someone from that era and part of the world would view and describe the world. Their perspectives would be dictated by their culture, experiences, and the natural world around them. Na’amah (Noah’s Wife) had Asperger’s so she saw the world through that literal and focused lens. Adira (Angels at the Gate) was raised as a boy in her father’s caravan. The desert shaped her and was as much a character as the people in her life.
In this new book, House of Rose, my main character Rose is a loner and surprised to find she loves policing. Her story is current day and the story is set in Birmingham’s Southside, where I lived for a decade and worked as a young police officer, myself. Rose’s voice has an edge of noir and a cutting sense of humor, which I enjoyed. In writing a book, much less a trilogy, I have to live with a character for a long time. It’s good to be delighted and surprised by them! If that ever stops, I will stop writing.
Advice to writers has always been to stick with one genre so your readers will know what to expect. That’s why nom de plumes were assumed, so authors who wanted to stretch their wings would not disturb their poor readers’ expectations. I think more of my readers. They understand a nonfiction book about civil rights era will be different from a historical novel or an urban fantasy/mystery/thriller. (Next book is science fiction!) I’m having fun. But I am also in a position where I don’t have to rely financially on my writing, so in that sense, I can afford to take risks.
MS: The protagonist Rose is a police officer and you retired from the police force and you both live in Birmingham. And you both have curly hair. I can't help thinking Rose's character is based on a younger version of yourself, which is pretty cool! What do you have to say about that? And should we be checking your neck for a rose-stone pendant at book signings? ;)
TKT: I fully expect a rose diamond pendant to celebrate the publication of this book. (Is my husband reading this? Can somebody email it to him?)
Yes, I was a police officer with curly hair, but not a witch. . . at least on my good days. That said, some of Rose’s experiences and recollections are based on mine. (But not the affair, honey, I swear it!) Mandy, you’re going to get me in trouble. . . .
MS: I'm dying to know more about the Simpson mansion, the setting of some of the book's most pivotal scenes. I've heard the Simpson mansion is a real place and that a woman was actually murdered there in the 70s and the case is unsolved. Have you been to the real life mansion? If so, does it really have all those museum type rooms like the ones you described in the book?
TKT: Mrs. Simpson, a Birmingham socialite and supporter of the arts, was murdered, shot three times. Suspicion settled on her son, who was rumored to have hired hit men to kill his father, a plan that failed to be carried out (or was his mother mistakenly shot by them?). The son was charged with the murder, but the judge mysteriously dropped the case.
One night when I was a rookie patrol officer, my partner and I got a burglar alarm call to the Simpson mansion. By then, the house was deserted. The Simpson’s son was living on the premises, but not inside the main house, itself, and may have given us a key or let us in, or else we found the doors unlocked. In any case, we got inside.
From the foyer, my partner went upstairs and directed me to search the downstairs for any sign of an intruder. It was dark. Perhaps the electricity was turned off. I had only my flashlight and began to descend the curving stairway. Medieval iron fixtures along the wall added to the feeling that I was headed to a dungeon. To my left was a small arched opening in the wall, like a window with no glass, which struck me as odd. Why would you have a window in the wall of a stairwell?
When I shined my flashlight inside, my heart lurched. I thought I had discovered the burglars, before I realized that nobody was moving. In a large room on the other side of that “window” was a scene straight out of a medieval time period, created with such authentic detail, it looked very real. Fortunately, I didn’t shoot any of the manikins!
That was just the beginning of what I found down there. There have always been rumors that secret passageways and “escape routes” led from the house out under Red Mountain. What I saw that night burned into my memory and reemerged (with a little creative license) many years later as the headquarters for House of Iron, an ancient family of warlocks living in Birmingham, Alabama, sworn to wipe out the House of Rose.
MS: I'm curious about the inspiration for Alice's character. Did you have a relative like her?
TKT: I do have a cousin named Alice. To my knowledge, she is not a witch either, but she does like plants and is, in fact, a master gardener or certified plant-meister or something. She’s also quite outspoken. Alice is unashamedly just who she is. (Both my cousin and Rose’s Alice.) I wanted that in my character. At the same time, it felt like a playful choice, giving me the opportunity to refer to Alice in Wonderland .
MS: There's some seriously steamy tension between Rose and the mysterious warlock Jason. Any juicy details you can share about the next book? I'm also curious to know if you're planning on House of Rose being a trilogy or indefinitely ongoing series.
TKT: I imagined Jason as a young Brad Pitt (pant, pant). The next book is House of Stone and the third book is House of Iron. All I will tell you is that Jason stays with us through the tangled web of intrigue, steam, and sleuthing. I’m just planning for a trilogy right now, but who knows?
If your readers would like to follow my adventures, my website is TKThorne.com and they can sign up for my (sort-of quarterly) newsletters to stay in the loop.
For a more formal bio of TK and info about her previous three books (all of which I’ve read and all of which are excellent), see below:
T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch. Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. T.K. loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap.
House of Rose is out now, so if you like witches, murder, mystery, romance, intrigue, weird Southerners, crime, shootouts, and strong women protagonists, I highly recommend it.