I’m pleased to welcome Casi McLean to Monday Musings. Beneath The Lake, which was released last summer, is Casi’s first full-length novel and part of her new series.
So nice to have a fellow Wild Rose Press author here today, Casi. Please tell us about yourself.
Originally from McLean, Virginia, Casi relocated to Atlanta after graduating from the University of Georgia. Fascinated with stories since childhood, she became a teacher of English, creative writing and drama. The search for her biological father revealed secrets that rekindled her passion for writing and inspired her 5-star memoir, Wingless Butterfly.
Casi’s publications also include five novelettes and her debut novel, Beneath The Lake, the first of her three-book Beneath The Lake series. Book two, Beyond The Mist, is scheduled for release later this year. Casi lives in Atlanta where she writes, creates trailers and tips for authors, speaks, and coaches others to let go of the past and pursue their dreams.
(I happen to know Casi is also a great champion of her fellow ‘Roses’ and tirelessly promotes them by hosting interesting and diverse Authors Bare All posts.)
Tell, us, Casi, do you live in a city or small town, and what places do you most like to visit?
I live in a suburb of Atlanta right now, but I’m finally moving to my dream home in April, on the north shores of Lake Sidney Lanier, which is the setting for my Beneath The Lake series. My muse is already infusing visions into my thoughts.
How exciting! Good luck with the move; it’ll be here before you know it. What were you like as a youngster?
Childhood dreams filled with castles and kings saw a magical future that swept me away to my happily ever after. But when passion seen through the eyes of a child tatters, how can the wingless butterfly take flight? I hid in the shadows of damaged self-worth. Battered by the bully I saw in the mirror, I wrapped my life around others searching for validation. But after decades of unraveling secrets in my past, I now know two things for sure: You can live your dreams, and happiness is a choice.
I recently bought back the rights to my 5-star memoir, Wingless Butterfly, and will re-release an updated, polished version of my story later this year.
Hugs for the difficult past and congrats on getting it figured out. I bet writing that memoir was cathartic, and I’m so glad you’re in a better place. What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
Never, ever, ever give up on your dream or yourself.
Wise words, indeed. How long have you been writing and how did you decide to become a writer?
I think I’ve always been an author. My mother said I constantly begged for her to read to me. I created stories and dictated them to her before I could read or write.
A love of writing always seems to start with a love of reading. What is your favorite genre to read? Is this the genre you write?
My favorite genre is time travel romantic suspense and I do write that genre along with others.
Are you a plotter or pantser?
Totally a pantser. Every book I write has a life of its own. I start with a basic outline, but the stories twist and turn in directions I never imagined, as if my muse takes over. Beneath The Lake has so much eerie lake lore and history wrapped up in the ghost town beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier, I felt as if the ghosts whispered to me along the way.
Shiver. How cool. What comes first, plot or characters?
My books are always plot and character driven, so I have to say they are equal.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Nine months to a year. I’d like to write faster, but as they say, it takes time to create a diamond.
Good line. I’m a rather slow writer myself, so I just might have to quote you. Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?
Lacey’s persona was inspired by my high school friend, Hilary Johnson. A lawyer, discouraged with defending criminals, she yearned to help honest people in trouble, and some of her finer qualities naturally became part of Lacey.
Lovely. And how much like yourself is your character?
My heroine Lacey Montgomery’s dysfunctional relationships came from my own personal experiences. LOL. But she handled her situation a bit better than me.
Probably because you had hindsight and a little emotional distance to guide her. Is this a stand-alone story or part of a series?
Beneath The Lake can definitely stand alone, but it is the first book in my 3-book Beneath The Lake series. I’m currently working on the two sequels, Beyond The Mist and Between The Shadows.
My favorite kind of series! Tell us about Beneath The Lake.
A ghost town submerged beneath Atlanta’s famous man-made Lake Lanier reportedly lures victims to a watery grave. But when Lacey Montgomery’s car spins out of control and hurtles into the depths of the icy water, she awakens in the arms of a stranger, in a town she’s never heard of––34 years before she was born.
When the 2012 lawyer tangles with the 1949 hunk, fire and ice swirl into a stream of sweltering desire. Bobby Reynolds is smitten the moment the storm-ravaged woman opens her eyes and, despite adamant protest, Lacey falls in love with a town destined for extinction and the man who vows to save his legacy.
Threatened by a nefarious stalker, the wrath of bootleggers, and twists of fate, Lacey must find the key to the mysterious portal before time rips them apart, or their star-crossed spirits will wander forever through a ghost town buried beneath the lake.
Spooky good! And loved the trailer. Please share an excerpt.
Lake Lanier, Georgia—June 2011
A final thud hurled him backward, flailing through brush and thickets like a rag doll. Grasping at anything to break momentum, Rob’s hand clung to a branch wedged into the face of the precipice. Spiny splinters sliced his skin. Blood oozed and trickled into his palms, and one by one, his fingers slowly slipped.
A sharp crack echoed through the silence of the ravine as the bough succumbed to his weight. He plummeted into free-fall. Clenching his eyes, he drew in a deep breath, terrified of the pain, the mauling that waited on the jagged rocks below.
When icy water broke his fall, the chill kept him from losing consciousness. He spun, straining to see, but darkness enveloped him. Soggy clothing pulled him deeper—deeper into the murky, fathomless depths. He wrestled to squirm free from the waterlogged jacket dragging him down to a watery grave, watched the coat disappear into black obscurity. Panic gripped his stomach, or was it death that snaked around his chest, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing the air, the life from his body? Lack of oxygen burned his lungs, beckoning surrender, and a shard of rage pierced his gut as reality set in. He lunged upward with one last thrust and burst from the water’s deadly grip, gasping for air. A gurgling howl spewed from the depths of his soul and echoed into silence.
Sunlight shimmered across a smooth, indigo lake, but aside from the slight ripples of his own paddling, nothing but stillness surrounded him. He floated toward the shore, sucking deep breaths into his lungs until the pummeling in his chest subsided. When he reached the water’s edge, he hoisted his body onto the soft red clay and collapsed while the sun’s warmth drained the tension from his body.
No one knew he had survived. The rules had shifted. Now he could reinvent himself, become a stealth predator. His target: Lacey Madison Montgomery.
June 2012, one year later at an extravagant clubhouse in Lake Lanier, Georgia
June 9th began like any ordinary day, but for me, nothing would ever be ordinary again. In hindsight, I could see that the rainy night wasn’t the catalyst for my twist of fate. The storm was more like a vortex with currents reaching out beyond imagination. Within twenty-four hours I would lose my ability to distinguish dreams from reality…
Thank you for that. Certainly makes me want to read more. Where can we find you and your books on the internet?
Thank you for joining us today, Casi. It was nice having you here and learning more about you and your writing. Good luck with Beneath The Lake and all your future writing endeavors.