I’m delighted to have Anne-Marie Ormsby, author of the newly released Purgatory Hotel, on the blog today. I know this novel well, because I edited it. But before interviewing her, I wanted to be clear on what my religion says about the afterlife. I was a bit confused about this topic and now I realise why: Judaism itself is confused.
While Jewish prayers concentrate on life on Earth, we do pray for the souls of the departed. In modern Hebrew, as well as Hebrew from long ago, Heaven is Gan Eden or Garden of Eden, Hell is Gehinnom. Both names are taken from places on Earth – one that no longer exists and one that still does (and is not a million miles from where I live). Is there a Purgatory? Well, it doesn’t have a specific name, but, as this article explains, the belief is that most souls remain in Hell for up to a year before moving to Gan Eden.
Catholicism, as I understand it, is much more definite about the afterlife, although I don’t think it goes as far as describing Purgatory as an old, Victorian-like hotel, full of cobwebs and dim lights that flicker and often go out altogether, surrounded by an outside you really don’t want to go to. Hence my first question.
Hello, Anne-Marie, and welcome to my blog. Where did your visualization of Purgatory come from? Is it totally made up?
It was initially inspired by a song by Nick Cave called ‘God’s Hotel.’ It got me to thinking about what the afterlife would be like if it involved being in a hotel. Then I started thinking about how frightening it would be if it was not heaven, but something darker. I generally find hotels to be a bit creepy, The Shining is the most frightening movie I have ever seen, and I think it affected how I see hotels, but I’ve been in a few Victorian hotels that felt quite sinister.
Are the Earthly places in the novel real or imaginary?
They are totally imaginary and not based on a particular place. The graveyard, church and woods are just an amalgamation of lots of different places I have been.
Is all your writing so dark?
No, I’ve actually written two other stories that would be more at home in the chick-lit genre but I haven’t done anything with them. I think I will always lean towards the darker side of things when writing as I find it more interesting to write about things that some people would rather look away from. But who knows, one day I might attempt to publish a book I wrote about relationships between a group of thirty-something friends/lovers.
Did writing Purgatory Hotel make you depressed, or did it have the opposite effect? Did you need to take breaks from the writing?
I wrote Purgatory twelve years ago when I was in a very unhappy place. I was in an abusive relationship and felt very low at times. Writing made me happy, it was an escape to go into this other world, so it was actually therapeutic for me to write. I do think that experience of darker emotions helps in writing characters that way. When I was working on new revisions of the book over the last year, I think my approach was different as I wasn’t in the same place as previously. When I am writing about certain emotions I have to put myself back in that place to access a true response to it, but I don’t stay there.
I’m glad life is better for you now. Lula, in the novel, suffers from depression and maybe OCD. Do you feel comfortable writing about mental health?
Having had a lot of experience with mental health issues I was quite comfortable writing about it. I had some issues myself when I was younger and I studied psychology and counselling. I’m always interested in interpretations of mental health in books and movies. I think it’s an important subject.
So do I! One problem that often comes up when editing novels is the use of text that may be subject to copyright. How did you get permission to use all the poetry and songs that appear in Purgatory Hotel?
For the Nick Cave lyrics, I wrote to his record company and requested permission to use them. For the poetry I used poems that are copyright free due to their age.
What do you do to relax? Do you like watching horror movies or do you prefer to get away from all that?
To relax I generally watch movies or TV box sets with my husband, he doesn’t really enjoy horror so I save my horror movies for nights in alone or when my best friends come to stay the weekend! But we both enjoy crime dramas and true crime documentaries.
(I’m with your husband, there.)
Other than that I enjoy days out with my husband and daughter and once she has gone to bed I get a chance to do some yoga and read/ research whatever I am working on.
Would your friends and family describe you as a bundle of fun?
I think they’d describe me as a happy, positive person with an eccentric sense of humour – a sense of humour I subject people to as often as possible. I don’t think you have to be a miserable person to write about dark subject matter, but having experience of unhappiness helps when having to recreate it in a story. When I am writing about certain emotions I have to put myself back in that place to access a true response to it, but I don’t stay there.
I’m glad to hear it. What’s next?
I am now starting work on another paranormal fiction novel set in London. It will be a reworking of a novel I wrote when I was in my early twenties. It’s a slow process though – I have a small child now so not as much time and space to write, but I have started making notes and saving ideas. I don’t tend to plot my stories out – I just write and see what happens, but I’m laying the ground work for an overall idea.
Thank you, Anne-Marie, for your interesting responses and good luck with your future writing.