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Interview with Tabitha:
1.) Your newest book “Iniquity” debuted August 19, 2014 and has already hit the bestseller status. Tell us a little bit about it!
Tabitha: It’s a New Age horror fiction read and it circles around a group of six people who committed a horrific crime five years earlier. They are brought together again by some pretty dark forces completely out of their control and the story spins into raw terror from there.
2.) Tell us why this is a perfect Halloween month read.
Tabitha: October is the one time a year we love to scare ourselves, isn’t it? INIQUITY is practically oozing with everything that makes a person not want to turn off the lights at night.
3.) What does your writing process look like? Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? i.e. Do you listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
Tabitha: When your career has you working from home the majority of the time, it isn’t always easy—especially for the wild imagination and short attention span of a YA author ;-). So, most days, I’m working in my office from around 6-7 a.m. into the evening around 6-7 p.m. There are definitely times I change it up, relocate myself to a coffee shop or wherever I might travel sometimes for story research or something—but most of the time, to keep my focus, I try to keep a usual routine. I have lots of quirky things in my office and on my desk and walls, which make me feel like I’m in a constant state of “down the rabbit hole”—which is awesome! And I have always made a soundtrack playlist for every book I’ve written to listen to while I’m in the writing process. What’s really cool is that now that I’m eight books in, readers and fans have taken to sending me ideas to add to playlists once my books release and that’s a fun and unique way for me to interact my imagination with my readers’. Something like that is so surreal.
4.) Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Tabita: Nothing too out of the ordinary—though I constantly talk to myself and I do periodically have to get up and pace around my house.
5.) If you could cast your characters in INIQUITY in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Tabitha: I normally don’t give answers for this question because I really like to leave that up to my readers’ imaginations, however, I definitely have some Hollywood crushes I see playing Colin Serpan—I’m talking Chris Hemsworth, or Jensen Ackles.
6.) What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Tabitha: Not being able to type 500 wam…I could write so many stories so much faster if my typing could keep up with the speed of my imagination!
7.) Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Tabitha: Nothing is off the table for me. I think at this point, after eight books in that are all completely different genres from one another, my readers and fans expect a surprise every new release I do. It’s become like my M.O. as an author.
8.) Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Tabitha: I like to keep my stories as “clean” as I can while not risking the integrity of the story so that more readers can enjoy them.
9.) What are you working on now? What is your next project?
Tabitha: I’m working on some pretty exciting stuff right now! A spin-off novel from my Ghost Story Trilogy, a dark, apocalyptic project, and I’ve gotten a lot of questions since the release of INIQUITY about other horror reads in the works: the answer is yes, you can definitely expect some more scary-ness in the 2015 year.
10.) You have 6 incredibly relatable and complex characters that lead the story in INIQUITY. Tell us what’s on their tombstones.
Tabitha: Oooo, this is a fun question!
Ronnie-I Guess I Did Need That Map
Tori-Vanity is Definitely My Favorite Sin
Gabriella-(A carving of Grumpy Cat in her tombstone)
Sam-That Third Wheel Eventually Ran Me Over
Mandy-Who Knew Indecisiveness Could Kill?
Colin-At Least I Looked Like Hercules
11.) What about yours? What would your tombstone read?
Tabitha: “This isn’t where I parked my car.”
12.) Why the theme of guilt? This story is practically dripping with it.
Tabitha: I think the scariest part of the entire story is just the reality within the fantasy of it: can we really ever escape guilt?
13.) What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Tabithas in books or movies. I had the most fun writing this story, however the drafting and editing processes were brutal because I was so particular (and nearly obsessed) with not.
A bit from the story
Memories flooded over me that night in the form of a dream. It was a nightmare, really—the replaying of the events that had altered our lives forever.
The recollections made their way into my sleep with a gentle start. Four years of high school, of stolen glances and sheepish smiles between myself and Mandy Noroc. She had revealed once that she stayed far from me because she thought I was out of her league…that I was this untouchable golden god of a jock that didn’t even notice Mandy existed. But I always knew she was there and always thought I was the one who couldn’t touch her. Always thought she was in love with her best friend Sam Trudo and that the glaring chip on her shoulder would keep anyone else at bay.
But that final semester of high school, our fateful science project had merged Mandy and I together. The elation didn’t last long because what would actually keep us together was the most abhorrent of circumstances.
My dream lingered in a good place, as Mandy’s eighteen-year-old face appeared smiling, her short, dark brown hair illuminated by sunlight streaming in through a window in a Newton High School hallway. She was laughing and holding her books against her chest, those chestnut eyes gazing on me fondly.
Suddenly, we were with the other five students in our group, walking through the desolate Rocky Mounds Park to complete our science class project. Images flashed before me of getting lost, pulling booze and lighters out of our backpacks. Starting a fire and expecting to party until the sun came up. We all got too drunk too fast. Ronnie Smits pulled a handgun out of his backpack, pushing his thick glasses up on his long nose and showing it off to Tori. The dream slowly faded into the five-year nightmare.
My twin is being an idiot, grabbing the handgun from Ronnie and waving it around like she’s Annie Oakley. The safety isn’t on. The gun shoots off. Jessica Ghinion is ten feet away, on the other side of the campfire from the rest of us. She crumples to the ground immediately. Gabriella Montes screams and Sam Trudo runs over to Jessica.
“She’s dead!” Sam announces, his voice far away. Tori’s face is pale, her cerulean eyes wide, her pink-glossed mouth open. She’s still got the gun in her hand.
“Are you sure?” she asks Sam. He’s sure. He rolls Jessica over. Her face is gone, there’s blood everywhere.
“Shit, we have to get help!” Mandy cries out, but then Tori has the gun pointed at her.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Tori cocks the lever back on the pistol and I’m surprised that she isn’t even shaking. Where did she learn to shoot a gun?
“What are you doing?” I scream at her, moving to stand in front of Mandy.
“You’re all responsible for this!” Tori screeches back at me. “Underage drinking, this tool brings the gun…five more bullets I’ll unload on every one of you! I’ll do it!”
She’s not kidding. I don’t panic. We can play along and I can tackle her to take the gun away. Somehow, Tori sees this unspoken plan in my eyes. She shoots me in the arm.
I shout in pain and fall back to the ground, knowing the .45 bullet must have just grazed me because I still have an arm. Mandy is crouching beside me on the ground in an instant and confirms what I already knew.
“It just nicked your skin,” she whispers and then turns back to Tori. “What the hell?!”
“Prison time, lost scholarships, no college, no career, no life,” Tori is suddenly rambling. “Anyone ever finds out about this, we are all ruined! You all know that!”
In hindsight, this seems ridiculous. Tori—and maybe Ronnie—would have done time, but the rest of us? The truth would have set us—and Jessica’s soul—free. But we were seventeen and eighteen year-olds. High school seniors who didn’t know how to process through the panic. Did Tori know? I couldn’t tell, but she sure as hell had us convinced that we must choose Jessica’s dead body or our own lives.
Suddenly, Sam and I are carrying Jessica away from the kill site. No one will find her in those deep woods. Tori suggests we just throw her off the cliff into the canyon a couple of hundred yards away. But the rest of us agree that if we are going to leave Jessica out here, she at least deserves to be buried. Sam has to stop, has to take a minute and throw up. Then, he has Jessica’s feet again while I hold her bloody pulp of a head.
Then we’re digging. We have two shovels— we brought them to dig up the samples we needed for our project. I can’t help but be completely bewildered at the luck of it. We each take turns digging…like we all have to be a part of this burial in some kind of desperate attempt on the line of respect and redemption. Tori and Ronnie don’t participate, but I don’t think much of it. I only think about getting this done…
We’re just into the woods and it doesn’t take long to finish the hole.
“It’s over six foot easy,” I am looking down into the fresh grave and assessing it. Sam just grunts and we pick Jessica back up again, slinging her body a little too carelessly into the hole. The thump of her corpse hitting the dirt causes me to swallow back a sudden bout of vomit.
I look at my sister when it’s all done and we trudge back to our little makeshift campsite of horrors. She’s not pointing the gun on us anymore because she doesn’t have to. We’ve already done the deed. All our hands our dirty now. It was a decision we made too quick, somewhat in thanks to my twin’s exemplary silver tongue skills of a politician. Stupid, thoughtless…
We all lie down and pretend to sleep. I get up and restlessly look everywhere for the spot the bullet that had grazed my arm might have hit. I can’t find anything. It’s as if it just disappeared into the air, like a phantom. Another point in our court to get away with what we have done. Morning breaks and we head out to try and find our way back to our cars. I look over at Mandy, who is doing her damndest to not cry. The silence is deafening.
The nightmare blurs, and refocuses on the week after Jessica’s death. I hear Mandy’s voice, frantic, far off, sobbing…but I can’t hear what she’s saying. Suddenly, I’m at her house. We’re alone, in her bedroom. She is telling me that Sam has been implicated in the disappearance of Jessica and he’s in hiding. Rumor has it that they found blood and something covered in Sam’s fingerprints up in Chandler Heights. Chandler Heights is another natural park on the opposite side of Newton from Rocky Mounds. Mandy believes Tori went to Chandler Heights because it was the farthest place from the actual location where Jessica had died—and it was the perfect spot for Tori to place that piece of evidence implicating Sam there herself. Then she tipped off the police to frame Sam. I believe this theory, too. Mandy’s cheeks are stained with tears and I pull her into my arms, murmuring over and over that this will be okay. Everything will be okay.
I kiss Mandy, but in this nightmare, it doesn’t feel like it did when it actually happened those five years ago. The intimacy and affection is there in front of my eyes, but I can’t feel anything.
Everything fades to black and then images light up again—images of being interviewed by the police, lying to everyone that Jessica Ghinion had never showed up to Rocky Mounds Park help us with the group project, screaming matches with Tori, frantic phone calls from Mandy, and a somber occasion that is supposed to be a celebration: graduating high school.
Summer comes and the year’s heat is more unyielding than it has ever been. Sam has been in hiding for nearly a month from the police and Mandy frequently meets with him. She won’t tell anyone where he is, not even me. The authorities, media, and everyone else in Newton are convinced Sam is responsible for Jessica’s disappearance. Sam tells Mandy he wants to turn himself in to make this go away for all of us—to take the blame and show the police where Jessica’s body is. Mandy threatens to turn herself in also if he does this, so Sam quiets on the idea of being the martyr.
I can feel my body literally repulse and stiffen as the memories in this nightmare keep rolling, and I am unable to stop the film from playing.
It is a balmy July night when we see Jessica Ghinion again for the first time.
I’m watching TV in the living room of my parents’ estate when Tori begins to scream from the third floor in her bedroom. I run up the stairs to her room and Tori is pale, her hands up in front of her face as a shield from something. She says she saw Jessica step up behind her in the full length mirror on the wall. I try to calm my twin down, certain that this is just from the stress of what we have done. I can’t help but notice that the room smells like…gunpowder. The bedroom door suddenly slams shut and Jessica’s figure waves to us from the mirror. Tori begins to scream again and I can do nothing but stare at the image in the mirror. A bullet hole forms in Jessica’s forehead and her face slowly begins to morph into a gnarled, exploded version of itself. The room suddenly reeks of rotting meat. A bloody, maniacal grin spreads across Jessica’s now split lips and the mirror falls from the wall, shattering all over the wood floor.
Somehow we get through the night alive, though without sleep. In the morning, Mandy calls me and tells me Ronnie Smits is dead. Hung himself with guitar string from the ceiling fan in his bedroom the night before. Mandy tells me she doesn’t think it’s a suicide, but can’t explain what exactly she does think it is. She was with Sam in his hiding place last night when she lost her mind…when she felt an explosion of pain in her head and blacked out. When she came to, Sam was shaking her frantically and telling her she was screaming in pain and acting as if she were…Jessica. I tell Mandy about what Tori and I saw, but remind her that just because this is beyond what we understand, it doesn’t mean Ronnie didn’t kill himself. It was his gun that murdered Jessica and maybe he couldn’t live with the guilt.
My memories fade to two days later, when Mandy and I meet and decide to take a stroll that will allow us to pass by Ronnie’s house. I have convinced myself that Ronnie committed suicide and I think bringing Mandy here will sway her mind in that direction as well.
We are only standing in front of Ronnie’s house thirty seconds before we see Jessica standing in the second story window. She grins down at us and then explodes into bits of blood and gnawed flesh against the glass. I wrap my arms firmly around Mandy as she starts to shriek, and I lead her away from the house. It is not enough evidence to prove that Ronnie didn’t kill himself—but it is enough. I tell her we have to meet with Sam and explore our next move.
I call Gabriella Montes and tell her what’s going on. She sounds afraid and I believe she has had similar visions of Jessica like the rest of us have, yet she snaps at me and tells me she never wants to see any of us again. She won’t be a part of whatever this is we are doing.
Since it’s Tori’s fault that Sam is wanted for suspicion in Jessica’s disappearance, I don’t mention the meet-up to my sister. It is just me that goes with Mandy to see Sam.
Sam Trudo looks awful and I don’t know what his end-game is with his deterring speech to Mandy, but by the end of our meeting, he convinces her to reluctantly throw her “Jessica’s Ghost Is Going To Kill Us All” theory away. We have to move on, Sam says. He thinks Gabriella is right in not wanting to have anything to do with us.
The nightmare is closing in on an end. The summer is over and Sam disappears to a new, unknown hiding place of refuge while Mandy readies to go off to college. I beg her to stay in Newton, but she can’t remain any longer in this place. She wants to leave and never come back. She doesn’t ask me to follow her or to come visit, even, which makes me understand her end-game. Leaving Newton behind forever also includes leaving behind everything and everyone in it. Leaving me behind.
Suddenly, I feel heat wash over me and I’m standing above Tori’s mangled body in the morgue, holding my mother as she sobs. Falling six stories isn’t easy on the body, yet Tori looks like there was more violence dispersed on her than just hitting the pavement. The scars from the self-induced mirror injuries are scattered all over her otherwise perfect face, but those old wounds seem tame in comparison to the fresh ones. Besides the expected twisted joints and limbs from falling impact, new open splits in the skin of her forehead, her cheeks, and her chin expose bone so white that it seems almost illuminated. Her right hand is covered in flaky, dried blood and resembles something gone through a meat grinder. It’s as if Tori found herself another mirror to bash—only this time, she crushed the glass with her hand and pulled the sharp remnants out, slashing her own face apart. Her eyes are wide open—why didn’t the damn coroner close her eyes? I close them with the palm of my hand and Tori’s skin is so cold against my own that I inadvertently throw up all over the floor. I look back at my sister—only, it’s not her anymore. The brown eyes are open wide and it is Mandy on that table now. I reach out to pick her up…to make this go away, but every time I try to touch Mandy, my hands go through her. I’m screaming at this impossible grasp and I notice blood on my hands. Mandy’s face melts away into goo, leaving her head a bloody pulp with skull fragments popping and cracking loudly off the metal table onto the floor.
I begin to scream again, unable to stop, unable to do anything…
Tabitha "T.R." FREEMAN is the international bestselling and award-winning YA author of the GHOST STORY series and PRINCESS series, and the explosive, social contemporary novels BROKEN GLASS and COYOTE CREEK, and horror read, INIQUITY. When she's not writing, she's causing a ruckus with family and chasing around her Romanian sweetheart.
Previously a manager for large-brand hotel chains (and a lifetime, secret closet bibliophile/writer), Tabitha happily traded in her 9-to-5 gig for a rewarding career as a YA author. The best part: working from her home office, she gets to spend more time with fictional characters, fellow booklovers, writers, and most importantly, her muse---otherwise known as the love of her life/husband, Laurentiu.