Interview with Marla Buchanan

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Here's one of my first that was written when I was in the 6th grade.

The Sacrifice
By Marla Buchanan (1977)
Once, there was an orphanage (a small orphanage in the English countryside). This orphanage was run by the meanest, rottenest, cruelest people in the world. Their names were Mr. and Mrs. Ezekiel Stein. They were guilty of committing evil doings such as witchcraft, and other things that would make you shudder with fear. Once, they took two small boys from their rooms, and their playmates never set eyes on them again. Everyone suspects that they sacrificed them to the Devil for their souls. Every year two more children disappear, and this always happens around Christmas time (Christ’s birthday) so all the children try to please them in every way for the fear of their lives and souls.
It is also said that they always serve the child who is about to be sacrificed, well. My friend and I are suddenly getting what we so desire. We’re getting good meals which we always eat in our room. We get special privileges, like having a horse of our own. No other child gets these things. What made them so suddenly change their attitudes toward us? One day, I asked Mrs. Stein this as she was bringing a meal. She said it was nothing, that she just wanted us to feel comfortable. This is strange, I thought. I wonder just what she’s up to…and I’m going to find out. Then when she was just finished serving us, she left the room without uttering a word.
“Wilhelmina,” I asked, “don’t you feel strange…like everything has just turned completely around for us?”
“I know what you mean,” she said, shaking quite a bit. “I don’t suppose she’s going to sacrifice us like the children say,” she whispered frightfully.
“No! Of course not! Do you really believe those things? Don’t be silly.”
But actually I knew that she was right. We were going to be sacrificed by those maniacs if we didn’t get away, and fast! Tonight is Christmas Eve, and today is our last day on earth, and I had to think fast.
Suddenly, I heard the door knob click, and turn slowly. I raced over to the door and to my dismay I found it locked! Mr. or Mrs. Stein had locked us in our room.
Wilhelmina started crying. I told her to stop because it won’t help us, and we had to think hard. Suddenly, I had an idea! We could tie the bed sheets together, and scale down the building’s wall and escape! But Wilhelmina declined. She said they would surely catch us in the woods at night time, and who knows what would happen then.
“Well,” as I told her, “we have to take that chance.” We lowered the long chain of bed sheets down the wall, and I was the first to climb down. When I was half-way down the wall, I noticed two dark figures in a window just below me. I strained to get a better look, but could not go any farther, or I’d fall. It was Mr. and Mrs. Stein! They had on dark black hoods and a matching robe, and they each had a red candle in their hands. I had to avoid being seen so I jumped. It was only a five-foot jump, anyway. When I hit the ground, Wilhelmina was climbing down, but suddenly, as she was just above the window, she fell; the rope had broken. Luckily she wasn’t hurt, but the fall caused Mr. and Mrs. Stein to notice us.
Mrs. Stein stuck her cloaked head out and pointed her long, skinny, twig-like finger at us and exclaimed, “There they are!” We started to run towards the woods, and we were going in the direction of the stables. We thought that we could get the stable boy, Peter, to saddle up a horse for us. Luckily, he did; just in time, too, because Mrs. Stein came running out towards us. Boy, she could move!
We took off with a good snap of a whip. I turned around as we were riding, and we saw something incredible. Mrs. Stein threw some shiny powder into Peter’s face and he disappeared into thin air! She jumped on a horse and was off in pursuit of us. We started really to ride. With mighty strength our horses jumped the wall to the orphanage. She could no longer get us. We were safe now because it was a minute after midnight, exactly Christmas morning. She screamed a loud shrilly scream when a big burst of fire came up and swallowed her up. She had broken her pact with the Devil, and instead of our souls, he took hers. She was no more.
The End…
[Ms. Half, my 6th grade teacher, wrote: This is an “A” paper. Extra credit, however, doesn’t count much unless you’re up to date with everything else.] Oops! :)
What is your writing process?
I carry a pad of paper and a pen with me everywhere that I go. I write down any unusual dreams and thoughts that pop into my head that might lend themselves to an interesting story. I outline my story ideas and fill in the sections to get rough drafts.
How do you approach cover design?
I go for something eye-catching with bright colors, unusual photos, descriptive blurbs and bold fonts.
What do you read for pleasure?
Horror and sci-fi, especially 'classic' works by Robert Chambers, Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, H.P. Lovecraft, William Hope, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. There's nothing I like better than stumbling across a musty vintage paperback anthology (that often has amazing artwork) at a thrift shop that features those (or similar) authors.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have to use my notebook because I don't currently own a Nook or a Kindle.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth. Twitter and other social media promotion has been hit-or-miss.
Describe your desk
Anywhere I put my notebook. It could be a messed up bed with my notebook propped up on several throw pillows.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Aurora, IL in June of 1965, and moved to a rural farming community in 1970. Close-knit, Midwestern farming communities can be peaceful respites from city life or curses...Peyton Place's amidst fields of corn and soy where scandals and secrets are obscured by potlucks and street fairs...This is good fodder for an aspiring writer. Stephen King has 'Castle Rock,' and I have my little neck of the woods.
When did you first start writing?
In grade school. I started writing about the same time that I learned to read.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"Mulberry May Belle and Bandit the Wonder Dog" (Book #2 of the "Mulberry May Belle" paranormal middle-grade children's picture book series in verse) is in the process of being illustrated by the FANTASTIC Michele Champion. My mom's Boston Terrier, Bandit, is the inspiration behind this book about a dog that sheds his skin at midnight in order to wreak havoc in the household. Imagine a Boston Terrier in 'human' skin...
Published 2014-07-26.
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