Getting Southern With Author Theresa Crater
As a Southern author myself, I always love connecting with other Southern authors. So I'd love you to meet Theresa Crater and learn about her recent book, The Star Family.
What's your favorite thing about the South?
Grits. Seriously. When I moved away from North Carolina, where I was born and raised, I couldn’t get grits. I missed them. Polenta is just not the same.
I love the soft blue Appalachian Mountains and the Piedmont. I love the riot of color in the fall, the early spring flowers and roses blooming late.
I also love that forthrightness of the South. People will tell you what they’re thinking for the most part. And talking to strangers in public. Down south, folks don’t stare at you like you’re maybe a bit nuts. In the South, they talk right back.
How does the South affect your writing?
I discovered some fascinating things about my ancestors, the Moravians, who settled Winston-Salem. My great, great—well, you know—grandfather came over in 1727. I was raised in the Moravian Church, a small, progressive Protestant sect, but recently discovered that the mother of poet and painter William Blake was a Moravian. And—get this—in the 18th century, they taught sacred sexuality.
Yeah, it stopped me in my tracks, too. Did anyone tell my grandfather about this, I wondered? I had to investigate. I discovered they were quite metaphysical and their teachings way ahead of their time. All this research turned into The Star Family.
What's your next writing project?
I have a three-generation Southern Gothic to write, about the friendship between an older African-American woman who was born during reconstruction and a woman who hides her Native-American ancestry from her husband. I’m also doing the next book in my Power Places series, this one set in Egypt.
A secret spiritual group. A recurring dream. A 400-year-old ritual that must be completed before it is too late.
Jane Frey inherits a Gothic mansion filled with unexpected treasures. A prophecy claims it hides an important artifact – the key to an energy grid laid down by the Founding Fathers themselves. Whoever controls this grid controls the very centers of world power. Except Jane has no idea what they’re looking for.
“The Star Family . . . explores the esoteric aspects of a progressive Protestant sect called the Moravian Brethren and weaves their history into a fascinating piece of speculative fiction. What if the Moravians had continued to observe some of their controversial practices in secret? What if their rites and music have played a role in withstanding the malignant forces that threaten to overwhelm modern society? What if one woman who discovers her true ancestry could oppose dominion of darkness through music and erotic spirituality? What if a town in North Carolina holds the key to bringing harmony to the world? Readers who enjoyed The Historian and The DaVinci Code will enjoy The Star Family.”
Dr. Craig Atwood, Moravian College, Director of the Center for Moravian Studies
Read a sample, then look for more info below:
Philip Martin parked his Porsche in a strip mall in Alexandria several blocks away from his destination and started walking up the hill. He preferred the anonymity of a public parking lot. No little old ladies peeking out through their curtains and calling the police to report strange cars in the neighborhood. He passed neat brick houses with tidy postage-stamp yards. Up the hill a few blocks, the houses grew larger—eighties split-levels with deeper yards and more shrubbery. Piece of cake to break into. Farther up, the lots expanded to half-acres and the houses vied for attention. He passed a stone and glass beauty set in trees, an English Tudor, a Frank Lloyd Wright wannabe.
He jogged ahead and waited until a Lincoln Town car arrived at the gate of the Queen Anne he was headed for. He paused in front of the neighboring house. The driver leaned out to identify himself to the security man, and Philip took advantage of this distraction to slip behind a large box hedge next to the drive. Unnoticed by the man at the gate, he jumped a small fence and made his way to the side of the house. He paused and straightened his jacket, wiped his damp shoes on the mat and tried the kitchen door. It opened and he slipped in.
He grabbed a couple of crab puffs off a tray and popped them in his mouth. Then stepped into a hall bathroom, washed his hands and patted down his hair. He cleaned some mud off his shoes with a hand towel and tossed it into the cabinet beneath the sink, then slipped into the front room.
Their host, Henry Coche, stood in the foyer greeting one of the last guests, Valentin Knight. Philip stood with his hands behind his back, not drawing attention to himself by craning his neck and looking around like some rube. A group milled around the formal living room. A few were seated, receiving homage from those standing around them. No hors d'oeuvres had been served yet. Those were for later. Philip ran his tongue over his teeth to clean off any tell-tale bits of food, then took up a position just to the side of a cluster of people so that he looked as if he were part of the group. From this vantage point, he surveyed the room.
The head of the Grand Lodge of D.C. sat in a high-backed Wedgewood blue chair near the window, his clipped grey hair neat above a white shirt and blue tie discreetly decorated with the compass and square. Beside him stood a senator, the head of an important lobbying group and the assistant director of an intelligence organization. Across the room seated on chintz sofas on either side of a marble fireplace, Philip recognized two other heads of different lodges, each attended by equally powerful men. No women were present.
The front door closed and Henry Coche followed his last guest into the room. Coche stood an easy six feet, his brown hair graying at the temple. Dressed in a blue, boardroom suit, he was unremarkable in appearance. But, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate him. Coche owned the most powerful conglomerate in the world, aside from the Saudi family, of course.
His guest, however, did stand out. Elegant and cultured, Valentin Knight gathered the attention of the room. He wore a designer suit and a silk ascot decorated with a small winged Isis pattern. His neatly trimmed hair was a venerable silver. The most revered mystic in America.
Conversation stopped and those standing turned to face their host. Coche waited until every eye was on him, then said, “I am so pleased to have you all here for this very special evening. I’m sure you have heard about the recent prophecy.” A few heads nodded. Coche paused and looked around the room, acknowledging a few of the more eminent guests.
“Ordinarily, we would conduct such an event in one of our temples, but discretion is of the utmost importance, especially if there is any veracity to these predictions. Our prophet—” he placed a slight emphasis on the word to suggest this was a question still to be decided “—awaits us in my private sanctuary.” He stepped aside and extended his arm toward two young men who turned and began to lead the group through a corridor and down a flight of steps of polished wood. Lapis blue carpet runners softened their steps.
On the bottom floor, Philip followed the group down a long hall of Italian tile, avoiding notice for now. Nooks held marble statues of various Egyptian and Greek deities. Philip didn’t know all their names. They were ushered into a long room, this one tiled in black and white squares. More statues dotted the sides at intervals. Simple wooden chairs lined the spaces in between. A flat wooden table stood in the middle surrounded by three candelabras. At the far end of the room, steps led up to a raised platform flanked by a black and white marble pillar on either side. A row of what Philip would describe as thrones lined the dais. He found a seat near a statue of Venus—this one he recognized—between two inset lights so his face was in shadow while the group sorted itself out according to their notions of who was more important. The heads of the various lodges took their places on the platform on either side of an elaborately carved chair. Knight entered last and took this seat. No one wore robes or regalia.
After a few minutes, Coche came in accompanied by two people, a paunchy middle-aged man and a young wisp of a fellow, his hair like spun gold. This man carried something wrapped in dark blue velvet. Coche called over the two attendants who’d led them to this room, whispered to one, then gestured for the two guests to join him at the altar. The paunchy man produced a three-legged silver holder and placed it on the gleaming wood. The younger one, who Philip had surmised was the alleged prophet, unwrapped his burden. It turned out to be a large, perfectly clear crystal ball.
Philip hid a smile behind his hand. Could they be more stereotypical? But the others in the room watched these proceedings with serious faces. Philip turned his attention back to the altar in the middle. The attendants brought a chair for each of the guests and they settled near the crystal that reflected the light from the candelabras surrounding the table.
Coche walked to the dais, taking the throne next to Knight’s. Valentin Knight surprised Philip by leading the group in a brief meditation. He supposed Coche was softening the old man up. Knight asked them first to relax their muscles, then breathe rhythmically. Philip had always found these exercises practical, clearing the mind of clutter while in the field. He’d grown accustomed to doing them regularly. After a series of energy flows which Philip found rather fanciful, Knight spoke, his voice soft, but easy to hear with the well-designed acoustics of the room. “Our guest will go deeper into trance and tell us what he finds.”
The young man had scooted his chair up to the altar and now sat with a hand on either side of the crystal. He peered into the sphere, occasionally humming vowel sounds. After about two minutes, his eyes seemed to lose focus. Then, as if an invisible string were attached to his shirt, his back straightened. The air around him seemed to glow. He raised his head and looked around. His energy had shifted, become somehow imperial, commanding, even haughty. Entirely different from the soft young man who’d started this ritual.
“I bring you greetings from the White Brotherhood.”
Philip bit his lip to keep himself from laughing, almost drawing blood.
The young man frowned at him, even though Phillip knew he’d made no outward sign. The prophet turned his focus back on Knight. “The time of the great shift is upon us now, and so it will be in each power center on the Earth, for the time spoken of has arrived.”
A shudder passed through the man’s frame. “In the center of the grid laid down by your ancestors lies an eight-petaled figure, just as there is another where the lost treasure is kept. There are those who would control it to stop the feeding of the grid. This will block your leadership from the new guidance.”
The young man paused and cocked his head as if listening, but said no more.
What the fuck does that mean? Philip thought. Weird syntax and vague generalizations anyone could interpret to fit their preconceived ideas.
The young man slumped as if he’d run a long race. The paunchy assistant leaned over to steady him so he wouldn’t slip out of his chair. A stir rustled through the group. They glanced around at each other, some perplexed, some obviously in awe, but no one broke protocol. They remained silent. Eventually all eyes returned to Knight, who made a curious gesture in the air, then said, “We thank you for your message, Lodge of the White Brotherhood.” He seemed perfectly serious. “Is this all?”
The young man remained slumped in his chair. His assistant leaned over and whispered something in his ear. The prophet shook his head and his assistant stood and intoned in a sanctimonious voice, “The White Brotherhood has concluded its message.”
They might as well have said nothing in Philip’s opinion, but he wasn’t paid for that. He was paid for action. He’d receive his instructions later. At least he’d enjoyed some excellent crab puffs.
The assistant wrapped an arm around the prophet, tucking a hand under the other’s arm pit, and lifted him from the chair with an audible grunt. Philip drew back at the sound. The paunchy man led the prophet from the room, leaving behind his crystal ball, silver stand and a length of blue velvet. So they weren’t departing yet.
Philip waited for the buzz of conversation that usually followed group events so he could slip out and wait in an empty room, but it never came. Instead they all rose, allowing their dignitaries to walk out first, then followed in single file. Philip blended in as best he could. Each man seemed absorbed in his own thoughts about the display they’d just witnessed. Halfway down the hallway, the group began to break into clusters, talking amongst themselves.
Philip slipped into a dark bedroom farther down and waited for the group to move on. After a few minutes, the hallway grew silent. Now he could sneak out. Just as he reached for the door, it opened inward. He stepped back into the relative darkness deeper in the room. The light switched on and two table lamps on either side of the bed illumined his hiding place.
One of the young attendants who’d led them into the temple stood facing him. “Mr. Coche asked that you wait for him in the library.”
The attendant stepped aside and gestured toward the door, then walked beside Philip up the steps. The buzz of conversation and clink of dishes grew louder. To his relief, the assistant turned a sharp left and they climbed another flight, leaving the group behind to speculate about what the White Brotherhood’s message meant.
The assistant opened one of a set of double doors and stood aside. Philip entered a large library filled with leather bound volumes, the classics, English and American literature, gleaming and untouched by the look of them.
“May I get you some refreshment?”
Philip started to say no, but then thought he’d like some time alone here—to pick the lock in the desk across the room. “Please. I missed dinner.”
The attendant stepped to the door and pushed a button in a panel on the wall, spoke into it, then stood back. “Your food will be up shortly.”
“Thank you.” Philip hid his disappointment. “How long have you worked for Mr. Coche?”
The man paused a moment, then said, “My orders are to wait with you. I’m afraid I’m not to answer any questions.” He inclined his head apologetically.
“I see.” Philip studied him a moment. “Mind if I look around?”
His guardian extended a hand in invitation. “Please.”
On the wall across from the bookshelves hung a painting that depicted a winding stair with elegant, rather Art Deco looking women who carried pitchers and platters upwards. Two angels descended with books, their heads bent in conversation. Higher up more women walked hand in hand. The blue stars at the bottom gave way to gold, then a round disc with rays. He leaned forward and found a plaque—Jacob’s Ladder by William Blake.
Philip moved to the first shelf and started reading titles. Biographies of political leaders, political commentary—these spines seemed to have been bent at least once. He took one down at random and found a signature on the title page. “Thanks for everything, George W.”
Before he could scan another shelf, his food arrived and he sat in one of the chairs and made a show of eating with relish. “Eat when you can,” his father had told him many times during his spare childhood. “You never know where your next meal is coming from.” Philip worked out enough that he didn’t need to worry about occasional rich food, so he downed more crab puffs, spicy tuna sushi, beef sandwich wedges, vegetables and cheese on fancy crackers. He washed it all down with an excellent red wine. He’d have to ask the vintage. Just as he sat back and the assistant took his tray, the door opened and Henry Coche walked in.
“I was finally able to get away.”
Coche nodded at the assistant, who left, closing the door behind him. Philip didn’t hear any more footsteps, so he assumed the man had taken up his station just outside. Coche sat in the chair across from Philip and gestured for him to sit back down. “I wanted you to observe the event tonight and see who was involved.”
Philip sat up a little straighter. “I noted the more important guests. Would you be willing to give me the full roster?”
Coche hesitated a second before agreeing. “We need to figure out what this prophet means by the eight-sided figure, but what I want you to focus on first is finding the painting.”
“You think the treasure he mentioned is a lost painting?”
“We think there’s a connection.”
Philip stopped himself from shifting in his chair. He didn’t want to telegraph his attitude. “The comments were quite vague. Do you have any more details?”
“We have reason to believe that the lost painting is one by William Blake.”
Philip glanced at the one hanging above the mantel.
Coche smiled. “Yes, another Blake.”
“How did you reach this conclusion? Are you sure you aren’t letting your own taste affect your judgment?”
“From other sessions, plus historical records. A few groups in North America had contact with William Blake and his family.”
“And you think the message is referring to this continent?”
“Nobody’s certain, but the plan is to investigate possibilities close to home before extending the search.”
“And the grid? Any thoughts on that?”
Coche pointed to the bookshelves farther along the wall. “Lots of people have written about energy grids being laid down before buildings were started. More grids are supposed to exist around the world, but we think these messages are aimed at the U.S.”
Coche reached into his pocket and took out a piece of paper. “About the painting. The occupant of this house has family ties back to Blake. She might have originals. We—I want you to start here. Then we’ll focus on the grid problem.”
Philip wondered briefly the identity of this ‘we’. He’d find out. He took the slip of paper and glanced at it. He kept his expression neutral, concealing his surprise. Definitely not a place he’d been expecting.
Get The Star Family here, along with how to connect with Theresa!
Purchase links: www.crystalstarpublishing.com
Website – http://theresacrater.com
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