Thursday, October 7, 2021

#GIVEAWAY Beneath The Marigolds Interview with author Emily C. Whitson a Partners in Crime virtual tour

Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson Banner

Beneath the Marigolds

by Emily C. Whitson

October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour


Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson

Playing on our universal fascination with reality TV, Emily C. Whitson’s Beneath the Marigolds is The Bachelor(ette) gone terribly wrong.

When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles' retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.

Ann quickly realizes there's more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?

Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the "journey to true love" and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive.

Praise for Beneath the Marigolds:

"Cleverly plotted...Whitson's debut novel is an intriguing new entry in the women's suspense genre, driven by dual first-person narrators and tension-filled parallel timelines."— Carmen Amato, Silver Falchion Award Finalist and author of The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

"Exhilarating twists and turns...a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl." — Helen Power, author of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place

"A fun, propulsive read...this book cleverly combines the archetypes of "reality TV" and the "trapped-on-a-remote-island" mystery that will perpetually keep you guessing." — Marcy McCreary, author of The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller/Psychological
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: September 21st 2021
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0744304202 (ISBN13: 9780744304206)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books


Read an excerpt:


I knew too much. On that island, on that godforsaken singles’ retreat. I knew too much.

I ruminated on that thought, chewing it carefully, repeatedly, while Magda, the makeup artist, transformed me into a life-size nightmarish porcelain doll. Ghastly white face, penciled-in eyebrows, blood-red lips. I’d look beautiful from a distance, she had told me, leaving the other part of the sentence unspoken: up close, it’s frightening. She tsked as she dabbed my damp forehead for the fourth time, her Russian accent thickening with frustration.

“Vhy you sveating so much?”

I worried my voice would come out haggard, so I shrugged, a little too forcefully. Magda shook her head, her pink bob sashaying in the grand all-white bathroom as she muttered something foreign under her breath. My gaze danced across the various makeup brushes on the

vanity until it landed on one in particular. I shifted my weight in the silk- cushioned chair, toyed with my watch.

“Magda, what do you want out of this retreat?” No response.

Did she not hear me, or did she choose not to respond? In the silence, I was able to hear Christina’s high-heeled feet outside the bathroom.

Click, clack. Click, click.

When I first met the host of the singles’ retreat, I was in awe of her presence, her unflappable poise. Shoulders back, she walked with a purpose, one foot in front of another, and though she was a couple inches shorter than I was, she seemed larger than life. Her icy eyes, colored only the faintest shade of blue, seemed to hold the secrets of the world—secrets she intended to keep. But I had stumbled upon them just a few short hours before, and I was now afraid her gait represented something more sinister: the march of an executioner.

Click, clack. Click, clack.

Her stride matched the even tick of my watch, and a drop of sweat trickled down my back. Was I being ridiculous? Surely Christina wouldn’t hurt me. She had been reasonable with me earlier, hadn’t she? “One meenute,” Magda shouted at the retreat’s host. She doused

my fire-red curls in hairspray one last time before asking me if I was ready to go.

“I just need to use the bathroom.” I wheezed through shallow breaths. “I’ll be right out.”

Magda exaggerated her sigh before shuffling out of the white-marble immurement, closing the doors behind her with a huff. My last remnants of safety and rational thinking left with her.

I shoved the vanity chair underneath the door handle. I grabbed the makeup brush with the flattest head and hurried to the bathroom. I gingerly closed the lid of the toilet and slipped off my heels before tip-

toeing on top so I could face the window. After removing the beading, I inserted the head of the makeup brush between the frame and glass. The brush’s handle cracked under the pressure, but it was enough to lever the glass out of its mounting. I placed the glass on the floor as gently as I’ve ever handled any object, trying not to make even the slightest sound, before hoisting myself up and through the window. I jumped into the black night, only partially illuminated by the full moon and the artificial lights of the mansion. I allowed my eyes to adjust.

And then I ran.

The loose branches of the island forest whipped at my cheeks, my limbs, my mouth. The soles of my feet split open from fallen twigs and other debris, but the adrenaline kept the pain at bay. I tripped over something unseen, and my hands broke my fall. Just a few cuts, and a little blood. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it.

I jumped up, forcing myself to keep moving. The near darkness was blinding, so I held my bloody hands up, trying to block my face. The farther I ran, the more similar the trunks of the trees became. How long had I been running? I gauged about a mile. I slowed down to gather my bearings. Behind me, the lights of the mansion brightened the sky, but they were only the size of my palm from that distance.

I heard the hum of a moving car come and go. I must have been near the road. I was about to start moving again when I heard the snap of twigs. Footsteps. I stopped breathing. I swiveled to my left and right, but nothing. I exhaled. It was just my imagination. I continued away from the lights. Away from the retreat.

And then someone stepped toward me: Christina. Her face was partially obscured by darkness, but her pale eyes stood out like fireflies. “It doesn’t have to be like this,” she said. Her expression remained

a mystery in the darkness.

I turned around, but one of her handlers was blocking that path.

Christina took another step forward, and I jerked away, tripping over the gnarled roots of the forest in the process. My head broke the fall this time, and my ears rang from the pain.

Her handler reached for my left hand, and for a moment, I thought he was going to help me stand. Instead, he twisted my ring finger into an unnatural position. As my bone cracked, my screams reverberated through the woods.

It was showtime.


Excerpt from Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson. Copyright 2021 by Emily C. Whitson. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

My interview with Emily Whitson:

Emily welcome to The Reading Frenzy, congratulations on your debut novel, Beneath The Marigolds. Please tell my readers a bit about it.
Thank you! Beneath the Marigolds, to be as succinct as possible, is about a reality dating show gone terribly wrong. The story begins with Reese Marigold, a hopeless romantic, venturing off to an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii. When she doesn’t return home, her friend, Ann Stone, travels to the retreat in search of answers. The longer Ann’s there, the more she begins to suspect the retreat isn’t quite what it seems. There are bizarre dates and strange rules, and Ann wonders if the retreat is a front for a new and twisted—and deadly—reality dating show. As Ann uncovers Reese’s last movements, meeting a slew of suspicious characters along the way, Ann finds she herself may not get off the island alive.

I see from your bio that you were a former copywriter. Was this an asset for you when you decided to become a fiction author?
Absolutely. I started out in journalism and then moved to marketing copywriting. Although they have their differences, they both require grabbing the readers’ attention as quickly and concisely as possible. These two traits are also required in mysteries and thrillers. As my editor will tell you, anything that’s superfluous or boring gets cut.

Additionally, a background in marketing was invaluable when developing a concept. In marketing, your product or service must have a competitive advantage—a factor that makes your product or service better than others. I went into fiction writing with that mindset, always asking myself if my concept had a competitive advantage. Was it unique? Did it have commercial value? Was it marketable?

Such a timely tale with reality shows all the rave. Are you a fan of them?
Yes! I think people assume I’m not, since my book does critique some aspects of reality television, but I do enjoy them. They’re rampant with conflict, high stakes, and emotions, which makes for compelling storytelling. They’re the ideal sandbox for a writer’s imagination.

Your main protagonist Ann Stone is a recovering alcoholic. Some authors know from the get-go all about their characters. Did you know this about Ann from the start? And did she behave for you during her creation or did she run amok?
I always knew that Ann would be opposed to the traditional happily ever after and the idea of reality television, as that adds some inherent conflict to the story, but her full history wasn’t immediately apparent to me. At first, I was nervous to add in the recovery backstory, as that’s more personal, and I try to veer away from that in my fiction writing. However, I realized that drinking was a core aspect of many reality shows, and by having Ann not drink, that allowed for an added layer of drama and character complexity.

Then, as I started to flesh out her history with alcoholism, I realized how important it was to me to make her story realistic. Often, people with substance use disorder are portrayed negatively, or one-dimensionally, and that’s an inaccurate representation. You never truly overcome addiction, as it’s a daily struggle, but people can and do reach a “new normal,” and that allows them to deal with common issues—struggles with love, friendship, money, careers. I guess I just wanted to portray Ann and Reese as people, as opposed to merely people in addiction. 

The premise sounds like a mix of The Bachelorette and Love Island only without the HEA. Was there a particular show that inspired this book?
I do love both of those shows. The Bachelor(ette) was probably my main inspiration, as it’s my favorite reality show.

I believe there can be more than one type of happily ever after. Romantic love is wonderful, but so are other forms of love—in my opinion, friendships and family can be just as fulfilling and meaningful.

Your bio also states that you’re passionate about women’s issues including education and telling their stories. How will you incorporate this into your work when you finish your degree?
Yes, I am. I went to an all-girls high school, Harpeth Hall, so I was instilled with a passion for women’s issues and education from a young age.

I try to give back as much as I can right now. I’m still very involved with Harpeth Hall, and I’m giving 15% of my royalties from alumnae or student book purchases back to the school.

Also, I selected CamCat as my publisher partially because the CEO and acquiring editor are female. Men still tend to dominate the publishing industry (see here and here) and since my book is about and for women, it was really important to me that my book was handled by women.

Thanks, Emily, for letting me pick your brain. Good luck with the new novel!
Thanks so much! Thanks for taking the time to interview me!



Author Bio:

Emily C. Whitson

Emily Whitson received a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as a marketing copywriter for six years before pursuing a career in fiction and education. She is currently getting her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt University, where she writes between classes. She is particularly passionate about women’s education and female stories. This interest stems from her time at Harpeth Hall, an all-girls college preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. When she isn’t volunteering, writing, or in the classroom, Emily can usually be found with her dog, Hoss, in one of Nashville’s various parks. Beneath the Marigolds is her debut novel.

Catch Up With Emily C. Whitson:
BookBub - @emilycwhitson_author
Instagram - @emilycwhitson
Facebook - @emilycwhitson



Tour Participants:

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Emily C. Whitson & CamCat Books. There will be 1 winner of one (1) print edition of Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson (US, Canada, and UK Only). The giveaway runs October 1 through November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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  1. Wow! Great interview!
    I am a fan of Survivor and Amazing Race not so much a fan of the Romance reality shows, but... I do want to read this book!!!
    Going on my wish list for sure!

  2. What a great sounding premise and rather sinister.

  3. A darker side to a reality TV show and a missing friend are a great premise to start with. Fun getting to know the author and a bit more about the book, too.