Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your gothic horror novel, No One’s Home, through Thomas and Mercer! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
D.M. Pulley: Thank you! No One’s Home takes the reader deep inside a hundred-year-old mansion haunted by family secrets, lies, and murder and follows its new owners as they slowly unravel the home’s dark history.
Rawlingswood is a composite of many beautiful century homes found in Shaker Heights and neighboring Cleveland Heights, Ohio; however, a bank-owned, vacant house I toured in 2008 inspired much of the story. The previous owners were rumored to have fallen victim to an untimely death, drug addiction, and insanity. The home was badly vandalized and stripped of copper. Bloodstains covered portions of the second floor, and an unopened college acceptance letter lay on one of the steps up to the attic.
More pieces of the story came from my work as an engineer inspecting and renovating old houses in and around Cleveland, Ohio for several years. I often found clues to the past buried in the walls of my projects, including medicine bottles, old letters, and a boy’s shoe from the 1930s. All these found objects stayed with me over the years and fed my imagination as I constructed the mansion at the center of No One’s Home. As Rawlingswood took shape, I began researching the history of the area and two real murder cases that happened along Lee Road.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in researching and writing the book, especially given your work as a professional engineer who rehabs historic structures and conducts forensic investigations into building failures?
DMP: Engineering can be more creative than one might think. It requires analyzing a complex system with myriad problems, like an aging building, and dreaming up buildable solutions. As an engineer, I take in massive amounts of data for what begins as a complicated and often poorly defined project and break it down into manageable pieces that I can solve. Writing a novel is a similar process.
In the case of No One’s Home, I had reams of historical research to comb through and an infinite number of possibilities to consider as I began developing characters and plot lines. To break it down into manageable pieces, I started by asking myself simple questions about who might have lived in the house over the years and what happened to them. Some research got discarded and more was added along the way as I began to follow my characters around the house. To keep from spiraling off into tangents, I kept the story tightly focused on the mansion and made it the POV narrator.
As for the writing itself, I use my experience as a life-long reader to guide me through the story. I ask myself, “What do I want to see? What do I want to know? What should happen next?” I try to keep myself in the reader’s seat as much as possible during a first draft, so I do not outline or plan too far ahead. I like to keep myself (and readers!) in suspense.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
DMP: I hope readers will be entertained by the story and gain a sense of wonder about the built world around them. We all live and work in places with a story to tell, surrounded by clues to the rich and fascinating history of the places we inhabit. Perhaps this story will inspire some to do a little research of their own.
BD: What makes Thomas and Mercer the perfect home for No One’s Home?
DMP: I owe my writing career to Amazon Publishing and the wonderful editors at Thomas & Mercer. They discovered me with the Amazon Break Through Novel Award in 2014 and have continued to nurture me and my writing ever since. I enjoy the sense of collaboration they encourage and the innovative ways Thomas & Mercer reaches readers.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
DMP: No One’s Home would make a fabulous stage play since the story takes place entirely in one setting. I’d love to see it adapted for the screen if only to see the visual effects a director might dream up to capture the haunting memories of the house.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DMP: My fifth historical thriller follows an unlikely cast of characters from a murder in 1968 to the present day. Inspired by true events, this take on modern noir examines the ripple effects of one senseless act of violence across three generations. The working title is A Boy Named Evil, and the novel is currently under review with my agent.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about No One’s Home?
DMP: Readers can subscribe to my monthly newsletter for the most recent updates on events, giveaways, sales, and my work in progress at www.dmpulley.com/subscribe/. They can also follow me on Facebook (@DMPulleyAuthor) and Instagram (@d.m.pulley) for photographs and videos of the homes, building sites, and graveyards that inspired me.
D.M. Pulley is the author of No One’s Home (Sept. 1, 2019; Thomas & Mercer). Her previous books are The Unclaimed Victim, The Buried Book, and The Dead Key (winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award). Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a Professional Engineer rehabbing historic structures and conducting forensic investigations of building failures. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, two kids, and a dog named Hobo. You can find her online at www.dmpulley.com.
Photo by Rebecca Cain