Spotlight, Review, Author Interview & Giveaway: Fires: Novel by Lenore H. Gay

Book Blurb & Info

Joss and Phil’s already rocky marriage is fragmented when Phil is injured in a devastating fire and diagnosed with Capgras delusion―a misidentification syndrome in which a person becomes convinced that a loved one has been replaced by an identical imposter. Faced with a husband who no longer recognizes her, Joss struggles to find motivation to save their marriage, even as family secrets start to emerge that challenge everything she thought she knew.

With two young daughters, a looming book deadline, and an attractive but complicated distraction named Adam complicating her situation even further, Joss has to decide what she wants for her family―and what family even means.

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Toot's Review by Betty Bee

“During the hours she sat in Phil’s room, she sometimes tried to fit together the pieces of her own parents’ marriage while trying to create a map of some exotic place using the cracks in the ceiling as an outline of this new world of fire and injury.”

This book is about four characters, Joss, Phil, Terpe and Adam and the different ways that they connect, or disconnect after a devastating fire that shakes the foundations of their lives. The fire takes place in the house of Joss and Phil, who are married and Phil is badly injured by falling boards. After spending weeks in a coma, Phil wakes up and his doctors soon work out that he no longer recognizes his own wife. Joss feels many emotions course through her upon finding this out, but mostly anger as she and Phil had been near divorce before his injury and she now resents having to care for a man that cheated on her.
The couple have two daughters, the oldest being Terpe who is a headstrong, surprisingly intelligent child who takes it upon herself to discover how the fire in her house started.

Meanwhile, Adam, a local electrician is called upon to make repairs in the house. After meeting Joss, the two begin an affair based on mutual longing for company.
Joss must decide how she wants to move forward, whether she wants to leave Phil, be with Adam or something else entirely and all while finishing a book on mythology that is due in mere months.

I really appreciated the realism of the relationships in this novel. Lenore H. Gay perfectly writes the fraught situation between Joss and Phil, that, of course, gets much worse after his head injury. This is a book that gives the reader a bit of quiet contemplation and emotional attachment.

Interview by Betty Bee

Hi Lenore, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! 

I always enjoy looking at the names that authors choose to give their characters. Where do you derive the names of your characters?  Are they based on real people you knew or now know in real life? How do you create names for your characters?

Yes, I do like to name characters based on what seems to fit the character. I have a name book, it’s an unusual one my father gave me in March, 2003. It’s Classic Baby Name Book, 2,000 Names from the World’ Great Literature. By Grace Hamlin. The book is divided into girls’ and boys’ names. I read through the names, many you’d recognize, but perhaps don’t know their origin. After the name, for instance Jessica, we find it’s a Hebrew name meaning “he sees” and it’s from the Old Testament.

Phil was diagnosed with Capgras delusion. Can you tell us more about that?

Brain research has revealed this syndrome can be the result of a closed-head injury. The visual cortex relays information through two routes. One route is the temporal lobe, which is linked to facial recognition, and one to the limbic system, which registers emotional reaction. With Capgras, the route from the visual cortex to the limbic system is damaged, but the lobe is unharmed. For example, a person can look like “mother,” “husband,” or “wife,” but the patient has no emotional response to the person, hence the patient believes he/she is seeing an imposter.

Reading further I discovered the syndrome usually appears in schizophrenia and dementia. However, a closed-head injury can also cause the syndrome. I wondered how the syndrome might affect a family. I made notes, jotted down ideas and developed the characters, then I wrote the first draft and so on, until it became a manuscript.

Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself?

I wish I had the talent to design book covers. Alas, I don’t. The able artist at She Writes Press, my publisher, developed the great cover. She sent me several possibilities and I chose this one. It’s focus on fire certainly reflects what is in the novel. There are real fires and at times the relationships are also fiery.

What writers have you drawn inspiration from?

Here are some writers I’ve drawn inspiration from over the years. It’s a mix of fiction, nonfiction and memoir. I read daily and have since I was a young child. Peter Selgin, Gregory Orr, Gretel Ehrlich, David Carr, Toi Derricote, Helen Macdonald, Caroline Kettlewell, Andrew Dubus, Patti Smith, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, Jack McDermott, Tennessee Williams, Sylvia Plath, Peter Heller, Margaret Atwood, Susan Choi, Haruki Murakami, T.C. Boyle, Michael Ondaatje, Charles Frazier, Donna Tartt, Claire Vaye Watkins, Laura Van Den Berg, Eden Lupucki, Per Petterson, Emily St. John Mandel.

What are you currently working on?

I have begun work on a sequel from my first book, Shelter of Leaves. There were two characters in the book whom I thought could work in another book. Sabine was the main character in Shelter of Leaves. Sabine fled Washington, DC after the bombings began. She finally finds shelter with a group of people in West Virginia, others who had also fled. One of the characters at the West Virginia farm was Malcolm Sharp. While he was interesting man, he wasn’t featured much in the book. Toward the end of writing the Shelter I decided his character could carry the other main character in a sequel. Then I wrote Other Fires mostly because I thought Capgras, a misidentification syndrome, not a well-known medical challenge, could be interesting to explore in fiction.

What kind of messages do you try to instill in your writing?

I am a retired therapist. I began my career at age 20 working in a children’s inpatient psychiatric hospital while I earned credentials. I have worked in outpatient and inpatient programs, often with drug addicts and alcoholics who had dual diagnoses. For ten years I ran a counseling practice, for my final three years of working, I worked at Virginia Commonwealth University as Clinical Coordinator in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program where I taught grad students. 

My book characters are not based on former clients. I enjoy developing book characters. I think good characters development is one of the most important skills needed to write compelling fiction. While developing characters I’m watching the plot develop.

Author Info

Lenore Gay is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor with a master’s in sociology and rehabilitation counseling. She was an adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rehabilitation Counseling Department for thirty years. She has worked in several agencies and psychiatric hospitals, and for ten years worked at her private counseling practice before becoming Coordinator of VCU’s Rehabilitation Counseling Department internship program.

Her debut novel, Shelter of Leaves, was a finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year award and a finalist for an INDEFAB award. For three years, Lenore has served on the Steering Committee of the RVALitCrawl, which has been featured in RVAMag, Richmond Family Magazine, and Richmond Magazine. She is an active member of James River Writers. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.



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