After a particularly exhausting day, Mary Ann D'Alto started musing about the human mind. She picked up a pencil and wrote: "Aaron had never noticed how thin his shoe laces were." This was the start of He Counts Their Tears, a riveting thriller that drags readers into the dark world of a psychopath. As our Author of the Day, D'Alto talks about how she didn't plan the book but merely watched the story unfold as the characters developed. D'Alto also chats about having to make time to write while running a successful law firm and reveals why she did not become a Psychotherapist.
Please give us a short introduction to He Counts Their Tears
He Counts Their Tears is the story of the man so many women have met in the course of their lives, the one “you never forget”. Here is a Synopsis:
Aaron Stein, quintessential gentleman, has a secret. Behind the benevolent façade hides a monster; a destroyer of souls who lusts after power and control.
A lapsed Catholic and virulent hater of all religious beliefs, Aaron plays his ruse again and again with unsuspecting women who genuinely believe they have met their soul mate. Covert hypnosis, edgy trysts, and psychological warfare are all part of The Game he plays “to have all the power”.
But the Magic of Illusion slips out of his reach, and suddenly his secret life is threatened by a series of events he never anticipated. Will his devoted cousin, Constance, succeed in protecting him, just as she has throughout his entire life? And what exactly is it that she does to protect him? Is she a murderer, or is she simply devoted to him? Are they merely cousins (possibly, once, long ago, lovers), or are they both something else entirely? Did Aaron learn his evil ways from her, or is he really the incarnation of Evil? In the end, these answers will make no difference in the lives of the women who, each in turn, are charmed into becoming his victims.
What inspired the characters of Aaron Stein and Constance?
I have no idea. I just started writing and the characters sort of formed in front off me, right there on the screen! It’s not as if I sat there and said to myself, “Oh well now, let me see. I think Aaron should have a Cousin, and I think there should be some question as to the nature of their relationship. Oh, and I want it to appear as if perhaps she is the true villain, the one who taught him everything he knows.” If only I could say that! It would sound so proper and, well, Author like! But really, I read the book as I wrote it. I thought Constance was pretty amazing from the start.
From whence comes the interest in the human mind?
When I was planning to open my own law firm, I had the idea of offering Counseling as well. So, I decided to become a Psychotherapist. Imagine my amazement when the school rejected me! Well, I had already developed an interest in personality disorders and, in particular, the mind of the Psychopath. I suppose He Counts Their Tears was a natural offshoot of that educational experience.
In which way is the book a cautionary tale?
I never intended it as a cautionary tale! Yet there it is. I am a Lawyer, not a Psychiatrist. I never even took a Psychology Course. In fact, it was the only class I ever dropped at Barnard. Psychology 101. I took a Modern Art Class in its place. And as I’ve said elsewhere in this Interview, the Psychology School I applied to did not even want me. So, I am a poor excuse for an expert in anything Psych related, and in fact I do not claim to be one. This book is, pure and simple, the story of “that guy” , the one nearly every woman meets at some point in her life. And these are modern women, strong minded women. Savvy, smarts, all of it notwithstanding, the Aaron Steins of this world know how to play the ruse. Few choose to speak of the experience because it is not pleasant to admit that one was “had”. And so, they don’t, and men like Aaron keep doing what they do. The secret gets kept, just like in He Counts Their Tears. So, the book does have a message; Careful, Evil may be masquerading as your new best friend. It’s not something we like to think about. After all, don’t others have our best interests in mind? That’s just what Aaron, and men like him, want us to think. Read the book and you will see how this plays out in all of its hideous glory.
The tone of your book is fairly grim, creating a dark, claustrophobic atmosphere. How did you pull this off?
I have always had a dark side. I was the little girl who never played with dolls. How could I? They were the characters in the horror stories I made up in my mind. To create the dark atmosphere for this book, I expanded on my image of those dolls, stored away in a crate in the attic, trapped. Aaron’s victims are similarly trapped, but by words and by emotions. The effect, as the reader will see, is just as paralyzing, psychologically, as is physical confinement. That being said, the really dark aspect the book (and what makes it truly disturbing) is something beyond confinement; the darkness is in the very idea that Aaron plays out his games with women’s minds in plain sight, right under the radar of everyday life. That is the eeriness.
He Counts Their Tears contains quite a couple of twists. Did you plan them all out before you started writing?
Oh how I wish I could say “yes”! The truth of it is that I sat down one day, and started writing. It had been a very difficult, exhausting day, and I was thinking about the human mind, and how it is that with some effort and a bit of covert manipulation the mind can be controlled, as if one were pulling the strings of a marionette. I picked up a pencil and wrote, “Aaron had never noticed how thin his shoe laces were.” I kept writing, just to see what would happen. The end result was “He Counts Their Tears”, twists and all. I never planned the book. I know that sounds awful, but what can I say? I am a Lawyer, not an Author (or so I thought). I really had no idea what I was doing when I wrote this book. Not a clue. I just kept writing. It really was amazing, the “process” I used; I would to sit down at the computer and watch the story unfold. Still, I wish I could tell you about my fancy writing plan for He Counts Their Tears. I do have one for my second book!
You create genuine, detailed connections between your characters. Why did you find this important?
Well, thank you! I didn’t know it was important, and I didn’t know I was doing so. I really did just sit down at my computer and write. Sometimes I was genuinely amazed at the story line, in particular the development of Secret Aaron, and of course the rather questionable relationship between Aaron and his cousin, Constance. I think that after awhile (and remember, I wrote this book in the wee hours of many nights, while working full time and raising a family) the characters began to seem, to me, as close to human as ink borne creatures could possibly be. So, I was able to imagine their conversations, and how they would react to one another.
What types of books do you read for your own enjoyment? Do you stick to psychological thrillers?
I have shelves of the classics, and, as well, every law book imaginable for a New York law firm. But it is the Indie Authors I read, voraciously. I feel a strong affinity with my fellow Indie Authors, and an obligation to support the Writers who so warmly welcomed me into their fold. I am proud to count myself among them so of course I read their work, and I always leave a Review. Always. Reviews are pure gold to Authors.
Tell us about your writing habits. When, where and how do you write?
Well, I work full time and I have a family, so that narrows the scope a bit in terms of available writing time. I wrote mostly at night, and on weekends all thorough the night, drinking way too much coffee with a chaser of vanilla ice cream. I have my own law firm now, so I am more able to adjust my work schedule than when I was an Administrative Law Judge, but there is always the time issue when it comes to writing, and how to circumvent it. I think in the end an Author will always manage to find the time to write. It is an urge akin to the urge to breathe, and any Author can explain that to you; it is simply, absolutely, unquestionably, necessary.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Literature has always been part of my life. I was read to by my father, an artist, from before I could distinguish between a book and a human. I wrote “books” as a toddler, creating covers from colored paper, and sewing the pages together with yarn. I wrote my first Novella at age 12.
I have been writing poetry and short stories for as long as I can remember. It’s just always there. But time has a way of eclipsing things. I remember one day, and by this time my law career was flourishing, someone who knows me well said, rather pointedly, “You should be writing.” They were right. I tried, several times, but the words would not scream. But with He Counts Their Tears, I could feel the words screaming, even from the opening sentence. I’ve been writing ever since. And yes that person with the pointed comment read my book and gave it a 4, with criticisms, because my mother is my worst critic, which is why I am the person I have become; fearless.
He Counts Their Tears is your debut work. What has the experience been like, so far?
It has been amazing! I have often said that writing a book is a bit like dying and going to your own funeral; you learn what others think of you, and you can view the mark you have left on society. Some people refused to read my book, for so many reasons. I was fine with that. One person read it and returned it to me, in pieces. It seems my wicked guy, Aaron, has that kind of an effect on people. I smiled and thanked them for reading my book. Oh, and nearly every man who knows me and has read the book is convinced that he was my inspiration for the character of Aaron Stein. My reply is always the same, “Oh please, do not flatter yourself”.
What are you working on right now?
I am most of all working on finding a Literary Agent. If any Literary Agents are reading this and are interested in some dark Psychological Thrillers, please find me at [email protected]
I have just completed The Suffering Room, sequel to He Counts Their Tears. It has a Copyright, but remains unpublished. In The Suffering Room, Aaron’s life takes a rather public turn when he runs for Elected Office. He is very concerned about being revealed for what he is, so he takes the unusual step of returning to the very women he charmed and destroyed in He Counts Their Tears in an effort to convince each of them to keep his secret. Of course, Aaron is very covert in this endeavor and much happens that I think will surprise the readers. In the end, Karma does it’s own twisted dance, but what that is, well, you will have to wait and see.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/he-counts-their-tears
But the best way to interact with me is by reading He Counts Their Tears and leaving a Review on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/author/hecountstheirtears and on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28219220-he-counts-their-tears I want to know what you think of Aaron. I want to know how you felt about the women he tricked. I want to know what you think about the book. Spare no words. Be blunt! I want true impressions of your encounter with Evil. Reviews are so important for Authors. Please remember this the next time you read a book, be it mine or another Author’s. And, thank you for reading my book!