What inspired you to write Death By Roses?
It had something to do with my older sister’s death from Lou Gehrig’s disease, which had occurred six months before the story began. I had grown up deeply introverted with an intense fear of death that never relented until I wrote this story. Somehow, I think my sister’s passing started this story, as if she was telling me to relax, enjoy my life, and not take death so seriously. My older sister had always watched out for me. Perhaps, even now, from her heightened perspective, she knew how to help.
Mae Rose’s pride and joy is her antique VW Beetle. Are you a fan of antique cars? What are your top three favorite models?
I am not a fan of antique cars—furniture, yes; cars no. I want maximum protection like airbags; navigation that tells me where I am and how to get where I’m going; full warranties, and many windows. A chauffeur would also be nice.
Our family, however, spent a lot of time inside VW Beetles as I grew up. As a child in a family of six people, riding around the country in a VW Beetle was NOT my idea of a good time. But the affection for VWs was prevalent and in tribute to my sister, who eventually owned a yellow VW Beetle, I couldn’t help but include one in the story. I didn’t understand the important role the VW would play until the story developed.
Mary Lee Broadmoor, the screenwriter known as Scary Mary, interacts with her daughter in the complete opposite way that Mae Rose treats her own children. Do you think that Mary Lee has any regrets in how she treated her daughter Allie?
Mary Lee has masked any possible regrets inside her caustic personality. Years of brutality toward her daughter and massive doses of narcissism make regret virtually impossible until Mae Rose’s energy “moves in.” My guess is that Mary Lee’s upbringing was pretty brutal and that her self-absorption was longstanding. After Mae Rose begins to notice Allie and admire her, Mary Lee appears to soften. But I don’t believe she is able to face her regret until she passes into her next life and has an opportunity to explore her attitude toward her daughter.
What was the biggest challenge while writing Death By Roses?
Keeping up with the story. Once it started, DBR wanted to take over my time in a more aggressive way than I could handle in time/space reality. I own my own national consulting business and life kept giving me this amazing work to do in the affordable housing industry so I could not always just “give in and write.” But I got the time I needed over the course of the five years that the story developed. I also believe that life knew I was not ready to be a published author back then—I had a lot of growing to do. So life took care of me during this entire time until the story was complete. But it was hard sometimes to share my life between my work, my writing, and my family. I’m still writing and facing that challenge but it helps to know that this story is complete and making its way in the world.
VIVIAN R. PROBST is an author and entrepreneur, whose first novel, Death By Roses, explores her fascination with the comedic side of worldly and otherworldly events. Probst has been writing fiction for the past 14 years, and has built a successful national consulting practice. Her company provides training to major investment firms that work in the affordable-housing industry. She submitted her manuscript for Death By Roses to the When Words Count Retreat literary competition where it won first prize.
About Death by Roses
Mae Rose McElroy never imagined that she would die while sitting on a toilet. At the sight of her totaled Volkswagen Beetle, her unfaithful husband, and the bouquet of yellow roses, Mae Rose careens into a fit of rage and dies in her bathroom.
Mae Rose’s humiliation at being found dead on the toilet is carried into her afterlife. While in Heaven, she is shown all the possible happier outcomes her life and marriage could have taken. Armed with this knowledge, Mae Rose can’t keep herself from interfering in her family’s affairs from Heaven. Her unsanctioned meddling earns Mae Rose a ticket out of Heaven and traps her spirit in the body of Mary Lee Broadmoor, a cantankerous writer and director of horror movies known as “Scary Mary.” Mary Lee knows she is dying of cancer and wants only one thing before her lifeline is cut: to win an Oscar.
Can these two formidable women learn to share the same body? Will Mae Rose get a second chance with her husband? Will Mary Lee get the Oscar she so craves? While untangling a complicated web of relationships at the core of their lives, Mae Rose and Mary Lee must learn to make the most of their second chance—or die trying in DEATH BY ROSES.