Asylum’s plot and characters trace to Mark Twain’s Asylum Hill neighborhood

Mark Twain House

Mark Twain House

The idea for Asylum first sparked in the posh 19th century Nook Farm located in Hartford, Connecticut’s Asylum Hill neighborhood. What could be more perfect? The Nook was home to Samuel Clemens writing as Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and notable close knit neighbors who were politicians, journalists, reformers, activists, feminists, spiritualists, painters, and writers.

On a pleasant evening in the mid-1980s, six women executives from Hartford’s business community met in a cozy Farmington Avenue apartment, mere blocks down the street. Public relations and marketing directors, a banker, and ad agency art director Kathryn Orzech gathered around a candlelit table for dinner. By the time the hostess served dessert, laughter had subsided and conversation turned from career aspirations to all things spooky. One woman claimed to have seen a ghost outside an upper floor office of the Institute of Living, sparking the idea for Asylum’s story and Orzech drew on Connecticut’s history to tell it.

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An advertising career launched in Hartford during the “Mad Men” era

“What’s a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?”

Before writing thrillers full-time, author Kathryn Orzech made her mark in Hartford’s advertising community. As the first female Art Director at Wilson, Haight & Welch, at one time, the largest ad agency in New England, located at Constitution Plaza. She also worked at several other Connecticut agencies, winning design awards before launching her Graphic Design business. Personal experiences with regional and national clients provided material for her thrillers. Her old haunts became scene settings. Friends and business associates engendered characters in her books. And Connecticut’s (New England’s or the Northeast’s) history formed the backdrop.

Asylum is set in Central Connecticut in 1899 and the mid-1970s, when the rise and fall of manufacturing, changing mores and folkways, and equal rights struggles prompted passionate discussion of the same social and economic issues that remain relevant today.

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Four films and a Hartford dinner party inspired writing Asylum

The clever plot structure of the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman, based on the John Fowles novel, weaves two parallel stories set in Victorian and modern time periods. Asylum author Kathryn Orzech was so impressed by the skillful writing in balancing the time periods, she thought, I want to write like that.

The King of Hearts was the right film at the right time—quirky, non-conformist, counter-culture—to leave a lasting impression on a young art student in the sixties. Set in the latter days of World War I, German occupying forces and the panicked townspeople flee a small French village because a secret bomb is set to go off. When a gentle young Scotsman arrives to investigate, he finds the likable asylum inmates have created a pleasant, albeit eccentric, community.

At a friend’s dinner party, a guest who worked at a hundred-year-old hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, said she’d seen a ghost in the hallway outside her upper floor office. The structure and the idea of two timelines from The French Lieutenant’s Woman united with King of Hearts’ asylum inmates. Add the psychic visions and a fashion industry backdrop of Eyes of Laura Mars, and the touching father-daughter story of To Kill a Mockingbird to the mix, let it simmer in an author’s mind and eventually the dark suspense saga with its cast of memorable characters, titled Asylum developed. As a scandalous 1899 story is unfolding, a granddaughter in 1974 is discovering the long-hidden mysterious past of her prominent New England family.

Our Free Study Guide suggests many more Themes & Questions

We invite you to read Asylum‘s Chapter One and Chapter Two.

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One novel took thirty years to write. The next was done in six months. 
A true premonition could be the reason.

For too many reasons, writing Asylum, a dark suspense saga, returned to the shelf. Work. Travel. Life. But when author Kathryn Orzech’s best friend of fifty years unexpectedly died, the urgency and importance of completion took over. After decades of struggling with rewrites, re-starts, and balancing two historical time periods, Asylum was complete.

The second book was an entirely different story—seriously, entirely different.

DreamWatch.com, true paranormal experiences of ordinary people began as a hobby. It was supposed to fun, until premonitions from around the world predict the same catastrophic attack.

That’s the premise of Premonition of Terror, a psychic thriller  that seemed to be on a mission—
a deadline of fate unknown to the author. Kathryn knew the sequence and depth of events as if watching a film, “knew exactly what, how, and where in the story an event was to happen,” then created the characters who would bring the narrative to life. She couldn’t type fast enough.

Premonition of Terror, a psychic thriller

From Premonition of Terror, a psychic thriller

It wasn’t until the book’s release week that the full, tragic story was revealed—a real-life attack similar to her plot. The same darn week! A half dozen more coincidences. Similar terrorists.

Same. Exact. City!

At the time, she shivered with every “breaking news” announcement as details were discovered of the real attack and the attackers. She gathered and compared the photos and maps she collected for her research. They matched images shown on TV.

All book promotion ceased. The author felt that using the attack to publicize her book would be exploiting the victims, their families, and the tragedy in her back yard. The title, though not pulled, languished. But a prequel and sequel are now planned, and with the passage of time, survivors of the attack carry on.

We invite you to read Premonition‘s chapters 1, 2, 3  and chapters 4, 5, 6

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Paranormal Interests

Ghosts & Spirits. What’s the difference? And what are they doing in my house?

Various aspects of the supernatural intrigued author Kathryn Orzech long before she began to write. When it began, she can’t say, but at age five, the sudden and unexpected death of her mother likely sparked her lifelong curiosity of something more than here.

The first ghost in Asylum, a dark suspense saga, appears on page two. And the psychic connection between protagonist Laura Delito and her grandmother remains after Gram’s death.

The turn-of-the-century period of 1890-1910 held an unexplained fascination for the author. It was no surprise her first apartment was in a converted Victorian home where ornamental interior details included stained glass windows, sliding pocket doors, a marble fireplace and mantle, pressed leather wainscoting, rich mahogany molding, etched glass cabinet doors, and a domestic servant bell-call system.

Several spirits remained in the house, greeting visitors, and playing tricks—seen by the author and others.

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Acting on Advice from Beyond. The Birth of DreamWatch.com

Stuck at one of life’s crossroads in the early 1990s, not-yet-author Kathryn Orzech asked her spirit guides for … ah … guidance. That very night she vividly dreamed she should create a website for average folks to share paranormal experiences. Her waking reaction? Huh!

Internet service via dial-up had come to her town, but for this technophobe it was a radical concept. Yet the dream was so specific it demanded action. She would explore the possibility until she hit a wall. That very morning walking into the office, a colleague asked if she would trade graphic design services to help brand his son’s new business, a software company, in exchange for web assistance. Done deal.

Overnight she wrote two pages of possible .com domain names, in order of preference, and by the end of the next day, she learned her first-choice name was available, was hers, and an “Under Construction” page was online. Now what?

Dreamwatch, true paranormal experiences of ordinary people

An early incarnation of DreamWatch.com

Personal stories about paranormal experiences, and a few she solicited from friends, kicked off a few basic pages. A form invited submissions. More than twenty years later,  DreamWatch.com  remains online with visitors from every state and more than 50 countries (we list them).

Dreamwatch® is a Registered Trademark of Kathryn Orzech.

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#suspense #thriller #mustread