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 in DEATH BY ROSES by Vivian R.
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.
Meet Vivian R. Probst...
1. 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.
2. When Art Jr. sees Allie, he falls in love with her right away. What do you think told him that Allie was his soul mate?
Most likely it was his mother’s meddling. Art Jr. was very much like his father in this way. Love had to “reach out and grab him,” which occurred when he finally touched Allie for the first time but Mae Rose was on the scene and ‘turned up’ the desire he felt. True love can occur in an instant and finding a soul mate can feel sort of like spontaneous combustion. Love at first sight happens—it did to me when I met my husband, Tom and I have seen it happen to others.
3. After Arthur’s sons learn he cheated on his wife Mae Rose, both John and Art Jr. react differently. How does this secret change the relationships in the family, especially between Arthur and his sons?
Both Art Jr. and John lose the innocence of youth when they learn of the affair. Any illusion they have that their parents relationship was normal, even though they argued so much, dissolved when they found this out. John was the emotional one who lived with his feelings on the surface; Art Jr., the older of the two, was more careful and perhaps responsible about his emotions. Both boys had to face their differences as they processed their very private pain. Both refused to talk to their father for some time after they learned about the affair and each had to make their way back to their father on their own. I was touched by how the story resolved these feelings for both young men.
4. Death By Roses features an intricate web of intertwining characters. Who is your favorite character and why?
That would be impossible to say. Each character endeared him or herself to me although, the toughest character for me to write was Eugene Gregory. I fought him for quite some time and refused to allow his character to articulate. However, I learned that no writer has the right to ‘diss’ any character who shows up. To have left Eugene out the story would have changed an important dynamic that I did not understand until much later.
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.
Praise from readers
“I have never read a book like this before. It's perfect, and I'm looking at my marriage and my life through a whole different perspective…” – A.K.
“I am almost dying of laughter while I am reading your book...I just love it! I don't want the story to end.” – Debbie W.
“I loved this book and never laughed so hard! Vivian Probst weaved such depth, excitement, and humor into her characters. I couldn't wait to discover which one would be responsible for my next fit of laughter. If you are out for great time, read this book! It is truly a comic masterpiece.” –Roger Corea
DEATH BY ROSES
By Vivian R. Probst
If Mae Rose McElroy had known that by evening she would be dead à la commode after a fit of rage at her husband, she might have made different choices. Of course, if she’d done things differently, she might not have died while sitting on the toilet.
But on that frosty March morning, as she stood by the kitchen window washing breakfast dishes, Mae Rose was preoccupied with the effects of the last night’s storm. Everything glistened in sparkling crystal coats of ice that most would have found beautiful. As she anxiously surveyed the backyard trees, the barn, and the gardens and fields of their farm home, Mae Rose was far from feeling awestruck.
This was because today—of all days—her husband would be driving her meticulously restored 1974 VW Beetle to the mechanic shop where she worked. “Please be very careful, Art,” she said without looking up from the sink, “the roads could be very slippery.”
After thirty years of marriage, Art understood the meaning of Mae Rose’s words. They meant she didn’t trust him and was worrying about her precious car. Her fretting did not dissuade Art from feeling an uncharacteristic joy.
Mae Rose could tell from the noises in the background that he was indeed ecstatic. The hangers clanged merrily as he removed his coat from the closet. Even the zipper sang with an abnormal enthusiasm as he closed his jacket against the cold.
“You know I’ll be careful,” Art replied, planting a dutiful kiss on his wife’s stern cheek. Earlier, while shaving, he had practiced saying “I love you” to Mae Rose. Although her obvious unhappiness made him decide not to attempt it now, nothing—not even his irritation with her remarks—could suppress his buoyant feelings of hope.
It was rare for Art to drive Mae Rose’s car. But once his new client at the shop saw the car’s spectacular restoration, he was certain the man would confirm his intention to pay the large expense of having his own antique Beetle refurbished. And Art hoped for much more—surely his impressive sale would help to renew Mae Rose’s faith in him and their marriage.
Three decades of marriage to Mae Rose had left deep creases across his forehead. Each crease could have been labeled: the upper line for shock at Mae Rose’s intensity, the middle for his resistance to her relentless drive, and the lower for the wavering boundary where Art tried to keep his identity from being discarded as irrelevant.
As he squeezed his tall frame into her car, he put the keys into the ignition and waited patiently for the engine to turn over. It was understandably reluctant, but as if it knew how important the day was, the engine gave in to Art’s persistence. He headed down the long gravel drive, turning left on the two-lane country road with caution.
As the sun melted the icy coating on the asphalt, Art was able to relax and enjoy his drive. Everything glistened in the soft, feathery frost—so breathtaking that Art considered it the best possible omen for a successful day. He couldn’t help that his right hand caressed the leather upholstery he had so lovingly used to recover the seats of Mae Rose’s car; he felt pride, perhaps even a mild flirtation, as he touched the dashboard and turned the radio dial to his favorite oldies rock ‘n’ roll station.
He’d have to remember to turn it back to Mae Rose’s country music station later, but just now he needed to mark his territory. Art loved nothing more than working on old VWs, the only car, he claimed, that possessed a personality all its own, and the possibility of working on another old VW Beetle gave him an unfamiliar sense of exhilaration.
“I’d hammer ‘bout justice!” Peter, Paul, and Mary sang, and Art joined in: “I’d hammer ‘bout freedom! I’d hammer ‘bout the love between,” and Art, who loved to change the words of a song to suit himself, sang, “A man and a Beetle, all over this land!”
As Art brought Mae Rose’s car to an obedient stop at the four-way before proceeding into town, he downshifted through each gear, listening for the purr of pleasure as one cog slid into the next. But today the car growled low and mean as if to remind Art to drive straight through town instead of turning right, as he often had years ago for a cup of coffee and some fornication with Maggie Whitman. Back then, he felt justified in doing this because of Mae Rose’s increasingly insufferable nagging and her proportionately deflated interest in sex.
A trip through Fairview included passing Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, a cornerstone of the McElroy’s lives. It housed times of great joy: when Art and Mae Rose had married and when they had baptized their son Art Jr., and eight years later, their son John. It radiated with the beauty of Mae Rose at the piano and organ, and more often than not, a flower arrangement she had created adorning the altar. But the church also held their deepest pain in its stone structure as the wounds of Art’s affair had been exposed in quiet confidence to Pastor Frank. The hope of a happy marriage had faded into an ever-sensitive, tender scar.
Excerpted from the book DEATH BY ROSES by Vivian R. Probst. Copyright © 2015 by Vivian R. Probst. Reprinted with permission of SelectBooks. All rights reserved.