Having read the suspenseful debut of author Simone St. James’ THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, I’m delighted to welcome her to Thoughts in Progress to talk about her book and her writing.
Here’s a brief synopsis of her book: In 1920s London, Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare life dramatically changes with a phone call from the temporary agency that employs her. Alistair Gellis is a rich, handsome young veteran scarred by World War I and obsessed with ghosts. Alistair has been summoned to a sleepy rural village in the English countryside to investigate the ghost of 19-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who has haunted an old barn ever since she hung herself there and he needs an assistant. There is only one catch: Maddy hates men and Alistair is forbidden to enter the barn. So it falls to Sarah to confront Maddy’s ghost and convince her to stop haunting her former mistress and leave the barn.
It’s an assignment that Sarah never bargained for, and one that gets more complicated when Alistair’s primary assistant turns up in the form of the dark, unsettling Matthew Ryder. Matthew is also a veteran of the War, and his scars—both inside and out—go deeper than Sarah can reach, despite the volatile attraction between them. As Sarah and Matthew’s romance begins to grow, things with Maddy get worse by the second. Maddy’s ghost is no ruse — she’s real, she’s angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Worse, she takes a vengeful liking to Alistair. In a village full of secretive citizens suspicious of new people — claiming to be ghost hunters no less — clues are hard to come by and Sarah and Matthew are running out of time. If they can’t discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance—she may destroy them all.
Thanks to Simone and the lovely Caitlin at the Penguin Group, I have 1 print copy of THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE to giveaway to a lucky visitor who comments on this post by 8 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, March 15. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment, if it’s not included in your profile.
Now Simone graciously answers some questions for me.
Mason - What was the inspiration behind combining the post-World War I England era, ghost hunters, and romance?
SIMONE - It was just a strange combination of three things that I’ve always loved: History, ghost stories, and romance novels. I had spent several years writing historical romance manuscripts that got rejected everywhere. Most historical romances are set in Regency or Victorian times, and very, very few are set in the twentieth century. Traditional romance publishers aren’t very keen on twentieth-century settings overall. I always found this frustrating, as I have always been fascinated by both World War I and World War II stories.
So one day, frankly, I sort of gave up. I had a germ of an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone, about a girl working for a temp agency who gets assigned to assist a ghost hunter. All of the ghost hunting shows were just getting popular on TV, and I thought it was a neat idea. But when I pictured my heroine in my mind, she had a 1920’s bobbed haircut. Suddenly I was inspired – what better time was there for ghosts, than just after the end of a war? And I was off and running, writing something that really inspired me.
Mason - What is a typical writing day like for you?
SIMONE - I work a full-time job, so when I was writing all those manuscripts that got rejected, I wrote whenever I could. I wrote on lunch hours, on train rides, usually in spiral notebooks because they’re easier to carry and their battery never runs out. Since I got a publishing contract and the deadlines that come with it, it’s been easier to make writing time a priority. I get home from work, have a quick healthy dinner, and write for as long as my muse will let me.
Mason - What can readers expect next from you, is this the first in a series?
SIMONE - My next book is also a 1920’s ghost story, and it comes out in March 2013. It isn’t a sequel. It’s about an Oxford student whose uncle, an eccentric ghost hunter, dies suddenly in mysterious circumstances. In order to find out what happened to him, she has to follow his very last case. It’s just been turned in to my editor, and it was tremendous fun to write!
Simone, thanks so much for answering these questions. It may not have been easy, but I love the idea of you writing in those spiral notebooks.
Here’s a bit more about Simone. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school. Unaware that real people actually became writers, she pursued a career behind the scenes in the television business. She now writes in her off hours and lives with her husband just outside Toronto, Canada. To learn more about Simone and her writing, visit her website at http://www.simonestjames.com/.
Have you ever encountered a ghost? Or do you believe in ghosts at all? Thanks so much for stopping by. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE.