Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Author Juliet Blackwell: Haunted Houses & Writing

I’m delighted to welcome Juliet Blackwell, author of the Haunted Home Renovation mystery series, here today to talk about writing and the third installment in her national bestselling paranormal mystery series, MURDER ON THE HOUSE, which hit bookshelves yesterday.

Juliet’s series is about a woman who owns a construction company and also specializes in ridding homes of unwanted ghosts. Here’s a brief synopsis:
Mel Turner’s secret is out: having successfully “dealt with” ghosts in two haunted San Francisco homes, the Haunted House Quarterly publishes an article labeling her a ghost buster. Turner Construction’s office is flooded with requests for her services.   

Ignoring her new-found fame, Mel is called in to consult on the renovation of a beautiful old gothic home. The prospective buyers insist that the home is haunted; they plan to market it as “San Francisco’s Most Haunted Bed and Breakfast.” But they need Mel to convince the house’s unfriendly ghosts to go along with their plan. Soon the house has another ghost – that of the recently murdered, and very confused, owner. And Mel must find out who wanted the house badly enough to kill. 

Juliet has graciously answered some questions for me.

Mason - What inspired you to have your protagonist own a construction company?

Juliet - As the owner of a decorative painting company in the San Francisco Bay Area, I worked on construction sites for many years. I was the faux finisher/mural painter/historical restoration person on numerous remodels/renovations, and even started doing project management…so it’s a setting I know well! There were so few women on the job that those of us with XX chromosomes always stood out – but I got to know the men working on projects, and by and large they were really good guys, and many of them were real characters. So when I started cooking up a new series, and I realized how few books really addressed the nuts and bolts (pardon the pun) of the construction/renovation business, I thought it would be a great way to get my protagonist into some amazing San Francisco historic homes!

Mason - With construction and ghost busting (so to speak) the theme of your book, how did you go about doing research for it?

Juliet - Ah yes, the ghosts! That’s the other reason I chose to locate my protagonist in the area of construction – it’s said that renovation often awakens sleeping spirits, and what better way to force your protagonist to confront ghosts behind the walls? I do a LOT of research on both construction and ghost sightings. I readbook cover constantly –everything from old folktales and the spiritualist movement of the late 1800s, to lurking in chat rooms regarding the home renovation industry as well as those for paranormal investigations. I have also interviewed “ghost hunters” and people who believe they live in haunted houses, as well as owners of spiritual paraphernalia shops. I’ve also participated in a handful of paranormal investigations…scary!

Mason - If you had to write this book over, would you do anything differently - content in the book, your writing schedule, the way you researched it, etc.?

Juliet - Oh, wow, that’s a hard one! I guess the writing schedule is the most obvious thing I would like to change: it seems I should have a lot of control over my time since I now write full-time, but this last year has been a bit crazy when it comes to my personal/family life, so I haven’t had as much uninterrupted time as I would have liked! But then, I would probably say that with almost any book I write Smile

I also would have liked to include more of the local flavor of the Castro neighborhood, where the story from MURDER ON THE HOUSE is based. I spent a lot of time in the area while I was working up the story, and the scenes in the book reflect my experiences there, but that area gets so wild sometimes it would have been fun to include more of that! But in the end, it didn’t really fit the story, and felt forced. As an author, knowing what to cut from the story is often more important that deciding what to include.

Mason - Did anything unusual, scary and/or funny happen during the course of your writing this book or was there any surprises that occurred involving the characters as the story came together?

Juliet - I always find it surprising when my characters start developing in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. After all, *I* am the writer, right? It seems as though I should be able to maintain control over what my inventions do…and yet, one of the truly fun things about writing is when your characters take over and decide their own fate. In fact, when I give writing workshops I tell my students that if you get stuck on a scene that just won’t get written, check to see whether you are forcing your characters to do something that is out of character. They fight back!  

In MURDER ON THE  HOUSE, some of the secondary characters stepped up and did a few things on their own, such as staking out Mel’s ex-husband’s house. I have no idea where that storyline came from--it cracked me up! 

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

Juliet - Next up in this series is HOME FOR THE HAUNTING, which I’m working on right now. In it, Mel Turner is learning that “no good deed goes unpunished” when she agrees to head up a volunteer renovation project. The story includes a Poet Laureate, a conniving homeowner, some shady volunteers and the ghosts of a long-ago double-murder-suicide. It’s great fun! 

And in July the fifth in my Witchcraft Mystery Series, TARNISHED AND TORN, will be released. In this series, Lily Ivory is a witch with a vintage clothing store in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. In TARNISHED, Lily finds herself on the trail of an ancient – and powerful--vintage fire opal medallion…but she’s not the only one looking for it, of course. In the meantime, there are some interesting developments in Lily’s love life, and a few characters from her past come back to haunt her.    

Juliet, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this background with us. It’s intriguing that you’ve participated in paranormal investigations. I would say that definitely gives you good research.

Here’s a bit of background on Juliet and her books. She is the NYT bestselling author of the Haunted Home Renovation mystery series (If Walls Could Talk, Dead Bolt, Murder on the House) and the Witchcraft mystery series (Secondhand Spirits, A Cast-off Coven, Hexes and Hemlines, In a Witch’s Wardrobe). As Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover’s Mystery series, including Agatha-nominated Feint of Art.
A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked and studied in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She now lives in a happily haunted house in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist and portrait painter. She was a two-term president of Northern California Sisters in Crime.   

For more on Juliet and her writing, visit her at and you can find her on Facebook at and on Twitter @JulietBlackwell 

Mel Turner is doing a good business of restoring/renovating historic homes in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s her new reputation as an up-and-coming ghost hunter that’s not sitting so well with her.

However, it’s that branch of work that gets Mel a chance at a new job. A couple are looking to purchase an allegedly haunted house and market it as a haunted bed-and-breakfast. They just need Mel to convince the unfriendly ghosts to go along with their plans. Mel also has to spend a night in the house to win the contract.

Mel finds more than old ghosts in the house when she sees visions of the home owner. It seems someone is willing to kill for change. Mel has to find the killer before another ghost moves into the house.

Author Juliet Blackwell has created a fun, feisty and realistic protagonist in Mel. She can be strong and determined, but still has flaws and quirks. The secondary cast of characters are zany and add an interesting layer of fun to the story.

MURDER ON THE HOUSE flows at a steady pace with the right amount of twists and intrigue to hold your attention until the final paragraph. Blackwell’s eye for detail of the historical sections of San Francisco places the reader in the middle of the action. Mix in a bit of humor for a finished project that will have you eager for more. This is the third installment in the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series, but can be read as a stand alone.

Murder On The House by Juliet Blackwell, A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery, Obsidian, @2012, ISBN: 978-0451238849, Paperback, 311 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Have you ever stayed in a haunted house? Would you like to stay in one for a night just to see what you could see or hear?


  1. Juliet, thanks again for visiting with us today. You have a couple of intriguing books in the works. Looking forward to their release as well. Wising you much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Julie.

    Julie - What an interesting idea to use your background in a construction company as your source of inspiration. It's an innovative premise for a series which I always respect. I wish you much success with Murder on the House.

  3. These books sound like truly fun reads. Thanks, Mason!

  4. I totally agree that you just can't force the characters down a road they don't want to travel. I was really stuck with one story - until I finally realized the characters were protesting the previous chapter. Changed it and all went well :)

  5. A murder mystery with a ghost! Now that is cool.
    Thanks for stopping by, Mason. I'm always reading even if I don't always comment.

  6. Sounds like an interesting job and lots of characters and situations that can be used in her books. Great interview.


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