Before I started this blog I would I have told you that I don’t read any fiction that has any paranormal elements. I have never been a fan of fantasy, sci-fi or horror books. Now I have found I must qualify by former feelings. While I do not want to read anything having to do with zombies, vampires or werewolves, I am perfectly fine with ghosts, psychics and maybe even witches. The cozies I have read the past couple of years have actually been really interesting and entertaining. Take the books by today’s guest. When I read the first book in the series, If Walls Could Talk, I equated the the ghosts with the quirky characters every good cozy needs. In her new book, Dead Bolt, there are ghosts that have definitely overstayed their welcome. Again very good characters for a cozy mystery. So while I won’t be reading any of the Twilight novels anytime soon, Juliet and her ghostly characters are always welcome on my bookshelf. I am so glad she is here today!!!
Thanks for inviting me Lori!
People often ask me how I started writing about haunted mansions. The answer’s simple: I used to work in them.
I remember my first experience well. My assistant Bryan and I were working in a fancy Pacific Heights mansion at two in the morning, because when you’re in the specialty painting business, you’re usually the last one in on remodeling jobs. You come in after the plumbers, the electricians, the carpenters and drywall layers and stonemasons and regular painters. And since things always run over schedule, the last folks on the job wind up painting (or in this case, gold gilding) all night.
Bryan ran out to the truck to grab supplies. I was concentrating on applying gold gilt to door trim when I heard…something. It sounded like steps overhead, pacing back and forth.
But I was the only person in the house.
The moment Bryan returned, the noises subsided. After much cajoling on my part, Bryan finally went upstairs to investigate with me. There was nothing in the bedroom, or anywhere else on the second floor.
It had been my imagination…or was it? On the way back down, I would have sworn I felt a cold spot – a truly frigid gust of air—at the top of the stairs. Bryan noticed nothing.
Much later I was speaking with the homeowner, who had lived in the house when he was a child and had returned years later to purchase it. He told me that someone they called Old Man McCray used to live in the house and had “died of a broken heart”; his body was found in the bedroom directly above the living room.
It doesn’t take much to imagine ghosts roaming the halls of old houses. I adore historic structures, in large part because the traces of the past seem so very much at hand. So when people ask: where do you get your ideas? I always think to myself: The problem isn’t finding ideas; it’s deciding which ones to include, and which to leave out.
Here’s another example: San Francisco’s Atherton Mansion, at 1990 California Street, which was built in the late 1800s by Dominga Atherton. Dominga lived there with her daughter Gertrude and son-in-law George. Apparently they weren’t a very happy family. According to legend, George tried to escape his situation by running off to Chile, but died at sea. The crew preserved his body in a barrel of rum and sent it back to San Francisco, where it was left on the front step to be opened by the butler, who discovered his master pickled in rum. Now I ask you…who could make this stuff up?
Later the house was acquired by a woman who kept too many cats, and she turned it into a boarding house. Tenants described feeling cold spots, unexplained knocking on their doors, and even seeing apparitions in the tower apartment. During a séance a medium claimed to see four presences: George, Dominga, Gertrude, and the woman who ran the boarding house. http://www.haunted-places.com/san_francisco_most_haunted.htm
The tragic story of the Atherton Mansion served as the original inspiration for the plot of Dead Bolt (second in my Haunted Home Renovation series), in which Mel Turner, a general contractor, is renovating a historic Queen Anne Victorian and comes upon the spirits of a very unhappy family. But of course as I write, I take artistic license with history in order to propel the story forward and to suit the series. But still…a body in a keg of rum? That’s the sort of detail that’s too good to pass up for this mystery writer!
But then again, every story takes unanticipated twists and turns, almost as though there were spirits at work, hovering over the keyboard, guiding the tale.
How about you? Have any of you ever felt a…presence of some sort in an old building? I’d love to hear your story!
Turner Construction’s latest restoration project is a historic Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco. This time general contractor Mel Turner has to work around the owners who insist on sticking around- along with some ghosts that insist in their own way that the work stops…
The ghosts aren’t the only ones standing in the way of the renovations. A crotchety neighbor, Emile Blunt, secretly wants this house, and could be behind some of the disturbances. But when Emile is found dead, it’s Mel who appears guilty. Now she must restore the building-and her reputation-before it’s too late!
Read an excerpt: http://julietblackwell.net/dead-bolt1.php
I was first drawn to this series because I used to build and remodel houses, then I enjoyed these wonderful characters and couldn’t get enough. Mel Turner is a take charge kind of gal, very organized, meticulous and not afraid of much except maybe getting her heart broken. She also has a special gift that at times is as much a curse as a blessing. With traits like these readers can’t help but care about her as we take each step right along with her, up those attic stairs or home to her Dad, Stan and Caleb, or even into those confusing romantic situations. She is funny and smart, the kind of friend you would want to tag along with, even when she’s off trying to get a family of ghosts to move along and out of the house she desperately wants to finish renovating.
This book is fun, entertaining with perfect amounts are mystery, mayhem and haunting characters. I loved every word!!
Juliet Blackwell is the nationally bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series, which features a misfit witch with a vintage clothing store in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood (Secondhand Spirits, A Cast-Off Coven, Hexes and Hemlines, and In a Witch’s Wardrobe, coming 6/12). The Haunted Home Renovation series began last December with the release of If Walls Could Talk, also a national bestseller; Dead Bolt is second in the series.
Under the pseudonym Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover’s Mystery series with her sister Carolyn–including the Agatha-nominated Feint of Art. Arsenic and Old Paintis the latest in the series.
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.
Contact Juliet at: www.julietblackwell.net
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