*Night Mistress walks in and checks the drapes* Ah, good! They remembered to keep them shut this time. Welcome to another morning at ye ole Haunted Office, folks. I see you are still here. Sorry about yesterday, best laid plans, and all. (Actually, we had a little private celebration for one of our minions. My apologies for closing down the gates. He’s shy. ) Anyway, to continue our Halloween festivities, we bring you one of our good friends, and a fantastic author who, if you’ve followed us at any length, you know we can’t gush enough about: Debra Glass. She’s written a spookily-sweet little Young Adult paranormal tale, aptly titled Haunted, about a ghost who falls in love. So without further ado, I’ll let her tell you a little more about her fabulous book and the lovely settings therein. Debra, you have the podium, dear. Just swipe all those cobwebs away, if necessary.
A Haunting Setting
As a writer, I’m often asked what inspires my stories or who inspires my characters. There are always easy answers for those questions but no one ever asks where inspires me. The setting for a story is every bit as important as the characters and plot.
Think of Gone With the Wind set in war-torn Civil War Georgia. Raintree County set up North somewhere (see how little it stuck with me) was just as sweeping a tale but it’s hardly the classic GWTW is and the setting is as forgettable as last season’s American Idol hopefuls.
New York Times Best Seller, Widow of the South, is set in Franklin, Tennessee where arguably the bloodiest battle of the Civil War took place. Why does this book stand out? It’s got a perfect storm of elements. Lovely writing, a haunting title, a tortured heroine, and a memorable setting where fans can go to see the very house and grounds where the events took place.
I immediately knew the setting I wanted for my paranormal, young adult romance, Haunted. Growing up, I often traveled with my grandparents to Middle Tennessee to visit my great-grandparents and multitude of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Although I live in Alabama, perhaps the feeling that Tennessee is home is in my genes. My ancestors settled and fought for that land over a hundred years before I was born. Maury County Tennessee is the undisputed antebellum home capital of Tennessee. As a child, I gazed wide-eyed at soaring mansions, set back far enough off the slave-built stone wall lined roads to lure my attention until the next one came into view. I wondered who had lived in such grand places and what life must have been like back in those early frontier days. My granny regaled me with stories about remembering that the grandest of these, Rattle and Snap, had once been a hay barn.
My grandmother’s story is recounted in Haunted.
“Are you all right?” Waylon asked.
“Fine,” I muttered and pressed my cool palm to my forehead to still my roiling stomach. “I must have stood up too fast.”
Concern shone in his eyes. “You’re face is awfully pale.”
I took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Maybe it was the sight of blood.” Please don’t ask too many questions.
He watched me for a second as if to make certain I wasn’t going to pass out on him and then he kneeled to examine the bloodstain for himself. A reverence came over his face that didn’t surprise me. Without the benefit of my psychic sense, I would have known Waylon knew exactly what those boys and men had suffered at the hands of nineteenth century doctors.
“As much as I enjoy reenacting,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that brings it all home to me, that makes it real. It’s one thing to dress up in a replica uniform and brave the weather while you camp. It’s another thing to have actually lived through what those guys did.” He shook his head in dismay.
I gestured toward the window where bright, warming sunlight streamed in. “They must have performed the surgeries in front of that window because of the light.”
Waylon glanced up at the window and then at me. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “That’s pretty perceptive of you,” he said. “At Carnton they operated near a window so they’d have a place to toss out the severed arms and legs.”
I shuddered and pushed down more threatening images.
“Legend there says they were piled as high as the second story window but I doubt that,” Waylon continued.
“Where is Carnton?” I had to change the subject before a full blown panic attack set in.
“The McGavock plantation in Franklin where many of the wounded were taken after the battle.” Waylon stood. “You wouldn’t know it now but it was a hay barn for a long time in the early twentieth century. So was Rattle and Snap, the plantation house across the street.”
My mouth fell open in shock. “A hay barn?” I had seen the grand plantation house across the street. Situated on the rise of a rolling hill, it stood magnificent with its majestic columns and sprawling grounds. I couldn’t imagine anyone would have ever let such a proud, old house fall into such disrepair, much less use it as a barn.
Waylon nodded. “My grandfather remembers seeing cows and horses stabled inside it and tobacco hanging to dry from the second story floor joists.”
I shook my head. “I can’t believe it.”
“Me either.” He surveyed the architecture of my room. “That’s what’s so fascinating about this house. It’s as close to the same as it was during the war you’ll find around here.”
And for my fictional antebellum house, Ransom’s Run, I relied on my knowledge of the Pope House atop Echol’s Hill in Huntsville, Alabama. My former sister-in-law served as the caretaker of the 1809 home in the 1990s, and I had the opportunity to visit her there and tour the cavernous rooms. But what struck my fancy most was the fabulous fanlight over the porch that could be viewed from the attic, and the widow’s walk atop the house where one could look out over the entire the city of Huntsville.
Echols Hill House
In Haunted, I moved the Georgian structure to Maury County, and featured the fanlight and widow’s walk prominently as the setting where my heroine falls in love with a ghost.
My breath stopped in my chest when Jeremiah’s silhouette formed out of seemingly nothing at the top of the stairs. A little shard of terror rattled my confidence but I tamped it down and wet my dry lips with my tongue. Tossing caution aside, I hurried up the stairs as quickly as my feet would carry me.
Toward a ghost.
I was hardly prepared for what I found at the top.
Dust motes glittered in the amethyst shards of light radiating through the giant fan-shaped window. Old trunks and random pieces of furniture sat haphazardly on the attic floor. Tarps and sheets covered other odds and ends, looming like phantoms in the shadows and, in the center of it all, a real ghost waited for me.
Still wearing the woolen trousers and oversized muslin shirt he’d worn when I first saw him, Jeremiah stood, hands plunged into his pockets, his eyes carefully watching my expressions. Anticipation rippled through my veins as the bold intensity of his stare compelled me to avert my gaze.
“From the ground, it doesn’t look this big,” I admitted, taking in the magical beauty of the window, the light and Jeremiah all at once.
When he smiled, my heart literally skipped a beat. And when he moved, the energy of his being swirled around him like a ghostly halo. The ethereal glow emanating from him made his features hazy, at times, indistinct. Other times, he seemed faded.
All the time, I found it extremely difficult to tear my gaze from his exquisite face. And yet, when I looked directly at him—-into his eyes—-I sensed he saw too much. I was the one who felt transparent.
Reluctantly, I looked away from him to scan the attic. It was large, much roomier than I would have guessed. And the fanlight…dominating the front wall of the attic, it stretched from the pitched ceiling to the floor. The thick glass rippled like a rushing creek, cast intermittently in hues of gleaming green and silver. A wooden trellis radiated from a center point at the bottom like a burst of sun rays. It was even more awe inspiring from this vantage point than it was from the outside of the house. Here in the attic, no fragrance of lemon oil lingered but instead, the scent of old wood and…darkness permeated the stale air.
My gaze locked once more with Jeremiah’s and, without words, he extended his hand.
I froze, too terrified to touch him and, instead of insisting, he lowered his hand. His smile faded nearly imperceptibly. “Come. I want to show you something.” He drifted toward the fanlight.
As I neared it, I noticed the glass was so thick and so old, the objects beyond it were distorted. What I was able to make out, I could only describe as…dreamlike. As my focus adjusted and I looked out over the front lawn, I thought it was no wonder he spent so much time up here. Brightly colored fall leaves caught up in the breeze outside fluttered past the leaded glass like a parade of confetti.
“This was always my favorite place,” he said in his velvety drawl.
And the widow’s walk –
With more grace than would have been possible for a mortal man, he moved toward another set of stairs. This one seemed even narrower than the attic stairs and led up into the shadowy ceiling.
“What’s up there?” I asked.
He had the audacity to wink. “Come with me.”
His image faded as he began to ascend the stairs and I hurried after him, afraid he would vanish from my view.
Suddenly, light blinded me and I blinked furiously, realizing a door at the top of the stairs had been thrown open. When I reached the top, I sucked in an astonished breath and I stepped out onto the roof of the house.
“Oh, Jeremiah!” I exclaimed, unable to find words to describe it. I stood on a small, flat area of the roof while the rest sloped steeply downward. A railing surrounded a small square area of the rust colored tin roof.
From here, my view stretched for miles and miles, past the orchard and the family plot behind the house and beyond that, past the railroad track. To the right, I could see the roof of the neighboring plantation house salient against the blue-gray threat of a stormy sky as it rose above the golden tree line. On my left, lay the outline of Columbia’s low skyline in the distance.
Cows and horses grazed in the gently undulating hills on the other side of the highway while a stout breeze billowing from the west whipped through my hair. The fresh scent of impending rain filled my nostrils.
“What do you think?” Jeremiah asked.
My gaze found his again. In the waning light, he appeared nearly transparent but his entire being shimmered as if he was made of pastel glitter.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, but none of it compared with the beauty of Jeremiah’s spirit.
Haunted cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
Haunted is available both digitally and as a trade paperback.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Debra-Glass/dp/1926996461/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_5
And if you’re curious, here’s the trailer:
About Debra Glass
Debra Glass is the author of over twenty books of historical and paranormal romance, non-fiction, and folklore. The recipient of the National Society of Arts and Letters Alabama Screenwriter Award, she went on to win the NSAL Empire State Award for excellence in screenwriting.
Debra is a member of Romance Writers of America, RWA’s Heart of Dixie chapter, and the Professional Authors’ Network. She lives in Alabama with her family, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts, and a diabolical black cat.
Debra’s official site: http://DebraGlass.com
And the Haunted website (with more information about the book, and Jeremiah): http://ghostlyeverafter.wordpress.com
Thanks, Debra, for visiting with us today, and sharing the history of these lovely structures. Good luck with Haunted! Folks, Debra and I
will be giving away a download of her book Haunted to one lucky commenter*, so please leave Debra a comment or question. Once again, thanks for joining us on this new day of spooky festivities. Have a haunted one!
(Legalese silliness: My apologies to my Canadian friends but contests only open to US residents, and void where prohibited by law.
No extra entries necessary other than, of course, to leave a comment on the appropriate contest entry for that time period.
Full site giveaway disclaimers here) *Giveaway has expired