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I’ve always adored ghost stories. From early stories around the campfire, to Elizabeth Peter’s classic Ammie Come Home, to the Night Gallery and, more recently, The Sixth Sense…I’m a fool for tales of those not-quite-so-departed.
So when I set out to write a home renovation mystery series, it didn’t take long before it morphed into a haunted home renovation mystery series. After all, most of us who work on old houses have an occasional inkling of…something, perhaps a subtle frisson, a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of one’s eye, a sudden “what was that?” that might indicate lingering spirits --especially if you happen to be painting on-site at some unholy time of night – like 3 in the morning.
I used to be a decorative painter for a living, so I found myself in such a situation numerous times. Those rambling Pacific Heights mansions are the perfect setting for ghosts with every creak of old wood, groan of ancient plumbing, or knocking of branches on the windowpane. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to start thinking up all sorts of ghostly and/or murderous scenarios!
This was how the first book in my Haunted Home Renovation series was born. In If Walls Could Talk, general contractor Mel Turner has her first encounter with the ghost of a colleague who has met an unfortunate end (with power tools) on a construction site. In the new Dead Bolt, Mel has to figure out an old romantic triangle to rid a Queen Anne Victorian of a bevy of ghosts in the attic…and to unmask a murderer. Though Mel’s a bit freaked out by the ghosts, she learns to embrace her rare ability to communicate with them. After all, she’s in the historic home renovation business, and if old structures retain traces of those who have gone before…the ability to speak to ghosts might even come in handy, business-wise.
Whenever I bring up the subject of ghosts in polite company, half the people look at me as if to say: that’s nice, dear…have you taken your meds today? (The other half, however, usually have their own stories of mysterious spectral encounters – or repeat a tale they’ve heard from family or friends.)
I used to be pretty skeptical, myself. But since I began writing the series I’ve done a lot of research into the subject, and the more I learn, the more open I’ve become to the idea! bring up the subject of ghosts in polite company, half the people look at me as if to say: that’s nice, dear…have you taken your meds today? (The other half, however, usually have their own stories of mysterious spectral encounters – or repeat a tale they’ve heard from family or friends.)
I’ve shadowed ghosthunters; gone on ghost tours in San Francisco’s Chinatown http://sfchinatownghosttours.com/home.html and Pacific Heights http://www.sfghosthunt.com/fatcow.com/Welcome.html and Haight Ashbury http://www.hauntedhaight.com/html/hauntedhaight_links.htm ; poked around the Winchester Mystery House http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/ ; attended séances; and interviewed many people who believe they’re living in haunted houses.
The idea of permeable veils between the worlds of the living and the dead is as old as humanity. And even some modern scientists –such as theoretical physicists – are willing to speculate about different energy forms existing on different planes. Like radio signals that swirl all around us yet can only be picked up with the right equipment, is it so farfetched to imagine that there might be other kinds of energy sharing space with us, other forms sending out signals that are only occasionally picked up?
There’s plenty of fodder to keep the San Francisco Ghost Society http://www.sfghostsociety.org/ busy, that’s for sure. Check out this website: http://www.haunted-places.com/san_francisco_most_haunted.htm If you’ve read some of my books, you might just recognize the seeds of a few stories in some of these purported local hauntings.
How about you? Heard any good ghost stories lately – either good books or movies, or your own experiences? How about from friends and family, or local legends? And if you have any really good stories…mind if I steal them for upcoming novels?
About the book:
Dead Bolt (Obsidian, December 6, 2011)
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
Visit me at: www.julietblackwell.net
Praise for Dead Bolt:
"Cleverly plotted with a terrific sense of the history of the greater Bay Area, Blackwell's series has plenty of ghosts and supernatural happenings to keep readers entertained and off balance."
"In Blackwell's smooth, seductive second mystery featuring San Francisco historic house contractor Melanie Turner (after 2010's If Walls Could Talk), something otherworldly is interfering with Mel's work on Jim and Katenka Daley's 1890s Queen Anne Victorian. Mel must also contend with the elderly neighbor across the street, Emile Blunt, who's determined to buy the Daleys' house, even though it's not for sale. Mel's father, himself a former contractor, tries to smooth things over with the crotchety Emile, only to find him shot dead the next day. Desperate to save her character and her renovation from a murder, Mel may have to dig the truth up about yet another ghost before all is said and done. The return of divorced Mel's old crush, green building expert Graham Donovan, adds romantic interest. Cozy fans will want to see a lot more of the endearing Mel."
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 Paint is 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.
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