A brilliant flash of light transcends through time.
Another freezes a cloaked figure within a frame of salty mist as waves crash against a rocky shore.
Her harrowing expression shadows the beacon to a pinprick.
By the next blaze, she is gone. Only the lighthouse remains.
Hannah’s eyes blink in step with each heartbeat. Images of her deceased parents and Martha’s Vineyard explode like firecrackers inside her mind.
She shakes her head.
For weeks this eerie woman dressed in nineteenth century garb has been haunting my webcam, but tonight she stared into my soul.
Who is she? ...
Casting aside months of research on historic lighthouses, Hannah drives to the coast and boards a ferry.
What is the strange connection she has to this mysterious woman suspended in time?
Hannah finds out.
But, it’s not at all what she expects ...
Hannah unravels a century old murder.
And now, Julie Flanders...
Tell us a little about yourself, Julie.
I work as a librarian at a small college in Cincinnati, Ohio. I didn't realize I wanted to work as a writer until I was in my early 40s, so I am really making up for lost time! I started writing as a volunteer for Best Friends Animal Society and loved writing the features so much that I realized I had finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Better late than never.
Since then I have written articles for online and print publications, but have focused primarily on writing my novels. My first novel Polar Night was published in February and my second, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, will be published on December 5, 2013.
I love animals and share my home with my dog Clancy and my cat Nate. When not writing, I can usually be found reading, cheering on my favorite sports teams, and watching way too much television.
I LOVE Best Friends, in fact, I probably read something you wrote at some point. How did you transition from writing features for Best Friends to fiction?
It wasn't really a transition that I planned to be honest. When I started my blog my writing goals were to continue writing articles and features for websites like I did with Best Friends. But then I had a dream that gave me the idea for my first novel and I decided to play with it a bit. Soon I couldn't stop! But I think that the articles I did for Best Friends helped me when it came to writing fiction because I loved the process of figuring out how to present my assignments in an engaging and interesting way when I did that writing. I'd learn about the rescue, animals, or cause the editor asked me to write about and from there it was about turning the feature into a story. Even though the pieces weren't fictional, I wanted them to be more than just the straight facts of the situations. I wanted the features to have emotional impact in order to best capture the amazing work the people involved were doing. As I got more confidence in writing the features I enjoyed trying to come up with the right words and phrases to make my articles the best they could be. So in a way each feature turned out to be like writing a short story.
When you say you had a dream that gave you the idea for your first novel, can you explain? And where did you come up with the idea for The Ghosts of Aquinnah?
I had a dream that I was on an ocean liner in the 1920s and I met a man who had lost the woman he loved in Russia in World War I. From there I came up with the character in my novel who was a Russian soldier in that war. I wanted to write about one of the places that has the phenomenon of polar darkness in the winter and originally considered setting my story in Finland due to its proximity to and history with Russia, but I realized quickly that I was WAY out of my depth and decided to set the book in Alaska instead. I've never been to Alaska but at least I felt a little more knowledgeable working within the US! Anyway the final story doesn't bear much relation to the ocean liner dream, but readers will see that there is a connection.
As for The Ghosts of Aquinnah, a few years ago I was planning a trip to Martha's Vineyard and started looking at the webcam of the Gay Head Lighthouse that is on the Martha's Vineyard online website. I started thinking, what if you went on that site and every time you looked at the cam you saw the same person? Then I started playing with ideas in my head for who that person could be and why she was always there. I didn't really get anywhere with the story and set it aside until last year when for whatever reason it started coming together in my head. I signed up for NaNo last November and that was just the motivation I needed to finally get the story written.
What a cool dream! How did you develop the character of Hannah? Any tricks of the trade you care to share?
Hannah has some of me in her. While she lives in Boston now, she grew up in Indianapolis, which is only a few hours from my hometown of Cincinnati. And like me she spent summer vacations going to Martha's Vineyard. In Hannah's case, her mother's family owned property on the island while in my case it is my dad's family. But both of us loved leaving the Midwest and heading for the ocean. I still get excited when I can smell and hear the ocean as I get close to the coast.
Hannah is also struggling with grief over the death of her parents, who were killed in a car accident a few years before the start of the novel. It's this grief that helps create a connection between Hannah and the woman she sees on the webcam. My father died last year and I think my own grief played a role in developing this story.
I don't really think I can share any tricks, I don't really know how my characters come to be. They just kind of come together in my head and I go from there.
What made you decide to go with a small publisher and how have you found the experience?
I sent out some query letters to agents originally but didn't get anywhere, and I found the whole process demoralizing. I didn't know if I had the perseverance to keep at it, and I had also met people who spent forever trying to get an agent, only to have the agent unable to sell their book anyway. I knew some people in the blogosphere who seemed very happy with their small presses. So I decided to investigate some and just see where it took me. I learned about Ink Smith through a writing site and so far I have had a great experience. They were just starting out too and I feel like we've been a good match.
That’s great that you’re happy with them. Last but not least, what’s the last book you read, last dessert you had, and last place you went on vacation?
The last book I read was Solstice by Debbie Christiana, last dessert was ginger snaps cookies (I love them!), and last place was Martha's Vineyard in May.
Thank you so much for coming and answering all my questions! And for everyone who wants to know, The Ghosts of Aquinnah releases on December 5th – you can pre-order here.
Monday, November 25, 2013
The Ghosts of Aquinnah
As promised, Julie Flanders is here today to chat about herself and her soon to be released book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah.