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.
   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.
   Why? ...
   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.



  1. Big fan of small presses as well.
    I didn't start this journey until my forties either. Maybe we were just skipping years of frustrating writing!
    And you had a good sports day yesterday since the Bengals had a bye week! I always like bye weeks...

  2. I'm like Julie and Alex. I started writing in my 40's too. Loved learning how Julie came up with the ideas for her books. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Thanks again for interviewing me, Marcy!

    @Alex, LOL, the bye week is often the best week of the season for the Bengals. I'm waiting for them to blow the rest of the season now.

    @Natalie, thanks so much, and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  4. Looking forward to reading it, Julie! Cool idea. :)

  5. Congrats to Julz on her new book!

  6. What a fantastic inspirational dream!!! Wow!! all the best Julie! Take care

  7. Lovely interview. How incredible that a dream put her on the right track.

  8. Ah, Julie! You're a dreamer too! Wahoo! I knew I recognized a kindred spirit.

  9. Julie, I am so thrilled for your upcoming release. I love reading about you and your writing process. You're such an amazing and genuine person. I wish you SO much success!

  10. I really enjoyed your response about going with a small publisher. You contemplated your options and current place in your writing world. Totally makes sense. Thanks for sharing and thanks to Marcy for hosting you!

  11. Big congratulations on your upcoming release Julie! I loved hearing about your publishing decision-making process.

  12. I loved reading the interview and finding out how Julie came up with her ideas. She's right about small presses - they're very friendly, almost like family, and make the publishing journey so worthwhile. I love the setting for The Ghosts of Aquinnah and can't wait to read it! :-)

  13. That was interesting, nice one.

  14. @LG, thanks so much.

    @Dezmond, thank you!

    @Kitty, oh, thanks, I appreciate that!

    @Vanessa, it is kind of amazing what came about because of that one dream. Thanks so much.

    @Crystal, definitely. And not just for the dreams, for the cheese too. :D

    @Susan, oh, you're so nice, thank you!

    @SA, thanks!

    @Johanna, thanks so much, I appreciate it.

    @Lexa, I agree, the small press has worked out for me. Thanks!

    @Francis, thanks!

  15. As a kid, we went to Cape Cod every summer as a kid. There is great history over that way. Tons of stories.

    And I'm enjoying the history you've incorporated into Ghosts. You did that in Polar Night, too. I like history. :) Great job!

  16. I need to email you for the 4th, Julie. COngrats!

    Hugs and chocolate,

  17. Excellent interview, ladies! I liked reading how your characters develop, Julie. I'm looking forward to reading this new book.

    Waving to Marcy!

  18. I enjoyed learning about the back story for both of your books! Since I loved Polar Night, I can't wait to read Ghosts of Aquinnah! Thanks Marcy and Julie!


  19. @Mary, I'm a history buff so I love adding little bits in. Thank you, I'm thrilled you like the book so far. :)

    @Shelly, thanks! I will look for your email, thank you.

    @Carol, thanks so much, I appreciate it.

    @Julie, oh, thank you, I hope you will like it!

  20. MARCY--I love that photo of sunshine through the trees!

    Julie, my first meeting with you was over something about Clancy. I tend to remember people who love animals and I love Ginger Snap cookies and love, love, Molasses cookies.

    Dreams and vivid dreams can give some great story ideas especially when you play what if with them. :-)

    I'm another late bloomer. :-) I've written tons of non-fiction for various publications relating to work, had a few short stories and poems published was part of a couple of anthologies but all some time ago. Altho I liked the process I didn't really pursue it for over 10 yrs.

    My philosophy on publishing a story is simple, go where you'll be happy. Small presses offer some great opportunities. I have nothing but admiration for those who self publish--there's a lot of work on that road but regardless of the road you choose there is a lot of work for authors.


    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  21. Great interview, Ladies. I enjoyed learning more about your and your writing process, Julie. Best of luck with Ghosts. :)

  22. So fascinating to learn about your ideas via dreams and the way your characters came to be. Great interview :D

  23. It's never too late! Julie is a great writer and I can't wait to read this book!

  24. @Sia, oh, that's funny we met because of Clancy. I remember animal lovers too! :) I agree, I think it's great there are so many different paths writers can take, all are good in my book. Thanks!

    @Melissa, thank you, I appreciate it.

    @SK, thanks!!

    @Melissa, that's so nice, thanks!

  25. Definitely better late than never. You're so great at writing, Julie, so I'm glad you finally discovered you have a passion for it! :)

  26. I love the inspiration for Ghosts of Aquinnah. That's a writer's mind at work.

    Great interview.

  27. @Heather, aww, thanks!

    @Medeia, thank you, I appreciate that!

  28. Great interview, ladies!

    It's intriguing that a dream served as the launching pad for a book idea. It's never worked that way for me. Nobody wants to read about an old lady wandering through the halls of her old high school, searching for her locker ...

  29. Oh thanks for sharing this chat with all of us. It's so fun getting to know new authors and I can't read to read Julie's latest.

  30. Great interview - thank you both! One of my favorite things about these blog tours is that I get to know other writers a little better. Julie, I loved learning about your process and your path, and how you came to writing. I'm looking forward to the Ghosts of Aquinnah release!!

  31. Very nice interview and it's always fun to run into two blog friends in the same post.

  32. @Susan, LOL, I don't know, I think that could be a riveting story. :D

    @TB, thanks so much!

    @Liz, I appreciate that, thank you!

    @LD, thanks! :)

  33. Great interview - and I really love how you were inspired to write your 2nd novel. I very rarely get story ideas from dreams, but it did happen to me once. Admittedly that story is not yet written, even if I did start it.

  34. Haunting a webcam! Nice. :) Thanks for the interview! Interesting thoughts about a small press.

  35. Hi, Julie! Good to see you here. Congrats again.

  36. Hi Macy and Julie - fun read through .. and good luck with the book/s and both of your care for animals - they deserve our kindness too.

    Cheers to you both - Hilary

  37. @Trisha, I hope you will be able to get back to that story. Thanks!

    @Carol, thank you!

    @Armchair, hello and thanks again!

    @Hilary, they really do, no doubt. Thanks so much.


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