Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book-A-Week Challenge Interview with Elizabeth Eagan-Cox, author of "A Ghost from the Shadows"

We're interviewing Elizabeth Eagan-Cox, author of this week's Book-A-Week Challenge "A Ghost from the Shadows"



Elizabeth will drop in today to answer any questions you have on her book(s) and how she writes her stories so leave her a comment.

More information can be found about Elizabeth Eagan-Cox on her website at http://www.elizabetheagancox.net/.

Interview:

Thank you for joining us, Elizabeth, and for sharing your story.

What motivated you to write this novel series?

I have written non-fiction my entire life. I have been a columnist and I have two published books on California history, written in a style called narrative non-fiction, or popular history. I was tired of non-fiction and the market for this genre was getting soft. Very soft. But I yearned to incorporate my passion for California’s more intriguing aspects of history into a plot. So, I took what I know best, California history, and combined it with fiction to create a paranormal mystery series. The plot for each of my novels takes place in present-day time, but historical facts help to create the cold-case files of unsolved mysteries… to which there is some quirky present-day tie-in.

California history is fascinating and it spans nearly five hundred years since the first colonial expedition by European powers. Every aspect of culture is represented in its history, at one time or another… for me this is an incredible tapestry to draw inspiration from.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Agatha Christie, she is the iconic queen of cozy mystery novels. I love the way her writing presents the simple, yet profound down-to-earth study of human nature. Big city or small village, human nature remains the same, and so do the many crimes of humanity.

What are your current projects?

I am tying up loose ends for book 3 in my Shannon Delaney Paranormal Mystery series. Book 3 is called A Ghost Meets an Angel. I will hand it in to my editor before I leave to go on my annual Halloween vacation this year. And speaking of Halloween, I was asked to guest write for the Museum of the Macabre’s Haunted History blog. I wrote a two-part article on Celtic Halloween Traditions and it will be on the Museum of the Macabre’s Web site on Octber 30 & 31. Oh, and I have quite a few media appearances scheduled between now and the end of November. All this information, with links is at: www.ElizabethEaganCox.net

What makes your stories unique?

I combine a true cozy mystery genre with the elements of the paranormal. Simply stated, I have a few ghosts as characters and they are treated as characters, not as novelties. Plus, the lead character, a young woman named Shannon Delaney has her own emerging paranormal energy, and she is not too sure about it. Shannon’s intuitive talent to speak to the past is a surprise to her, she must learn to live with it and utilize it to solve cold case mystery files. I rely heavily on my own ancestry in this regard, using cultural beliefs of my Celtic traditions.

I should clarify what a true cozy is…just so readers understand. In the cozy genre there is never graphic or explicit horror, violence, sex and language. The crime, which is the mystery, has already taken place, the readers discover it at the same time the cast of characters stumble upon it. The settings are small, usually a village, a campus or a particular neighborhood. The plot focus is on character and mystery development and solving the mystery with intelligence gained through sleuthing… good detective work. Jokingly, but true, I have told people you can set any one of my books down and never be afraid of whom might pick it up!

Another aspect that is different, I do weave a great deal of popular history into the plot and the publisher has agreed to allow me a chapter or two worth of page space to have Author’s Notes at the back. I did this because I hate it when I am reading a book, am curious about something mentioned in it and then I set the book aside to get Online to research what I wasn’t sure about! I don’t want to leave my readers scratching their heads about a clue, so I have notes in the back that explain lesser-known aspects of history and clues.

How do you come up with your story ideas and your characters?

I dream them. All of my plots are based on my knowledge and experience with California and American history. Sometimes the little seed of a story is formed from some out of the ordinary influences.

For instance, in Book 2: A Ghost From the Shadows… well I had in my mind a song from long ago that I heard on the radio and, wow! I always loved that song! The song is “Conquistador” by Procol Harem… so go get Online and listen to the song… you’ll get an idea of what inspired book 2. Having grown up in southern California, the song spoke to me.

Then, Book 1: A Ghost of a Chance, was inspired by the mansion that is on the book’s front cover. It is a real home, called The Morey Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn in Redlands, California and I have been in it many times over the years. Officially dubbed as “America’s Favorite Victorian” I always had it in mind as the perfect setting for a ghost story. Though, in truth, I do not believe that The Morey Mansion is haunted. Another mansion, one that is in San Diego was an inspiration for the story as well. That one, I do believe is haunted. It is the Villa Montezuma. And Book 1 got its start from a short story I wrote and sold to a British magazine. I decided to take the plunge and to write a novel, I knew that the short story was the stepping stone to the novel. The story was called “Thin Air” and the only recognizable part of it is in the first two chapters of book 1.

And for Book 3: A Ghost Meets an Angel, I was inspired by two older songs: “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”, sung by Joan Baez, written by Bob Dylan and “Ride Like the Wind” by Christopher Cross.

When do you find you are the most creative or write the most?

On a yearly calendar I actively write March through September. I take a vacation in October and that has been my goal, to have a book ready to turn in by the time I go on vacation. I come back from vacation and spend the next several months (until March) doing background research for the next novel.

On a daily basis, when I am actively writing, that would be March through September, I take care of business communication in the early morning, often in my robe and bunny slippers and then I get dressed for the day and take a quick coffee break. After that, I go back to tip-tapping on the keyboard at about 10 in the morning and finish up around two or three in the afternoon. I then take another break, usually my meal of the day. In the late afternoon, I check e-mail communication and do more correspondence. I work 4-day weeks, 10 to 12 hours each day and I write two chapters a week. On my off days, I may still be working, but not on the novel. This often includes media interviews and appearances. I find having a structured schedule for the creative writing part of what I do to be comforting… amid the chaos in the world, I can shut out the noise and create my own world, at least for a few hours at a time!

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

Cozy Mystery…and as corny as this sounds… I hold myself accountable for the potential influences of what I write. I like the idea that I can talk about what I write with anyone and anywhere, including in my church. I’m not criticizing the writers of other genres… but no way could I write in a genre that I could not sign my real name to and feel comfortable talking about it in all social arenas.

What are you reading now?

I’m in the process of preliminary research for the yet untitled book 4 in my series. I’m digging into the Online data base called the Newspaper Archive, it is a subscription data bank and is a primary source for study. Newspapers going back into the 1700s up to present day are in this database, from all over the world.

What is your favorite way to take a break from writing?

For short breaks on a daily basis, I go for walks in the rural countryside where I live. My dog, Corley is in charge of these breaks, she lets me know when we have been working too hard!

For actual days off, I do a great deal of genealogical study. I used to teach genealogy classes. As a member of one of the oldest lineage societies in the U.S…. Daughters of the American Revolution…(yes, that D.A.R.) I have learned the most stringent guidelines for finding evidential proof of ancestry. I am the first in my family to connect each and every generation in direct lineage, back to a Revolutionary War Patriot of the 1700s. I now have four Patriots documented. By no means is my story unique…there are many, many people out there with similar lineage waiting to be discovered.

Discovering ancestors and coming to terms with their incredible hardships gives me an overwhelming sense of pride in their accomplishments and a great deal of determination to go forward with my own dreams. This is a topic very close to my heart, you see, I have always felt that my creative talents were inherited, and in fact, in the Celtic culture this inherent and intangible talent is called Blood Memory. It is an Intuitive Intelligence passed on to us very much in the same manner that physical characteristics are inherited. By no means is the concept of Blood Memory unique to the Celtic culture…though in my experience we, in the Celtic culture, are perhaps, more open to talking about it.

Many years ago one of my siblings asked me why I am so driven, so passionate about writing. My answer: I write to quiet the whispers of our ancestors.

When I found my ancestors, I found my ghosts and I discovered that many aspects of being human transcend death, especially the love we have for those in our lives.

Why paranormal? Have you had any real-life paranormal experiences?

I first thought of my concept as supernatural, I was not familiar with the term “Paranormal.” My publisher is the one who described my books as paranormal and it was from this description that I learned what I had always thought of, as supernatural is now called paranormal.

Why paranormal? Not sure, really. I just never considered writing fiction without having a ghost or two in the story. As far as real-life paranormal experiences…yes that is what I would call what has happened in my life on a few occasions. Though, I do not usually go into much detail about them. I will say this… I believe in ghosts as ‘spirit visitations’ and as people, who in their earth-bound life are likely to be how they are in their spectral existence. In other words… (Addressing the readers) that grandparent who was so much a favorite person in your life… well they love you and guide you in their afterlife to the best that their spectral existence will allow. Perhaps a foreign concept to some people, but I do believe that our soul’s emotions are so strong that love transcends death.

In many ways, my Celtic cultural beliefs support this and for readers who may be wondering…my faith is not in objection to it. I am Anglican Catholic, known as Episcopal in the USA. I’m a member of Trintiy Parish in Redlands, California.

Why ghosts?

Why not ghosts? After what I answered above, I hope it is clear that I believe we have an afterlife and in that afterlife we have some spectral wiggle room. Having ghosts in my story and treating them as real characters, as opposed to novelties, also helps me to weave the threads of history into the plots.

Tell us your latest news?

I have numerous appearances scheduled between now and the end of November, most are in radio on the Internet, so it is easy and free to tune in to the radio programs and ask me questions. Please do so, my schedule and easy links to the radio programs are on my web site: http://www.elizabetheagancox.net/

15 comments:

Denise September 27, 2009 at 8:45 AM  

Good morning, Elizabeth!

I thought I would be the first to post a question to you.

Who are the majority of your readers?

Do you find them to be people who like mysteries or paranormals?

Jacqueline Seewald September 27, 2009 at 8:54 AM  

Hi, Elizabeth and Denise,

My novel THE INFERNO COLLECTION was classified as parnanormal romantic suspense but was really a mystery novel. I don't know if mystery readers are offended by paranormal elements or not. It varies with the reader I suppose. Some people loved my book and others complained about either too many paranormal elements or not enough. I suppose as writers we can't expect to please everyone and so we should just write according to our own inner light.

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 10:54 AM  

Good Morning Denise, it is still morning, here in California.

To answer your questions: 1.Who are the majority of my readers? and 2. Do I find them to be people who like mysteries or paranormal?

1. From a survey I conducted on a world wide basis this past spring and from input on several book-club sites I'd say the majority of my readers are women, but the age range is quite great...the survey indicated an age range from 28 to 60+! I do have men readers and so far they have voiced a preferance for book 2: A Ghost From the Shadows. Also, I have more men as readers in Ireland and the U.K....I think it is because at the heart of my novels, the plot really is in the focus of a cozy mystery..a genre very popular over in the British Isles.

2. I think, but do not have data to prove this, that Mystery comes before Paranormal in the likes department. If a reader is not a mystery fan, then my novels are probably not for them.

I will be checkinhg in throughout the day, so please if you have a comment or more questions...do not be shy ;-)

Thank you Denise, I appreciate being here on your blog site.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
www.ElizabethEaganCox.net

Keena Kincaid September 27, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

Good morning, Elizabeth. Your books sound fun and something my mother would like. She loves cozy mysteries and ghost stories.

I love your schedule, too. I would kill to have three months to devote to research.

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 11:23 AM  

Keena..no need to kill to have a schedule like mine ;-) Though you do need to reach a point in your career that you have to take that proverbial leap of faith and devote your time and effort to being a professional writer.

I took my leap of faith 10 years ago and have never looked back. I do not just write novels, long before I got into books, I was a columnist and a publicity writer...my PR client list reads like a Who's Who of Internationl corporations: Billabong, Fashion 21,Matsushita Avionics and so on. And at one point I was doing all of this and worked full-time as a public school librarian. For too long I had burned the wick at both ends... paid a lot of professional dues and gained a valuable amount of professioinal experience... just the tools I needed to leap forward into making my dreams come true. PS...I still have a few corporate clients in my pocket ;-)

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 12:14 PM  

Also, to Keena and others interested in making the most of their research time.... Here's a great web site tool, known well in the librarian community because it is a Librarian Internet Index web site, it is a source for locating legitimate research on web sites...primary sources that have a foundation of credibility:

www.Lii.org
www.ElizabethEaganCox.net

Joseph J. Andrasi September 27, 2009 at 12:35 PM  

Hello Elizabeth!

Your books sound great-especially the fact that anyone can read them without concern. I like the idea combining California history into your plots and also your geneological research and consideration of the hardships of our ancestors.
My October7 Project will be a culmination of a few years of paranormal investigation at the site of a former lumbering village in northeastern Pennsylvania dating back to the early 1800s in combination with a history of that village and some of the former inhabitants, some who met with tragedy and I believe I may have been in contact with during the couse of my investigation.

Good luck in your future endeavors!
P.S. Conquistador was--and is still one of my favorite songs!

Joseph J. Andrasi
www.twitter.com/Joeandrasi93

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 1:14 PM  

Joe! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

And for others here on the blog...Joe is an experienced Paranormal Investigator, who has been very helpful in my queries regarding hauntings.

He's a good go-to for research, ('cause he is the real-deal ;-) and you can find him here:
http://www.myspace.com/spiritcom

and on Twitter...tho I don't have that link...but I bet it is on his web site. Recently he posted some intriguing EVPs.

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 1:16 PM  

DUH...okay, I see that Joe put his Twitter link above...go listen to his EVPs ;-)

Pauline B Jones September 27, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

I also love Dame Agatha and love the idea of a paranormal cozy. Ordered a kindle sample and looking forward to it. No questions, just thanks for an interesting and informative interview!

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 2:29 PM  

Hi Pauline...

I hope you enjoy the sample.

For anyone else interested, on my web site I have chapter excerpts to book 1 and book 2.

and Pauline, thanks for mentioning Kindle..my books are published in paperback and all e-book formats.

www.ElizabethEaganCox.net

Denise September 27, 2009 at 2:42 PM  

Elizabeth,

You said some songs have inspired your stories. The words or the music?

D

Pauline B Jones September 27, 2009 at 2:46 PM  

Well, dang! Great excerpt! Had to push that buy button! LOL!

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 3:39 PM  

Pauline..you flatter me...Thank you so much ;-)

and Denise...

with "Conquistador"..it is both, but the lyrics are the driving power.

With "Rosemary, Lily and the Jack of Hearts"...it is the story that is told in the lyrics, Dylan wrote that as an epic in and of itself and the enchantng voice of Joan Baez really brought it to life.

and with Christopher Cross' "Ride Like the Wind" the lyrics, once again, a story is being told and it reminds about Old California in the late 1800s, early 1900s.

However, in each song mentioned, if I had not like the melody in the first place, I would not ever have paid much attention to the song.

Funny thing is, I woke up this morning with a song in my head... "Tennessee Waltz"....I can hear my aunt singing it to me when I was little and would visit her. We would be in her garden of sweet peas, picking them for vases... very pretty old-fashioned song... and I haven't the slightest notion as to why it popped in my head.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox September 27, 2009 at 9:52 PM  

Shutting down for the night, I'll check back tommorrow. Sweet dreams everyone.

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