Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Vanished Bride of Northfield House - An Interview, Review, and Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Phyllis M. Newman to Cozy Up With Kathy today. The Vanished Bride of Northfield House, released January 26th, is the first book in her Gothic Mystery trilogy.

Kathy: The Vanished Bride of Northfield House is set in England in 1922. Why did you choose that location and time period?

PMN: I had just visited Great Britain and was charmed with the character of the old cities, the way places resonated with a different vibe.

As for the time period, the aftermath of World War I was a time of social and political upheaval, especially in Great Britain where so many lives were lost in battle. I wanted to explore what a young woman would face at such a time, personally, economically, and politically. The uncertainty, the poverty, the limitations on women in the face of new opportunities provided rich soil for a gothic story. It was interesting and fun to write about a time and place outside my personal experience.

Kathy: Anne Chatham can see spirits. Have you ever had a ghostly encounter?

PMN: No, I haven’t a shred of psychic ability, although I come from a long line of psychics. My great-grandfather, two of my great aunts (his daughters), and my father’s sister made a living from psychic readings. I even have pictures of all of them in their veils and robes, with crystal balls.

Kathy: Northfield House is a grand country manor and the setting for The Vanished Bride. Is it based on a real house?

PMN: No, but most gothic novels take place in a grand, ancient structure. Such a story needs weight and a place with history. Such a story requires shadowy corners and hidden spaces, and discoveries must be made. The house is always another character in a gothic novel. It would be difficult to create such spookiness in a Dutch colonial, don’t you think?

Kathy:  A glittering masquerade ball can hide and reveal so much. Have you ever been to such a ball?

PMN: My husband and I love costume parties and I have both given and attended wonderful get-togethers in costume. Marguerite Gauthier, from La Dama de las Camillas, was my most elaborate costume, which would have been appropriate for the Wellington ball. But I wouldn’t have called any of those parties a ‘ball’, so the answer is no, I have never been to such a party. It was enormous fun to imagine it, however.

Kathy: What first drew you to Gothic novels?

PMN: My mom had all the famous gothic novels ever written on her bookshelf: Jane Eyre, Rebecca, The Mistress of Mellyn. As a teenager, I read them all. When you read such beautiful prose wrapped around the mystery and creepiness of gothics as a child, it changes you forever. I’ve read all the great ones and loved them. When I found it difficult to find new novels that embodied that mystery and excitement, I decided to write one.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

PMN: I wrote a book of literary fiction (unpublished), a noir mystery (self-published), and a cozy mystery (seeking a publisher now.)

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

PMN: The Vanished Bride of Northfield House is the first in a series. The second book takes place in 1933, the third in 1944. But I have conceived of it differently. Although I think of it as a series, they are not about the same characters or place. An important part of any historical mystery is the romantic tension. Will they? Won’t they? And I like to touch on the politics and social issues of the time. It would be hard to do that, continuing the same characters in the same time period. So maybe this run of novels doesn’t really qualify for that designation, a series.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

PMN: I found writing about Charlotte very delicious. She is stunningly beautiful, sassy, and bold. She has everything, does anything, and is supremely self-confident. Her character is pivotal to the story and I believe I came up with an original. She sparks all the action and starts an emotional whirlwind for every other character in the book. She’s quite special.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

PMN: I wanted to explore the inner strength of women. Women have been excluded from the halls of power—especially during the times I am writing about-- and I wanted to demonstrate how strong women, those with resolve and intelligence, go forth and accomplish things within the narrow confines of their lives.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

PMN: I love to write. I just purely enjoy the process. When I write, the characters take over and sweep me to places I’d never conceived of before. It’s that powerful. But once I had a complete work done, I found it wasn’t much fun ultimately unless someone was going to read it. It’s such a big disappointment when there are no readers for your work. Think of how Emily Dickenson must have struggled. I have a new appreciation for how limited her life must have been.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

PMN: I would certainly invite Elizabeth George. Mostly because I am in love with Thomas Lynley, the leading character in her series. And I am in love with him because he likes and appreciates his unlovely sidekick, Barbara Havers.

Second, I would invite Rex Stout, who wrote the Nero Wolfe series, because he started writing after a career as a banker. I too started writing after a long career in financial management. I devoured the Nero Wolfe series when my dad gave me a sack full of paperbacks when I was thirteen.

I would invite Miguel Cervantes, not just because I was a Spanish major in college, but because his masterpiece Don Quixote de la Mancha was the first modern novel and is the tome all others are patterned after. And I doubt that he planned to do that. His novel was really a spoof on the chivalric romance novels so popular in 17th century Spain. His imagination conceived of structures and conventions that all novelists follow today.

And last but not least, Sappho. Who could resist an archaic Greek poet who wrote about love and women? Don’t you just wonder what made her tick?

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

PMN: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It is a vividly written novel demonstrating how history and landscape and accidents of birth and death create the story of a single life. It’s a mystery as all novels are without being designated as such.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

PMN: I watercolor (badly), weave fabrics (hats and scarves that nobody wears), love movies, quilt shows, and spend a lot of time reading. My husband and I travel extensively.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

PMN: Milk, naturally, because I spent many years of my youth on a dairy farm. Raisins, because I cannot imagine my life without them. Hummas. And homemade cookies (because my husband John is a spectacular baker…I do not care for the raisins in the cookies, however.)

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

PMN: As I indicated, The Vanished Bride is the first of 3 books with the same theme if not the same characters. Although I have written other genres, other single books, I have not thought beyond completing this particular series.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

PMN: When I write, the characters simply take over the book. I haven’t a clue where they will go or what they will do until I get it down on paper. They surprise me. They amaze me. I imagine someone, somewhere, writing my own story, deciding upon what comes next.




Anne Chatham, the orphaned daughter of a clergyman, has taken the job of typewriter at Northfield House in 1922. Working with Mr. Wellington on his book of agricultural history is enjoyable, but the undercurrents of the house are not. The grand house is dark and ominous, and while Mr. Wellington is pleasant, she also has to deal with the irreverent older son, Thomas, and the brooding younger son Owen, not to mention the haughty Mrs. Wellington...and the ghost. Anne has the ability to see spirits and the ghost of Northfield House is desperate to communicate. Is this spirit that of the bride who disappeared on her wedding night? As Anne draws closer to Owen, a family tragedy is explored, and danger increases. Should Anne fear the dead or are the living more dangerous?

Phyllis M. Newman captures the essence of the Gothic novel in this atmospheric mystery. An impoverished, but intelligent young woman has come to live in a grand, yet foreboding manor filled with untrustworthy characters, a dark family secret, class distinction and a ghost! I thoroughly enjoyed this book with its sense of doom, things forbidden, and moments of genteel horror.

While ticking all the prerequisites of a Gothic novel THE VANISHED BRIDE OF NORTHFIELD HOUSE provides a finely wrought mystery, deep characterization, and spine tingling moments of the supernatural.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Lovely cover. Thank you for the opportunity.

    1. I'll pass your compliment on to the artist! She'll be so please you liked her cover.

  2. Thank you for the review on THE VANISHED BRIDE OF NORTHFIELD HOUSE by Phyllis M. Newman and for being part of the book tour!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. Beautiful cover! Thank you for the chance!

    1. I'll let the artist know you liked her work! Thanks for participating.

  4. I like that your characters surprise you.

    1. As you read, so do I! Everyone should try it (writing) and see how it works (although I don't imagine it works that way for everyone.)