Sunday, September 8, 2019

Abigail's Window - An Interview & Review

I'm happy to welcome Susan Lynn Solomon to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Today is the book birthday of ABIGAIL'S WINDOW, her paranormal romance.


Kathy: In ABIGAIL'S WINDOW we meet Kaitlyn Novacs who encounters a kindred spirit in the ghost of Abigail Bender. Do you believe in ghosts?

SLS: I do, and for a good reason. I’ve had several encounters with spirits over the years—the first when I was ten or eleven. That happened in Kew Garden Hill, the Queens, NY neighborhood where I grew up. On Main Street, not far from a church, was a reputedly haunted house—at least, that’s what the high school kids told us. One Saturday afternoon a few friends and I broke through a boarded-up window and climbed into that house. What happened there… Well, the haunting was far from “reputed”. Footsteps ran toward us, the sweater tied around my waist was grabbed and pulled off. Needless to say, I never went near that place again.

Since then I’ve had other encounters. Not long after I was married I joined a few friends for a Ouija Board session, thinking I might contact my grandmother. Instead of grandma, a somewhat nasty spirit came through. It followed me home, and one day while I cooked dinner it threw eggs at me. I used this experience in a scene in “Abigail’s Window”.


Kathy: What first drew you to paranormal romance?

SLS: While all of my stories focus relationships, I never wrote a romance and didn’t intend to. That is, until just before Valentine’s Day in 2004 the man who owned the firm in which I was in-house counsel asked me to write a very short romance. At the time he owned several bed and breakfasts in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and wanted to leave those stories him his guests’ rooms. One doesn’t refuse to do a favor for the man who signs her paycheck. Each of those houses, built in the early 19th century, had been around long enough for ghosts to settle in and get comfortable. One house in particular caught my attention… literally.

When I visited this house the housekeeper told me a ghost inhabited it. After the experiences I’d had, of course I believed her, and I was certain after I heard footsteps on the second floor (the house had no guests at the time, so no one was up there). When I went to investigate, I heard a disembodied sigh. Since I had been asked to write a romance, I decided to use that ghost as my female protagonist (the sigh had sounded female). By the way, that short romance, “Abigail Bender”, became my first published short story and won an honorable mention in a Writers Journal short romance competition.

I played with that story over the years, eventually expanding it into the novel that became “Abigail’s Window”, and the house in which I encountered the ghost I named Abigail is the setting for the novel. Of course, I’ve changed the name of the house—it has since been sold it to a family with children and I didn’t want those children to know they’re living with a ghost.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

SLS: A number of my published short stories are Historical Fiction, and in the new novel Abigail Bender, the ghost portrayed, lived during the time of the Underground Railroad and the Civil War, so there is much history in the novel. Other than that, in recent years my focus has been on mysteries, the genre I fell in love with when I was a child and my mother gave me a copy of Agatha Christie’s “Peril at End House”. I read that book in two days, and was hooked on the genre.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

SLS: In 2015 I wrote my first mystery, a novel titled, “The Magic of Murder”. That novel was a finalist in the Readers Favorite and the M&M’s Chanticleer’s Mystery & Mayhem Novel Competitions. Because of this success the novel became the first story in the Emlyn Goode Mystery series that includes two additional novels, “Dead Again”, and “Writing is Murder”, and four novelettes. These are murder mysteries with a sense of humor.

I suppose these stories can also be considered a bit paranormal, because my narrator is Emlyn Goode, who at the age of 40 has just learned she’s a direct descendant of Sarah Goode, a woman hanged as a witch in Salem. Sarah’s diary that speaks of her life, Salem Town, and the people she lived among—as well as descriptions of herbs and chants she used in spells—has been passed down through Emlyn’s family. Blessed, and sometimes cursed by an overactive writer’s imagination, things Emlyn reads in this book point her in the direction of killers… and frequently into danger.


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

SLS: If you’re speaking about a character other than one of mine, I have to say Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is my favorite. An old woman with a sharp mind and a keen observer of human foibles, she can see a killer’s characteristics and motives in the lives of people in her small village.

In my novels I have two favorite characters. In the Emlyn Goode Mysteries it’s definitely Emlyn. She is so much like me it’s embarrassing. A writer blessed with an overactive imagination (or, as she says, cursed by it), she’s fearful, yet lunges headlong into the chase for a killer—especially when her romantic interest, Detective Roger Frey, is in danger—and only considers the consequences when the killer comes after her. Oh, and she’s frequently seems to be a bit of a wiseass (ask my sister whether that’s me)

In “Abigail’s Window” the character I love—and in certain respects resemble—is Kaitlyn Novacs, the story’s narrator. Fearful of the unknown, she needs to be pushed in the direction fate intends her to go. In her case it’s the ghost of Abigail that elbows her until she at last sees the life she’s to lead.


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

SLS: Here again I have to separate the mystery series from the paranormal romance. As I mentioned earlier, “Abigail’s Window” was inspired by the man I worked for and the ghost in the B&B he used to own (I might mention that the ghost has apparently decided to move in with me). I wrote a short story called, “A Story is Born”, about how this happened. Published in an online journal, this story can be found at http://todaysbiostories.blogspot.com/2018/10/a-story-is-born.html

Aside from my love of mysteries, what pushed me to write “The Magic of Murder” was a dare. At the time I was a member of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s writers’ critique group, which was moderated by Gary Earl Roth, an Edgar Award winning writer and a good friend. One evening after a group meeting Gary, who knew of my love of the genre, asked why I hadn’t written a mystery. I told him I’d tried, but just couldn’t plot one. That’s when he dared me to try. I’ve never been smart enough to ignore a dare and so, Emlyn Goode, her friends and the trouble she causes in and around Niagara Falls—and frequently gets into—are Gary’s fault.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

SLS: In a sense, publishing my first Emlyn Goode novel wasn’t my decision. In 2015 I was actively seeking an agent to represent a very different novel. Dozens of query letters sent to agents, on a Sunday afternoon I received three emailed rejections. Three! On a Sunday! In a snit, I decided I’d show those agents, so I logged onto Query Track and found a list of independent publishers. I had just finished writing “The Magic of Murder”, which has a bit of a paranormal underpinning, and when I read what Solstice Publishing was looking for I decided the book would be right for them. I submitted it, and two weeks later was offered a contract.


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

SLS: Ah, there are so many. Certainly Agatha Christie. Aside from being the author that instilled in me a love of mysteries, her stories remind me of my mother. Then I’d invite Rex Stout. His Nero Wolfe mysteries were my father’s favorite and reading them reminds me of him. And I can’t forget Arthur Conan Doyle, whose intricate plots continue to inspire me. I’d also invite Elizabeth George, whose Inspector Linley novels and the exploration of the characters relationships have given me hours of joyful reading.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

SLS: At the moment I’m reading Deborah Benjamin’s, “The Death of Perry Many Paws”, and thoroughly enjoying the book. Her narrator, Tamsen Mack, reminds me of Emlyn Goode in some respects, which means I identify with her. Also, her family is as… uh, odd. As is mine.


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

SLS: Once upon a time, in my misbegotten younger days, I played folk music on my guitar at small clubs in Greenwich Village and wrote songs for, and was the rhythm guitarist in a rock band that performed all over the east coast. I still strum my guitar from time to time. These days, I most enjoy solving crossword puzzles. For me, these are like trying to solve intricate mysteries.

Other than this, cooking is my second favorite thing to do. During the winter I’ll search through my cookbook collection for a recipe that will take two days to make, and I’ll enjoy every minute of the time I spend on it.


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

SLS: In my fridge I’ll always find onions, celery, and green peppers. In Cajun food, a cuisine I enjoy and love to explore, these are called the “trinity”. I also have frozen shrimp and often lobster. Among other recipes, I use these in what I call my “Witch’s Gumbo”.


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

SLS: I’m currently working on two new books, one will be the next novel in the Emlyn Goode Mystery series, and the other focuses on a topic that has always fascinated me: past lives and reincarnation. Also, when the spirit moves me (or, perhaps, when Abigail Bender’s ghost puts an idea in my head) I’ll also write a short story… or two. A few weeks ago I was actually working on these two novels and a short Halloween story I was asked to write… If you look at the definition of “insanity” in Webster’s you see a picture of me.


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

SLS: What I love best about writing is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made over the years. I enjoy being at book fairs where and talking about writing and the stories I love to tell. And most of all, I love it when I hear that someone has gotten lost in one of my books or short stories and has been touched by it, or that one of my books allowed an escape from life for a few moments.

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Review


ABIGAIL'S WINDOW
By Susan Lynn Solomon

Dragged to a quaint inn on Niagara-on-the-Lake by her friends, Kaitlyn Novacs discovers she can't escape a haunting. Instead enjoying a fun girlfriends weekend, she meets and is captivated by the spirit of Abigail Bender. But as Abigail shows Katy her life and the romance she had with her true love, Katy slips further and further into an abyss as she tries to hide from her own feelings. Will Katy comes to grips with her own past and open herself up to love? Or will death claim her? 

ABIGAIL'S WINDOW is at once a charming historical love story and a cautionary tale. Kaitlyn has turned her back on love due to an incident in her past hinted at and finally revealed. Love is equated to life here and Katy's inability, or unwillingness, to love just may cost her her life. While I don't necessarily subscribe to that belief, it makes sense for Kaitlyn and her friends.

I enjoyed the ghostly aspect of the story and came to like wise cracking Kate, although I was put off by her friends and their attitudes at the start of the story. For me the most engaging part of the novel was the historical details surrounding the romance between Abigail and Will. Partially because I live in Western New York, I loved reading about the Underground Railroad and the stops which are quite familiar to me. I also found the Civil War sections compelling, although the amount of detail wasn't truly necessary to further the plot.

ABIGAIL'S WINDOW is a captivating story of love and the challenge of both giving and receiving it.

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