Paranormal enthusiast writes spirited novel
Robin Murphy of Sharpsburg said that most of the ideas for "Sullivan's Secret," came about from personal experience. (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer)
And that's just in the first 20 pages.
Murphy, who turns 48 on Sept. 19, lives in Sharpsburg but set her story on Sullivan's Island, S.C. The book's main character, Marie, is a veterinarian who experiences a resurgence of her childhood ability to see and communicate with spirits of the dead. This leads her to become involved in the investigation of the murder of a local woman. Which brings her into contact with Cory Miller, police chief of Sullivan's Island.
These are the two main plot lines in Murphy's book — the developing romance between Cory and Marie, and communicating with spirits.
Spirits of the dead appear in the book from beginning to end. Marie and her mentor, an older woman, can fleetingly detect and communicate with spirits of dead people. Other characters use equipment to detect faint visual or audio traces of spirits. The drive to communicate with these spirits is important to the story.
"I have always been fixated on (the) paranormal," Murphy said. "A lot of people scoff, but I know people who have had experiences."
"Sullivan's Secret" is a page turner. The pace is quick. Best friend Gale helps Marie advance her romantic interest in Cory. A group of paranormal-research buffs assists Marie in investigating haunted buildings. The first murder is followed by another.
And then there's the eating and drinking. One romantic scene between Cory and Marie involves preparing and eating a big breakfast. Also, the paranormal researchers like to discuss their plans over wine or margaritas. Marie's friend, Gale, is a particularly enthusiastic party animal.
Murphy said the range of characters in the book allowed her to bring out different aspects of herself.
"There's a part of me in Marie — more professional. And there's a part of me in Gale — carefree, off the wall," Murphy said with a grin.
Murphy works as administrative associate in the divisions of graduate studies and continuing education at Shepherd University. She lives in Sharpsburg with her husband, Bob. She said Sharpsburg is a great place to pursue her interest in paranormal activity. Her house was built in 1783, but she hasn't detected any supernatural activity there. But her neighbors told her they have had experiences in their house.
Murphy said she didn't do a lot of research for the book. Most of the story came from her personal experience or things she's picked up watching TV. But she did research paranormal research and the effects of hanging on the human body.
Also, the setting — a real town on the Atlantic Ocean shore near Charleston, S.C. — came on a whim.
"Believe it or not, I just looked on a map. It's on the beach and I'm a beach freak," Murphy said. "Last October, my husband and I took a trip to Sullivan's Island. It's got lots of history."
Beaches mean tourism and night life. And history means potential paranormal activity.
"I didn't have an exact plan to include all these elements. It just came together," Murphy said.
Murphy said she enjoyed the process of writing "Sullivan's Secret," bumpy as it was sometimes.
"I wrote mostly on weekends. I would have my breakfast, take my coffee to the computer and write," she said. "There were times I would wake up at 2 in the morning and I had to write. It's amazing how your creative side changes — you get to the middle of the story and it takes a different direction. And sometimes I go into a slump and I can't write anything."
But she finished the book and got it published. Murphy liked her characters and the paranormal-research team so much, she's already at work on a sequel.
"This is going to be a series. I've already started the next book," she said. "They're going to head to another state.
"I really do get lost in this. It's really my passion."
About the book
Author: Robin Murphy of Sharpsburg
Title: "Sullivan's Secret"
Genre: Paranormal mystery
Price: $14.95, paperback; $3.99, e-book
Available locally at: Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and available to borrow in selected local libraries