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City in which you reside: Sharpsburg
Day job: Administrative associate in the Graduate Studies & Continuing Education Division, Shepherd University
Book title: "Secret of the Big Easy"
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Synopsis of book: Dr. Marie Bartek struggles to gain control over the new psychic abilities she experiences while attending a veterinarian conference in the French Quarter of New Orleans. These recent visions prompt her to work with local police and members of the Sullivan's Island Paranormal Society (SIPS) team to help solve the succession of heinous satanic murders, while fighting against a demon trying to take over her mind.
What inspired you to write the book?
The inspiration came from my interests in paranormal ghost investigations, psychic mediums and murder mysteries. It felt natural bringing those three elements together.
Which character did you identify with? Why?
I can identify with Marie Bartek, the detail-oriented doctor, and her best friend, Gale Winters, a fun-loving party girl. I believe some of my emotions, beliefs and sense of humor came through in each of them.
In your previous book, your protagonist, Marie, organized a team of psychics and ghost-chasing techies to help solve a series of murders. "Secret of the Big Easy" also features Marie and the SIPS team. How has Marie or SIPS changed or matured in the new book compared to the first?
Marie has progressed in her psychic abilities, bringing on a heightened sense to her visions, which in turn, gave a unique value to help solve the murders taking place around the French Quarter. The relationship between Marie and her beau, Sheriff Cory Miller, continues to grow as they heavily rely on each other through the roller coaster of emotions dealing with Marie's new abilities and these murders.
What themes did you want to present to readers?
It's interesting; I didn't start out with a purpose or theme, but it developed into expressing the importance of friendship and acceptance. Marie struggles in the first book in the series, "Sullivan's Secret," to accept her psychic ability and allow others to accept her. In "Secret of the Big Easy," Marie acknowledges she has a gift and is committed to find the perpetrators and bring closure and justice for the victims. I think it's important for everyone to believe in themselves and to persevere, no matter what odds are against them.
What is your favorite part of the book? Why?
I don't have any favorite parts to my story, but I did enjoy writing the paranormal scenes and Marie's visions.
What was easy about writing this book?
I enjoy writing dialogue and bringing life to my characters. It comes natural to me. I know what they're going to say and how they will react to every situation.
What was hard?
The thing I found difficult was doing the research on satanic rituals and writing the descriptive details. It wasn't hard, but it was dark and I found it challenging portraying that at times in the story. But I pressed on because it was an important element in the plot.
What writing routine did you follow when writing this book?
Since I work full time, my routine is to write on the weekends. I love the mornings, so it's usually after breakfast. I will plop down into my favorite recliner in our study with my laptop. Depending on my creative flow, I usually get lost in the story and forget to eat lunch. I also make it a point to keep my journal with me because inevitably I will have an idea pop into my head and I will need to write it down. Those ideas can come at some of the most inopportune times.
Did you learn anything about yourself while writing this book?
I think I learn something new every time I write a story. With "Secret of the Big Easy," I learned to stretch my writing. When you write a series, there are many facets of back story that an author needs to bring into each book without boring the reader. There's a fine line — you need to have enough information to carry them through without feeling lost.
Are you working on another book in the "Secret" series? Or another writing project?
Yes, I am working on the third book of the series. Hint: It's going to take place in Washington, D.C.
Is "Secret of the Big Easy" available in a Tri-State area bookstore?
Yes, it can be found at the Four Seasons bookstore in Shepherdstown, W.Va., as well as Dru's Books 'n Things in Waynesboro, Pa. It can also be found in Washington County Free Library.
— Chris Copley, Assistant Lifestyle editor