Interview: SPIRITS OF THE HEART by Claire Gem
Updated: Feb 4, 2020
"I love suspense/mystery/ghost stories. Claire Gem doesn’t disappoint with this book . . . A warm love story with page-turning suspense. I loved this book!"
An addiction counselor and a security guard struggle to free a little girl and her father, two lost spirits trapped inside an abandoned mental asylum. Addiction counselor Laura Horton returns from college to move in with an old friend and start her career. But her homecoming is jarring. Her friend moves out, leaving Laura alone with the gorgeous but intimidating ex-boyfriend—in a house that snugs up to an ancient graveyard. Officer Miller Stanford is a man with a shattered past. His alcoholic dad destroyed their family, a weakness Miller is terrified will consume him too. The last thing he needs is a sexy, blonde addiction counselor watching his every move. When he begins to see specters in the dark, he starts questioning his own stability. But Laura sees her too—a pathetic child-spirit searching for her father. Then Laura starts digging into old asylum records . . . Can Miller and Laura uncover the secrets of Talcott Hall without jeopardizing their love—and lives—in the process?
Genre: Romantic Suspense | Heat Level: PG-13 | Pub Date: February 14, 2017 | Pages: 322pp
"I have never been an avid reader of paranormal romance, but I absolutely am now and it's ALL because of THIS book! Wow." —J. Saman
Q&A with CLAIRE GEM
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
That depends on how the story is flowing. Some books have literally written themselves—Hearts Unloched, for example. I came up with this idea while driving around Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., and the place where the story is set. On the three-hour drive home, I “wrote” the book out loud to my husband. Had the entire story outlined in my head, and by the time I got home, I couldn’t wait to get to the keyboard. That was so energizing I stayed up until the wee hours. The book was done in less than 45 days.
Other times, like with my latest release, Spirits of the Heart, the process was exhausting. You see, the building where the story takes place burned down when I was about 1/3 of the way into writing the book. My muse was daunted. I put the manuscript away and thought I’d never finish it. The process of getting going on it again was exhausting, and frustrating. Until I decided to incorporate the fire into the plot, that is.
What story are you working on next, and what inspired it?
I’m working on a story called “Pigments,” another supernatural suspense featuring a psychic heroine with a unique ability—by touching oil paintings, she can access the memories of the artist who touched the canvas and paint. It all has to do with touch DNA and the pigments in the paint. I’m using some of my scientific background from my day job (in scientific research) to create a credible yet supernatural tale of intrigue and suspense.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
That’s an interesting question, and one that I have spent much time and thought pondering. I write in several genres, you see: contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and supernatural suspense. I recently sent out a survey to my mailing list asking what they’d like to see more of—the romance elements, the empowered women elements, or the spooky stuff. Out of almost 700 respondents, only 9 chose the romance. Most asked for more supernatural elements. That suited me just fine, as that’s what I enjoy writing the most.
I find there seems to be a shortage out there of books with the kind of paranormal flair I love to read—instead of vampires, shapeshifters, and werewolves, I love a good, old-fashioned ghost story. Gothic, only set in today’s world. When I ran out of books to read, I decided to start writing them.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Since research is in my blood (it’s what I do for a living), I’m a stickler for accuracy of detail. I do extensive research to explore not only the elements of the setting where my books are set, but specifics as to my characters’ careers, hobbies, etc. For Hearts Unloched, I needed to write a dive scene—it’s the black moment of the book. I don’t dive, don’t know a thing about it. Fortunately, I have a friend whose husband dives. I spent weeks communicating with him via email and telephone, learning all the right terminology and what could and couldn’t happen. When I finished the scene, he was kind enough to read it and picked out several terms I used that were wrong. Then he told me, “That explosion you describe…that wouldn’t happen. It’s impossible.” I was devastated. “It HAS to happen, Bob. Ask your diving instructor how such a thing could occur.” He did, and got back to me with a plausible explanation for the explosion of the diving cylinder. Crisis scene saved!
For my work-in-progress, “Pigments,” my heroine is a DNA analyst. Although I work in a research lab, I know nothing about this particular specialty. Fortunately, my cousin works for a state DNA lab. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the phone and emailing him lately too…
What type of hero do you like best?
My heroes all tend to favor the kind of man I married: a macho, alpha man on the outside with a soft, beta heart. I love developing and portraying that contrast in my heroes. It makes for heroes that my readers can swoon over, get mad at, laugh at, and ultimately, fall in love with.
Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of supernatural and romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. She writes about strong, resilient women who won’t give up their quest for a happy-ever-after—and the men lucky enough to earn their love. No helpless, hapless heroines here. These spunky ladies redefine romance, on their terms. Her paranormal/romantic suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival. Her latest release, The Phoenix Syndrome, won the women’s fiction division in FCRWA’s The Beacon Contest. A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 38 years, now live in central Massachusetts.
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