Tuesday 28 November 2017

Talking Ghosts and Haunted Places with J.H. Moncrieff - and your chance to win!

J.H. Moncrieff and I first met each other at our former publisher, Samhain. Hailing from the frozen north – Winnipeg, Canada – J.H. has a love of all things creepy, ghostly and scary. She also loves to add authenticity to everything she writes by visiting locations all over the world that share one thing in common.

They are all haunted.

Extremely. Haunted.

J.H. goes to places I would think twice about, and I have invited her here today to talk about each of the supremely atmospheric settings for her series  - GhostWriters - featuring Jackson Stone and medium Kate Carlsson. Not only that, she is offering a fabulous prize:

$100 Amazon voucher! 

Read on...

Cat: Welcome. J.H. and congratulations on the first three books in the GhostWriters series. I devoured them and can’t wait for the next instalment. They are so gripping and full of atmosphere. Tell us about the setting for the first one – City of Ghosts. Your abandoned Chinese city of Hensu has quite a history doesn’t it? And you went there to research the background for your story. What were your experiences?

 J.H.: Thanks for having me, and for the kind words. Hensu is a fictional place loosely based on Fengdu, a famous Chinese ghost city. The day I visited, it was rainy and I had a bad cold, so I almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad I did. Like Jackson describes in the book, the tourist attractions—people in costume, the “would you make it into heaven” games, etc.—make it quite cheesy, but I could still see how it would be ominous at night if one was alone, especially with all those looming demon statues. I thought, “What if someone got trapped here overnight?” And that led to “What if they wanted to get trapped here?” The whole idea for City of Ghosts came from there.

Cat: The second in the series – The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts – takes Jackson and Kate to Poveglia off the coast of Italy. I believe you visited there alone. That must have been truly scary – alone with all the ghosts. Can you tell us about the place itself and how it impacted on the way you told the story?

 J.H.: I don’t scare easily, but I was absolutely terrified the entire time I was on Poveglia—about two-and-a-half hours. There’s an ominous feeling to the place, especially inside the abandoned asylum, and because there was a thunderstorm (What is it with these places and rain?), there were lots of strange noises to get used to. My shoulders were up around my ears the whole time, and I definitely felt like I wasn’t alone. In The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts, Kate and Jackson have to go to Poveglia to rescue a girl’s soul, so I pulled from all my experiences—what the island sounded like, looked like, felt like, even the layout of the buildings—to take my readers there too.

Poveglia has a fascinating history, first as a “dumping ground” for people with the bubonic plague, and then as the home of a mental hospital in the early 1900s, where an unethical doctor performed horrible experiments on the patients. The doctor died when he jumped (or was pushed) from a tower, which still stands on the island. It’s estimated hundreds of thousands of people died on Poveglia. It’s a grim place where you can feel the weight of history: all that suffering, all that despair.

 Cat: That must have been quite an experience. Frightening, in fact. 

Now for your latest – Temple of Ghosts. This one resonated even louder with me because of the Egyptian setting. I know you had a fascinating trip there as part of your research. Tell us about your impressions of Egypt and what draws you to the mythology.

J.H.: Like most people, I’ve dreamed of going to Egypt since I was a child, but I never thought I’d write about it. I was actually working on a book set in ancient Egypt, that is previewed in Temple of Ghosts, and I quickly got frustrated. There were so many details I didn’t know. What does the air smell like? What does the sand feel like? It was obvious I needed to go, and I loved it so much, I decided to write a book set in contemporary Egypt as well. That’s where Temple came from.

When I arrived in Egypt in January of this year, I was scared, because I’d had tons of warnings about terrorist attacks. So the first thing that struck me is how safe you actually are in Egypt, and how friendly everyone is. Egypt’s tourism and economy have taken such a hit since the revolution that everyone is SO happy to see you. As you walk down the streets of Cairo, the citizens constantly say hello and “Welcome to Egypt!” They’re extremely kind, welcoming, and warm, but beware of the markets. It’s hard to escape them—the salespeople are relentless. Not rude, but very persistent.

I found being in Egypt surreal. It was like my mind just couldn’t accept that it was real and I was actually in this place I’d dreamed about for so long. Even touching the pyramids didn’t help. This bizarre feeling took several days to go away. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

The Egyptian gods have such incredible stories. Everything about ancient Egypt: the technology, the fashion, the architecture, the temples, is fascinating.

Cat: I agree. I went there some years before you, J.H., and, although the political situation was very different, the one constant in all of this is the history. For me, it was the temples. Especially Luxor - ancient Thebes. To walk there and look up. Always up. It took weeks for my neck to recover!

Coincidentally, in addition to your Temple of Ghosts and my new trilogy (Nemesis of the Gods), Anne Rice has just released her book The Passion of Cleopatra, co-written with her son, Christopher. This is the second in her Ramses the Damned series – the first having been released way back in 1989. Why do you think ancient Egypt has such an enduring fascination for us all even today?

J.H.: Back off, Rice! J It’s hard to say, but it might have something to do with the fact that, as a society, they were so far advanced above their contemporaries, and then that knowledge just disappeared for a long time. When conducting research for the series set in ancient Egypt, I discovered the Egyptians had working toilets and braces and other technology that was extremely sophisticated for the time. There’s so much mystery that still surrounds things like how the pyramids were built. I think it’s that mystery that drives our fascination.

 Cat: So, what next for Jackson and Kate? Where will they be off to next? And what else are you working on at the moment?

J.H.: Good question. I have a few ideas, and I’m thinking of holding a poll and letting my readers choose. Bali, Romania, and Greece will probably be options, and perhaps Hawaii. I’d love to set a GhostWriters book in Scotland, but I’d have to go there first, so if anyone knows of writing festivals that would have me, I’d gladly “sing for my supper.”

I’ve got a few projects in the hopper. I’m finishing up Dead of Winter, a murder mystery with yetis, for Severed Press. Other editors are waiting for me to complete another horror novel I began some years ago, and a psychological suspense. The first book in the new ancient Egyptian series needs to debut next year, and at least one or two more instalments in the GhostWriters series. So I’m going to be busy!

Cat: That's good to hear. Dead of Winter sounds great and I look forward to much more from Jackson and Kate.Thank you so much for being my guest today, J.H. And I am certain Scotland will welcome you. Edinburgh is a great location - and then there's Dundee... Lots of dark history in Dundee and very friendly people too...

J.H.: Thanks again, Cat. Any time. Always nice chatting with you. Congrats on the new release, and thanks for being so supportive of other writers.


The first 50 people to review Temple of Ghosts on Amazon will be entered into a draw to win a $100 Amazon gift card. The details are here: http://www.jhmoncrieff.com/win-100-amazon-gift-card/

Everyone who signs up for J.H. Moncrieff’s Hidden Library gets access to lots of free books, plus a new article about mysterious places, unsolved mysteries, scary true stories, or the supernatural each week.

 Temple of Ghosts:

In the shadow of the jackal…

Medium Kate Carlsson has returned from Poveglia with Jackson, but there’s no time for domestic bliss. Something strange is happening in her sleepy Vermont town—water turns to blood, frogs fall from the sky, and an unlikely stowaway lurks in her kitchen. Even worse, Kate’s friend Eden, a noted Egyptologist, has gone missing.

Darkness surrounds Kate’s protégé, twelve-year-old Lily Walkins, and Lily’s uncle, a soldier who died in Egypt while working on a top-secret government project. Kate suspects the soldier’s untimely death holds the key to the disasters befalling Nightridge.

To solve the mystery and save Lily, Kate and Jackson journey to an ancient temple where the line between god and monster is blurred. With the help of an enigmatic Egyptian psychic, they must face their greatest foe yet.

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