The pandemic, of course! At the start of COVID, I was lonely and depressed, like many Americans. I was working on a true crime about false confessions and realized that the project contributed to my foul mood. I took an inventory of my situation and concluded that I wanted to write something fun, entertaining, magical, and mystical. I wanted to create an imaginary universe in which allegorical and eccentric characters come to life and take readers on a romantic and otherworldly journey that leads to a happily-ever-after ending. Since I desperately needed an escape from reality, I assumed that many readers longed for a similar escape.
I put the true crime project to the side even though it was coming along nicely. Every experienced writer must do that from time to time—understand when a project is not feeding your creativity and becomes a burden and decide to scrap it and change direction.
I love to research American history, and I am especially intrigued by the Victorian era. I decided to focus my research on America’s Gilded Age, but not aspects of the era that are commonly discussed—the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous, for example. Rather, I wanted to explore the ungilded aspects of that period. I wanted to delve into the day-to-day lives of ordinary working-class people. What did they use for toothpaste? What did they eat? How did they dress? How often did they bathe? What medicines were available to the sick and elderly? What happened to orphaned infants? Dime store freaks? Inmates in a lunatic asylum? As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Copious research inspires my writing.
The Ghost in Her is a quintessential underdog story. The beautiful heroine, Maggie O’Connor, is an impoverished Irish seamstress with a history of neglect and physical abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father. She carries the memories of that suffering with her every day, and if she ever forgets, her physical limp will remind her of it. I think that many readers will relate to Maggie’s predicament. We carry remnants of past traumas in our bodies and minds. The important thing is to not let the past rule us. We must learn to overcome. How do we do that? By opening our minds to greater possibilities, not succumbing to fear and low self-esteem, and believing in ourselves and the power of love. Not only romantic love but also agape love. The love for a child, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a pet, and yes, even strangers.
As a ‘seer’ who comes from a genetic line of Irish witches, Maggie succeeds in overcoming past and present obstacles with the assistance of quirky ghosts, fairies, and a one-eyed witch. Nevertheless, Maggie’s grit and will to survive ultimately deliver her from evil. Yes, the love of a good man is a plus, but even without Gershom, Maggie is like a scrappy boxer in an underground fight club—bruised and beaten down, but able to swing a knockout punch in the final round. That’s why I adore the final chapter. An entire community lauds Maggie and anoints her “The Bowery Princess.” Reading that somewhat schmaltzy ending brings tears to my eyes. Fairy Tales can happen.
The Ghost in Her is a richly layered tapestry comprising well-researched history, myths, romance, and a dash of whimsical comedy. I love The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. She also presents an exquisite tapestry, albeit without much comedy. I was transported into a dark and transcendental realm when I listened to that audiobook. I loved every word. I hope that readers will enjoy a similarly poetic and immersive experience when reading The Ghost in Her. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, however. Like The Golem and the Jinni, the story is often gritty and dark.
Remember the TV show Wife Swap? Unbeknownst to me, my daughter (then 13 years old) contacted the show to see if our family could participate. The producer immediately phoned me with exact dates regarding when I would be transported to another home, probably a tool shed in the swamps of Florida where I would home-school 12 children and eat tuna casserole every night. I declined the offer.
You can also find me on the 21st Century Serial Killers series, Season One, Episode 3. https://www.imdb.com/title/
I was the captain of the field hockey team in high school. My nickname was “Drag Dribble Cronin” (Cronin is my maiden name.) We had the worst team in the district. The football players would mercilessly tease us whenever we returned from another humiliating defeat.
My nonfiction book, Escape from Mariupol: A Survivor’s True Story, debuts at approximately the same time as The Ghost in Her. I suspect Escape will be my last nonfiction book. I am passionate about devoting all of my future creative energy to writing paranormal historical romance. I am working on Book Two in the Ungilded series, Mayhem in Disguise. Nurse Bella, a Mohegan Irish character presented at the end of The Ghost in Her, is the heroine of Mayhem in Disguise. I already have ideas for Book Three, so I am putting teasers in Book Two. I see many future paranormal historical romance series in my future, set in different periods in American history.
The Ghost in Her comes from a very private and spiritual place inside of me. I think a lot about what happens when we die. Will we reincarnate? Will we have jobs to do in the next realm? Do angels and spirit guides exist? Is hell real? Is heaven real? I had a near-death experience at the age of seventeen and have been wondering about these things ever since. I explore such questions through paranormal fiction.
The oppression of women is a significant theme in The Ghost in Her, and that oppression continues to this day. In 1888, an impoverished single woman without the protection of a husband or a good family name faced almost insurmountable odds. It was not dissimilar to what women in countries like Iran face today. Women were not allowed to be openly sexual or have opinions of their own. They were owned by men and if they stepped out of line, it could result in severe punishment. Granted, the situation for American women has greatly improved since 1888, but we still experience threats to our personal freedoms at the hands of autocratic and patriarchal institutions.
The book also addresses the universal experience of death and suffering. COVID took over one million Americans in a short space of time. Many families were left shell-shocked and traumatized. Now imagine what it was like for people at the turn of the century before antibiotics and modern-day surgery. Women frequently perished in child labor, and children frequently died from viruses and diseases. Death was everywhere, so they turned to religion or spiritism for comfort. We do the same thing today. We long for random tragedies to make sense and so we consult with whatever we know to be a “higher power” to provide answers and comfort.
Wow, that author took us on a great ride! Let’s do it again! When is the sequel coming out? (Answer: January 2024)
The characters and the friendships that they shared. How Virginia the librarian assisted Maggie with no strings attached. How Nurse Bella comforted Maggie in her darkest hours at the lunatic asylum. How handsome Gershom worshiped Maggie as the star that she is. The plight of poor old Leo, Gershom’s loving Jewish father. Relationships give our lives purpose, and I hope the reader remembers the depth of love exchanged between my characters.
Remember that 1978 commercial, “Calgon, take me away!”? (I’m showing my age here.) We are all stressed and exhausted. I liken The Ghost in Her to a long hot bath, preferably with champagne or herbal tea at your side, but not a plugged-in blow dryer.