Jen: It’s day two of paranormal romance week and today we’re excited to welcome Molly Harper to Romancing the Book. Molly, will you share a short bio with us?
Molly: Molly Harper worked for six years as a reporter and humor columnist for The Paducah Sun. Her reporting duties included covering courts, school board meetings, quilt shows, and once, the arrest of a Florida man who faked his suicide by shark attack and spent the next few months tossing pies at a local pizzeria. Molly lives in western Kentucky with her family.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Molly: This is my first standalone paranormal romance and my first haunted house story, so I am doubly excited. I have always been fascinated by hauntings, but the backstory of the ghost never really “clicks” for me. I wanted to write the biggest, scariest ghost story I could manage and I hope the reader enjoys it. The Crane’s Nest is a Gilded Era mansion that never quite thrived as a family home as Gerald Whitney, the business tycoon who built it was accused of murdering his wife shortly after it was completed. The murder mystery and inevitable stories of hauntings and family curses followed the Whitneys throughout the generations. Deacon Whitney, a social media mogul who has managed to rebuild his fortune, wants to restore the house to its former glory and finally put the supernatural rumors about his family to an end. The team of experts he assembles to remodel the house is contracted to live there over the summer while the work is completed, a measure he had to take after mysterious noises and cold spots chased away previous teams.
Landscaper Nina Linden is hired to rehabilitate the gardens and she sees it as her chance to rebuild her failing business after being cheated by her unscrupulous ex-partner. She never expects that her new client would see more in her than just a green thumb. But Nina shows no signs of being scared away, even as she experiences some unnerving apparitions herself. And as the two of them work closely together to restore the mansion’s faded glory, Deacon realizes that he’s found someone who doesn’t seem to like his fortune more than himself—while Nina may have finally found the one man she can trust with her bruised and battered heart.
But something on the island doesn’t believe in true love…and if Nina and Deacon can’t figure out how to put these angry spirits to rest, their own love doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Molly: I have never been asked this question in an interview! My brother-in-law, Ryan Clark, is a non-fiction author in the sports genre. We worked together on our college newspaper staff, which is how he met my sister, Manda. He published a book on the University of Kentucky’s basketball program, while I was still in my “unhappy whenever I got to bookstores because I’m unpublished” stage. Watching him go through the process was one of the factors that got me off of my behind to finish my first book, because I realized I was never going be published if I didn’t finish the darn manuscript. My uncle, Dan Thompson, has also written several historical titles through independent presses.
And, my dad, Brant, writes beautiful birthday letters that make me cry.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Molly: Most of my ideas come to me in the shower or right before I go to sleep. I have been bugging my husband to install a dry erase board in the bathroom for years, but he says that would be weird. So I keep a notebook in the closet, next to my story bulletin board, and jot it all down there. I also keep a notebook on my nightstand.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Molly: I needed an island setting because I needed to isolate my characters. I usually stick with a southern setting, but I was thinking of something spooky and cold, like off of the coast of British Columbia. I happened upon this true crime show about a recent murder that occurred in Newport, Rhode Island, and they showed background footage of The Breakers and Rosecliff and Marble House, and all of these ideas started pinging.
I had some knowledge of the era after writing a pretty major project about Edith Wharton in high school. The Gilded Age is a perfect source era for a ghost story – so very elegant, but with this ugly underbelly. The ghosts’ backstory practically wrote itself in that setting. So I read several non-fiction titles about the history of Newport and watched The Age of Innocence about a dozen times. And then, to help with my ghost story/terror aspects, I binge watched Ghost Hunters.
Jen: If Better Homes and Hauntings was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Molly: This is a great question for me, because I “fantasy cast” my books before I start writing them. It helps me visualize the scenes. I build these massive story boards on a corkboard in my closet with pictures of the actors. It ends up looking like the inside of a serial killer’s head, but it’s very helpful.
Deacon Whitney – Tom Hiddleston
Nina Linden – Christina Hendricks
Dotty Whitney – Rachel Leigh Cook
Cindy Ellis – Reese Witherspoon
Jake Rumson – Chris Pine
Though to be honest, I would cast Tom Hiddleston as all of my heroes if I could… Mmmm…. Tom Hiddleston….
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book? Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Molly: When NICE GIRLS DON’T HAVE FANGS came out, my husband and I took the kids out to dinner, then went to the bookstore and took pictures of the “H” bookshelf in the romance section. My daughter, who was 5 at the time, none too subtly told passersby, “HEY, you see that book? My mommy wrote that book. You should BUY it.”
Now, we celebrate new contracts by going out to dinner, usually my choice of restaurant. Or I’ll go out and get some Jane Austen-themed goodie for my Pride and Prejudice office.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Molly: If you enjoy audiobooks, BETTER HOMES AND HAUNTINGS will be released by Audible on the same day that it is released in print and ebook.
Also, my Half-Moon Hollow Christmas short story, I’M DREAMING OF AN UNDEAD CHRISTMAS, will be available in ebook on November 3, 2014.
And third book in the Bluegrass contemporary series, SNOW FALLING ON BLUEGRASS, will be released on September 22.
I will be writing several new Half-Moon Hollow spin-offs and hope to have some other announcements soon!