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becke_davis
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Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Today's guest blog is by an author whose debut novel is causing a lot of buzz: SIMONE ST. JAMES. 

 

 

 

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

 

“An atmospheric and resoundingly old-fashioned ghost story that pulls you in from the first pages… Recommended.”
-The Historical Novels Review

 

“The book’s spooky atmosphere and post-WWI setting are well developed… St. James is one to watch.”
-RT Book Reviews

 

"With a fresh, unique voice, Simone St. James creates an atmosphere that is deliciously creepy and a heroine you won't soon forget. The Haunting of Maddy Clare promises spooky thrills and it delivers. Read it, enjoy it - but don't turn out the lights!"

 

 

-Deanna Raybourn, author of the Julia Grey series

 

 

"Fast, fun, and gripping. Kept me up into the wee hours."

 

 

-C. S. Harris, author of the Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series

 

 

"The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a compelling read. With a strong setting, vivid supporting characters and sympathetic protagonists, the book is a wonderful blend of romance, mystery, and pure creepiness. Simone St. James is a talent to watch."

 

 

-Anne Stuart, New York Times bestselling author of Shameless

 

 

"A compelling and beautifully written debut full of mystery, emotion and romance."

 

 

-Madeline Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne

 

 

"The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a novel of chilling romantic suspense that evokes the lost era between the world wars that so wounded the lives of the young men and women of England , and adds to the mix an inventively dark, gothic ghost story. Read it with the lights on. Simply spellbinding."

 

 

-Susanna Kearsley , New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Winter Sea

 

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becke_davis
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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Simone St. James

Photo Credit: Adam Hunter

 

 

Simone St. James wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school. Unaware that real people actually became writers, she pursued a career behind the scenes in the television business. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, where she writes in her spare time and lives with her husband and three spoiled cats.

 

Simone is represented by agent Pamela Hopkins of Hopkins Literary Associates.

 

She can be reached by email, by Facebook, or on Twitter.

 

This is her Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/simonestjames

 

This is her Twitter link: https://twitter.com/#!/simone_stjames

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[ Edited ]

The Haunting of Maddy Clare  

 

 

The Haunting of Maddy Clare


Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis – rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts – has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah’s task to confront her in death.

 

Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy’s ghost is real, she’s angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair’s assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance – before she destroys them all?

 

“This book is true thriller, with a mystery that will have you tearing through the pages seeking the truth… I don’t believe I’ll be forgetting this book soon, if ever.”
-Gone With the Words

 

“One foggy evening not long ago, I lit a fire in the fireplace, brewed myself a cup of tea, settled in and began to read The Haunting of Maddy Clare. When I looked up again, my tea had gone cold, the fire was out, and hours had passed in an instant. This deliciously eerie, traditionally gothic ghost story grabbed me with its first sentence and didn’t let go until the very last, as though Maddy herself reached out from the page and drew me in, insisting that I, along with ghost hunters Sarah, Matthew and Alastair, not rest until I discovered what happened to her one terrible night in the dark and foreboding English countryside. Author Simone St. James gets everything right in this ghostly tale, and I’ll be standing in line to buy whatever she writes next.”

–Wendy Webb, Author of The Tale of Halcyon Crane

“Compelling and deliciously unsettling, this is a story that begs to be read in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down!”

–Megan Chance, author of City of Ash

 

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The Haunting of Maddy Clare – Excerpt

by Simone St. James

 

Chapter One

London, 1922

 

The day I met Mr. Gellis, I had been walking in the rain.

 

In the morning, unable to face another day alone in my flat, I wandered through the bustle of Piccadilly, the collar of my thin coat pulled high on my neck. The air was swollen with cottony drizzle that did not quite fall to the ground, and pressed my cheeks and eyelashes. The lights of Piccadilly shone garishly under the lowering clouds; the shouts of the tourists were loud against the grim silence of the businesspeople and the murmurs of strolling couples in the square.

 

I stayed as long as I could, watching the bob of umbrellas. No one noticed a pale girl, with cropped hair under an inexpensive and unfashionable hat, her hands plunged in her pockets.

 

Eventually, the mist resolved itself into rain and even I turned my reluctant steps home.

 

Though it was only noon, the sky was near dark when I opened the gate and hurried up the walk to my small and shabby boardinghouse. I climbed the narrow stairs to my room, shivering as the damp penetrated my stockings and numbed my legs. I was fumbling my key with chilled fingers and thinking of a cup of hot tea when the landlady called up the stairs that there was a telephone call for me.

 

I turned and descended again. It would be the temporary agency on the line – they were the only ones with my exchange. I had worked for them for nearly a year, and they sent me to one place or another to answer phones or transcribe notes in ill-lit, low-ceilinged offices. Still, the work had dried up in recent weeks, and I was painfully short of funds. How fortunate I was, of course. I would have missed their call had I come home only five minutes later.

 

In the first-floor hallway, the house’s only telephone sat on a small shelf, the receiver lying unhooked where the landlady had left it. I could already hear the echo of an impatient voice on the other end.

 

“Sarah Piper?” came a female voice as I raised the receiver to my ear. “Sarah Piper? Are you there?”

 

“I’m here,” I said. “Please don’t hang up.”

 

It was the temporary agency, as I had suspected. The girl sounded flustered and impatient as she explained what had come up. “A writer,” she told me. “Writing a book of some sort – needs an assistant. Wants a meeting with someone today. He wants a female.”

 

I sighed, thinking of fat, sweaty men who liked a succession of young ladies in their employ. Normally I’d be sent to an office to begin work right away, not to a personal meeting. “Is he a regular client?”

 

“No, he’s new. Wants to meet someone this afternoon.”

 

I bit my lip as my stomach rolled uneasily. Temporary girls were easy targets for any kind of behavior from a man, and we had nearly no recourse without getting fired. “At his office?”

 

She huffed her impatience. “At a coffeehouse. He was specific about meeting in a public place. Will you go?”

 

“I don’t know,” I said.

 

“Look.” She had an edge in her voice now. “I have other girls I can call. Are you going or not?”

 

To meet a man alone in a coffee shop? Yet my rent at the boardinghouse was two weeks past due. “Please,” I said. “This isn’t a matchmaking service.”

 

“What’s to lose?” she replied. “If you don’t like it, I’ll give it to the next girl.”

 

I looked out the window, where the rain now streaked down. I pictured the girl at the other end of the phone, bored and brassy and fearless. A girl like that wouldn’t think twice. It was girls like me who thought twice – about going back out in our only good set of clothes, about meeting unknown men in unknown places. About everything.

 

I took a breath. I could go back to my damp little flat, and sit at my window, thinking and drinking endless cups of tea. Or I could go out and meet a stranger in the rain.

 

“I’ll be there,” I said.

 

She gave me the coordinates and hung up. I stood for only a moment, listening to the water on the windows and the sound of coarse laughter in one of the first-floor rooms. Then I went back out to the street.

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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Guest Blog 

by Simone St. James

 

I’ve always loved every kind of ghost story, but there is a certain type I think we all recognize. That is the classic gothic novel, mostly published between the 1950s and the 1970s in cheap paperback form.

 

Here are the main characteristics of the classic gothic:

 

-It has a melodramatic title, like “Devil’s Mask” or “Bride of Tancred” or something similar.

 

-The story is about a vulnerable young girl who is sent to a strange, deserted old castle, usually to work for a sinister man with a strange family and a lot of buried secrets.

 

-The hero is dark, serious, melancholy and sometimes frightening. The heroine doesn’t know whether to trust him or not for most of the book. In fact, at first he seems to be the villain.

 

-The cover features a young woman in a white nightgown, fleeing a dark castle at night, usually with dark trees around her.

 

 

 

-The covers feature a dramatic tagline that is lurid and delightful. An example from my own library: “Lois Chalfont must choose between the devil and death!” (Seriously. Wouldn’t you read that just to read about a heroine named Lois Chalfont?)

 

-The setting always played a large part in the story. Rainy Cornish coasts, cold Yorkshire moors… wonderful settings to read about while curled up in your chair.

 

Most of us discovered these books in one of a few familiar places: A box or a shelf in Mom’s or Grandma’s room, a leftover box in the basement, a dusty used bookstore, or a garage sale. They’re slim, the pages yellowing and smelling strongly of Old Book. Most of the stories may not have been Great Literature, but that doesn’t take away from how enjoyable they are. (The exception to this rule would be authors Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt – whose books were not only gripping, but elegantly and wonderfully written gems.)

 

Gothics sometimes included ghosts. More often, they included the suspicion of ghosts – creaking doors, quiet footsteps. Gothics were very popular in their day, and I think the reasons were rather specific.

 

First, they were about women. Women like to read about heroines; it’s natural. We like to put ourselves in her shoes. Out of our everyday life, into an adventure with a strange, exciting, and possibly dangerous man. We like to live vicariously, solving mysteries, and being the one woman who has come along in decades to crack the hero’s cynical, world-weary veneer.

 

Secondly, the stories were great escapism. Secrets, murders, hidden tunnels, covered graves, evil nannies and housekeepers, madwomen in the attic…  they were a few hours out of whatever stressful details filled our day.

 

Gothics have gone out of style and no one publishes them anymore. But with The Haunting of Maddy Clare, I wanted to pay tribute to those wonderful old stories. I took what I saw as the best parts that readers loved – a heroine the reader can root for, a chilling story, a strong setting, a dark and brooding hero – and tried to create my own few hours of escape for readers.

 

My heroine, Sarah Piper, a lonely girl working for a temporary agency, gets thrust into an adventure she never bargained for. And there are not one, but two damaged, enigmatic men she has to deal with. I even wrote a scene in which Sarah goes running in her white nightgown – but I won’t tell you why!

 

I left out the lurid tagline, and the adventures of the intrepid Lois Chalfont. I also added a very real ghost, and moved my setting to the 1920s. But in its way, The Haunting of Maddy Clare is still a nod to those wonderful old books. And I hope readers enjoy it.

 

For the readers: Did you read those old gothics? And which were your favorite ones?

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First of all, I just want to say that I read THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE - in fact, I stayed up the whole night reading it. It is a true gothic, which means there is plenty of suspense - it's truly scary in parts!

 

I first discovered gothics when I was a teenager in the late 1960s. Here are some I remember reading:

 

 

Then there were the ghost stories...

 

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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Here are more from that era:

 

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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

How many of you like gothics and ghost stories?

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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Becke, these brought back memories, I read the Haunting of Hill House and then grabbed every other ghostly story I could find. Really looking forward to reading Simone St. James, I was hooked with that excerpt!

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mary_kennedy wrote:

Becke, these brought back memories, I read the Haunting of Hill House and then grabbed every other ghostly story I could find. Really looking forward to reading Simone St. James, I was hooked with that excerpt!


Recently, there have been a couple other gothic-y books published that I've read and liked a lot. This one was the scariest, though!

 

The covers frustrated me because I was looking for a particular book, the first gothic I ever read. My mom never liked books with ghosts or romance, so I know it wouldn't have been hers. I don't think I bought it new, so I can't figure out how it got in our house in the first place. The main thing I remember is that it had a cool poem at the beginning - I was very much into poetry when I read it at about age 15, and that book led me to Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, Dorothy Eden and so many others.

 

The book itself was far from classic, but it's going to drive me nuts if I can't remember the name. It has a couple H's - like Haunting of Hill House - but that's not it. Something House...argh! It's very hard to search for a book when you can't remember the title!!

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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Becke! I love all these old covers you posted. I am combing through them and taking note of titles. What fun.

 

Thanks so much for having me here today!

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maxcat
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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

I have been waiting for this day! Hi, Simone. I love gothic novels and I must say I have read the first 3 chapters in a coffeehouse and I am completely hooked on your book. Kudos to writing a gothic novel that fits in with the best writers of that genre.!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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SimoneStJames wrote:

Becke! I love all these old covers you posted. I am combing through them and taking note of titles. What fun.

 

Thanks so much for having me here today!


Hi Simone! Thanks so much for joining us! I loved your book, even though it made me lose a night's sleep. I couldn't put the darn thing down! You've definitely reawakened my love of the gothic!

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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Simone - What's up next for you, another gothic or something different?

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dhaupt
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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Hi Simone and welcome and thanks Becke for bringing yet another wonderful author front and center for us

Simone I have your novel in my to be read pile and am looking forward to reading it.

What would you tell a person who hasn't read you yet to entice them into your world.

 

Thanks for visiting and good luck with the novel

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SimoneStJames
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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Thank you, maxcat! That a reader has been hooked is pretty much the best thing an author can hear. Enjoy!

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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!


becke_davis wrote:

Simone - What's up next for you, another gothic or something different?


Becke, I have another gothic coming in March 2013. It's going to be titled "An Inquiry Into Love and Death." It features a whole new set of characters. I just turned the final version in to my editor and I'm very excited for readers to get their hands on it. No cover just yet, though!

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dhaupt wrote:

Hi Simone and welcome and thanks Becke for bringing yet another wonderful author front and center for us

Simone I have your novel in my to be read pile and am looking forward to reading it.

What would you tell a person who hasn't read you yet to entice them into your world.

 

Thanks for visiting and good luck with the novel


Hi dhaupt,

I guess I'd say that although my books can be scary, they always end in a way the reader will like. I like books that take me pretty far to the edge... but bring me back again. I always find that a fun ride as a reader.

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maxcat
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Re: Guest Blog by Author SIMONE ST. JAMES!

Amen, I love those kind of stories. Not too scary but just enough to keep you holding onto the book!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost