Laura Spinella is the bestselling author of award-winning novels such as Ghost Gifts, Foretold, and Unstrung. She is a two-time RITA finalist, known for complex characters and intriguing, layered plots. As our Author of the Day, Spinella talks about her Ghost Gifts novels, her characters and much more.
Please give us a short introduction telling us about the Ghost Gifts novels.
The three-book series begins with Ghost Gifts. This is the story of Aubrey Ellis, a woman with a profound psychic gift that she doesn’t want. The first book combines Aubrey’s personal struggles with a cold case murder that turns mad-hot. Foretold, book two, ups the ante as Aubrey’s gift evolves and the reader dives into a murder mystery centering on Aubrey’s past and her family. The final book, Echo Moon, is out in May. The premise changes, as the novel chronicles the story of photojournalist Peter St John, Aubrey’s son. He too shares her gift, though the challenges are different, particularly since Pete has lived another life—reincarnation and otherworldly elements collide.
Why paranormal romance? What drew you to the genre?
The ghosts were pure accident. But once I put Aubrey Ellis on paper, her gift and all its complexities grew organically out of the plot. It’s interesting because you have readers who gobble up paranormal and others who resist the genre. (Personally, I’m not a big “paranormal reader”) What I’ve learned is that “ghostwriting” spans a range. Aubrey’s psychic gift is one element of a much bigger story. I think readers will be surprised by the depth of the narrative and the believability of Aubrey’s gift, as well as the suspense and romance threaded through each Ghost Gifts novel.
In addition to the paranormal angle, your characters are very realistic and relatable. How did you pull this off?
Thank you—I like to think it’s a group effort. Me, the muse, and the characters, who do take on a life of their own. More than anything, Aubrey wants a fulfilling happy life. She sees her gift as an obstacle—just like all of us face obstacles. In her case, Aubrey’s challenges lend themselves to intriguing, hopefully satisfying, storytelling.
Levi St John, Aubrey’s love interest, is one of the most intricate characters I’ve written. His history has nothing to do with communicating with ghosts, though a single life experience haunts him. Realistic characters, I think, are about creating a dynamic storyline. The blow by blow events might not occur in your everyday life, but the intention was to craft a story where readers can empathize and envision themselves in the situation.
Ghost Gifts is the first of a series. Can it be read as a standalone and did you plan from the start for it to become a series?
Ghost Gifts is a standalone novel. The idea to turn it into a series didn’t come up until after the book sold about fifty-thousand copies. It’s interesting, there was never really a circle-the-wagons meeting between agent, editor, and myself. There was enough reader interest to say, “Hey, we should do more of these books…” and off we went. It does help to have read Ghost Gifts before Foretold, book two. The final book, Echo Moon, can stand alone. Naturally, I do think starting with Ghost Gifts offers the optimal reader experience.
After publishing a bestselling novel, in what ways has your life changed?
Fortunately, Ghost Gifts wasn’t my debut novel, so I had a good understanding of publishing and what to expect—this is code for handling good and bad reviews. Ghost Gifts was a Kindle First, meaning the book got a rocket-like launch from the publisher, Montlake.
While being selected as a Kindle First is a fantastic opportunity, it doesn’t come with any guarantees. Your novel is essentially exposed to an audience a thousand times greater than if it was traditionally released. The book did well; it actually was #1 in Kindle store during its debut month. Overall, reviews were good, and I’m very thankful to readers for that!
Looking back, I wish I took more time to enjoy that moment—they’re so rare in publishing. The success of Ghost Gifts invited two more books, creating the series. I did have to write them on hyper-drive, which was a whole separate challenge.
Otherwise, life hasn’t changed all that much—I spend half my time with people who don’t exist and the other half scrambling to catch up with the ones who do.
How do you organize your ideas? In a series like the Ghost Gifts novels you had to do this for not just one book, but three.
Hmm… Don’t think about it for too long—you’ll just scare yourself. I’m half kidding. Of course you have to plan and organize. Research was critical to Echo Moon. I’ve always been a panster, someone who writes without outlining. That simply wasn’t an option for these books. When you write without an outline, you do a lot of rewriting. Basically, I had to nail Foretold and Echo Moon on the draft. That required a storyboard and serious plotting. Naturally, I deviated from the storyboard, but it was a great help in controlling the twists and turns. It made me a better writer. That said, when committing to a series of books you do kind of have to take the polar bear plunge and dive in. The clock is ticking.
Among the wealth of characters in your novels, who was the most difficult to create?
Oh, I have to move away from Ghost Gifts on this one. Without a doubt my greatest character challenge was Olivia Klein, the protagonist from Unstrung—my women’s fiction novel, which was released amid all the GG fuss.
Olivia is a force—quirky and precarious, acerbic and sarcastic. She’s not particularly likable at a glance and that made her a challenge to write. There’s a depth to Olivia and her story that I really enjoyed crafting. Aubrey Ellis is a likable character with an unusual gift—a much easier sell. Olivia doesn’t lead with likability; you have to peel back the layers. That said, I think she’s worth the trouble.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Admittedly, I like my writing routine. My 130-year old house has a large sunroom, which is my writing room. I collect vintage postcards from my hometown, Bayport, New York. Above my desk is a collage of the cards. I draw a lot of inspiration from them. If I’m in the throes of a novel, I write about six hours a day. The house also has an interesting history. The original owner was a writer and artist—information I didn’t learn until I’d lived in the house for more than a decade. If I have a muse, I probably attribute that to the vibe she brings.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new trilogy that involves a 300-year old curse that affects the true loves of one family. The books are set to be generational, the early 20th century through present day, and involve a weave of magical realism and true events. It will take the wit and will of three vibrant, smart, and edgy women to resolve the hex placed on them by their centuries-old ancestor. Stay tuned!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love to hear from readers. To reach out one-on-one, readers can visit my website, LauraSpinella.net. I also have a terrific Street Team on Facebook where we can connect as well. My Amazon page is the best resource if readers want to check out all my novels at a glance.
Thank you for having me! This was great fun!