J.E. McDonald - Romance Comedies With a Paranormal Twist

J.E. McDonald - Romance Comedies With a Paranormal Twist

J.E. McDonald was born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada, The Land of the Living Skies. As a child, she was either searching the clouds for identifiable shapes, or star-gazing way past her bedtime. She cut her teeth watching Star Trek, James Bond movies, and reading the Harlequin novels her mother left in the bathroom—which resulted in an extremely skewed sense of sex education by age eleven. All of these factors contribute to her love of writing rom coms with a paranormal twist, romantic suspense, and far-future romance. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Ghost of a Gamble.​

Please give us a short introduction to what Ghost of a Gamble is about.

Ghost of a Gamble is a romance between two very different people wrapped around a ghost story. Zack is the ghost hunter searching for an assistant, and Bree is the skeptic who just lost her job. Their personalities clash while chemistry sparks, all amid an investigation of one of the most haunted houses Zack has ever encountered. While Bree struggles with the need to expose the paranormal investigation company as a scam because ghosts aren’t real, Zack battles internally on whether or not to trust Bree enough to be truthful about himself. I like to compare it to the first few seasons of Supernatural (before they got super dark) sprinkled with a bit of Bridget Jones’s Diary.

What inspired you to write about someone who lands a job with a ghost hunter?

When I was coming up with the idea for this book, I had a lot of fun researching unusual jobs. I wanted the plot to revolve around something that most people wouldn’t come across in their day to day lives. And I couldn’t resist including a bit of mystery and the supernatural. Ghost hunting turned out to be the perfect fit.

Tell us more about Bree Tisdale. What makes her tick?

Bree is an impulsive sort of person. She likes to go where the wind takes her and try new things. Deep down, she craves stability, but never knows what she’s searching for. That leads her all across the country trying out different jobs until she lands in Wickwood where her best friend grew up. Throughout the book, she battles with the need to keep her feet moving and the urge to finally settle down.

What makes Zack Liller so special?

There’s a lot going on under Zack’s quiet façade. Tragedy stuck their family when he was a teenager, leading him to discover a unique ability. I don’t want to reveal too much and ruin the book, but it’s this ability that makes him a great ghost hunter.

Why paranormal romantic comedy? What drew you to the genre?

I love romance. Historical, contemporary, romantic suspense, sci-fi—you name it, I’ve read it. I’m all about the happily ever after and I’m always chasing the punchline of a good joke. Whenever I write, I seed humor whether I plan to or not. In this particular book, a lot of the humor originates in Bree’s character. She goes around saying what’s on her mind and it can get her into trouble. Also, I wanted this story to have a paranormal element rooted in what most readers would consider a believable world. Ghost of a Gamble emerged from all of those ideas working together.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

Ha! I love this question. I’m a bit of a geek. Minecraft is one of my favorite video games, and if someone wants to challenge me to a round of Sky Wars, game on. I’ve also been declared Supreme Mario Kart Campion in my house, so there’s that.

Any amusing story that happened to you as an author?

The way I met my editor for this book is pretty funny. I was attending my first RWA conference in New York, and I thought she was a first timer like me. I didn’t see that her badge said “Industry Professional” instead of “Attendee” until it was way too late to turn around and run away. She turned out to be the nicest person and asked about my writing. And luckily enough, she’d been searching for a ghost story at the time. The rest is history.

Why did you use Wickwood as the backdrop for your story?

Good question! Wickwood is a fictional city, its foundation inspired by where I grew up. But I took many elements from places I’ve traveled to in Canada and the Unites States, including one of my favorite spots, Niagara on the Lake. I wanted to create a place that was both magical and charming, but also relatable. The idea of taking that backdrop and hinting of something lying below the surface is something I really liked a lot and ran with it. Readers will be seeing more of the unusual occurring in Wickwood throughout the series.

Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?

For this book, Zack was probably the hardest character to write. He has a lot of layers and secrets, but I didn’t want readers knowing everything about him on the first page. It took a lot of maneuvering to find a balance of how much information I revealed and when.

Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?

Of course! Bree was especially bossy, taking me where she wanted to go. Sometimes, with characters like Bree, I’m totally fine letting them lead me. But there are other times where I need to take a step back and survey where I need to go. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to understand the things the characters are telling me, allowing me to find ways to work new ideas into the narrative without them taking over completely.

How much fun do you have coming up with these storylines and characters?

I have an absolute blast! Writing is may very favourite thing to do and I can get lost in my head for hours coming up with ideas.

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

I love listening to music while I write. I make a different play list for each story, and end up listening to the same songs over and over again. I love that it gets my mind into the same place it needs to be every time I sit down to write.

I used to be a nighttime writer, but had to recently change my routine. My day begins at five in the morning before my kids wake up. The quiet of the house before helps me be productive. (And then I ruin it by blasting music in my headphones! Ha!) Throughout the day, depending on deadlines, I can sneak in an hour here and there.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I’m working on book two of the Wickwood Chronicles called Ghost of an Enchantment. We meet the main character of the book, a witch named Stella, near the end of Ghost of a Gamble. Her story revolves around her ailing grandmother, a necklace she receives as a gift, her best friend accidentally opening a portal to another dimension, and a romance with someone who is her opposite.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

They can connect with me through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and my website!

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