Halloween, a bewitching night, a time when the spirit world descends upon us and makes believers of us all. When Madeline receives a request to attend a gala on the night of the dead to assist in exorcising a human demon with murder on their mind, at first she thinks it is nothing but stuff and nonsense. But when Halloween arrives, strange events occur that will send her on a journey to catch a ghost.
Madison Kent has kindly agreed to take me on a guided journey through her novel ‘A Smidgeon of Ghosts’, the sixth book in the Madeline Donovan Mysteries series, where bad fortunes are predicted for Halloween. Madison, thanks for setting aside a little time today for us to wander through some of the mysteries of ‘A Smidgeon of Ghosts’. Let’s start our ruminations today at the genesis of this novel, how did the ideas behind this book start?
Chicago’s historical districts and beautiful architecture are a treasure to behold. As a child growing up here, I never forgot some of the ornate and interesting neighborhoods. It seemed natural that Madeline, the female sleuth in the Madeline Donovan mystery series might venture into such a neighborhood and, of course, encounter a ghost, a fortune teller and a murderer.
I’m not sure if you have many experiences with ghosts, fortune tellers or murders, but aside from personal experiences with these types of personas, did you find that you used any other events from your life to add flavour to the tale?
I find it impossible not to draw on my own experiences with anything I write because that is where the emotions and feelings of the characters evolve from.
Did the characters all evolve from your feelings and emotions, or did you find that you used other ways to bring them to life?
Many of the characteristics of the people come from people I have known but the characters just seem to begin to evolve and the story forms in my head.
When they are evolving in your head can you see them clearly enough to know which actors could to play them if the opportunity arose?
I think Katie Holmes would make a great Madeline Donovan, Ioan Gruffudd a perfect Hugh Scott and Brad Pitt might resemble Jonathan Franks.
That’s an awesome lead cast. Nice picking! Aside from getting the ability to pick your own imaginary cast, what did you feel was the most rewarding aspect of writing this story down?
I particularly liked writing this book because it had the additional element of the supernatural and Halloween twisted into the plot. Doesn’t everyone love a ghost lingering about?
I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want a ghost lingering about. Even if the ghost was like Peeves from Harry Potter and creating havoc all over the place I still feel that the addition of a ghost to the story has improved it. Other than adding ghosts, was there anything else you did to enrich the storytelling? I’m thinking in the way of research – was research important as a part of this novel?
I always do extensive research before and during the writing of my novels. I try to keep the historical time frame accurate through details that I know to be true about the culture at that time, the landscape, the clothing and even things such as the accuracy of what was being seen at the local theatres.
Getting down to the details of what was on at the local theatres is fantastic. It just gives the reader that much more solidity to the world that they are entering. What was the most significant aspect that you wanted your readers to take from this world?
The most important thing an author can do is not bore their readers and take paint a picture suitable enough to let their mind wander into their own intriguing journey of who these people might be and what part they might play in a sinister murder.
As this is the sixth book in the Madeline Donovan Mystery series, I have a feeling that there might be more sinister murders coming up in her future. Can you tell us a little about what you are currently working on?
I am currently working on the seventh book in the series which finds Madeline returning to London.
I wish Madeline good luck with her investigations. I’m sure both you and her will have fun. Speaking about fun, why do you write?
This is probably the easiest of all answers, for pure enjoyment, just like a runner at a marathon or an athlete or musician. But one thing special about writing is the characters surround and befriend you and you can take them with you at all times and have them keep you company on a long, lonely rainy night.
I haven’t had anyone describe curling up with your characters on a lonely, rainy night but I can completely see the appeal of that and it leads me to wonder why no other authors have talked about travelling through their own lives with their character friends like that. As you’re now working on your seventh book in the Madeline Donovan series you now have a wealth of experience on how a new novel unfolds. Can you tell us a little about how the writing process works, and whether or not you know the end before you start typing?
I begin with a semblance of an idea but many times characters and situations appear that I never intended occur as the writing continues.
When you’ve got that semblance of an idea are you working on the idea constantly, or in intermittent periods?
Once I’ve started a book, I do my best to write every day to keep the story fresh and accurate.
Do you put on any music to keep you motivated?
I don’t actually like to be disturbed by anything because put myself directly into the action of the scene and listen to the music in the room I am creating.
How do you get past writers block, or are you able to get yourself into the creative flow easily?
I find if I have a decent enough plot, I don’t tend to get writer’s block. If it is not, it happens a lot so I usually revise the idea.
Revising the idea and narrowing your focus is a fantastic way to solve writers block! When you have the story complete, how does editing unfold?
I do most of the editing myself but I do rely on outside professionals and family.
As you’ve been through the writing and self-publishing process multiple times now do you have any advice that you impart to other authors?
I suppose the best thing I could say is if you’re having fun writing it and your work still sounds interesting after a few reads through it, keep going. If you never achieve the success you think you want, you will always have the legacy of the book for your own family and to enjoy the journey.
Recognising the success of creating a little legacy while having an awesome journey sounds is fantastic advice. Madison, we’ve now reached the end of the first section of the interview, but never fear our journey isn’t over just yet. If you’re up for it I’d like to take a little meander through the set of quick fire questions to see if we can strike upon some hidden gems in your personality. Let’s start with a nice simple one: Are you a valuable asset on a quiz team?
What is your zodiac sign?
What is your favourite quote?
There are many, but I usually like most Oscar Wilde quotes. Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.
Oscar Wilde always does seem to have some great thoughts, and all of those drops of wisdom are fantastic. What is your favourite ocean?
Would you have a cast party with the characters in your book if they could come to life?
I don’t think so, perhaps a nice little tea social
Actually, a tea social sounds better to me than a cast party, especially if there are some really good cakes or scones involved. If you invented a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
Probably have shiny glowing skin with lots of eyeballs and I would call him Retina Man.
Ooooooh, he sounds creepy. But I am totally loving that name! Are you introvert or extrovert?
I really hope that super extroversion comes with a cape! Have you ever danced in the rain?
I thought this was the case too, but when I started interviewing people I found that there’s a large number of people who haven’t danced in the rain. It’s a very sad state of affairs that I feel needs to be corrected in the population. Speaking of populations, if you ruled your own country, who would you get to write the national anthem?
Good choice, I think he would be able to convey enough emotion so you’ll certainly get enough patriotism build up. Are you left or right handed?
How are the colours in rainbows made?
They are a reflection of light through misted water
Do you have a ‘do not use’ or ‘most hated words’ list when you are writing?
Yes. I absolutely do not like foul language or nasty language because I think it distracts from the beauty of a story, any story.
I have to agree that I am increasingly finding the absence of foul or nasty language is more and more compelling, probably because the use of nasty language seems to be everywhere now. Let’s turn our minds now to the beauty of the nature and modifying it a touch. If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A koala and a greyhound just because I think they’re both so cool
Now, that is an awesome mix. I’m trying to picture it in my head at the moment, but I’m having a little trouble figuring out it if would more fast or be napping in a tree. What color socks are you wearing?
What are your best overall tips for authors?
Practice and research
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Try to be as kind as possible and do as many unselfish acts as you are able, you will never regret it and be able to live with yourself when the hard times come.
I love that wisdom. What is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?
I could go for some Pistachio ice-cream right now. What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
I’m not sure if it’s in my list of my unusual names, but it does feel like it has an impish twist to it. What is your favourite word?
That is one of my favourite words too. I just love dropping it into sentences at random to ameliorate them. To entice the readers to explore the world in ‘A Smidgeon of Ghosts’ a little more can you leave us with your favourite line from the novel?
After a few more minutes, someone drew the drapery back from the front window, and dust floated visibly in the air as the fabric swayed.
I’m loving that imagery of the drapery being drawn back, but now I want to see who is behind it. Is it our ghost? I will have to check out ‘A Smidgeon of Ghosts’ to see! Finally, is there a question that you haven’t been asked that you’d like to be, or anything that didn’t come up?
Perhaps just that anyone who takes the time to write a novel, I believe does so with the intent to share something of themselves with strangers they will never see or speak to but there is something quite wonderful about having this little link together of the author and the reader and that we share intimate knowledge of the characters together.
Madison thanks for drawing back the drapery back from the mysteries enshrouding ‘A Smidgeon of Ghosts’, and I hope this interview has intrigued some of our viewers to take advantage of the promotion to dive into your ghostly novel.
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