When Imagination Becomes Reality
Or vice versa. In the writing of my latest release, Spirits of the Heart, I had a very creepy event occur that literally stalled the completion of the book for over eighteen months.
In June of 2015, I was in the middle of crafting my new supernatural suspense, set on the grounds of an abandoned mental asylum in the town where I grew up—Middletown, N.Y., USA. My sister, who is also my bestie as well as my cover designer, spent the day with me driving around the old campus. She still lives in Middletown. Terri took photos for the cover and book trailer while I spun tales in my head about what would happen next in my novel. One building in particular, Talcott Hall, called to me.
Although it was surrounded by eight-foot tall chain link fence, we spent most of our time there, near the old building that has been closed since the early 1970s. It had served as the “maximum security” unit—the one reserved for the most disturbed, the most violent of patients. Of course, this is where the ghosts in Spirits of the Heart would be trapped, begging my hero and heroine to free them.
Two weeks later, when I was back home in Massachusetts, I saw a Facebook post from a friend saying, “There’s smoke over the Middletown Psych Center.” In panic, I called Terri.
“Yes,” she confirmed, “it’s Talcott Hall.” The building burned to the ground.
For over a year, my “muse” went on strike. It seemed no matter what I did, I couldn’t write another word on my book. I had known how the story ended (or thought I had), and had already written almost have of the novel. But I was so heartbroken that the building, my inspiration, was gone, I just couldn’t write about it.
Until I figured out a way to weave the fire into the story. I contacted one of the firemen, Nick Elia, and gained permission to use some of his fantastic pictures of the blaze in my trailer. And on February 14, 2017, I released Spirits of the Heart, the second of my Haunted Voices novels.
An addiction counselor and a security guard struggle to free a little girl and her father, two lost spirits trapped inside an abandoned mental asylum.
Addiction counselor Laura Horton returns from college to move in with an old friend and start her career. But her homecoming is jarring. Her friend moves out, leaving Laura alone with the gorgeous but intimidating ex-boyfriend—in a house that snugs up to an ancient graveyard.
Officer Miller Stanford is a man with a shattered past. His alcoholic dad destroyed their family, a weakness Miller is terrified will consume him too. The last thing he needs is a sexy, blonde addiction counselor watching his every move. When he begins to see specters in the dark, he starts questioning his own stability.
But Laura sees her too—a pathetic child-spirit searching for her father. When Laura starts digging into old asylum records, the eerie events escalate . . . Can Miller and Laura uncover the secrets of Talcott Hall without jeopardizing their love—and lives—in the process?
Claire Gem Bio:
Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of emotional romance—sexy contemporary, supernatural suspense, and women’s fiction. She writes about strong, resilient women who won’t give up their quest for a happy-ever-after—and the men lucky enough to earn their love. No helpless, hapless heroines here. These spunky ladies redefine romance, on their terms.
Her supernatural suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival. Her rock star contemporary, The Phoenix Syndrome, won the women’s fiction division in FCRWA’s The Beacon Contest.
A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 38 years, now live in central Massachusetts.
“Hey. Little girl. Let me help you,” Miller tried again, and the child finally lowered her hands. She was younger than he’d first thought—ten, maybe. Tears streaked her reddened cheeks, glistening in the beam of his headlights. Her pale, golden hair was baby fine and wispy, but tousled and disheveled. As though it hadn’t seen a brush in good long time.
She met his gaze with eyes like the man’s, clear and blue and strangely luminescent. The sadness Miller saw behind them made his chest ache.
“Where did your friend go, sweetheart? The man who came out with you. Where did he go?”
She stared at him with lips quivering before her face crumpled again. “I don’t know. I don’t know where Daddy is. I’ve been looking and looking for him. Every time I think I’ve found him, he goes away.”
Miller swallowed. Yeah, that’s one way to describe the mysterious vanishing act.
He drew in a breath and tried again. “What’s your name, sweetie? Was that your daddy with you?”
Head bobbing, the tears flowed freely now, and she wouldn’t take her eyes off Miller’s face. He felt a lump growing in his own throat, as though she was somehow transferring her pain to him. His hands, clasped in front of him, began to shake.
When she spoke again, her voice took on an echoed quality, as though she were receding into an empty culvert. “I’m Greta. And I’m looking for my daddy. He used to live here. But I keep coming back to find him, and nobody knows where he is.” She dropped her chin to her chest and ground her knuckles against her eyes.
“Greta,” he repeated, a stab of pity piercing his gut. So freaking pathetic. A forlorn little girl . . .his own memories rose up like foul-smelling steam. Swallowing hard, he pressed on. “Greta, honey, what’s your last name?”
When she looked up, Miller gasped. Behind her, against the fence, a bright red McDonald’s French fry box clung to the base of the chain link. Directly behind her, yet he could see it clearly. That’s when he realized he could see . . .right . . .through her.