Be Still, My Love is the first book in the Tess Schafer-Medium series by Deborah J. Hughes. Its sequel Hidden Voices is now available as well. My third book No Matter What is a paranormal thriller and is due out for ebook only on October 24,2012. A brief book description before we get to the interview: A personal loss throws medium Tess Schafer’s beliefs into question and severs her communications with “the other side”. Unable to move on with her life, she takes a healing vacation to a haunted resort on the coast of Maine. Her arrival triggers a spike in paranormal activity and the return of her spiritual connection.
As the spirits of two young lovers reach out to her, Tess soon finds herself in the middle of much more than a tragic love story. Why are they afraid and why are they warning her away? Personal doubts, skeptics, a growing sense of menace and a distracting attraction to another guest will not stop her from uncovering the resort’s secrets.
Interview with Deborah J. Hughes
1. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
The setting is a small resort on the rocky coast of Maine. I liked the idea of a haunted mansion by the sea as it sort of reminded me of the old gothic books my mom likes to read. But I wanted it more updated than those old gothics so I had the mansion converted to a resort hotel, added a few ghosts and Be Still, My Love was born!
2. What specific themes did you emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think you were trying to get across to the reader?
I tried to stay to the paranormal theme of a haunted house but it does have some spiritual stuff sprinkled throughout. It’s not a “horror” per se. The story is about ghosts and a medium trying to help them but it’s also about a medium who is trying to find her joy again after suffering a tragedy. The theme could also be about faith, what one comes to believe or not, especially concerning life after death.
3. Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
I used a conglomeration of people I’ve known through my life to bring the characters to life. Modesta, the front desk clerk at the resort was born to Mexican parents in the United States. They were migrant immigrants and not US Citizens. She, however, chose to keep her American citizenship. I had a roommate in the military whose name was Modesta. Same sort of scenario. Her parents lived in Mexico but she was an American citizen. I liked her name and so I sort of modeled my Modesta after her. Tess shares a lot of my own interests in the paranormal and we share many of her beliefs. Though I have to say she is way more gifted in the psychic department than I am! Kade, her growing love interest, is a Marine who was wounded at Afghanistan and had to separate from the military. He’s the skeptic in the story. I used many of my own experiences in the military and others I’ve known who also served to bring Kade to life. I think all the characters could be real people. I know I’ve come to care for them very much.
4. How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
The story focuses around Tess Schafer, a medium whose husband and dog were killed by a drunk driver. She’s bitter and angry. Her gift of mediumship is severed. Not only can she not contact her dead husband, she can’t seem to contact anyone in the spirit world. This compounds her anger and puts in question her beliefs. She goes to this haunted resort and finds herself again. She comes to terms with her husband’s death and she basically gets her groove back! Kade is a Marine who is still hurting from the loss of his comrades in a bomb explosion that killed everyone in his vehicle but him. He has a hard time with that. But his problems don’t stop there. His fiancée ends up with his best friend and he’s pretty bitter about that too. So he’s got a lot of baggage but meeting Tess changes all that for him, especially when she makes contact with one of his dead comrades!
5. In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view?
Tess is pretty much an “open book”. She’s more than happy to explain who she is, what she does and why she does it. Since she’s exploring her own faith, she’s more than happy to discuss spiritual issues with those who approach her about them. The way Tess handles the different situations involving the ghosts makes it clear her stand on life after death and her concept of the spiritual realm. She and Kade get into several discussions which I particularly enjoyed. I honestly felt like I was listening in on another couples’ conversation and taking notes while doing it!
6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
I was uncomfortable with Tess’s anger toward God. I was always saying in my head, “Now I don’t feel this way…SHE does!” (smile) I know God probably knew that but thought it wouldn’t hurt to keep things clarified! Tess’s eventual forgiveness of the man who killed her husband was an eye opener for me. He had a story too, he wasn’t just the killer of her husband and dog. Letting her anger go helped me see that holding on to it really hurts you spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Her journey was mine and I felt we both came out of the experience all the better for it.
7. Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
Just before writing the story, I lost one of my cats. He was hit by a car and I was pretty upset by that. I always prayed for their safety when they went out the door so when Milo was killed within a couple of hours of being let outside, I questioned my faith. I thought, “How could God let that happen when I PRAYED for his safely?” So, yeah, I was upset. Then it got me to thinking…how do people feel when they lose a person to tragedy. It’s bad enough to lose a cat but … say a HUSBAND? How awful that would be! Then, because I was going through a mediumship class at the time (this is where you see bits of me in Tess!), I wondered how mediums handled it when they lost someone. The story just evolved from there. I knew right away that I wanted a military person in the story because, who goes through worse stuff than them? I really wanted to explore the whole tragedy thing. How better to do that than to write a ghost story about a tragic couple haunting this resort and the haunting being investigated by yet another couple dealing with tragedy.
8. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
To tell you the truth, I didn’t really research anything for this book. Everything in the story is a lifetime of research…things I’ve been learning on my own journey through the world.
9. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
I get a story idea, figure out the main character’s name and the setting and then I start typing. I don’t plan anything out. So yes, that often means when something gets revealed later in the story, I have to go back through and make the proper edits for it but that’s the only way I can write. I tried outlining but for me it hinders the creative process. I like the story to evolve as I go. I do have a vague idea of how I want it to end because I have to know in what direction the story is going but even that surprises me sometimes! In my new book coming out No Matter What, I had no idea how it was going to end until I wrote it and I was blown away. I remember sitting there in shock going…No Way!! For Be Still, My Love there was a shocking discovery towards the end that I didn’t see coming. When that was revealed I had the same reaction…No Way!! (smile)
As for how often I write, hours and hours and hours. I don’t have a set schedule. When I’m writing a new book, I get up early because the story can’t wait to evolve (and I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next!) and I stop when I’m too tired to type anymore. Though I do try to write in segments. I’ll finish a particular scene before calling it quits for the day. I never stop in the middle of a scene, otherwise I’d lose the momentum of the story.
10. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
Tough one, that! I’m constantly distracted. But when I set a goal, I buckle down on myself and won’t get on the internet until I’ve met a particular goal. I don’t always listen to myself, though, so I get behind a lot. I read once that if you get stuck on a story, just write any ole thing and keep going. Eventually the story finds itself and you are back in business. As for the filler fluff, that will undergo massive editing but hey, at least you got the story!
11. Favorite book from childhood.
Little Women. I’ve read it about seven times. I also read every book in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Nancy Drew mysteries…every volume! I have to admit that I particularly enjoyed the Nancy Drew mystery series!
12. What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
Oh dear, it’s quite the mess! I have several containers holding an assortment of pens, pencils and highlighters, a bag of candy (totally a downfall of mine while writing!), a cup (which is often filled with coffee but now, due to the season, it mostly contains hot cider, my Kindle, lots of little note pads, a jar of mints (yeah, more candy!), some post its, lip balm, a picture of me with my grandparents (whom I lost shortly after joining the military) and a stack of bills to be paid!
Link to my blog: http://deborahjhughes.com/