Please welcome novelist Julie Howard author of the Wild Crime series, who’s new novel Spirit in Time debuts today. Julie is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild, editor of the Potato Soup Journal, and founder of the Boise chapter of Shut Up & Write. Learn more at juliemhoward.com.
Ask a writer where their ideas come from, and most of the time they’ll shrug their shoulders. I often find it difficult to backtrack and discover the source for a book’s plot. More often than not, I point to a glimmer of inspiration, something so faint that only I can see it.
My new release, Spirit in Time, is set in 1872 in Sacramento, California. I lived there for about ten years and loved this historical and vibrant city, the heart of the nineteenth century Gold Rush and a terminus of the Intercontinental Railroad. Great wealth flowed through Sacramento and this time was the dawning of what came to be known as the Gilded Age. California had only recently become a state and Sacramento was a swampy area of land caught between two rivers. The city fell victim to frequent fires and floods in its early years. Ingenuity and fortitude were key in making the land livable and today a metropolis of 2.5 million people.
I had already established a series that features ghost-hunting blogger, Jillian Winchester. I knew I wanted the setting for the next book in the series to be Sacramento’s Gilded Age. But then, where did the plot come from?
It’s difficult to walk around the older part of the city without seeing glimpses of the past. Victorian mansions, old brothels, decommissioned rail tracks, a cemetery both eerie and beautiful. Maybe a ghost whispered: Pick me.
Usually, with a plot or character, something sticks in my mind and won’t leave. The story demands to be written – sort of like a song that lingers in your head no matter how you try to shake it out. In the case of Spirit in Time, the old Crocker mansion was this inspiration. Now a museum, the Italianate Victorian structure was built by the wealthy and powerful Crocker family in the late nineteenth century, along with a massive art gallery to house artwork they accumulated over the years. And yes, there are those who say the place is haunted.
The rest was easy. A ghost. A little time travel. A mystery to be solved.
Here’s a blurb for Spirit in Time:
“Time travel isn’t real. It can’t be real. But ghost-blogger Jillian Winchester discovers otherwise when an enigmatic spirit conveys her to 1872 to do his bidding. Jillian finds herself employed as a maid in Sacramento, in an elegant mansion with a famous painting. The artwork reveals another mystery: Why does the man within look exactly like her boyfriend, Mason Chandler?”
Morality and sin live side by side, not only in the picture, but also within her. As her transgressions escalate, she races the clock to find the man in the painting, and hunt down a spirit with a disconcerting gift. But will time be her friend or foe?”