. . . With a successful writing career and blissful marriage, Ashby Overton is fulfilled and content at historic Overhome Estate in Southern Virginia until a stranger walks into her life. The arrival of Professor Ellis O. Grady coincides with a violent and bizarre turbulence emanating from the dark world of Overhome's ancient spirits.
. . . As paranormal events build into chaos, Ashby must use her sixth sense to sort out the real from the imagined in both the visible and the invisible worlds as, stirred into fury, the souls of Civil War slaves engage in a dangerous battle destined to reveal long-held secrets of the past.
. . . What is the connection between the enigmatic professor, a slave-built chapel and a restored overseer's cottage on Overhome Estate? Ashby struggles to find the answers before the spirits destroy her family's heritage, and the lives of those she loves.
Wild Women Authors is delighted to welcome a frequent visitor to our blog, fellow TWRP author, and friend Susan Coryell. She'll be with us all week, celebrating the recent release of Nobody Knows, a modern southern gothic, published by The Wild Rose Press. She's brought one of her favorite characters: Ashby Overton. As is our custom, we'll begin with Ashby.
Tell us a bit about Nobody Knows. Well, I am thirty years old in Nobody Knows. I began as a naïve twenty-something in A Red, Red Rose which deals with my summer visit to Overhome, my family’s historic estate in Southern Virginia. I was greeted my first night in the old mansion by Rosabelle, who turned out to be one unpredictable family spirit. Then, five years later, Beneath The Stones chronicles my chaotic experiences as owner of the Overhome Estate. I battled a Civil War spirit determined to keep me from selling off a parcel of land to save us from financial ruin. Whew! That was one mean and hateful ghost, let me tell you! But my life is anything but settled in Nobody Knows. A tall, dark stranger arrives at Overhome claiming to be a relative and he sets off every alarm bell buried deep in the spirit world of our hateful heritage of slavery.
What made you choose writing for your profession? Oh, like most writers, I have always known my muse would never let me rest until I turned my creative vision into books. There’s so much to write about here in the South—so much conflict based on the history and culture and such a rich legacy of manners and mores to explore. It’s a ripe for a writer’s pickin’ as we say in Virginia.
Knowing what you know now, if you had it to do over again, would you stick with being a writer or do something different? We writers actually have no choice. Blessing or curse—writers have to write. I could no more leave my thoughts unwritten than I could quit breathing. On the other hand, this sixth sense I seem to have developed at Overhome—this ability to hear and understand the spirit world—that’s a burden I could cheerfully abandon. Again, I seem to have no choice in the matter.
What is your biggest fear? My home and family mean everything to me. I care about others, sure. I care about doing the right things for the right reasons and I am a fervent believer that all human kind must be treated equally and fairly. That said, the one big fear would be that I would somehow do something to alienate or harm any member of my family or that I would dishonor my family heritage by allowing my beloved Overhome Estate to suffer any damage. It is that fear that keeps me tuned to my extra-sensory gifts.
Who is your favorite fictional character and why. Oh dear. Never, never ask a writer that; it is simply unanswerable! I love Jane Austen and Shakespeare and Mary Stewart and…..well you see what I mean. My favorite characters are clever, strong women who use their wits and resources to the max while solving problems.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? I didn’t exactly receive this advice, but I have always thought Shakespeare was speaking to me when he says through a character in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.”
Thank you, Ashby. After reading Nobody Knows, it's nice to get to know you on another plane. Now it's Susan's turn at bat.
Which writer or character from either books or movies have had a major impact on your writing? I have been an avid reader since elementary school. I read all the books in our little school library and then all of the age-appropriate ones in our little town library. I read every book in the Nancy Drew series, as well as the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift and The Hardy Boys by the time I finished fourth grade. By eighth grade I was reading books like Gone With the Wind and Ben Hur (talk about a challenging read!) and I had read Jane Eyre at least five times. So…it’s a bit difficult to pinpoint one writer or character. I love Jane Austen’s strong female characters and feel Charlotte Bronte may have created the first feminist protagonist in Jane Eyre. I could go on about this at length and so will regretfully stop here!
With regard to research, where did you start for this novel? Did that lead you down different paths, thereby changing the original concept? With my history backgrounds for the Trilogy, I have to do tons of research, which naturally leads me down paths I never anticipated when I began. For Nobody Knows, a documentary I viewed at a local heritage museum on peonage—the practice of re-enslaving men and women freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—helped me craft a major theme. While writing the second book in the series, Beneath The Stones, I unexpectedly encountered actual Civil War letters written by family members from Confederate battlefronts. I was able to weave many of them into the narrative—a real bonus!
Tell us a bit about your publisher. The Wild Rose Press is a wonderful small publishing company located in New York. A colleague recommended them. I remember submitting a query about A Red, Red Rose (the first book in the Overhome Trilogy). At the end of my letter I commented, “I don’t know if you’ll accept my manuscript for publication, but you have to admit, the title fits your company name to a tee.” Each of the three cozy/Gothics has taken from six to nine months from query to release.
What are you reading right now? I confess to often reading more than one book at a time…one in the car for slow lights or long waiting time at appointments; one in the house and one on the dock of our lake home. Right now I am reading Ian McEwan’s Saturday, The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks and Annie Barrow’s The Truth According to Us. Did I mention I am in two book clubs? So many books—so little time!
I am taking a break from my Southern Gothics to write a contemporary mystery set in a large suburban high school. Do you think I will be able to draw on my thirty years’ teaching experience as I write? Ha!
Susan brought along an excerpt from Nobody Knows for us:
Walking over the weedy ground, I felt the desolate abandonment of those long-dead. A few tilting gravestones, so blurred with time that their epitaphs were illegible, listed toward the ground as if sheltering from a punishing wind. Scattered among the patchwork grasses were small, thin stone markers set in the dirt, little more than raw rocks, though several bore the faint outline of initials which had been chiseled into them so long ago. Ellis and I surveyed the bleak cemetery, each harboring our own thoughts. I don’t know how long we stood there breathing in the silence. Then, I heard the voice.—so clear, so distinct, that I startled and almost fell back.
Did my companion hear it, too? I darted a look at him. He stood with eyes closed, evidently completely lost in his own reverie. I held my breath and listened with all my senses on alert. The voice wavered this time, as though trailing away, but its repeated message was identical to the one I had first heard at the Overseer’s Cottage when the candlestick went missing. I had thought, then, that I heard “red apple,” which made no sense. Now I understood.
“Jared Chapel,” the voice warned. Yes, its tone was severe. Demanding. “Jared Chapel.”
I touched Ellis’s arm. “It’s here, Ellis. I know it is.” And when he blinked uncomprehendingly, I added, “You wondered if Jared Chapel offers anything in your search for your ancestry. It’s here—there’s something here. I feel it and I...I know it.”
He blinked several times, a serious expression on his face. “You know because...”
“Sometimes the past speaks to me. I can’t explain it, but I have to trust the voice that tells me things.”
He rubbed his chin. “You know...this is odd. Really odd.”
I raised my eyebrows in a silent question and he continued. “Because I thought I heard something. I definitely felt...a presence I can’t explain. Someone trying to get my attention. Someone very, very seriously trying to make me understand.”
He shook his head. “Understand what? I confess, I’m baffled.”
“It’s a sign,” I said. “Something I’ve learned over my years at Overhome. We ignore the signs at our own peril.”
To learn more about Susan and the stories she creates, go to:
To find Susan's books, go to:
A RED, RED ROSE: http://a.co/e84vSGO
BENEATH THE STONES: http://a.co/8OekxWy
NOBODY KNOWS: http://a.co/38knOQI