We're interviewing Elizabeth Eagan-Cox, author of this week's Book-A-Week Challenge
"A Ghost from the Shadows"
Thank you for
joining us, Elizabeth, and for sharing your story.
What motivated you to write this novel series?
I have written non-fiction my entire life. I have been a columnist and I have two published books on California history,
written in a style called narrative non-fiction, or popular history. I was tired of non-fiction and the market for this genre
was getting soft. Very soft. But I yearned to incorporate my passion for California’s more intriguing aspects of history
into a plot. So, I took what I know best, California history, and combined it with fiction to create a paranormal mystery
series. The plot for each of my novels takes place in present-day time, but historical facts help to create the cold-case
files of unsolved mysteries… to which there is some quirky present-day tie-in.
California history is fascinating
and it spans nearly five hundred years since the first colonial expedition by European powers. Every aspect of culture is
represented in its history, at one time or another… for me this is an incredible tapestry to draw inspiration from.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Agatha Christie, she is the iconic
queen of cozy mystery novels. I love the way her writing presents the simple, yet profound down-to-earth study of human nature.
Big city or small village, human nature remains the same, and so do the many crimes of humanity.
your current projects?
I am tying up loose ends for book 3 in my Shannon Delaney Paranormal Mystery series.
Book 3 is called A Ghost Meets an Angel. I will hand it in to my editor before I leave to go on my annual Halloween vacation
this year. And speaking of Halloween, I was asked to guest write for the Museum of the Macabre’s Haunted History blog.
I wrote a two-part article on Celtic Halloween Traditions and it will be on the Museum of the Macabre’s Web site on
Octber 30 & 31. Oh, and I have quite a few media appearances scheduled between now and the end of November. All this information,
with links is at: www.ElizabethEaganCox.net
What makes your stories unique?
I combine a true
cozy mystery genre with the elements of the paranormal. Simply stated, I have a few ghosts as characters and they are treated
as characters, not as novelties. Plus, the lead character, a young woman named Shannon Delaney has her own emerging paranormal
energy, and she is not too sure about it. Shannon’s intuitive talent to speak to the past is a surprise to her, she
must learn to live with it and utilize it to solve cold case mystery files. I rely heavily on my own ancestry in this regard,
using cultural beliefs of my Celtic traditions.
I should clarify what a true cozy is…just so readers understand.
In the cozy genre there is never graphic or explicit horror, violence, sex and language. The crime, which is the mystery,
has already taken place, the readers discover it at the same time the cast of characters stumble upon it. The settings are
small, usually a village, a campus or a particular neighborhood. The plot focus is on character and mystery development and
solving the mystery with intelligence gained through sleuthing… good detective work. Jokingly, but true, I have told
people you can set any one of my books down and never be afraid of whom might pick it up!
Another aspect that is
different, I do weave a great deal of popular history into the plot and the publisher has agreed to allow me a chapter or
two worth of page space to have Author’s Notes at the back. I did this because I hate it when I am reading a book, am
curious about something mentioned in it and then I set the book aside to get Online to research what I wasn’t sure about!
I don’t want to leave my readers scratching their heads about a clue, so I have notes in the back that explain lesser-known
aspects of history and clues.
How do you come up with your story ideas and your characters?
dream them. All of my plots are based on my knowledge and experience with California and American history. Sometimes the little
seed of a story is formed from some out of the ordinary influences.
For instance, in Book 2: A Ghost From the
Shadows… well I had in my mind a song from long ago that I heard on the radio and, wow! I always loved that song! The
song is "Conquistador" by Procol Harem… so go get Online and listen to the song… you’ll get
an idea of what inspired book 2. Having grown up in southern California, the song spoke to me.
Then, Book 1: A
Ghost of a Chance, was inspired by the mansion that is on the book’s front cover. It is a real home, called The Morey
Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn in Redlands, California and I have been in it many times over the years. Officially dubbed
as "America’s Favorite Victorian" I always had it in mind as the perfect setting for a ghost story. Though,
in truth, I do not believe that The Morey Mansion is haunted. Another mansion, one that is in San Diego was an inspiration
for the story as well. That one, I do believe is haunted. It is the Villa Montezuma. And Book 1 got its start from a short
story I wrote and sold to a British magazine. I decided to take the plunge and to write a novel, I knew that the short story
was the stepping stone to the novel. The story was called "Thin Air" and the only recognizable part of it is in
the first two chapters of book 1.
And for Book 3: A Ghost Meets an Angel, I was inspired by two older songs: "Lily,
Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts", sung by Joan Baez, written by Bob Dylan and "Ride Like the Wind" by Christopher
When do you find you are the most creative or write the most?
On a yearly calendar I
actively write March through September. I take a vacation in October and that has been my goal, to have a book ready to turn
in by the time I go on vacation. I come back from vacation and spend the next several months (until March) doing background
research for the next novel.
On a daily basis, when I am actively writing, that would be March through September,
I take care of business communication in the early morning, often in my robe and bunny slippers and then I get dressed for
the day and take a quick coffee break. After that, I go back to tip-tapping on the keyboard at about 10 in the morning and
finish up around two or three in the afternoon. I then take another break, usually my meal of the day. In the late afternoon,
I check e-mail communication and do more correspondence. I work 4-day weeks, 10 to 12 hours each day and I write two chapters
a week. On my off days, I may still be working, but not on the novel. This often includes media interviews and appearances.
I find having a structured schedule for the creative writing part of what I do to be comforting… amid the chaos in
the world, I can shut out the noise and create my own world, at least for a few hours at a time!
are you most comfortable writing?
Cozy Mystery…and as corny as this sounds… I hold myself accountable
for the potential influences of what I write. I like the idea that I can talk about what I write with anyone and anywhere,
including in my church. I’m not criticizing the writers of other genres… but no way could I write in a genre
that I could not sign my real name to and feel comfortable talking about it in all social arenas.
you reading now?
I’m in the process of preliminary research for the yet untitled book 4 in my series.
I’m digging into the Online data base called the Newspaper Archive, it is a subscription data bank and is a primary
source for study. Newspapers going back into the 1700s up to present day are in this database, from all over the world.
What is your favorite way to take a break from writing?
For short breaks on a daily basis, I go
for walks in the rural countryside where I live. My dog, Corley is in charge of these breaks, she lets me know when we have
been working too hard!
For actual days off, I do a great deal of genealogical study. I used to teach genealogy
classes. As a member of one of the oldest lineage societies in the U.S…. Daughters of the American Revolution…(yes,
that D.A.R.) I have learned the most stringent guidelines for finding evidential proof of ancestry. I am the first in my family
to connect each and every generation in direct lineage, back to a Revolutionary War Patriot of the 1700s. I now have four
Patriots documented. By no means is my story unique…there are many, many people out there with similar lineage waiting
to be discovered.
Discovering ancestors and coming to terms with their incredible hardships gives me an overwhelming
sense of pride in their accomplishments and a great deal of determination to go forward with my own dreams. This is a topic
very close to my heart, you see, I have always felt that my creative talents were inherited, and in fact, in the Celtic culture
this inherent and intangible talent is called Blood Memory. It is an Intuitive Intelligence passed on to us very much in the
same manner that physical characteristics are inherited. By no means is the concept of Blood Memory unique to the Celtic culture…though
in my experience we, in the Celtic culture, are perhaps, more open to talking about it.
Many years ago one of
my siblings asked me why I am so driven, so passionate about writing. My answer: I write to quiet the whispers of our ancestors.
When I found my ancestors, I found my ghosts and I discovered that many aspects of being human transcend death,
especially the love we have for those in our lives.
Why paranormal? Have you had any real-life paranormal experiences?
I first thought of my concept as supernatural, I was not familiar with the term "Paranormal." My publisher
is the one who described my books as paranormal and it was from this description that I learned what I had always thought
of, as supernatural is now called paranormal.
Why paranormal? Not sure, really. I just never considered writing
fiction without having a ghost or two in the story. As far as real-life paranormal experiences…yes that is what I would
call what has happened in my life on a few occasions. Though, I do not usually go into much detail about them. I will say
this… I believe in ghosts as ‘spirit visitations’ and as people, who in their earth-bound life are likely
to be how they are in their spectral existence. In other words… (Addressing the readers) that grandparent who was so
much a favorite person in your life… well they love you and guide you in their afterlife to the best that their spectral
existence will allow. Perhaps a foreign concept to some people, but I do believe that our soul’s emotions are so strong
that love transcends death.
In many ways, my Celtic cultural beliefs support this and for readers who may be wondering…my
faith is not in objection to it. I am Anglican Catholic, known as Episcopal in the USA. I’m a member of Trintiy Parish
in Redlands, California.
Why not ghosts? After what I answered above, I hope it
is clear that I believe we have an afterlife and in that afterlife we have some spectral wiggle room. Having ghosts in my
story and treating them as real characters, as opposed to novelties, also helps me to weave the threads of history into the
Tell us your latest news?
I have numerous appearances scheduled between now and the
end of November, most are in radio on the Internet, so it is easy and free to tune in to the radio programs and ask me questions.
Please do so, my schedule and easy links to the radio programs are on my web site