When attorney Blake Cartwright abandons a successful career to turn a dilapidated lighthouse into an inn, everybody thinks she’s gone a little bit crazy. After witnessing a body fall from the tower, Blake wonders if they might be right. According to local legend, the spirit of a former keeper’s wife lures women to their deaths in the icy water below. Has Blake witnessed a suicide, seen a ghost–or is she just seeing things?
Declan Hunter, the mysterious man she hires to help with renovations, doesn’t help matters. The man with the Navy SEAL physique claims to be nothing more than a local handyman, but Blake’s instincts warn her not to trust him. As the mystery deepens, she finds herself drawn into a dangerous labyrinth of secrets, lies, and murder. But the most serious danger of all may be falling for a man determined to leave her.
Available on Amazon
Tricia: Today, we’re speaking with Gwenan Haines, author of Vertigo. (For a full list of her novels, please see her author profile page.) She’s here to talk to us about her writing and to share an excerpt from Vertigo with us.
Welcome, Gwenan. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Gwenan: I live in a small town in New England with my 12-year-old daughter and a red Siberian husky born on Halloween. To say my schedule is hectic is putting it mildly. Aside from the whole divorced mom gig, I work a full-time job and teach at a local community college. Plus writing. As it mentions in my bio, I used to live in Washington, D.C. and have traveled quite a lot, both for work and pleasure. I’ve visited refugee camps in Pakistan, watched the sun rise in Red Square, stayed with nuns in Venice and been stranded in the Himalayas with an Afghan freedom fighter. As my daughter tells her friends, “My mom used to be interesting.” But—despite the fact that my daughter thinks I’m pretty boring—I love my life now and wouldn’t trade it for the old one. And I get to live vicariously through my characters.
Tricia: When did you begin writing?
Gwenan: I started writing when I was very young but didn’t think about publishing until much later. When I was in graduate school I started sending out stories and poems to literary magazines, then a couple of years ago I decided to finally finish a longer project. The result was Vertigo, which was published this past February by Wild Rose Press. The book’s on sale for 2.99 on Amazon through mid-June. After that it will be available in other places and will be released in print sometime this year.
Tricia: Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?
Gwenan: Because Vertigo tries to weave a story about character from the 1920’s with a modern-day mystery, it took quite a bit of plotting. Not to mention some research about lighthouses. All that was done before I even sat down at my computer. Once I started, however, the plot took on a life of its own and sometimes that lead me in a slightly different direction than I orginally planned.
I try to write as much as I can and to stick to a routine. Because of my crazy schedule, I struggle with the routine part. I usually end up writing in pretty much the same way as I read—a few days of nothing then a marathon session where I get caught up in the story and find it difficult to stop. My goal is to transition from that to a more disciplined schedule.
Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Gwenan: I’d love to. Vertigo is set in an abandoned lighthouse on the coast of Maine. Of course there’s a ghost—or what appears to be a ghost—and a mystery. My heroine, Blake Cartwright, abandons her job in New York City to turn the property into an inn. She soon learns somebody isn’t all too happy about that. Blake also finds herself entangled with Declan Hunter, a local handyman who isn’t what he appears to be.
Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?
Gwenan: I grew up in New England and have spent a lot of time on the Maine coast. Not too surprisingly, I’ve always had a fondness for lighthouses. When my daughter was young we used to make up bedtime stories about two girls who lived in a lighthouse and would solve all kinds of mysteries. That eventually sparked the idea for Vertigo. Of course Vertigo is completely different than the ones we used to tell. For one thing, there aren’t any dolphins or unicorns. Plus a couple of characters wind up dead and there are some R-rated love scenes. . .
Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Gwenan: Declan. But I don’t want to talk about him because I’d give too much away. So I’ll go with my second favorite character, Blake. I identify with her because she trades one “life” for another—and struggles at times with the adjustment. Having just turned 30, she’s also dealing with the same issues many women do. The ticking biological clock. The fear that she’ll never meet a guy she’ll fall head over heels for. The desire to follow her dreams before it’s too late. I also like her because she doesn’t see herself as particularly courageous, but she’s not about to give up on what she wants either.
Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Gwenan: Intertwining the story of the lighthouse keeper’s wife, Lucy Stone, with Blake’s. I wanted to tell Lucy’s tale but I also needed to develop the plot set in the present day. That was tricky at times.
Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?
Gwenan: I read all genres. I love romantic suspense, urban fantasy and the paranormal just as much as I love a cozy English mystery or a nonfiction book about serial killers. I grew up on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. Nowadays there are too many authors I admire to name. I think Anne Rice, Victoria Holt and Stephen King probably had the biggest influence on me in terms of my paranormal romance writing.
Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?
Gwenan: I’ve got several projects planned. I’m working on the sequel to Risking Eternity, an urban fantasy novella I indie published. I’m also writing another urban fantasy called The Dante Effect. Last but not least I’ve plotted another romantic suspense novel called Collateral Damage, which is set in Washington, D.C.
Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Gwenan: Write as much as you can. Stick with it, whether or not you’re successful.
Did every woman go a little crazy when she hit thirty?
Blake Cartwright stood in what passed for a driveway, staring at the ramshackle two-story cape she now owned. What had looked quaint yet spacious on the internet was dingy and run-down up close. The sunny blue skies of the photos were nowhere to be seen, even though it was the middle of July. Dark spruces surrounded the place, their pointy spires disappearing in a ghostly mist that hung over everything. The rocky coastline that had seemed stunning a month ago looked threatening and unfriendly now. As for the lighthouse, she didn’t even want to contemplate the amount of money it was going to take to make it presentable.
What the hell had she been thinking?
She hadn’t been thinking. That was the problem. For twenty-nine years she had done things by the book and her life had been one long, picture-perfect Kodachrome moment. Up until six weeks ago she’d had the dream job, the dream apartment, the dream boyfriend. Then for the first time—after a teary night spent with her laptop and a couple of margaritas—she had trusted her emotions. For once she had allowed herself to stop planning and start imagining. She would open a thriving inn, one that would allow her to pursue her passion for cooking while freeing her from the insane hours she logged at her law firm. Even if she had to put some money into renovations, she could get the lighthouse for so little it would hardly dent her savings.
And this, she thought as she stood staring at the white clapboard house with its chipping paint and sagging roof, was the result.
Good call, Cartwright.
Shivering in the tank top and cut-off jeans she’d thought would be appropriate for the middle of summer, Blake wondered just how cold it got in northern Maine. Did she even own a hooded sweatshirt? Overpriced Armani suits, check. Expensive Jimmy Choo pumps, check. Wool fishermen’s sweaters—not a one. She pulled the old-fashioned iron key out of the envelope she’d picked up from the realtor and tried to shake off the idea that she had just made a colossal mistake.
She took a tentative step onto the first porch stair and stopped. An icy certainty that something was wrong coursed through her, making her fingertips tingle. Much as she wanted to attribute it to the lack of proper clothing, she knew the sensation too well. She always got it when she met a client who was guilty, however much they might protest their innocence. Or when she was being watched.
Feeling like a fool, she looked over her shoulder at the solitary landscape. The lighthouse stood about fifty yards away, at the end of a barren headland that jutted out into the iron-gray sea. The tower rose out of the mist, its height dwarfing the massive boulders below. She peered up at the lantern room, half-expecting to see a shadowy form or the glint of binoculars, but its windows were dull with years of disuse. The only sound was the crash of the waves against the rocks.
Clearly, no one was there.
Quit jumping at shadows. Forcing herself to cross to the door, she inserted the key into the lock and turned it. The door actually creaked as it opened and when she stepped over the threshold she found herself enmeshed in a thick layer of cobwebs. With a sound of disgust, she pulled a few sticky strands out of her hair and peered inside.
The interior was shrouded in darkness, despite the fact that it was the middle of the afternoon. A ray of weak light seeped through a crack between drawn curtains on the other side of the room, illuminating a sliver of dust motes. As her eyes adjusted to the dimness, she could make out darker, bulkier shadows looming before her. She moved a few steps further into the room, ignoring the deepening sense that she wasn’t alone.
It’s only furniture, she told herself. So why did she suddenly feel like the lead in a bad horror movie? Edging sideways, she ran her hand along the wall until she found a light switch. She flicked it up, then down, then up again. Nothing happened. Cursing herself for not thinking to bring a flashlight, she made a mental note to see what she had to do to get the electricity back on. In the meantime, she needed more light. After fumbling around in her purse she triumphantly extracted a forgotten lighter and ran her thumb over its jagged tip. Its flame sprang to life, bathing the interior in wavering shadows.
She held up the lighter and looked around. To her right, a staircase disappeared into blackness. To the left was what had been a living room. Is a living room, she amended, forcing down the queasy feeling in her stomach. She was glad the place was furnished, but its stillness was more than a little eerie. Aside from the cobwebs and the thick layer of dust that had settled over every possible surface, the room looked as if whoever had been living there had simply gotten up and walked out, leaving everything just as it had been fifty or even a hundred years earlier. The coffee table was littered with old copies of National Geographic and there were even a few logs piled up in the fireplace. The faded wallpaper seemed to undulate in the flickering light and the mahogany bookcases that filled an entire side of the room threatened to topple over at any moment. Even from where she stood in the entryway, she could detect the musty smell of old books and stale air.
Home Sweet Home.
Gwenan Haines writes paranormal fiction, urban fantasy and romantic suspense. After working in Washington, D.C. for several years, she decided to turn her adventures into stories. She has traveled to Italy, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Greece and other countries. Her favorite destination? Too tough to call, though she has vivid memories of sleeping on the deck of a Greek ferry and riding with mujahidiin resistance fighters along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Her life now is much more sedate, but she does her best to live vicariously through her characters. She loves to hear from readers and to befriend fellow paranormal junkies on Facebook.