, 44 Gilmore Street. Shani is a fellow Crooked Cat, author of the Psychic Surveys series.
If your book was a movie, who would play your characters?
Ooh that’s a toughie! Thinking about it, not Hollywood A Listers, I’d like it to be one of those Indie Brit flicks. In fact, a bunch of unknowns would suit me – Ruby, Cash and Corinna are the youngest members of the Psychic Surveys team, whilst Ness is in her mid-fifties and Theo, nearly 70 – so there’s a good range of actors to choose from. Also, as it’s a series (there’ll be six books overall) I’d like to see it as a series on TV rather than a movie – I think the books would suit that medium more.
If your book were a song, which one would it be?
The title of Psychic Surveys Book Two is Rise to Me and that was actually taken from a song title! It’s by The Decemberists and, when thinking of a title for it, I was listening to that song and thought ‘that’s it, that’s the one’ – it’s a great song and the lyrics are very fitting for that particular book.
Places that inspired you?
I’ve spent many years as a travel writer and so there are a lot of places that inspire me! Regarding the Psychic Surveys series, they’re set locally, in and around Brighton (where I live), Lewes, and East Sussex. My new series, however, allows me to go global! This Haunted World Book One: The Venetian launches in the summer and is set between Venice and Poveglia, the former ‘the most haunted city in the world’ and the latter ‘the most haunted island in the world.’ It’s destinations that link this series rather than the characters, each one will be a standalone paranormal novel and set in and around the world’s most haunted places.
Who’s your favourite character in the book?
I love them all but the main character, Ruby Davis, is probably my favourite. Starting out as perhaps a little naïve in Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall, she faces some very tough times ahead and will need to grow as a person as well as draw on the strength of the Psychic Surveys team.
It has to be Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, the original, brooding hero! I remember reading the book as a teenager and being blown away by the intensity of his and Cathy’s love affair. It had a huge impact on me as a writer, inspiring in part my Gothic romance with a hint of the supernatural (of course), Jessamine.
This is the second visit to 44 Gilmore Street – one of the children that lives there has just been hit by a cup thrown through the air at her and Samantha Gordon, terrified, has called the Psychic Surveys team back:
“Blimey!” Samantha Gordon exclaimed on sight of them. “Talk about send in the cavalry.”
Ruby stepped forward and introduced the members of her team who Samantha hadn’t met yet. Cash had called them on her behalf as they drove back to Brighton and, as usual, they’d dropped everything to help out.
“And you’re all psychic are you?” she asked.
Glancing at Cash, Ruby replied, “To varying degrees.”
Clearly seeing no need to quiz them further, Samantha hurried them into the living room. Her husband – introduced as Jeff – was on the sofa, his arm around his daughter, comforting her. Their son, Leo, was clearly shaken too, cuddling into the side of his sister. Night had fallen and the drawn curtains gave the room a closed-in, claustrophobic feel.
“Oh,” Samantha said, noticing what her son was doing, “so you’re cuddling your sister now are you? That’s a turn up for the books. You were bashing her on the arm with your book earlier.” She shook her head in a show of despair. “My poor lamb, she’s been getting it from all sides.”
The daughter promptly burst into tears. “Mum, who threw that cup at me?”
“That’s what these people are here to find out, Ruby,” her father muttered, “apparently.”
Ruby? So the girl had the same name as her. Although she tried not to stare, Ruby did her best to get the measure of Jeff. He didn’t appear to be a tall man; his legs, stretched out before him, looked on the short side, his belly bulging slightly under a light tee shirt and the hair on his head thinning, despite probably being no more than in his mid-thirties. It wasn’t his physical appearance that concerned her, however, it was the distrust emanating from him. There were some people that didn’t like ‘her kind’, she knew that, and he was one of them. The fact that they’d even got through the door showed that Samantha Gordon really was in charge.
The sound of a door banging within the house – as though slammed in temper – made even the psychics amongst them jump. Samantha’s hand flew to her mouth and her husband let rip an expletive. The young Ruby stopped crying and whimpered instead, her brother deciding to join her.
“What’s happening?” Samantha gasped. “What the hell is going on? I didn’t sign up for this when we bought the house.”
“It’s been worse since you called them in.” Again Jeff was muttering, not speaking to them, not exactly, not even to Samantha, just throwing it out there.
Normally Theo would step forward at this moment, take charge. Her age lent her the authority necessary in such situations. But Ruby beat her to it.
“Right now, the assumption is that Benjamin Hamilton, the previous occupant, might still be in residence. Certain activity occurring in the house suggests that. Before I carry on, might it be a good idea to take the children to their rooms perhaps? I don’t want to unsettle anyone.”
“Unsettle anyone?” No longer passive aggressive, Jeff exploded, “I think you’ve done a good job of that already, haven’t you? Look at my kids!”
Samantha was appalled. “Jeff! Please! We talked about this, we agreed this was the way forward, remember? The way to sort this problem out.”
“I don’t want my kids upset!” he retorted.
“The fact that they are is not Psychic Surveys fault!”
Inwardly, Ruby groaned. They’d barely been here five minutes and already the situation was deteriorating – rapidly. There’d be a full-scale war amongst the living if she couldn’t rescue the situation and quick. “Look, if you’d rather we left, Mr Gordon, I understand, but we’re here now–”
There came a crash from the kitchen, the sound of a plate smashed against the floor perhaps? It certainly sounded like it. Their attention captured, all heads turned to the living room door, expecting the ghost of the tenant past to come hurtling through it and wrap his spectral arms around them in a far from welcoming manner. Trying to play it down, Ruby reminded herself what was really happening. Ben was feeding off the negative energy in the house – the fear – and growing angrier too. Considering he was already at fever pitch, this wasn’t the best news.
Before she could say anything further, Ness came to stand by her side. “We can’t deny that there’s unusual activity in this house – activity of a paranormal nature. And as you say, it’s intensifying. We don’t truly know the reason for that but, if you’ll let us, we’ll do our best to find out.”
A part of Ruby was grateful for her colleague’s firm, no-nonsense approach, but another part bristled. Pride – she must get it under wraps. And insecurity too, because that’s what this was, she realised. She didn’t quite feel the ‘giant’ that Ness was, that Theo was. And she resented that.
Theo also spoke loud and clear but her voice was soothing too. With children in the room, she was careful to tread easy. “Ness is right. We can sort this out, but only with your permission. And please, don’t expect miracles straightaway, these things can take time. And effort. Rather a lot of effort in fact, on everyone’s part, including yours. It’s essential to stay positive… optimistic. This is a beautiful house. I can see how much you love it. You’ve injected it with new life. You don’t have to be at the mercy of what lingers here still. Not if you let us do our job. May we go into the kitchen?”
“Jeff?” There was a warning tone in Samantha’s voice.
Whilst waiting to hear the verdict they all stood perfectly still, Cash’s fingers only slightly brushing hers in a show of support.
Jeff exhaled heavily before speaking. “Whilst you’re busy, what the heck are we supposed to do?”
“Is there a friend you could–”
“No! This is my house! Why should I leave it?”
“Fair enough,” answered Theo, remaining determinedly unfazed by his attitude. “But leave the kitchen to us. Stay, here, in the living room.”
He glared at Theo. “Why are there so many of you?”
“Jeff, stop asking questions. Jut let them get on with it!”
“All I bloody wanted to do was watch the telly tonight. Not much to ask for is it? A Saturday night in with my family and I mean just my family.”
“Jeff!” Samantha said again, her face reddening – with anger or embarrassment it was hard to tell.
“Okay, okay, do what you have to bloody do,” he relented.
“Thank you, Mr Gordon.” As well as seize the moment, Ruby did her best to appease. “We’ll, erm… we’ll try not to be too long
“We all have to face our demons at some point.”
Psychic Surveys – specialists in domestic spiritual clearance – have never been busier. Although exhausted, Ruby is pleased. Her track record as well as her down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach inspires faith in the haunted, who willingly call on her high street consultancy when the supernatural takes hold.
But that’s all about to change.
Two cases prove trying: 44 Gilmore Street, home to a particularly violent spirit, and the reincarnation case of Elisha Grey. When Gilmore Street attracts press attention, matters quickly deteriorate. Dubbed the ‘New Enfield’, the ‘Ghost of Gilmore Street’ inflames public imagination, but as Ruby and the team fail repeatedly to evict the entity, faith in them wavers.
Dealing with negative press, the strangeness surrounding Elisha, and a spirit that’s becoming increasingly territorial, Ruby’s at breaking point. So much is pushing her towards the abyss, not least her own past. It seems some demons just won’t let go…
I write ghost stories – vampires, werewolves and shape shifters need not apply! Influences include the great Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I’m also a mum of three children, and live in the funky city of Brighton with them, my husband and four mad cats. I’ve always loved reading and writing but occasionally I venture outdoors on sunny days and walk in the stunning green downs that surround us. Other pastimes include hanging out with friends and just having fun – life’s too short not to.
In the UK.
In the US .
Check out her website, www.shanistruthers.com.