Ghost à la Road
When I sat down to write the Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series, I wanted to make sure it was very different from my already established Odelia Grey mystery series. This wasn’t just to avoid reader confusion, but to keep the premises and characters straight in my mind. After all, I write two novels a year, one in each series, one right after the other. It would be so easy for them to lose their individual identities in the process.
I decided to write the Granny Apples books in third person since the Odelia Grey books are written in first person. I made the main protagonists, Odelia Grey and Emma Whitecastle, very different. Odelia is sassy and flawed, married, short, plus size and will brake for Ben and Jerry’s or a good burger. Emma, on the other hand, is tall, slender, wealthy, divorced with a grown child, and a vegetarian. The only similarity is that they are both middle-aged and their series are both humorous.
Another difference is that Odelia remains mostly in Southern California, while Emma and her sidekick, the ghost of Granny Apples, hit the road fairly often.
In Ghost à la Mode, the first book in the Ghost of Granny Apples series, I took Emma and friends to Julian, California, where Granny once lived. The second book, Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini, takes place on Catalina Island in California. All fun places within close proximity of my Los Angeles home. A weekend here and there and the research was complete.
When it came time to develop the story for Gem of a Ghost, the third book in the series, I knew it would be about a haunted gem and had planned for it to be based in Southern California. Then a funny thing happened. I was looking at a map, plotting my drive from Oakmont, Pennsylvania, to my family in Massachusetts where I was going to spend a week after a couple of big book events. I knew the drive would require an overnight and since I’d never been in that area I wanted to plan the stop somewhere nice and interesting. I had pretty much picked my stopping point when my eyes settled on a town called “Jim Thorpe.”
Whoa! Wait a darn minute! Who in the world names a town Jim Thorpe? And, knowing that Thorpe was originally from Oklahoma, why is this place in Pennsylvania? After a bit of internet research, I knew I HAD to change my course to visit this town, and not because it was named after a famous Olympic athlete.
Turns out Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, was originally named Mauch Chunk and was one of the sites of the infamous Molly McGuire trials and executions in the late 1870s. More importantly, it had a haunted prison where the executions took place.
A haunted prison that was now a museum. Sign me (and Granny) up!
I arrived in Jim Thorpe just before Memorial weekend when the museum officially opened for the summer season, but had written to the owner prior to my arrival and arranged for a private tour of the prison. It was great! And I knew that after walking around the town and seeing the prison that Gem of a Ghost had to be set there, at least partially. And it worked beautifully!
For the 4th book in the series, I took Granny on another road trip. This time to Las Vegas. Hey, research is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! I had to make a couple of trips to Vegas to check out places, hotels, surrounding geography, etc. The first time the story sort of presented itself, but it wasn’t until my second trip when I took a tour to the Grand Canyon and spent hours in a small tour van going through the desert that I got inspired for the rest of the story. Between those trips and watching hours of video on the history of Las Vegas, Ghost of a Gamble came alive and found its way to the page.
Ghost of a Gamble will also be finding its way into readers hands on April 1st!
So what’s next for Granny?
For book five I’m sticking closer to home. It takes place in and around Los Angeles but there will be plenty of historical information. The working title is Ghost in the Guacamole.
After that book, I’m considering another trip east for Emma and Granny, another historical look at Los Angeles, and possibly an adventure in Hawaii, but who knows. Right now those are just possibilities and I haven’t bought any plane tickets yet.
Sue Ann Jaffarian's website is www.sueannjaffarian.com.
Ghost of a Gamble by Sue Ann Jaffarian. Berkley, 2014. 9780425262177 (paperback), 304p.