Heather Graham - Author Interview

RT summer intern Lizzie Poteet gets up-close and personal with the prolific Heather Graham.

Lizzie Poteet: You publish in several different genres: contemporary, paranormal and historical romances, just to name a few. Do you prefer writing one genre more than the others?

Heather Graham: I love many genres of fiction when reading — and non-fiction, as well. I don’t actually have a favorite when I’m writing, because I think that we all do our best to write what we love most when reading and I love books in many, many varieties! A good mystery, terrifying suspense, a great love story, vampires, bogeymen, ghosts — you name it. Sci-fi, fantasy — a good story is a good story.

LP: Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite story or character?
 
HG: Every time we sit down to write, we sit down to write our best story. Only in retrospect do we get to discover what were our own favorites, what sold the best — and even what have fallen flat. Some of the books that I’ve done feature Ireland or Irish characters, and I think they are important to me. My mother came from Dublin when she was about thirteen, and I went back with her when I was still fairly young, as well, and I was heartbroken — we missed out on a family reunion because a major road was bombed. The IRA was extremely active at the time. I decided that I didn’t want to be Irish. I realized years later how that hurt my mom, and I wanted to find a way to realize and explain that we can learn to love people and who we are — and still know that some of the things that people do can be very, very bad — even if they are things that must be done in their own minds. Well, that’s rather convoluted. But, I wrote a book called Night Of The Blackbird, and I was torn — it was about Irish Americans, and I was glad because my mother read it in the galley stage and loved it, and died right before the book came out on the market. And right before 9/11. It was a strange time for me, but the book has many of my family members secretly featured, so it means a lot to me.

LP: Some of your books, such as this summer’s Bone Island Trilogy and your earlier Harrison Investigation series include paranormal elements like ghosts and psychics. Do you believe in ghosts or psychic phenomena?

HG: Do I believe in ghosts? Hm. What is a ghost? Memories are like ghosts — and I’m Catholic, so I believe in the Holy Ghost! I think there is something after life, and therefore, the possibilities are endless. A banshee is a death ghost, and when we were young, my great-grandmother would watch my sister and I and threaten us with the warning that the banshees would get us in the outhouse if we didn’t behave. We were in our teens before my sister and I realized that we didn’t have an outhouse, the threat was so good! I have been in situations that were definitely eerie, and I love the idea that those who've gone before us might stick around to help us!
 
LP: Your last trilogy centered on the Flynn brothers and their stories. What ties your new Bone Island series together? What can readers expect from these stories?

HG: The Bone Island Trilogy features members of two old time “Conch” or Key West families. The first, Ghost Shadow, is based on a truly bizarre story (please see the YouTube video) with corpses showing up in a very strange manner. The hero,

 

still suspected of an earlier murder, returns to Key West just in time for a like situation to occur. Only reaching far into the past, looking into fact and myth, and with a little help from the heroine and her friendly neighborhood pirate ghost, can he get to the truth.

In the second, Ghost Night, a movie crew, filming a slasher flick based on an old and gruesome pirate legend, suddenly finds the crew disappearing and re-appearing dead, displayed like the props they’d been using. They have to solve the mysteries of the past and present to survive. And in the third, Ghost Moon (which will be released August 31), the mysteries of an old Victorian house are solved, along with the death of the heroine’s mother. They’re linked in that the families appear in all three, and Bartholomew (friendly neighborhood pirate ghost) is linked with the families as well, trying to make sure they all make it into the future!

LP: Many of your books are written as part of a series. Is this intentional and planned, or just something that evolves?  

HG: I love trilogies because I’m very fond of returning characters. Of course, I love books with continuing characters as well, and in the ghost stories I’m working on now, Adam Harrison makes his presence known, putting together the “Red River Trackers,” which is composed of six people with very special talents.

[Lizzie's Note: Readers may remember Adam Harrison from Graham's Harrison Investigations series. If you haven't read it yet, my favorite book in the series is The Presence.]

LP: In your historical romances, where do you draw the line between a realistic depiction of, say, 16th-century Scotland and your own artistic license?

HG: History — I love history. Of course, however, a lot of research can be done. No one knows what someone else was thinking. You can go to London, and you can take a Ripper Tour and do your best to envision what things were like. But you can’t go back to Victorian England, or back to medieval Scotland. You do your best to gather what facts you can, and then, it is fiction — you use your imagination.
 
LP: With such a large family, do you find it difficult to balance career and family? Is it easier now that your children are grown? How is your family involved in your writing career?

HG: My family is great. All five kids show up for me every year when we put on the Vampire Ball at the RT BOOKLOVERS Convention. Yes, it’s hard when children are little and they demand a lot of attention. I wouldn’t have been writing without them — I was working dinner theater and bartending until Derek (my third child) was born, and then I couldn’t afford to work outside the house anymore. (This was not well paid dinner theater — non-union state!)
 
LP: Finally, Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

HG: But life itself demands attention. My rules are:

1. Read, read, read
2. Write, write, write
3. Be savvy — go to conferences, read Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market
4. Be tenacious
5. Learn when to listen to criticism, and when to go with your own instincts.
6. Then repeat the above!