This New Story From Simone St. James Will Haunt Your Nightmares In The Best Way

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If you're looking for the next suspense to keep you up at night, then look no further than The Broken Girls by Simone St. James! Two murders, 64 years apart, only seem to be connected by one thing: Idlewild Hall, a boarding school for troubled girls in Vermont. In 1950, four girls end up as roommates at Idlewild after being abandoned by their families, and begin to grow close. But their lives are constantly threatened by the school's resident ghost, Mary Hand — a spectre seen by everyone, but never discussed. Meanwhile in 2014, Fiona Sheridan is commemorating the 20th anniversary of her sister's murder at Idlewild by digging deeper than ever before. Convinced that there are details missing from the police investigation, she uses her journalistic instincts to solve the inconsistencies that have haunted her for years. When her search hits records of the foursome from Idlewild, her investigation gets even more complicated. And all the while, Mary Hand is still at Idlewild ... watching and waiting. 
Our reviewer says that, "the way St. James seamlessly integrates the past and present plot threads allows the story to flow naturally while maintaining the suspenseful aura of the narrative." We knew we had to learn more, so enjoy Simone St. James' answers to our burning questions below!
RT: The Broken Girls has characters that are so realistic that they jump off the page! Are any of them inspired by people in your own life?
Simone St. James: No, that’s just how my imagination works! Like a lot of authors, I’m curious about people and I observe them, but I’ve never put someone fully into a book, warts and all. When I create my own characters, I want to know more about them, so I delve deep. Sometimes the things that come up surprise even me. I spend a lot of time with these characters while I write the book, so I try to make them as interesting as I can.
For the most part, Fiona single handedly drives the narrative with her quest for the truth, even when her own life is at stake. What keeps Fiona going, even when everyone else tells her to stop?
I think that deep down, even from the beginning, Fiona knows something is wrong with the turn her life has taken. She doesn’t know quite what, and she doesn’t want to admit it, but her gut is telling her that she needs to change things. She never fully dealt with her sister’s death and her family falling apart. She just locked everything away and went about her life, but once she takes the first step on the path to finding the truth, she can’t quite stop herself, even if she wanted to.
You must have done a ton of research — what’s the most interesting thing you found? 
I did do quite a bit, much of it into nightmarish topics (no spoilers!) I will say that Fiona’s discovery of boxes of files in a garden shed is loosely based on something that happened to the historian who wrote one of my research books. Most of the details were different, but she did find a cache of very valuable historical records in an old woman’s garden shed, and that was far too juicy not to use!
The story of Mary Hand is particularly chilling; have you always been attracted to ghost stories? Do you have any favorites?
I’ve always loved ghost stories! I cut my teeth years ago on a huge volume of classic ghost stories — M.R. James, E.F. Benson, Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe. I still have that book somewhere, yellowed with the pages falling out. I’ve read Dracula countless times. Susan Hill’s The Woman in White is awesomely frightening. More recently, I love Stephen King’s Bag of Bones, and there’s a book called Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, about a man trapped in the Arctic with a ghost, that will give you nightmares. 
New England is such a perfect backdrop to the story! Are there any particular places that inspired Barrons and Idlewild? 
Not specifically. I wanted a change from the UK setting of my last five books, and I gravitated to New England because I’ve read Stephen King all my life, plus I’m slightly obsessed with Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I’ve been to Vermont, and it’s a beautiful place. I loved setting the book there. The change in setting was a lot of fun!
With The Broken Girls, women and girls are shown holding so many different traits and roles, committing good and bad deeds alike. Was it important to you to show how multifaceted women can be?
Yes, very much so. I’ve tried to explore that in every book I’ve written. Women are capable of great strength and determination, and we’re also capable of greed, anger, and cowardly fear. You know, because we’re three-dimensional humans, just like men are. No person is any one thing. That’s what makes people interesting, at least in my view. But the darker traits in women are treated very differently by society, and we are trained to hide them and pretend they don’t exist. That’s something I write about a lot in my books.
After such an amazing story, readers will definitely want more — I know I do! Are you currently working on anything else?
Yes! My next book is about a young woman who takes a night shift job at the same motel where her aunt disappeared, also working the night shift, thirty-five years ago. She delves into her missing aunt’s life to find out what happened to her. There is definitely a haunting — I’m scaring myself writing it. I’m writing it for my publisher now, and it should be out in 2020!
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