This month's Hidden Diamond is a fellow Soul Mate Publishing author and, based on her books and her degree in Parapsychology and MFA, a fellow ghost story enthusiast. I love a good story about a haunting that sends a chill up my spine and raises goosebumps on my arm and Claire Gem's latest Haunted Voices book, Electricity, sounds like a great ghost story with a sweet romance.
Mercedes Donohue is an electrician starting a new life in a new town with her son. She pulled up roots in Atlanta when her marriage imploded. She’s come back to New England, to the place where she was born. Mercy’s focus is to stabilize her teenage son’s life—he took the breakup pretty hard—and to establish her place, gain the respect of Progressive Electrical’s team.
She never expected so many sparks to fly so soon, both on the job and after hours.
Daniel Gallagher has been alone since his fiancé's death. He'll never feel that way about any woman again, and certainly won't try with another independent, strong-willed one. Then Mercy short-circuits his plans.
Although the asylum closed it's doors over thirty-five years ago, Mercy and Daniel quickly realize the abandoned building is very haunted.
A spooky start and perfect with Hallowe'en coming just around the corner. Claire shares her technique for building her characters, as well as answering the Hidden Diamond author questions, including her writing process and her vote on cavemen vs. astronauts.
Building My Characters - From the Ground Up
One of the most interesting parts of the writing process for me is doing the research it takes to develop my heroes and heroines into believable people. I’ve always heard to “write what you know,” but after a while, that becomes boring, for both me and my readers. I mean, I’ve never done half the things my characters have. So how do I make them realistic? Research.
In my first Haunted Voices novel, Hearts Unloched, the hero’s hobby is scuba diving. I’ve never scuba-dived in my life, but I needed to get the details right, because the black moment in the book takes place 75 feet under water. Fortunately, I have a friend whose husband is a certified diver. It took dozens of phone conversations, emails and Facebook messages, over the course of several months, in order for me to get a handle on how to write that scene. Then, just to be sure, I sent him the chapter and asked him to proofread it for me. I was duly embarrassed when he pointed out that divers don’t call their footwear “flippers,” but “fins”…
Spirits of the Heart stars a hero who is a security officer—a weapon carrying one. I know nothing about guns, so I approached the chief security guard on the campus where I work and asked about a thousand questions. He was more than happy to comply, flattered that I came to him and impressed that I wanted some firsthand information from a real person, not just information I could find online.
For Electricity, both my hero and heroine are electricians—here I had an inside track. My husband was a licensed electrician some years ago, and was happy to provide me with all the right terminology to use. He also was quick to point out that an electrician uses fiberglass ladders, not metal, for obvious reasons.
So I may never have strapped on scuba tanks or holstered a weapon or ran conduit, but when my characters do, they know what they’re doing. I can tell you, getting the details right is very important to me when I’m the reader. I once threw down a book by a bestselling author because she made a statement about DNA on a hairbrush that was completely ridiculous. I work in a scientific research lab, so although the general public didn’t catch it, I did. There may not be many readers who would identify the little errors in terminology or equipment. But I cringe to think I might someday read a review of one of my own books that says, “I can’t believe she calls them flippers.”
Researching my characters’ worlds is truly an education, and makes my own life just a little bit more interesting.
- Claire Gem
Hidden Diamond Author Questionnaire
What is the wildest thing you've done to research a book?
I talked the facilities manager at my job into taking me into the abandoned (and condemned!) building on campus for a tour and to take pictures. It used to house the most disturbed mental patients confined to a state hospital before it closed in the 1970s. Dangerous? Yes. The ceilings are falling in and the place is infested with raccoons. The hair stood up on the back of my neck during the entire visit, but it wasn’t from the raccoon poop or the dead pigeon skeletons. It was from the deep, disturbing sadness that still lingers there…it became the setting for my latest Haunted Voices novel, Electricity.
What is your writing process?
I’m mostly a pantser, but that has gotten me into trouble all too many times. I have a number of books that I got 1/3 of the way into and then lost the thread…so I’ve started writing a sort of “synopsis,” including the ending, to refer back to when I get lost. It’s much easier to get to The End when you know how the story ends.
As far as solitary vs public, I am definitely a solitary writer. I much prefer doing the work alone in my office or in a quiet corner of a library.
What is your favourite thing to do to relax?
Martinis, lol. I do enjoy a leisurely happy hour with my daughter at a local restaurant where they have a numbers game called Keno. We talk, we laugh, we drink, we gamble away twenty bucks, and then we go home in a much better mood.
Who is your favourite fictional crush?
Well, he’s not fictional—I have a crazy mad crush on Aquaman, aka Jason Mamoa. I keep saying “where was this man when I was 20 and single?” and then I remember…oh yeah, he was only two years old…
And in the spirit of the long-running Joss Whedon debate, who would win: astronauts or cavemen?
Cavemen. They learned how to survive long before all the fancy technology was invented to help them. I can’t see an astronaut battling with a mastodon and winning.
Thank you so much for being one of my Hidden Diamonds, Claire! And if you'd like one of Claire's books for your very own or you'd like to follow her on social media, you can find her here:
Join us next month for a new Hidden Diamond or check out last month's feature: Rhonda Frankhouser's matriarchs and paranormal romance.