The chill of fall is in the air and our tastes for light, easy summer reads has turned to those that can send goosebumps up our arms. Settle in with some mulled wine because we’re incredibly excited to introduce, Diana Biller!
Lexi: Welcome to the blog, Diana! We have our comfy, lap blankets here so we can get right into the chills that THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE gives. Your novel is part ghost story, part romance, set in the Gilded Age. So many good things rolled into one book! But the primary focus is the Hyde Park mansion, the haunted house. Have you always had a fascination with haunted houses and did you get to travel to any for research?
Diana: I would say I have always been fascinated by homes, and what they mean to people. I was fortunate enough to visit the two houses that provided inspiration for the mansion in the book, Edith Wharton’s The Mount and the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, years before I even thought of THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE. My husband and I were living in a small town in central New York at the time, recent transplants from the West Coast, and we had no idea what to do for fun (you can only browse Target recreationally so many times). So we picked up a guide book—I think it was ROAD TRIP USA—and come the weekend we would just choose a destination and go exploring. So much of the raw material for ROSE HOUSE comes from those years; the old houses and the lush summers and the bare, gray winters.
Lexi: When I’ve visited haunted houses I’ve always fallen in love with the history of the time; what life was like for those who lived there and what conveniences there were, or lack-thereof. And the Gilded Age is one era that I find incredibly fascinating, such a turning point! What drew you to setting this story in 1875?
Diana: It arrived already set there! The day before NaNoWriMo 2014 (National Novel Writing Month) was about to start, I was sitting in my bathtub and hoping desperately for an idea. I’d promised my critique partner I’d do NaNo with her, but I hadn’t come up with anything, let alone something I could write 50,000 words on. Just as I became certain I’d never have a good idea again (and just as the hot water was about to give out), the words “Edith Wharton, ghost hunter” arrived in my brain. Now, the story evolved quite quickly away from that initial prompt, but it was always a Gilded Age story, heavily influenced by Wharton.
Lexi: Oh the ambiance. THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE has that going for it, and the ghosts that are enough to give one the creepy crawlies, but your story also gives other kinds of goosebumps, like the kind you get when you’re near a truth, or the kind you get from a first kiss. Your main character, Alva, enlists a scientist, Sam, for help in explaining the haunting. Do you have a favorite moment from one of their first scenes together that you can share?
Diana: One of my favorite moments is when Sam and Alva first meet, and he’s trying to convince her to let him study her supposedly haunted house:
“You’re talking about ghosts,” she said.
“Maybe,” he replied. “Or I could be studying some kind of alien intelligence that just happens to concentrate in areas corresponding to local folklore.”
“Invisible alien intelligence,” he clarified. “At least invisible to the naked human eye. But ‘ghost’ is probably the easiest term.”
“People tend to go a bit strange when you talk to them about invisible alien intelligences,” he confided. “Which is odd, when you think about it, because why are the shades of one’s dead ancestors any less unsettling?”
She found herself nodding before the rest of her wits caught up with her. “No,” she said, not because the word corresponded with any particular question, but because she had the feeling the only way to survive here was to stick to very black-and-white words. His nuances were both compelling and sticky.
Lexi: Romance, some paranormal activity, and a backdrop too good to resist, THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE really does have it all! Cheers to your book release, Diana! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today to introduce it to us!