As a suspense author, my mind tends toward the creepy. Many of the places on my bucket list (other than Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed) are either strangely horrifying or have a historical tie to some famous murderer or other. Here are my three favorite places that have made appearances in my stories thus far. If the books get published, you’ll have a better mental picture of the settings I describe.
3. Meramec Caverns
Meramec Caverns in Missouri get a shout out in the book I just finished. Even though I don’t get to mention the history of the cave network in my story, I’ll share a little tidbit with you. Rumor has it Jesse James and his gang hid out in one of the caves for a while.
2. Starvation Heights
The Purple Nightgown releases in March 2021, and it’s set in Olalla, Washington. It’s a beautiful area near the Puget Sound, but the history is unsettling. I won’t give you any spoilers, but this abandoned cemetery plays a role in the story.
Central State Hospital- Milledgeville, Georgia
The history of this abandoned asylum is terrifying. It was originally called the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Mental Asylum. I’ve included a fair amount of detail in my book, Faces which finaled in the 2020 Genesis contest. I’ll keep this post short by simply saying that the patients were treated inhumanely, and people who believe in ghosts claim it’s haunted.
What are some places you’ve read about in books are were shocked to learn they were real?
I’m so excited to introduce you to an amazing author and my good friend, Gina! Her books are full of vivid characters, amazing suspense, and strong faith elements and they keep me up way past my bedtime and stick with me after I’ve read the final sentence. If you haven’t read her books yet, I highly recommend her work.
Author Bio: Gina Holder dreamed of being a writer from her early teen years and lives in Colorado with her husband and daughter. When she’s not homeschooling her daughter or working on her next novel, she enjoys reading, watching movies, cooking, singing, and playing the piano and organ. Her indie published debut novel released in 2017.
Now let’s dig in and learn more about Gina and her writing process.
What’s the last book that had a significant emotional impact on you? It might be a story that made you cry or one that had you delirious with laughter. Why do you think it had that impact?
The last book that had a significant emotional impact on me was Unveiling the Past by Kim Vogel Sawyer. It definitely made me cry! Kim’s books always touch my heart in both emotional and spiritual ways. I love the biblical applications I garner through the lives and struggles of the fictional characters.
2. What books are on your nightstand (or in a Kindle queue) right now?
I am dying to read The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano. She’s one of my top favorite authors! Also, in my queue is Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman, Backlash by Rachel Dylan, and the entire Harbored Secrets series by Natalie Walters.
3. We all have projects that are a real bear! Which book of yours was the toughest to write? Why?
Forgiven Again, my newest release was the toughest to write. For several reasons. During the editing process, my husband (who is my “editor”) found major plot holes and inconsistencies in the story. And this was after I had gone through the book multiple times and it had been read by six beta readers! I had to do some major rewriting.
Also, this book was hard to write because my main character, Kathleen Phillips, is not a likeable character. She’s selfish and often downright rude to those in her life. I kept wanting to soften her, to make her likeable, but she refused. In the end, I hope that readers will give her a chance. Her personality and prickles make for a strong redemptive “prodigal-son type” story.
4. In the Bible, do you have a “life verse” that’s significant to you? Do you find yourself exploring this theme often in your work?
My life verse is Ephesians 3:20. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…” This verse definitely showed up as the theme in my debut novel, Whither Shall I Go. Maybe someday in the future I will explore it further in another novel.
5. Which character in your books is most like you?
I like to think there’s a little bit of me in all my characters. They do come from my imagination after all. But I would say that Ellie from Whither Shall I Go is the most like me.
Forgiven Again Blurb:
She’s running for governor. He’s a pastor.
Will they risk their lives to keep a secret?
Annie Staten, now known as Kathleen Phillips, has dreamed of pursuing a political career and following in her father’s footsteps. But Richard was a hated man during his tenure as governor and now his enemies will stop at nothing to prevent his daughter from winning the election.
Ryan Whitestone has loved Annie since high school, but his heart is broken by the woman she has become. When the daughter she gave up for adoption comes back into her life, can he help her heal from her pain and remind her of who she used to be?
Will Kathleen be able to forgive herself, put the past behind her, and find love again?
As morbid as it sounds, I want to fill you in on some danger zones. Places I’m convinced are hot spots for either murder or victim disposal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
3. Dumpsters in Back Alleys
I’d recommend avoiding creepy alleys in general, but don’t go near the dumpsters. This was a lesson Batman and his parents learned the hard way.
Some people find boating or tubing down the river relaxing. Maybe it is. But keep an eye open for dead bodies. I mean, have you done a tally of the corpses pulled out of rivers on Dateline? It’s unsettling.
3. Jogging Trails
I’m sure you saw this coming, but jogging trails top my personal list of dead body hang outs. I’m not sure if people get murdered while jogging or if they just drop dead from the sheer craziness of it all. Maybe it’s just a prime dumping ground after the deed is done. But if my carcass ever turns up on a jogging trail, tell the police that I was murdered elsewhere and dumped. I’d never visit a place like that on purpose, because I have no desire to find a dead body.
Did you ever watch that show Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed in the 90s? Please tell me I’m not the only one. It simultaneously creeped me out and intrigued me. Truthfully the reenactment of creepy stories might be one of the reasons I look at things based on how easily they could kill me. Here are three urban legends that gave me chills.
3. The Babysitter’s Phone Call
With the children tucked into bed on the second floor, the babysitter plops onto the couch downstairs to watch television. The phone rings, and the caller tells her to “Check the children.” Thinking it’s a prank call, the babysitter goes back to watching her show. When she continues receiving the strange calls, the babysitter calls the police, who inform her they will trace the next call. The stranger calls again. After she hangs up, the police return her call, advising her to leave immediately. She runs out of the home and the police meet her. The calls were coming from inside the house. An unidentified prowler was contacting her after killing the children upstairs.
Not a fun story to hear when your only source of income is babysitting…
2. Embalmed Alive
A girl has a special event on the books, and she has to dress to impress her date. But, like most of us, she’s on a budget, so she hits the thrift store. She finds the perfect dress and when the big night finally arrives, she feels confident in the flattering ensemble. Several times during the evening, she’s overcome by a dizzy feeling, and her escort takes her outside for fresh air. Finally, she gets sick and runs to the restroom where she dies. The investigation showed that her dress had been used as the funeral dress for another woman. Before the burial, it had been removed from the corpse and taken to the thrift store. The dress had absorbed the formaldehyde from the corpse and seeped into the pores of its new owner.
I still won’t shop at thrift stores. Not because I’m proud, but I don’t want an embalming dress.
Tanning Bed of Death
As her wedding day approaches, a young woman decides she’d look loads better with a sun kissed glow. The tanning salon staff inform her there are time restrictions in place for her safety. Undeterred, she sets up appointments all over town. Yep. She’s going to be a knockout. The day of her wedding, her mother enters the bridal getting ready room (obviously, I’m not married, or I’d have some idea what this is really called.) She finds her daughter dead on the floor, a sickeningly sweet smell hovering around her. When the M.E. investigates, he finds the woman has been cooked from the inside out.
In case you were wondering. . .I’m perfectly happy being pale as Elmer’s paste.
What are the Urban Legends that have stuck with you? I’d love to hear them!
Do unsolved crimes bring out your inner Sherlock Holmes? Me too! Here are three cold cases that make me wish I could dig into police evidence rooms and get to work.
3. The Lizzie Borden
Since Lizzie was acquitted, there must have been some reasonable doubt. But who killed Andrew and Abbie Borden? And why? I wonder if there’s a way to get my grubby mitts on the court records…
2. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Wouldn’t we all like to know what happened to this airplane and the 239 passengers on board? A man named Mr. Boyer believes he found the wreckage in Cambodia via satellite. The expedition team failed to reach the site due to its remote location. If I were more outdoorsy, I might try looking through the jungle myself.
3. JonBenet Ramsey
I remember this case unfolding on the news when I was just a kid. The fact that someone killed this poor girl for who-knows-what reason and got away with it made my already anxiety-ridden mind all the more uneasy. I know the detectives ruled out the family members, but that leaves very few suspects. Of course, conspiracy theorists say JonBenet isn’t really dead and she became Katy Perry. So that’s weird.
I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Andy Brodrick! He’s an award-winning author who is posting chapters of his work on Facebook every Thursday and Sunday. You’ll want to follow him and keep with the story.
Let’s get crackin’ with the interview questions.
We all have books that make a special impression on us and change our view of the world around us. What’s the last book that had a significant emotional impact on you? It might be a story that made you cry or one that had you delirious with laughter. Why do you think it had that impact?
Andy: I loved Iscariot by Tosca Lee. That book had me in tears several times. Not only did it present the life of Christ from a unique perspective, it gave me a Savior who was both strong and kind at the same time. It was the first time I’d seen Jesus presented so well in a novel.
Sounds amazing. My TBR list just got longer. As far as your personal writing journey goes, all writers have projects that are a real bear. Which book of yours was the toughest to write? Why?
Andy: My novel Sober was a challenge on several levels. It was the first story I wrote where I took on the killer’s first-person perspective, and that was very uncomfortable. The main character is an alcoholic, so the ups and downs of his recovery were emotionally taxing. His troubled marriage is also a central focus and was very heavy to write. If I had known what I was getting into beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have written it. I’m glad I did though. That book taught me the beauty of redemption.
I can’t wait until it’s published! Sounds like a powerful story.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Andy: I have to have a good supply of Cheez-Its nearby when I’m writing. And a steady stream of coffee (though not at the same time). I write better in silence and get too easily distracted in a coffee shop atmosphere. Most people are surprised to learn I’m pretty disorganized when it comes to writing. I’m organized in every other area of my life, so I kinda drive myself crazy with that one.
Gotta have that brain food. What do you love about the genre you write?
Andy: I mainly write suspense, and I honestly just love the thrill of it. Everyone loves a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but books are always ten times better at that. I like a well-written climax that keeps me frantically turning pages. I respect a book that keeps me up past my bedtime, and I want to give other readers that same experience.
How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
Andy: I’ve learned to trust my characters. I don’t try to control them as much anymore. Any time I do, they fight back. And they are almost always right. Trusting the characters more has led to trusting the story more, and that’s when things flourish.
Bio: Andy Brodrick is a licensed mental health counselor by day and a writer by night. He makes his home in the Ozarks and loves hiking in the scenery they provide. Though he isn’t published yet, Andy has written several novels and short stories. One of his novels recently won the 2020 ACFW Genesis Award in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. He’s an introvert who will almost always choose a good book and a cup of coffee over going out. A lot of people think Andy is quiet, but that’s only because they haven’t asked him about Superman, the Lord of the Rings, the Legend of Zelda, or his next writing project.
Where to Andy Find Online: Right now, the best places to connect with me are my author pages on Facebook and Instagram — @authorandybrodrick
Here’s another round of great suspense. I may be stretching what some would consider red, but these books all rest at the top of my list. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
3.Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark
Even though this book was written in 1991 and there are a few pop culture references that show it’s age, Loves Music, Loves to Dance kept me turning pages late into the night. Talking about it makes me want to read it again.
2. Chasing the White Lion by James Hannibal
In keeping with The Gryphon Heist from last week’s post, this list would be sorely lacking if I failed to mention Chasing the White Lion. So far, this book is the one to beat of all my 2020 suspense reads so far. I got so attached to the character that I wanted to start over as soon as I read the last sentence.
The King by Steven James
Have you ever read anything by Steven James? If not, you totally should. Patrick Bowers and Tessa are two amazing characters that will stick with you for the long haul. The heart-pounding suspense in this series and this book in particular are off the charts!
In case you haven’t already figured it out, I love suspense. So today, in honor of my favorite genre, I’m going to share three of my favorite suspense books with blue covers. Enjoy!
3. Haven of Swans- Colleen Coble
This book blew me away. The villain was super creepy, and the heroine was likable. If you haven’t read it yet, go but it immediately.
2. Last Light- Terri Blackstock
Suspense aside, this is one of the best books I’ve read . . . period. The story is so unique and applicable for our crazy world that if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend you do.
The Gryphon Heist- James R. Hannibal
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: James Hannibal is amazing and The Gryphon Heist is full of colorful and riveting characters. Read it. You’ll love it. 🙂 And P.S., it’s on Kindle Unlimited if you’re a subscriber.