Novelist J.E. McDonald is helping me wrap up the week by chatting about her paranormal romance, Ghost of a Gamble, book one of the Wickwood Chronicles.
J.E. McDonald is a writer of paranormal romance, romantic suspense, sci-fi romance, and contemporary romance. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada, she lives with her husband and three rambunctious daughters who keep her on her toes. An avid reader and Minecraft junkie, when she’s not plotting her next story, she’s avoiding dust bunnies while plotting her next story.
Welcome, J.E. Please tell us about your current release.
Ghost of a Gamble is a romance pitting a ghost hunter with a skeptic. Set in Wickwood, a city where strange things happen, the two main characters are thrown together by bad luck. Bree loses her job at the beginning of the book, and with an eviction notice in her back pocket she needs to find a job fast. That’s when she runs into Zack, a paranormal investigator searching for an assistant. Because Bree speaks without a filter, and Zack is the strong silent type, personalities clash while the chemistry sparks, all amid an investigation of one of the most haunted houses Zack has ever encounter. While Bree struggles with the need to expose the paranormal investigation company for a scam because ghosts aren’t real, Zack battles internally on whether or not to trust Bree enough to reveal his secret.
It’s kind of like the first few seasons of Supernatural (before they got super dark) with a splash of Bridget Jones’s Diary.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love to read and write romance, and one of my all-time favorite things is the clash of opposing personalities. With this book, Bree is the skeptic while Zack knows ghosts are, indeed, real. Bree is bubbly and speaks without thinking, while Zack is introverted and doesn’t like to speak unless he needs to. I love to see the sparks fly.
Excerpt from Ghost of a Gamble:
The meet cute:
She sipped her coffee and winced when it burned her tongue.
Rubbing the sting away on the back of her teeth, she strolled the five steps to the advertisement board. From beneath the half-wall, she saw someone on the other side in combat boots and black jeans. Bree scanned the ads. Most were college students searching for roommates. Others were for concerts coming up in the Wickwood area.
The hard knot in Bree’s chest mutated into a hot burn. She really needed a job.
Thunk. Thunk. A stapler hit the other side of the board. She straightened. Thunk. Thunk. Slowly, she edged to the side and peeked around the board to check out what Mr. Combat Boots had posted. Probably looking for a roommate.
She noticed his hair first. Brown with a hint of red, it swept across his forehead to stop below his chin. A dusting of stubble showed through his tawny skin, but nothing you could call a beard. And his clothes matched his boots. All black. He’s cute. Her heart did a double thump. Really cute.
Straightening, she stepped around the board to get a better look at his flyer. His golden eyes tracked her, then quickly looked away. He stepped back to admire his handiwork, and she stood beside him, shoulder to shoulder. Her body hummed. Acting casual, Bree took a cautious sip of her coffee and read the flier.
HELP WANTED IMMEDIATELY
PART-TIME FIELD ASSISTANT
RESILIENT PERSONALITY PREFERRED
*NEEDS TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND*
She pursed her lips. “What do you do? Make pornos or something?” She wouldn’t want to star in a porno—not that she didn’t have the skills—but taking a leap into adult entertainment wasn’t a life goal. She wasn’t a prude and could probably be an assistant.
“What?” He turned so abruptly, he hit her elbow. She managed to hold onto her coffee, but some splashed out of the lid and landed on his jacket with a splat.
“Oh, my God.” Bree set her cup on the ledge of the advertisement board and dug around in her tote for a tissue. “Are you hurt? Are you burnt?”
Eyes wide, he shook his head.
“I’m so sorry.” Bree kept digging in her bag. There must be a napkin or something in here. “Not that it was my fault, mind you, since you hit my hand. But I am sorry I poured coffee on you.” She found a used, crumpled up tissue, stared at it for a full two seconds, shrugged, and wiped at the front of his jacket. “At least I didn’t get your boots wet.”
As she turned to reaffirm her coffee was secure on the ledge, she hit the cup with her tote. The cup tipped, tipped…she reached…and it fell to the ground with a dull thud. The lid flew off and coffee splattered her sneakers and his boots.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe I did it again.” Easy come, easy go. That’s how it was with free pity coffees. She went to a knee and swiped at the moisture on his boots. The embarrassment ringing in her ears made it hard for her to hear.
“Please stop,” he said, the words finally making it through.
She peered up to see his wonderfully beautiful face twisted in distress. Glaring at the tissue, she grimaced, and shoved it in her tote before hopping to her feet.
“Sorry,” she muttered. Had she ruined her chances?
She glanced at the flyer. She really needed a job, but if he was wanting a fluffer, that was probably a deal breaker.
What exciting story are you working on next?
The next book in the Wickwood Chronicles is called Ghost of an Enchantment. The main character is a witch we meet briefly near the end of Ghost of a Gamble. Her story revolves around her ailing grandmother, a necklace she receives as a gift, her best friend accidentally opening a portal to another dimension, and of course a romance with someone who is, in many ways, her opposite.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always loved to write. Creative writing and English were my favorite subjects and I preferred exams with essays more than multiple choice. But I didn’t consciously make the decision to seek publication until my early thirties.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m a full-time mom, my kids ranging in age from two to nine, and I write whenever I can. With my husband working out of province weeks at a time, and my kids at home 24/7 due to the pandemic, sometimes it’s hard to find a spare minute. I’d once read an interview where a writer put up on her wall “You will never have more time than you do right now” and that really resonated with me. If I can’t find time now, today, then I’ll never find time. I’m constantly searching for unique ways to make that time, and right now that means waking up at 5am to write before my kids get up for the day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I need music while I write. When I write an angry scene I blast loud, gritty music in my headphones. When I’m writing a love scene, it’s soft and gentle. I create a new playlist for each new project, which means I’m often listening to the same songs over and over again while drafting and editing.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Influenced by the pop culture I saw on the TV all the time, I wanted to be a famous singer or famous actress. In high school, my dreams became more practical as reality set in, but my creative side always had a prominent role in my goals.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
When I started writing Ghost of a Gamble, I was a skeptic. I thought the idea of a paranormal investigator was neat, but didn’t see the value in it. Throughout my research, I kept coming across story after story of paranormal experiences, and even heard first-hand accountings. By the time I finished writing Ghost of a Gamble, my mind was opened to so many more possibilities than I had ever imagined—an eye-opening experience I thoroughly enjoyed.
Thanks for being here today!