I have always loved nothing better than to find a cozy spot by the fire during stormy weather and read a good book. Preferably a book about mystery and romance, set on a wild moor, a creepy castle, a wind-swept island…you get the idea. My imagination was shaped by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel…I read all of her books. And I confess that to this day, I still have my dog-eared copy of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit in a place of honor, easily accessible. I even gave my son the nickname of “Harry,” thanks to the dashing rogue who steals the heart of Anne, the heroine. And, of course, I pined away for bad-boy Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and cried my eyes out reading Jane Eyre.
So imagine my delight when I met Renee Johnson two years ago at Noepe Center, a writer’s retreat on Martha’s Vineyard. Noepe is set in an old inn, in the heart of Edgartown, where surely mariners’ ghosts and the ghosts of their long-suffering wives or seductive lovers wander at night. I have been to Noepe three times and will return again (if they aren’t fed up with me yet!). I have been to many fabulous and exotic places in the world to write and this is one of my favorites. I always go in October, when the summer crowds have faded away and an expectant silence settles on the island. I say expectant because I always feel as if the island is taking a slow, deep breath in preparation for the onslaught of the winter. Someday I would like to experience the island when the wild winds, pounding surf and relentless snow storms create a deeper magic, like that of Narnia when the White Witch was in control.
In October, the sun still may shine on one day, bright and clear, while on the next, mists role in, snaking through the tiny streets and rapping around the old buildings. When that happens, I shudder and sigh quite happily. I am in my favorite kind of place to hunker down and write.
Renee and I have all of this in common, and more. A love of laughter and good wine and a way of bringing out the best of our imaginations in each other. When I first met Renee, in October of 2014, she had her first book, Acquisition, coming out with The Wild Rose Press. A great accomplishment and a great read! We agreed that we would meet again the following year, and sure enough we did.
The next time I saw Renee, in October of 2015, her new book, The Haunting of William Gray, was about to be released. And now, having read it, I can say that it is exactly in keeping with my memories of those wonderful stories from my past. Harry and Heathcliff, make way for William Gray! Set on an island off of South Carolina, this story has the elements essential to making me shudder and sigh with happiness; from the glittering parties, to near drownings, to old creepy mansions, not to mention a ghost, and vividly authentic voodoo. The references to historical facts ground the book in reality and make it that much more believable to the reader. With beautifully descriptive language, Renee blends the past with the present and brings it all together in a surprising and satisfying ending.
I have no doubt that Renee and I will meet again to share more adventures and to write. Where will it be? Perhaps a castle in Scotland? Who knows? I can hardly wait to see what Renee comes up with next!
You can find this book and Renee’s others at The Haunting of William Gray
And Renee’s musings here Renee Johnson Writes