Monday, May 23, 2016

What inspired me to write The Haunting of William Gray?

The Inspiration for The Haunting of William Gray

“I can’t take any more sun,” I confessed to my husband.

He glanced up from the stack of What to Do in South Carolina booklets he’d been perusing. “I know,” he agreed. Having learned enough about me in the twenty-five years of marital bliss—this is my story so I can call it that if I want to—we were celebrating at Garden City, he realized I was as cooked as I could be without medical intervention. “How about a relaxing boat ride to do some shelling?”

I perked up, dropping the ice packs from my cheeks and lips as I reached for the aloe gel. Boats? Shelling? “Perfect.”

He made the reservation, and we left early the next morning, driving to Georgetown. Halfway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, two of the nation’s top twenty-five vacation locales according to TripAdvisor, it was a place we’d skirted often, but had never actually taken the time to visit. Following a country ham and eggs breakfast at an old-fashioned diner near the town’s center—yes, this came with grits—we still had enough time to tour the Kaminski House before meeting the captain of the half-day touring boat we’d reserved to take us out to the North Island.

Along Winyah Bay, we spotted alligators yawning on the river bank, egrets stalking the more shallow areas near the sand bars, and my favorite—eagles flying overhead, their huge nests built atop poles or in impossibly tall trees. Then we embarked on a two hour stint on Shell Island, gathering conch shells, olive shells, abalone, and a sand dollar—treasures we still possess.

As we sauntered back along the Historic Harbor walkway, we saw the smokestack of the sunken Union ship, USS Harvest Moon. It peeked out ever so slightly, just enough to make us wonder whether it was watching us—like the alligators whose submerged bodies were only identified after seeing their eyes breaking the water’s surface. We ended our day in Georgetown with a sightseeing trolley through the old town, its driver sharing his knowledge of the superstitions, Gullah culture, and ancient lore of the area’s haunted houses.

Returning to the vacation resort, we kept asking ourselves why we’d never visited Georgetown before. Once home, mentioning it to our friends, we discovered nearly everyone thought we meant the enclave in Washington, D.C. I knew right then I wanted to write a novel set amid the Lowcountry’s ancient live oaks, temperamental ocean, converging rivers, haunted houses, and Spanish moss.

In The Haunting of William Gray, South Carolina’s beauty and culture become the backdrop for a brooding hero, spunky heroine, and the apparition who gains strength from her presence in the massive old house occupying a privately owned island in Winyah Bay.

Charleston is simply too close to Georgetown not to visit and include in the novel. It still offers voodoo—more appropriately called hoodoo—dolls in the old marketplace. Popular tours include the area’s haunted houses and hotels, and traditional southern fare highlights menus across the city. Fried green tomatoes, deep-fried crispy chicken, shrimp and grits—William Gray’s favorite—she-crab soup, and peach cobbler, exist beside haute cuisine and international flavors.
It is my hope that readers will not only enjoy the unlikely romance, but will be swept away in the ambiance of Georgetown’s harbor life, superstitions, and the possibility of spirits existing amongst the living in ways both dramatic and subtle.

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.

Available at The Wild Rose Press and all major online retailers

No comments: