How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Spirit in Time is set in 1872 Sacramento, California, a city where I lived for about ten years. I’m a fifth generation Californian (although I now live in Idaho), and have always been intrigued by the state’s history. What a dynamic place! Sacramento saw gold miners, railroad barons, brothel madams, and immigrant workers – all elements that come to play in this new novel. The main character, Jillian Winchester, is a ghost hunter who is kidnapped back in time by a mysterious spirit. She not only has to find her way back to her own time, but also must uncover the mystery of who a man in a famous painting really is. Many of the places in the novel are inspired by real locations and a few famous names pop up. Anyone familiar with California will recognize a few of the places, which is part of the fun.
What are you reading?
I’m rereading The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd in preparation to reading its sequel The Rebels of Ireland. I read this first book years ago and am not sure why I didn’t read the second book then. The beauty of these two books is, firstly, they are each 800 pages, so I know I have weeks of reading time secured. Second of all, Rutherfurd is a wonderful author who brings the past alive in his historical fiction. I’ve read everything else written by him.
Tell us something about yourself and how you became an author.
Like many authors, writing books is something I’ve always wanted to do. I started writing fiction about ten years ago, poorly at first, but I took a couple of classes, attended seminars, read books on craft, and slowly gained some skills. I had a headstart because I worked as a journalist and already knew how to write and capture good quotes/dialogue. Fiction, however, is a different beast and I still needed to learn about plot, story arcs, internal and external conflicts, and so many other pieces to fiction writing. Spirit in Time is my seventh published book and I’m nearly done with the next one. I still feel like I’m learning, and likely always will, but it’s certainly more fun now.
Jillian finds herself employed as a maid in Sacramento, in an elegant mansion with a famous painting. The artwork reveals another mystery: Why does the man within look exactly like her boyfriend, Mason Chandler?
Morality and sin live side by side, not only in the picture, but also within her. As her transgressions escalate, she races the clock to find the man in the painting, and hunt down a spirit with a disconcerting gift.
But will time be her friend or foe?
“Are you a ghost?” A young girl stood where the guard had been only minutes before. She spoke matter- of-factly, her dark eyes alive with curiosity.
The house was still whole, she was alive, and the world hadn’t ended. Jillian scanned the room for damage, then blinked. This must be a dream. The long dining table—bare just moments ago—was now laid for a meal. Glasses sat upright, forks and spoons lined up in perfect order, and a tall flower arrangement appeared unscathed. A crystal chandelier above the table remained perfectly still.
The guard and Asian man were nowhere in sight.
The girl, dressed neatly in a calf-length white pinafore embellished with pink ribbons, didn’t appear rattled by the cataclysmic jolt.
“What happened?” Jillian asked, still crouched on her knees. “Are you okay?”
“You don’t belong here. Mother will be angry.”
Even though the floor had ceased to shake, the roiling continued in her head. Might this very real looking girl be a spirit? Most apparitions wavered in some manner, their appearances paler and less there than the tangible world around them. This child appeared solid in every way, from the tips of her shiny chestnut hair to the toes of her lace-up black shoes.
About the author
Julie Howard is the author of the Wild Crime and Spirited Quest series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild, editor of the Potato Soup Journal, and founder of the Boise chapter of Shut Up & Write.