Carrie Hansen spent her life caring for cardiac patients. Little did she know she would become a patient herself. After recovering from her own heart surgery, she realizes she has a special gift: the ability to see and talk with the dead.
Now, with her new heart failing, she leaves the bustle of Seattle behind and returns to Lexington, Missouri, the small town where she spent her childhood. Here, she sets out to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion and open it as a venue for celebrations.
Carrie’s work is cut out for her. The 150-year-old Greek revival house is in need of serious repair. Her sister, Melanie, tries to bully Carrie into returning to Seattle, predicting “her little project” is doomed to fail. Finally, Carrie’s health gives out on her, requiring emergency surgery.
But she will not give up. Carrie’s unique gift allows her to build relationships with the mansion’s original occupants, especially Maj. Tom Stewart, the handsome Civil War soldier who died a hundred years before Carrie was born. He encourages and comforts her, though not in the physical way they both desire.
Then there’s the builder of the house, Col. Bartholomew Stratton. If there’s one thing this 19th century horse trader cannot abide, it’s the living trespassing on his estate. He delights in scaring these intruders away, even if they are paying guests.
Will Carrie finish restoring Celebration House or will it finish her? And how can she plan a future with a man who has only a past?
Find it @ Tirgearr Publishing
Welcome, Annette, and congratulations on your new release! Your novel, Celebration House, seems to delicately weave the heroine’s health problems into the story. What brought you to use her medical problems as a plot thread?
I worked in a cath lab in Seattle where I provided nursing care for heart transplant patients. Between cases, I would talk with these men and women, and their courage never failed to amaze me. It was a natural transition to include them in the molding of my protagonist.
That has to be such a powerful experience–what a beautiful thing to include them in your writing. It’s like a tribute to those amazing people in your life. 🙂 Now, I’m a huge, huge fan of ghosts so needless to say I adore their part in your story. Have you any real life experiences with the supernatural? Do you believe in ghosts?
I can’t say I’ve encountered any ghosts, but yes, I very much do believe in them. I’ve never shared this story with my family, but when I worked the night shift in a small hospital in Lexington, Missouri, and I knew that a patient was terminally ill, I would envision an angel sitting outside their room, waiting to accompany their souls to heaven. I had this image of a middle-aged man, wearing khaki pants and loafers, reading a book and patiently waiting. His sack lunch in a brown paper bag sat on the floor next to his chair. That image comforted me, the idea that no one dies alone.
That’s such a lovely thought. The sack lunch made me smile! Let’s dive into Celebration House. What might readers be surprised to learn about the plot or characters?
In the first draft of the book, Beth’s fiancé isn’t a womanizer with a pregnant girlfriend and a jilted mistress. He’s a gay man who finally finds the courage to stop the wedding and admit his orientation to his family. But that storyline felt awkward to me, so I changed it.
I’d say that fellow did a 180-degree turn, LOL! Let’s have some fun with the story. What’s the first sentence?
“It hasn’t been lived in for quite a while.”
Oh, boy. That gives me shivers! What’s your favorite line in the book?
“Carrie felt and saw only Tom. He bent his head and kissed her for the first time. His lips were warm and soft and full of the promise of more to come.”
Oh, my YUM. So very sweet and romantic! Give us some more–how about a brief excerpt?
Carrie opened the door and stepped inside. Sunlight streamed in through the dirty windows. Even though the barn had been vacant for years, she smelled hay and horses.
Looking to her left, she saw a man shaving. He was bare from the waist up, his chest finely proportioned, lean, and muscular. His arms were powerfully built, and his right hand remained steady as he scraped the white soap from his angular jaw. His dark blue uniform pants were tucked into black leather knee-high riding boots. He stood at least six foot tall, and though Carrie hadn’t made her living in the carnival, she guessed he was probably younger than her, likely in his mid 20s. He peered intently at a small mirror tacked up on one of the barn walls. She waited to speak until after he’d finished the last swipe with the ivory-handled straight blade and had dipped it into the basin of soapy water.
He turned towards her suddenly, his expression an equal mix of surprise and annoyance. He dropped the razor and grabbed his shirt off a nearby nail. He turned his back to Carrie and pulled it on.
“You can see me, ma’am?” he asked, buttoning his shirt before stuffing it into his pants.
“Yes. Do you see me?”
“Yes, but I believe I have the advantage. I am dead. You are not.”
Oh, WOW. I LOVE that! Which scenes of Celebration House were most difficult for you to write? Why?
I struggled with some of the restoration scenes. I wanted to push through those and set up for the characters to tell their stories. My editor told me my impatience was leading to the classic telling, not showing habit of newbie authors. Most of the rewrites occurred in those chapters.
I can see how they could be more difficult, but it sounds like you worked through them. While we’re talking scenes, which would you most like to experience for yourself? From whose POV?
In one of the last scenes of the book, Tom teaches Carrie to waltz. I would like to experience that as a bystander.
That sounds so romantic. *happy sigh* What inspired the title of Celebration House?
It started as an idea of a place where celebrations, i.e. weddings and parties, take place, but it came to mean more. For me, the title came to mean a celebration of Carrie’s life.
It’s absolutely perfect. 🙂 Before we let you go, and you tell us what you’re working on now?
I’m writing a contemporary romance entitled “A Year with Geno,” which takes place in Anchorage. It’s coming along slower than I would like. There’s that pesky issue of patience again.
LOL! Well, fortunately readers won’t have to wrestle with impatience. Celebration House is available now, so those of you dying to read this one can head on over to Tirgearr Publishing for retailer buy links.
Annette, thanks so much for joining me today. It’s been a pleasure getting to know both you and Celebration House!
Annette Drake’s work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences. Her debut novel, Celebration House, debuted on August 1st in e-book format for readers everywhere from Tirgearr Publishing.
Annette left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. There she earned a degree in journalism before working as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas. She earned a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994 from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a registered nurse in hospitals throughout Missouri, Alaska and Washington for 18 years before returning her focus to writing
Annette recently completed her middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, and is hard at work revising her steamy contemporary romance, A Year with Geno.
She is the mother of four children. The oldest just graduated from the University of Washington; the youngest just graduated from kindergarten. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp.
You can follow her writing at www.Annettedrake.com. She welcomes correspondence at: Write2me@annettedrake.com.