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Claire Gem: When Imagination Becomes Reality
Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Or vice versa. In the writing of my latest release, Spirits of the Heart, I had a very creepy event occur that literally stalled the completion of the book for over eighteen months.

In June of 2015, I was in the middle of crafting my new supernatural suspense, set on the grounds of an abandoned mental asylum in the town where I grew up. My sister, Terri, who is a professional photographer as well as my cover designer, spent the day with me driving around the old campus of the Middletown Psych Center. The asylum, which officially closed the doors of its last building in 1996, had stood vacant for almost twenty years. While some of the buildings were repurposed, others were left to crumble under the cruelty of time and vagrants. One building in particular, Talcott Hall, called to me.

Terri took photos for the cover and book trailer while I spun tales in my head about what would happen next in my novel. Although it was surrounded by eight-foot tall chain link fence, we spent most of our time there. It had served as the “maximum security” unit—the one reserved for the most disturbed, the most violent of patients. The vibes around this monstrous brick edifice were almost palpable. It was as though the walls themselves had absorbed some of the pain, fear, loneliness, and desperation of the patients it housed, and could be felt even from behind the chain link barrier.

My research into the history of mental health facilities revealed the horrors patients endured throughout the 1800s, and well into the next century. Admitting diagnoses ranged from melancholia, or depression, to epilepsy, and even diabetes. Because the medical community did not understand the causes for the seizures caused by the two latter conditions, they labeled them as mental illness, and people were locked away. Families often abandoned their kin there, sometimes not even taking responsibility for their burial after they died. It is rumored that wealthy men who tired of their wives admitted them for melancholia, then had the marriage annulled and went off to find another wife.

“Treatments” could more accurately defined as medieval torture. Unruly patients were often bound like mummies, wrapped tightly in cold, wet sheets until they became more tractable. Many asylums housed rows of porcelain bathtubs in their basements, where patients were soaked in hot water for long hours until it drew the fight out of them. Not to mention the drugs, experimental surgical treatments (like lobotomies), or electric shock treatments.

It is no wonder that old asylums are considered by paranormal investigators to be the most haunted of places. If ever there were ever good reasons for a spirit to be confused, trapped, and unable to move on, these poor souls had them.

In Spirits of the Heart, Talcott Hall is where the spirits of many tormented souls, including a little girl and her father, remain trapped.

Spirits of the Heart

Addiction counselor Laura Horton returns from college to move in with an old friend and start her career. But her homecoming is jarring. Her friend moves out, leaving Laura alone with the gorgeous but intimidating ex-boyfriend—in a house that snugs up to an ancient graveyard.

Officer Miller Stanford is a man with a shattered past. His alcoholic dad destroyed their family, a weakness Miller is terrified will consume him too. The last thing he needs is a sexy, blonde addiction counselor watching his every move. When he begins to see specters in the dark, he starts questioning his own stability.

But Laura sees her too—a pathetic child-spirit searching for her father. When Laura starts digging into old asylum records, the eerie events escalate . . . Can Miller and Laura uncover the secrets of Talcott Hall without jeopardizing their love—and lives—in the process?

Buy Links:
Createspace | Amazon | Book Trailer

After spending that day with Terri collecting photos and vibes from Talcott Hall to complete the writing of Spirits of the Heart, my muse was on fire. I was nearly halfway through writing the novel when . . .

Two weeks later, the building burned to the ground in a mysterious fire that was labeled arson, with no suspects ever apprehended.

For over a year, my “muse” went on strike. It seemed no matter what I did, I couldn’t write another word on my book. I had known how the story ended (or thought I had), and had already outlined almost have of the novel. But I was so heartbroken that the building, my inspiration, was gone, I just couldn’t write about it.

Until I figured out a way to weave the fire into the story. I contacted one of the firemen, Nick Elia, and gained permission to use some of his fantastic pictures of the blaze in my trailer. At one of the book signings in Middletown, I met Nick in person, and he related the strange occurrences that happened the night of that fire.

He was off duty, but heard the first alarm pulled on his radio—to a location clear across town from the Psych center. His colleagues reported that when they got to that location and found no fire, they were summoned to another alarm downtown. Again, no fire. This happened three times before they finally saw the smoke billowing from over the Middletown Psych Center. By the time the trucks arrived, the entire building was engulfed. Being a photography buff, Nick came to the scene to shoot the fantastic pictures I used in my book trailer. These, along with the photos taken by Terri two weeks earlier, are the last photographs in existence of Talcott Hall.

Claire Gem

About the Author

Strong Women, Starting Over
~Redefining Romance~

Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of five titles in the genres of contemporary romance, supernatural suspense, and women’s fiction. She also writes Author Resource guide books and presents seminars on writing craft and marketing.

Her supernatural suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival, and was a finalist in the 2017 RONE Awards. Also in 2017, her women’s fiction, The Phoenix Syndrome, was a finalist in the National Reader’s Choice Awards, and her contemporary romance, A Taming Season, was a Literary Award of Merit finalist in the HOLT Medallion Awards. Her latest release, Spirits of the Heart, was a finalist in the 2017 “I Heart Indie Awards.”

Creating cross-genre fiction she calls “supernatural suspense,” Claire loves exploring the paranormal and the unexplained, and holds a certificate in Parapsychology from the Rhine Research Center of Duke University.

A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 39 years, now live in central Massachusetts.

Claire is available for seminars & media interviews & loves to travel for book promotional events.

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