Set in the fictional town of Caldwell, N.C., “Phantom Traces” is the contemporary story of Abigail Stryker, a young librarian struggling to revive the antiquated and reportedly haunted Harvey Library. A pipe-smoking ghost has suddenly begun hurling books at anyone he doesn’t like, and if the haunting isn’t stopped, the library will be shut down. Abby enlists the help of history professor Jack Wood to figure out what has stirred the spirit of the library’s founder, and why he’s still trapped within its walls after over 100 years. In unraveling they mystery, they uncover a tragic, 19th century tale of love and loss, and discover one of their own.
Addressing the themes of May-September romance and the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s, “Phantom Traces” combines a modern love story, a historical tragedy, and a spooky paranormal in a multilayered, fast-paced plot guaranteed to take the reader on an emotional ride.
Targeted Age Group:: 21+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’ve always been fascinated by the unexplained and the paranormal, and also love to read fiction, particularly romance. I ran out of titles in this pseudo-genre, so decided my only choice was to start writing them myself.
Having lived a number of years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, I was struck by the magic in this place—some parts of that wilderness have remained untouched for hundreds of years. It was the perfect place to set a mysterious romance.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Most of my characters wake me up, fully formed, at 3 a.m. My biggest challenge is to then find “pictures” of them, which explains why I spend a lot of time (and money!) on royalty free sites. But when I find them, there’s no doubt. It’s as though they’ve been waiting for me all along.
I post these pics on my desktop while I write, where they act as muses.
Abigail Stryker heard all the rumors about the pipe-smoking, book-hurling ghost who chased off Harvey Library’s last two librarians. She took the job anyway.
The first, Liz Carter, resigned down at city hall sporting a golf ball-sized lump onthe side of her head. She suffered a whack from War and Peace, the unabridged copy. A few weeks later her successor, Norma Porter, abandoned her post on a chilly spring evening. A group of students from the community college were on their way in to work on term papers when they heard a scream. The door burst open, and Norma raced past them—almost through them—jowls and flaccid arms flapping as if the place was on fire.
Abby walked the block and a half from her apartment just before nine a.m. on her first morning as the Harvey’s new head librarian. No one else was stirring in Caldwell, North Carolina. A beautiful April morning, the square was still hushed, sleepy under the hazy chill that habitually settled over the Blue Ridge foothills.
So this is small town life. Huh. A bit of a change from the busy college town where I grew up.
After what happened, she wasn’t ready to be completely on her own, though she hated to admit it. Her Aunt Dianne just happened to have an empty efficiency over her shop on Main Street. Just up the street from the library.
So, Abby might have to deal with a restless spirit. He couldn’t possibly be as unsettled as she was, so it really didn’t matter. She needed a new start, and the Harvey Library seemed the perfect choice. Away from Boone, away from the memories, away from her parents and their “helpful” connections.
She suspected this ghost was nothing more than the fabrication of a town mourning Dana Laramy’s retirement. After running the place for almost thirty years, she’d become as permanent a fixture as the old school bell mounted in the lobby. There were no reports of any abnormal activity until the day she left. After that, talk surfaced about closing the Harvey Library permanently.
Claire Gem writes contemporary romance with a ghostly twist. An avid reader, she’s a fan of exploring the unknown, solving mysteries, and ghost stories best read with the lights on. She loves creating characters so real, readers miss them when the book is closed.
After achieving her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Claire settled in central Massachusetts with her husband of 36 years (yes, happily-ever-after really does exist). Always fascinated by the paranormal, she holds a Certificate in Paranormal Studies from Duke University’s Rhine’s Research Center.
Chased by those pesky ghosts, Claire writes for her life.
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