Jaime Jo Wright, multi award-winning author—including the Christy and Daphne du Maurier awards—is a coffee-fueled and cat-fancier extraordinaire. She has entwined her life with the legendary Captain Hook, residing serenely in Wisconsin’s rural woodlands. Her literary vocation involves penning chilling Gothic tales, a baffling change from that of Austenites, with a strong preference to the master of dark, Edgar Allan Poe. Two mischievous urchins adorn their family, who keep their mother on her toes—providing an exhilarating amount chaos.
In this interview, Jaime Jo talks with us about her latest novel, Vanishing at Castle Moreau.
FF: Can you tell us a little bit about your new novel The Vanishing at Castle Moreau?
The story of Castle Moreau spans a century and a half, its mystery surrounding the vanishing of many women through the course of these years. As the past and present come together to uncover the castle’s secrets, the remnants of legacy left by the women who have disappeared there begin to haunt the current day. All of it culminates in a twisting, mind-bending end, and the true nature of Castle Moreau is not at all what it claims to be.
FF: One of the main characters in the story is the castle itself. What gave you the idea to center this story on a castle shrouded in mystery?
There are stories of American castles, built on a smaller scale, that are supposedly haunted. Couple that research with the legendary biography of Elizabeth Bathory, who is known as one of the world’s earliest female serial killers, and the women who vanished behind her castle walls, I was inspired to come up with my own twist for the sake of spooky fiction. And who doesn’t love a haunted castle and the dark shadows that lie within it?
FF: What was your favorite timeline to write, the historical or the contemporary, and why?
It’s always a toss-up for me. Once I think I’ve discovered I prefer one timeline, then the story evolves and I develop a penchant for the other. Although, in this novel, there’s a first-person element set in the early 1800s, and I will admit that I enjoyed writing those scenes the most.
FF: What inspired your love for all things Gothic?
Considering I was quite the fraidy-cat as a child, I’m not entirely sure! But I loved the secrets around old antiques, abandoned buildings, and forgotten things. I believed they always had a story just aching to be told. After reading classic literature like Jane Eyre, it became evident to me that romance and history merging with the bleakness of soul and the hope of faith was going to be my perfect equation for bookish joy.
FF: How do you approach crafting a spooky story that captivates readers without overwhelming them with fear?
I think it’s a balancing act. What frightens me may be horrifying for some readers, and what I don’t find scary at all, some readers have indicated were my most terrifying moments in the books. So, most of it is learning the limits of how far I can take it before readers enter the DNF zone. I also want to wrap up my stories with elements of hope and faith rather than leave readers in the darkness, and I think this helps to offset the fright. That and knowing there’s a Scooby-Doo explanation for everything as well.
FF: What are some of the themes you hope readers pick up on in this story and why did you choose these to ground your novel?
This book’s theme was overwhelmingly one of refuge. And without saying too much to give away the secrets too early, I found that the women in Castle Moreau were all in need of that sanctuary that is a harbor for a broken soul. I think as women we can be consumed by brokenness and abuse, and through it we long to catch sight of a refuge—have the hope of a refuge—and eventually find it.
FF: Can you share what you’re working on next?
Absolutely! I am currently working on my next release for October of 2023 titled The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater. It’s a story that is based loosely around the Al Ringling Theater in Wisconsin—of the renowned Ringling Brothers history—and ghost stories that have circulated there for years. Of course, I throw my own fictionalized elements and twists into the story, and Barlowe Theater definitely takes on a life of its own. But it’s been so fun to write about early Vaudeville and delve into the schisms created by the economics of our systems, and how the downtrodden and the endowed interact throughout history.
Vanishing at Castle Moreau
Jaime Jo Wright
Genres: Mystery/Suspense, Romantic Suspense, Split-time
Release Date: April 4, 2023
A haunting legend. An ominous curse. A search for a secret buried deep within the castle walls.
In 1870, orphaned Daisy François takes a position as housemaid at a Wisconsin castle to escape the horrors of her past life. There she finds a reclusive and eccentric Gothic authoress who hides tales more harrowing than the ones in her novels. As women disappear from the area and the eerie circumstances seem to parallel a local legend, Daisy is thrust into a web that could ultimately steal her sanity, if not her life.
In the present day, Cleo Clemmons is hired by the grandson of an American aristocratic family to help his grandmother face her hoarding in the dilapidated Castle Moreau. But when Cleo uncovers more than just the woman’s stash of collectibles, a century-old mystery and the dust of the old castle’s curse threaten to rise again . . . this time to leave no one alive to tell the sordid tale.
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