Ghost Hunter Mysteries series centers on M.J. Holliday, a spiritual medium who — along with her BFF Gilley Gillespie — runs a ghost-busting business, which often puts historical murder and mayhem front and center. With competing love interests, a best friend who’s scared of his own shadow, and a parrot with attitude, some days, it’s all M.J. can do just to stay focused. (Don’t let the lighthearted description, taken from Victoria’s website, fool you: These books will scare the beejeezus out of you!)
So I read the series, and I loved it. I quickly moved on to Victoria’s other series, the Psychic Eye books, and methodically devoured each one of those. I was really and truly in love — with Victoria’s books, and then with the author herself. While we all have certain authors we like, it takes a certain personality to LURVE. I joined Victoria’s Facebook Fan Page, and couldn’t have been more impressed by the time and dedication she devotes to her fans: answering questions, replying to comments, giving us a glimpse into her life. That’s why I was more than thrilled when she was excited to talk to ME, to give me an interview—and a bigger glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words.
Our interview took place over the course of two phone calls, both of which started with a half-hour of just chatting and catching up, like we were old friends who hadn’t missed a beat in our relationship. But once we got down to the business of interviewing, I was enthralled by what Victoria had to tell me. I think you will be too. (Author’s note: Don’t worry, we also discussed her newest book, When, in great detail, which I will get to later.)
Celebrity Extra: Your book series deals with characters who have well-developed psychic abilities, which you have yourself. When did you first become aware of your abilities?
Victoria Laurie: There were a lot of glimpses in childhood of, I wouldn’t even say an ability, but sort of an awareness. It was a very scary thing, because you don’t really understand the source — it’s just stuff that popped out of my mouth at inopportune times. No one ever put a title to it, least of all me. In my 20s I went to see a gentleman who came highly recommended. He was a psychic, and he remains the best psychic I’ve ever seen. He eventually became my mentor. He intimated that I clearly had a talent. It wasn’t anything that I wanted to embrace because I figured all psychics lived in trailer parks with big hoop earrings with scarves on their heads, and barely got by; I wanted to be an economist. And then I wanted to be a lawyer, so there was no room for this psychic-schmichic stuff.
And then I moved to Florida from Michigan, and I had some really bizarre incidents where I really couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was almost in a panic because it felt like it was an assault of information. A friend in Michigan had befriended Rebecca Rosen, who is a world-renowned medium at this time, but back then she wasn’t even doing readings professionally. So he put us in contact. It was a wonderful gift because we were both experiencing a lot of the same things, and she was so much more OK with it than I was at that time. She was the first person to ever say: “You know what? You are psychic. You are an intuitive.” She made it OK for me to experiment and to try. Then she challenged me to start doing readings professionally, because I had been pushing her. So she said, “I will if you will.”
It took me a very long time to actually embrace the title of “psychic.” You say that you are psychic to people, and they put an “o” on the end of that: “psycho.” I didn’t want that label. For me it’s much more comfortable to say that I’m intuitive than it is that I’m psychic. It’s not my abilities and anything that I’m ashamed of — it’s the bad connotation that comes with the label.
CE: How or when did you discover you also had a talent for writing?
VL: I didn’t think I could write. I had read the first three books of Janet Evanovich’s brilliant, fabulous series — the Stephanie Plum series — and I felt such a connection to Janet’s voice. I felt like I expressed myself that way. I didn’t think I could write like her, but I felt like I could express myself. We had a similar sense of humor and kind of looked at the world a little bit the same way. I was so naive at the time; I didn’t even know you could have an amateur sleuth. I thought you had to be like a private investigator-turned-writer or a coroner-turned-writer or a crime scene investigator-turned-writer. So the whole amateur-sleuth genre got introduced to me in that nutshell.
CE: The character of M.J. has medium abilities; do you share those abilities?
VL: I do have a little bit of medium ability. A lot of it comes from my friendship with Rebecca. It’s hard to be in her atmosphere and not experience a little bit of an amplification of that ability. Rebecca is so powerful. She opens that door, and if you are at all intuitive, you can feel them come through. I used to do readings where I would connect people with deceased loved ones, and I have had quite a few really great amazing connections, but it’s not quite my forte. But I’ve experienced it enough to be able to write authentically about how it feels. I wouldn’t have written M.J. as a medium if I didn’t feel I could pull it off. If it weren’t so hard for me and didn’t take so much out of me, I’d do it almost exclusively because it’s fun.
CE: I know some aspects of your characters’ personalities are based on people in your life. Let’s start with Steven.
VL: Steven wasn’t actually an ex of mine; we were really good friends. I had broken my hand in 2004, and I went to go see him to repair it. He took such wonderful, wonderful care of me. He treated me like he would a concert pianist because he knew I make my living through my fingertips, typing up my books. Every once in a while you come across someone who’s like a magnet, who just attracts other people through their light. Steven was definitely that.
He was a character I just couldn’t NOT put in a book. I thought he’d be a really great complement to M.J., who’s still a bit of a wounded child from the loss of her mother. I figured Steven could come along and repair that.
When I moved out of Boston, I just didn’t have enough interaction with Steven to be able to continue to pull on his character. So I thought, “OK, I’m just going to have to make up a new person.” And that’s when Heath came along.
[The real Steven] passed away of ALS. ALS comes in a couple of different forms, and he unfortunately had the most aggressive kind. It’s so heartbreaking to think of this person who was so alive is now gone. He was like sunshine walking into the room.
CE: What about Cat?
VL: My sister is Cat. It’s hard on her because the way I paint Cat is sort of as a base — the base of Cat and how much she loves Abby, and how smart she is. That’s my sister, but everything else is completely blown out of proportion.
CE: And Gilley?
VL: Gilley is my agent, Jim, and he’s been so generous.
CE: How about some of the Psychic Eye characters?
VL: Dave was a real handyman that I had in Florida. Dutch is actually based on my sweetheart. Milo is based on a really dear friend of mine. It’s hard to actually find a character who is in the books on a regular basis who isn’t based on someone I know. Don’t ever be friends with or date a writer, because you’re just doomed.
CE: For me, Dutch could be played by Aaron Eckhart. Who do you picture when you write him?
VL: The real Dutch[, my sweetheart,] is Polish, very cute, a beautiful dresser. He takes my breath away, which is all that matters. The very first time I met him, 20 years ago, he took my breath away and hasn’t stopped doing it sense. But I think Dutch in my mind looks a lot like [actor] Neal McDonough. For my readers, I want Dutch to be anyone who floats your boat. Anyone who makes your heart beat a little bit faster. So if Aaron Eckhart knocks your socks off, Cindy, go for it!
VL: My high school experience was terrible. It was horrible. I came from a really dysfunctional childhood. I was so isolated and so alone, and Maddie has many traits that point to me in high school. My editor kept trying to get me to lighten Maddie up, and I was like: “No. This kind of experience really does happen to tweens.” There are situations where it’s a struggle for some teens to fit it. It was a real struggle for me, that’s for damn sure. It was a great background for me to extrapolate from.
The idea behind knowing someone’s deathdate came from when I once told my sister when her mother-in-law was going to pass away. I said, “You know, she’s not going to make it past November.” And her mother-in-law died in early November, I believe. And then my best friend, her father-in-law was dying. And I said, “I’m so sorry, but I feel like it’s going to happen right around the holidays.” The first week in January was when he passed away. So then I thought: “What if I took that to the next level and narrowed it down to an exact date? Eureka! There’s a book there.” And so I ran with it.
CE: Recently you got the wonderful news that When has been optioned for television. Tell me about how that came about.
VL: I was at the library when my agent, Jim, called to let me know. He said: “We got a call from a scout about a week ago from Warner Brothers, and they were interested in When. I’m working with a sister agency on it for the media rights. They have now confirmed their offer.” And I slid out of the chair onto the floor of the library.
I’d had this streak of 24 books without nary a single bit of interest from anybody. And I thought, “OK, fine. I’ll just be one of those authors who just never gets optioned.” No big thing, right? In the book world, it’s kind of like you haven’t really made it until someone options your book, which is a sad thing because we all write books. We don’t write movies or television shows. But it’s that cultural perception. Like until Nicholas Sparks had Message in a Bottle made, he wasn’t really an author of note. Which is ridiculous. So, Jim was like: “This is the deal. They’re looking at it for TV. It’s a great offer, and I think we should take it.” I’m like: “Ahhhh, OK. Yeah, do that.”
CE: Do you have any details about how they’re going to handle the story?
VL: However they envision it is OK by me. I’m perfectly happy with however that proceeds. I have an executive consultant title, which I don’t even know what that means. But it’s a great title. I mean, this is such a great honor. Any way they want to include me is really amazing. But I’m trying to remain as level-headed about the whole thing as possible.
To keep up with Victoria’s books and soon-to-be TV series, go to her website at victorialaurie.com for all the info, and links to purchase her books (the newest Psychic Eye book, Sense of Deception, hit bookstores in July).