When did you start writing?
I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. In the 6th grade I wrote our class play—I believe it was called Love Potion, shamelessly influenced by popular TV shows of that era, Addams Family and The Munsters. I wrote my first book of fiction when I was 14. I believe it was just under a 100 typed pages. It will remained unpublished.
Is Robeth Publishing your own house?
Yes. I used to publish a monthly community newspaper, and annual magazine under Robeth Publishing. I sold the publication when I had to move back to Lake Havasu to help my parents when my father became ill, back in the early 1990s. But I kept Robeth Publishing, which is now Robeth Publishing, LLC.
Why did you decided on being an indie writer?
I’ve never had the patience to submit manuscripts to publishers or agents. I tried a few times over the years, but everyone knows you can’t submit a manuscript just once and expect results. I was an indi back when it was taboo. My first non-fiction book on Havasu, Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances, I self-published in 1995 because I knew it would have limited appeal and was a regional book. Today I sell it online and in the local museum. It is not available as an ebook.
Have you been approached by publishers now?
Tantor Media approached me about purchasing audio rights. So far they have purchased the audio rights to the first ten books in my Haunting Danielle series. I also have an agent who initially approached me first.
Do you participate in a critique group or have a partner who reads for you?
No. But I work very closely with a group of beta readers.
Your series has similarities to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R. A. Dick. Did you read the book? Were you a fan of the movie and the TV series?
I never read the book. But I watched the television series as a child, and I have seen the movie. In fact, I reference the movie in The Ghost and the Doppelganger. I have always enjoyed ghost stories like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, as well as Topper. However, I probably was a bigger fan of the Topper movies when I was younger, than I was of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir when working out the premise of The Ghost of Marlow House, which was the first book in the series. I’ve just always been drawn to classic mysteries set in big old houses—like Dark Shadows or the movie Clue. Plus, I’ve often fanticized about opening my own bed and breakfast.
You created a backstory for Danielle, your main character. In the first book, The Ghost of Marlow House, Danielle is in transition. Her marriage and career have come to an abrupt and rude end. Was this creation necessary?
I wanted the main character to be in her thirties, someone who had been successful, yet I needed a plausible reason why she would pull up stakes and embark on a new adventure.
When Danielle finds that she inherited Marlow House, she travels to Oregon to see it. Is Frederickport real? How big it is? What’s it like?
It’s a fictional place. My son and daughter-in-law live in Portland and when we visit them, we enjoy going to the Oregon coast. I thought that would make a great setting for a book. My fictional Frederickport is a small beach town.
Danielle is able to see and hear Walt Marlow. Did she always have the ability to see spirits?
Yes. The first spirit she was aware of seeing was her grandmother, which is why it didn’t scare her. The second spirit was a classmate, who tried to get her to help him convey a message to his parents. That did not work out for her, as the parents felt she was being cruel and making up stories. It taught Danielle to keep the knowledge of her gift to herself from that point on.
Lily, Danielle’s best friend from CA, is the only one from her past she takes with her to Oregon. Tell readers about Lily.
I initially patterned Lily after my sister—who was also a second-grade teacher. She is outgoing, sometimes says inappropriate things, and is fiercely loyal.
You made sure Danielle and Walt weren’t related—but she still inherits Marlow House. How did that come about?
That’s something Walt wants to know in the first book. He’s trying to figure out how Danielle Boatman inherited his house, because he didn’t know any Boatmans.
You created a community of ghosts, most of whom can’t communicate with each other. Why other ghosts? And why can’t they intermingle for the most part?
Actually, ghosts can communicate with each other in the world I created. The only problem, some spirits don’t quite understand what has happened, so it can confuse things.
In the world I created, not everyone who dies sticks around to be a ghost. In fact, most move on to the next level—wherever that might be.
Correspondingly, you created a human community wherein some characters also have Danielle’s ability to perceive ghosts. How did you decide who can and who can’t?
In the world I create, everyone has some ability to see or sense spirits—which is why most everyone can smell Walt’s cigar. Babies are more likely to see spirits in Danielle’s world—which is something many who do believe in the paranormal, believe to be true. Some characters find their sensitivity increasing over time—like Heather—and some, like Lily, have on rare occasions been able to see a ghost.
Then there are those humans who can perceive ghosts, but some who believe and those who are of the mindset to call those who can—crazy. Are there certain characteristics you give to those who don’t believe?
The one character who comes to mind is Joe Morelli. (Yes, he has the same name as the Stephanie Plumb character, something I didn’t realize until several books in.)
My Joe is basically a nice guy who likes to think of himself as a realist. If a ghost were to suddenly appear before him, he would look for a rational explanation and never consider the possibility it was a real ghost.
Each of your characters transforms through the series, even some of the secondary characters. Had you planned their arcs?
While I have a general idea where the series—or each book—is going, I often feel there is a muse sitting on my shoulder telling me which way to turn. Sometimes I think—wow, I didn’t see that coming!
As for the characters evolving—I think that is vital for a series if it is to continue. What influenced me most is when I binge watched Veronica Mars on Netflix. (Seriously). Afterwards, I asked myself, what was it about that series that compelled me to keep watching? More than the storyline, it was the characters and how they evolved. I started loathing one character and over time I came to love the character. That’s what feels real to me. It’s what I enjoy writing.
Do the nonbelievers help create tension? It must be a chess game keeping the various factions straight while writing. Do you outline?
Keeping everything straight can be nerve wracking and I take notes. I feel it is a betrayal to readers to get sloppy with the facts. Yet, I am human, and I imagine it is bound to happen. However, my biggest issues right now seem to be me typing the wrong character name. If my editor, proofreaders, or betas fail to catch it, it drives me insane. I sort of remind myself of my grandmother, who was always calling us by another grandchild’s name.
In creating the spirit community, you must also create their “world.” What rules, and underlying assumptions, did you create for them?
Ghost stories have always fascinated me. The world I pieced together basically came from stories I’ve heard when people recount their “real” ghost stories. Interestingly, I have many readers tell me how realistic they find my stories. Think about that a moment. They say my ghost stories are realistic.
How does Walt Marlow know that if he leaves Marlow House he can’t return?
Readers know he made some sort of bargain—but with who—and what exactly was the bargain? In later stories it becomes clearer that the spirits often know more than what they are telling the living. As the spirit of Eva Thorndike tells us, it’s not in the best interest of the living to know all the secrets of the Universe.
Danielle’s riches increase throughout the series as hidden fortunes come her way. Seems like a dream come true—but what is the downside?
I have a lot of fun with this element of the series. Danielle is not a material girl. Oh, like anyone else, she enjoys having money to buy what she wants and needs. But dreams of super wealth simply aren’t her thing. Yet, at every turn, she finds herself falling into another pot of money. I suppose one downside, it makes her more a target for scammers, while making others suspicious of her.
Danielle turns Marlow House into a bed and breakfast. Most of the time, the guests are a nuisance. Why, when Danielle can afford not to, does she continue operating the B&B?
That’s a question asked by some of the other characters in the series. Danielle enjoys cooking and meeting new people, and before her “wealth” she always thought having a B and B would be fun. It wasn’t until she came to Marlow House did she become wealthy—and that was after the second book. She mistakenly believed her first inheritance was just enough to help her start her new business.
I suspect that had she not met Walt when she became wealthy, she may have reevaluated her life and decided to do something else with her newfound fortune. Travel perhaps? But leaving Marlow House, meant leaving Walt.
What are dream hops? How does Walt use them to create more of a real world with Danielle, when, in fact (or in fiction as the case may be), they are anything but? How does he use them?
Many people believe our loved ones who have died can visit us in our dreams. I know I have had a couple dreams that felt different—dreams where I visited with my father. In my books, I call this a dream hop. It’s where Walt can enter someone’s dream. It also allows him to visit with those who can’t see him when awake, like Lily.
After sixteen books, you are at the cusp of transforming your series. From the perspective of a writer (or a reader), it’s an exciting development. You are going where few have gone. Have you mapped out this brave new world for your characters and readers?
I have jumped the shark with book 16. Many of my readers have told me they love the direction I’ve taken the series, yet I’ve had a couple who don’t like it and say they won’t continue reading. I knew that would happen, and I have no regrets. If I wanted to keep the series going, I needed to venture into a new uncharted territory. And I have.
Your theme thus far has been unrequited love. What have you concluded after writing about it?
You can’t write about it forever. An author needs to know when to take a series in a new direction.
Times and people change. What remains the same?
According to my favorite book in the Bible, there is nothing new under the sun.
Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever encountered one? (Give away—I have—not a pleasant experience!)
I believe in the possibility of ghosts. While I have not personally seen one, I have someone close to me who I trust, who has on several occasions seen what she believes are ghosts—or spirits.
Do you favor beaches or mountains, Bobbi?
I lived in the mountains for a number of years, and still miss the scent of pine on a summer’s day. But I am a little too old to shovel snow. I also love the beach and have plans to spend summers in our RV along the Oregon coast. So, it’s a toss.