Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes K.C. Tansley.
Ms. Tansley debuted her Amazon bestselling The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts (Beckett Publishing Group)—Book 1 in The Unbelievables series—earlier this month and is the pseudonym of award-winning author Kourtney Heintz. Heintz writes cross-genre fiction for adults, including the novel The Six Train to Wisconsin (2013), as well as poetry. She lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, on a hill somewhere in Connecticut and tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, and time travel. Never one to say no to a road trip, Ms. Tansley has climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days.
Praise for The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts:
“The novel’s murder mystery is intriguing and grows more complex as its supernatural elements are unveiled.” — Kirkus Reviews
“By centering her supernatural world on the concept of belief, adult author Tansley … gives her story a complex and unusual framework, and having the formerly possessed Kat become a possessor herself, as she inhabits another woman’s body while in the past, puts a neat spin on conventional ghost story motifs.” — Publishers Weekly
From the publisher:
She tried to ignore them. But some things won’t be ignored. Kat Preston doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not because she’s never seen one, but because she saw one too many. Refusing to believe is the only way to protect herself from the ghost that tried to steal her life. Kat’s disbelief keeps her safe until her junior year at McTernan Academy, when a research project for an eccentric teacher takes her to a tiny, private island off the coast of Connecticut. The site of a grisly mystery, the Isle of Acacia is no place for a girl who ignores ghosts, but the ghosts leave Kat little choice. Accompanied by her research partner, Evan Kingsley, she investigates the disappearance of Cassie Mallory and Sebastian Radcliffe on their wedding night in 1886. Evan’s scientific approach to everything leaves Kat on her own to confront a host of unbelievables: ancestral curses, powerful spells, and her strange connection to the ghosts that haunt Castle Creighton. But that’s all before Kat’s yanked through a magic portal and Evan follows her. When the two of them awaken 129 years in the past with their souls trapped inside the bodies of two wedding guests, everything changes. Together, Kat and Evan race to stop the wedding-night murders and find a way back to their own time—and their own bodies—before their souls slip away forever. A YA time-travel murder mystery that is sure to delight fans of Page Morgan’s The Dispossessed trilogy.
Now, K.C. Tansley puts readers under her spell …
Hartford Books Examiner: What first inspired you to write THE GIRL WHO IGNORED GHOSTS – and how do you see this book as holding appeal for readers beyond genre classification?
K.C. Tansley: My best friend and I wanted to write a story we would enjoy. When we first started thinking about it, we were 11 years old. Genre didn’t mean anything to us. We just focused on telling a good story. For us that was a murder mystery with time travel at a haunted castle.
I think this book hits on a lot of things that readers enjoy—murder mystery, castle, spells, curses, ghosts, time travel, adventure, secrets, betrayals, family, love and friendship. There’s something for everyone in this story.
I’ve had adults read and love it. When I was writing it, I wanted to create a story that a teen, a mom, and a grandmother could enjoy. I think people are responding to a YA heroine who isn’t in search of her soul mate, but is trying to figure out who she is and accomplish her own goals.
HBE: You assumed an alternate identity for this project. Tell us about the process of reinventing yourself. Also, how did you find writing for a YA audience to compare to writing for older readers?
KCT: This was a decision I made long before the book was published, actually. I talked with my agent and publicist and we all agreed that writing YA and adult fiction required a new identity, especially because the tone, style, and content are so drastically different. It’s like two different authors wrote these series. I wanted to make sure readers knew they would be getting very different books if they bought a Kourtney Heintz vs. a K.C. Tansley book.
It’s funny, I wrote the book, and then I categorized it. Along the way, I experimented with having more edgy things like teen drinking and swearing and sex, but it just didn’t feel right for this story. It felt natural to keep the language clean, the kissing ending with a fade to black, and very little violence. So I did.
I enjoy having two very different series. It means I can switch back and forth without getting burned out because they demand very different things from me as a writer.
HBE: Let’s talk about balance. You incorporate both supernatural and historical elements throughout the story. How do you achieve (or endeavor to achieve) a realistic suspension of disbelief and a sustained sense of urgency?
KCT: I did a great deal of research to ground the historical in reality. Same with the magic. I read dozens of books on it and attended workshops on magic in Salem. If it feels real to me, it will feel real to the reader. So I come to the book with a genuine desire to make it feel like it could happen.
The urgency is all about ticking time clocks. Joshua’s death is looming. Kat’s ability to keep the ghosts away is eroding. When they fall into the past, the murders will happen in a week. And if they don’t get back to their own time soon, they will disappear forever.
Above all, I torture my characters. Something worse is always awaiting them on the next page.
HBE: In your opinion, how does setting enhance narrative – and what of this particular story might resonate with readers who are from, or familiar with, Connecticut?
KCT: I grew up hearing ghosts stories set in Connecticut. I was raised on Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe. Some of that New England gothic seeped into my soul.
I think readers who are familiar with Connecticut can see where I drew my inspiration from when they read the story. For Castle Creighton, we have Gillette Castle; for the Isle of Acacia, we have the Thimble Islands; and for Wright, we have the quaint coastal towns like Old Saybrook that may mask something more sinister.
HBE: The role of “author” encompasses so much more than writing. What are your responsibilities beyond that? Also, are there any words of advice and/or encouragement that you’d like to offer others who are trying to expand their readership?
KCT: I work with an amazing publicist, but I do a lot of promotional work for the book. I’d say half my day is devoted to promotion. I created 35 guest blogs and Q&As for the book release in 8 weeks. Normally, I write a blog post a week for my blog. I’m right there with my publicist reaching out to potential book bloggers to see if they would be interested in reviewing my book. I maintain spreadsheets of all the bloggers we’ve reached out to so we don’t duplicate work. I sent out ARCs to my street team and people who supported my last book and support this one.
I reach out to venues to set up signings. I plan all my own events down to creating flyers for signings and post them online and around town. I pay sales tax and maintain all books and records for my personal sales. I’m also working on creating school visit workshops and all the forms that are needed for my website. That’s a massive project.
In terms of advice to grow your readership, I would say: You have to show up. Be present on your blog. Respond to comments. Get on Facebook and Twitter and interact with people. You have to form real connections. You can’t just shout buy my book. It doesn’t work. You have to be there week in and week out, liking and commenting and building a connection. Then when your book does come out, you have those relationships.
HBE: Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?
KCT: I’m finishing up the first draft of TGWIG’s sequel. If I’m channeling Toria, there’s definitely a trip to Dumbarton in Kat’s future. I’ve been doing a ton of research on Vienna in 1831. So time travel will be a big part of the sequel.
With thanks to K.C. Tansley for her generosity of time and thought and to Larissa Ackerman, Associate Publicist at Claire McKinney Public Relations, LLC, for helping to facilitate this interview.