The Attic on Queen Street by Karen White

Karen White and I are talking about ghosts, particularly the ghosts haunting Melanie Middleton Trenholm in White’s latest novel, The Attic on Queen Street, the last in the series set in haunted Charleston, South Carolina.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asks.

Not really, I reply, but I also don’t like staying in places that are supposedly haunted when I’m by myself.

White feels the same way because, as we both agree, you just never know.

It’s then that her phone goes dead.

“I don’t what happened,” says White when she calls back. “My phone was charged and everything.”

Coincidence? Most likely. But still, it makes you wonder.

But phones going dead are the least of the problems for Melanie, a Charleston real estate agent with young twins, a husband who is deciding whether he wants to stay in the marriage, and a teenaged stepdaughter whose room is haunted. Indeed, the entire house on Tradd Street is haunted. Some of the ghosts are helpful, some are evil, and one is the ghost of a dog—which is fine as it gives Melanie’s dog a companion to play with. And to make matters worse, Melanie’s young daughter is already showing signs of being able to see ghosts.

Ghosts are such a problem that Melanie learned early on to sing ABBA songs loudly to drown out the sounds of the dead people trying to talk to her. But that only works sometimes and in this novel there’s plenty of evil for Melanie to deal with both living and dead. For starters there’s Marc Longo, who stole her husband’s manuscript and turned himself into a bestselling author. Longo is now heading a film crew in Melanie’s house while underhandedly trying to discover the diamonds he believes are hidden there. Melanie is also trying to aid a good friend in discovering who murdered her sister years ago—with the help of the cryptic messages the deceased sister keeps sending her way. And then there’s Jack, her handsome husband. They’re still in love but Jack is darned tired of Melanie always getting herself into deadly situations.

White first introduced us to Melanie in The House on Tradd Street in what was to be a two book series.

“But when it came out and was so popular, my publisher said let’s make it four,” says White. “This is the seventh and I’m really going to miss them.”

Well, kind of, as White is continuing the theme of a haunted city and the Trenholm family, only with Melanie’s stepdaughter in the key role who has to deal with her only supernatural beings when she move  to New Orleans in a book due out this coming March called The Shop on Royal Street.

Interestingly, the Tradd Street series was originally going to be set in New Orleans. White went to Tulane University and in 2005 she was all set to go with her family back to New Orleans to do research for the first book when Hurricane Katrina hit.

“I knew that there was no way with all the catastrophic flooding, and deaths that I could write this story without having Katrina in it and this wasn’t that kind of book,” says White, who has authored 23 books,

Choosing Charleston made sense as White had ancestors who lived in Charleston in the late 1700s and family who had lived on Tradd Street. In ways, she says that when she visited, she felt the pull of genetic memory—a sensation of a past shared life.

“I smelled what they call pluff—which is rotted vegetation,” recalls White, “and I said oh doesn’t that smell so wonderful.”

Coincidence? Doubtful.

The Attic on Tradd Street is also available as an audiobook and electronically.

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET

In this penultimate installment (book #6) in the series, we find OCD Realtor (who also happens to be able to speak with dead people) Melanie Middleton and true crime mystery writer Jack Trenholm happily married and living with their toddler twins and teenage daughter, Nola, in their historic home on Tradd Street. Christmas is approaching and all seems to be going well for them—-except for a few money problems, Jack’s writing career taking a curveball, and an unpleasant specter seen haunting Nola’s bedroom that seems to be connected to the ancient cistern being excavated in their back yard.

New York Times bestselling author Karen White’s iconic series about a quirky psychic realtor (yes, you read that right!), set in historic Charleston, continues this winter. A long-anticipated gift to her fans, this holiday season White released her first ever Christmas novel.

Jane Ammeson, who writes the Shelf Life column for The Times of Northwest Indiana and shelflife.blog, interviewed Karen about THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET, the sixth book in her Tradd Street Series,

With each new release, Karen’s national platform grows. Her previous installment in the series, The Guests on South Battery (2017), was a New York Times hardcover bestseller. Her books have been featured on Southern LivingReese Witherspoon’s Draper James blogLate Night with Seth Meyers, and more. The author of over twenty books and 12 New York Times bestsellers, she has almost two million books in print in fifteen different languages.

 JA: Since you’re not a realtor and you’re not seeing ghosts (we don’t think so, anyway!), do you have much in common with Melanie—like are you super-organized with lots of charts and spread sheets, etc.?

KW: Let’s just say that people who know me who have also read the Tradd Street series seem to think that Melanie _is_ me.  I’m going to neither confirm nor deny, but let’s just say that I do love to be organized and I also adore sweets (although Melanie’s metabolism is simply something I aspire to).  She and I are both ABBA fans and neither of us can text without many alarming typos.

JA: You grew up all over the world but started off in the south and think of yourself as a Southern girl. Why did you choose historic Charleston for the setting of your series?

KW: My parents (and extended family) are all from the South—mainly Mississippi—which is where I get my Southern roots.  I went to college in New Orleans (Tulane) and actually planned to set the series there.  However, the year I started writing the first book was 2005, the year Katrina wreaked so much havoc on the city and her citizens.  I knew that in the series I was planning to write that this sort of natural disaster and its repercussions wouldn’t fit.  I would return to New Orleans and the storm for The Beach Trees, but for the series I needed to find another Southern city that had gorgeous architecture, lots of history, and plenty of ghosts.  Charleston was an obvious choice.

JA: Your Tradd Street series novels seem to require a lot of research into older homes, renovations and history, can you tell us about that?

KW: Since I was a little girl I’ve been obsessed with old houses.  They didn’t need to be grand or even well-maintained to make me beg my mother to pull the car over to the curb so I could get a better look.  When we moved to London, we were fortunate to live in an Edwardian building on Regent’s Park.  It had leaded glass windows, thick mahogany doors, and ceiling medallions to make a wedding cake envious.  Living in that flat made me believe that I truly could hold a piece of history in my hands.  My obsession continues with my daughter who holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from the College of Charleston and currently works as an architectural historian.  She actually appears in the last two Tradd books (as well as Dreams of Falling) as graduate student Meghan Black.

JA: Can you give readers who may not have read any of your other books about Melanie and Jack a description of The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?

KW: In this penultimate installment (book #6) in the series, we find OCD Realtor (who also happens to be able to speak with dead people) Melanie Middleton and true crime mystery writer Jack Trenholm happily married and living with their toddler twins and teenage daughter, Nola, in their historic home on Tradd Street. Christmas is approaching and all seems to be going well for them—-except for a few money problems, Jack’s writing career taking a curveball, and an unpleasant specter seen haunting Nola’s bedroom that seems to be connected to the ancient cistern being excavated in their back yard.  Unwilling to burden Jack with one more problem and distract him from his writing despite promises that they wouldn’t hold secrets from each other, Melanie takes it upon herself to attempt to solve the mystery behind the ghostly presence—with unsettling results that Melanie may or may not be able to resolve.

JA: Are your ghosts based upon real life (if you can call it that when it comes to ghosts) tales of hauntings in Charleston?

KW: Growing up, my father loved to read true ghost stories to my brothers and me—usually right before bedtime.  I also had a grandmother who always spoke about conversations she’d had with dead relatives.  I suppose that’s the reason why I thought ghosts were like doilies on the backs of chairs—some people had them, some people didn’t.  I continue to enjoy ghost stories (I listen to several podcasts on the subject) and, even though I have never had an experience, my son has three times.  

When visiting Charleston, I love going on haunted walking tours (especially the graveyard ones) and always pick up fascinating tidbits to be used later in my books.  I’ve never borrowed a ghost story for my books, but tend to pick and choose certain parts of favorites and mix them together to fit into my stories.

JA: Do you live in an older home?

KW: Sadly, no.  My husband isn’t a fan of old houses (and in my first book, the derogatory remarks Melanie makes about old houses came right from his litany of why he dislikes old houses—mostly having to do with the expense of heating them).  Every house I’ve lived in since the old Edwardian building in London has been brand new.  I’m hoping my daughter and I can get sway him to our side when it’s time to move again.  Hopefully to Charleston.

JA: Besides a great story and enjoyable read, are there any other take-aways you’d like for readers to get from The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?

KW: This installment can be read on its own.  However, I do think that readers might enjoy the series more if read in order starting with the first book.  The books each have their own mystery to be solved, but the growing cast of characters and Melanie’s growth through the series is an important element and best understood if readers meet her in book #1.

JA: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

KW:  Yes, there are ghosts and some spooky scenes in all of the books.  But these are not paranormal or thriller type books.  These are character-driven stories centered around Melanie Middleton and her relationships with family and friends and set in the gorgeous and historical city of Charleston, South Carolina.  This is Southern Women’s Fiction—with the added bonus of a few spirits who need Melanie’s help to solve a mystery.  

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