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.
“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.”
The Attic on Tradd Street is also available as an audiobook and electronically.
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,
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 Living, Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James
blog, Late 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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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.