Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Paul Ferrante about his writing career, what inspires his stories, and his new book Terror In The Tower.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am a retired secondary level English teacher and athletics coach (40+ years) who lives in Stratford, Connecticut with my wife Maria. Our daughter Caroline is an award-winning screenwriter/director.
Currently, I have ten books in my catalog, including the young adult T.J. Jackson Mysteries series (Fire and Ice Books), and stand-alone teen stories entitled 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story and The Girl Who Stole J.E.B. Stuart (the Ionian Press). In the case of my young adult books, none of which that contain any gratuitous sex, violence or profanity, my goal is to teach as much as to entertain. All of these books contain themes and life lessons important to young people.
As far as adult-themed books, A Bermuda Triangle Love Story (the Ionian Press) and The Rovers: A Tale of Fenway (Melange Books) are definitely entertaining for those who love Bermuda, American baseball, and Irish history.
When did you first want to write a book?
My first attempt came during high school (it was dreadful), but my first published book was Last Ghost at Gettysburg: A T.J. Jackson Mystery #1 in 2012. There are now six books in the T.J. Jackson series and four other stand-alone books, both teen and adult.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I had been writing (and still do) for a magazine called Sports Collectors Digest about American baseball history since 1992; in the early 2000’s I began putting together the idea for Last Ghost at Gettysburg. However, I didn’t seriously begin work on it for another few years.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Including the research, the writing, the search for a publisher, edits, etc., Last Ghost at Gettysburg took about ten years to come to fruition. Since then, I have averaged about one book per year.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from first idea to release?
From my beginning research to publication, Terror in the Tower: A T.J. Jackson Mystery #6 took about eight months.
Focusing on your latest release, what made you want to write this book?
Like many people, I’m fascinated with the British Royal family, and history in general. The Tower of London, where the majority of the plot takes place, made a real impression on me during my two visits. Since the T.J. Jackson Mysteries are of a paranormal/historical nature, it made complete sense that the world’s most famous fortress would be the venue for one of T.J.’s adventures.
What was your biggest challenge when writing it?
Having been to London and the Tower only twice, there was a mountain of research to be done on the fort’s history, those who lived and died there, as well as the day-to-day workings of the facility and the daily routines of the Yeoman Warders.
Since T.J. and his investigative team also pay a visit to Buckingham Palace for an audience with the Queen, I also had to research everything about the Palace from the layout of Her Majesty’s office to the elements of proper etiquette when being in her presence.
The teens also take a Jack the Ripper tour, visit Madame Tussauds and Harrods, and enjoy a one-day Beatles excursion to Liverpool. Although I had also done these things, I had to brush up on all of them, as my last trip to England was in the early 2000’s. Current YouTube videos proved to be helpful here.
Who or what inspired you when creating your protagonist?
From the beginning, T.J. Jackson is physically portrayed as resembling a young Paul McCartney, a pleasant boy who is unassuming and eager to please. Although he isn’t perfect, he has a good heart and shows leadership and bravery when necessary. He is also a true team player with his two mates, his best buddy Bortnicker and his adopted cousin LouAnne.
Over the course of the series, he has matured considerably. Basically, he’s the boy you’d want your daughter to bring home.
Who or what inspired you when creating your antagonist?
For this book, T.J.’s ghost-hunting team has to deal with a handful of spirits that are haunting the Tower, most notably Anne Boleyn, Margaret Pole, Guy Fawkes, and the two young princes. Although the spirits are not malevolent, they are nonetheless compelling, especially when telling the teens about their lives and deaths.
What is the inciting incident of this book?
The teens, who are the stars of a popular ghost hunting TV show in America, are summoned to an audience with Her Majesty to discuss a disturbing uptick in paranormal activity at the Tower of London. After a visiting foreign dignitary suffers a fatal heart attack whilst participating in a V.I.P tour there, they are given the task of getting to the bottom of what’s going on, and why.
What is the main conflict of the book?
The team has to whittle down the list of possible spirits behind the hauntings and then make contact with the ghost(s) to ascertain why they have stepped up the effort to make their presence known, and to try to help them find closure so future visitors to the Tower can do so peacefully and safely.
Did you plot your book in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I prepared a rough outline, and included all the British venues I wanted T.J. and his mates to visit. I also knew that I wanted multiple high points of drama to occur within the Tower of London itself, and had a good idea of how the story would end. Within those parameters, I let the kids (and my imagination) run free.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did your book need?
Before I submit a book to my publisher’s editor, who has been with me since the beginning, I always let my daughter (who is also a senior copywriter for an advertising agency) and at least one other person, usually a teaching colleague, give it a read for content and mechanics. My editor at Fire and Ice Books, Denise Meinstad, knows the characters well and will offer helpful tweaks, but major alterations were not needed with this book.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
As I always told my students, “Write about what you know and what you love.” All of the T.J. Jackson Mysteries involve real history, which I’m into, and take place in venues I’ve visited and enjoyed, such as Gettysburg, PA, Bermuda, New Orleans, London, and the American South. And since I’ve loved the sport of baseball and the Beatles since childhood, these topics became the centerpieces for three of my books. Writing about things I know and enjoy makes the experience so much more rewarding, whether it’s doing the research and learning more about them, or bringing back fond memories from my travels.
Can you give me a hint about any books you’re planning to write?
At the moment, I’m in the middle of a stand-alone young adult story that takes place in the legendary baseball venue of Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida, which is my second residence. It is a combination of history, fantasy, and nostalgia that also holds some valuable lessons for young readers.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishments? Was it worth the effort?
Well, I was delighted to receive a letter of congratulations on Terror in the Tower from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which I’m having framed for my office. The book is currently being considered for inclusion in the Tower of London’s gift shop. There is also a real sense of satisfaction when I received positive feedback from my readers, from paranormal or Civil War buffs to baseball fans. And in the case of my novel 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story, I was able to connect with John Lennon’s sister and Paul McCartney’s stepmother and stepsister, who all loved the book, as well as Beatle fans around the world. So, yes, it’s always worth the effort!
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the reader can find you:
My author website is www.paulferranteauthor.com. Here can be found information on my books and other writings, as well as news and my blog.
Books can be ordered from Amazon Books US and Amazon Books UK by searching my name or book title. Also, be sure to visit my author page where all the books will appear.
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