Rebecca York

About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Using Memories of Holidays Past

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So many memories crowded in around me as I visited Baltimore recently. We had taken our grandson to the Maryland Zoo, and I knew it was close to where my grandmother lived when I was a kid. I remembered the name of her street which was only a block long. Using dueling GPS’s, the two guys in the car found the location. It was sad to see the block so run-down, and truthfully, I can’t be sure which house was hers.

But that doesn’t dampen the memories of driving there from our house in DC to see grandma.  Especially memorable were her Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. She didn’t actually do the cooking. There was always a maid in the kitchen deep into holiday food preparation. We’d have all the usual treats: turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. As a kid, I never understood why one bowl of stuffing was always so wet. Now that I’m the cook, I know it’s because it was actually in the turkey. On the table there was always a bowl of celery sticks with the leaves still on. I suppose that was a sop to healthy eating.

From an early age, I liked the dark meat best. They’d take some of the meat off a turkey leg and give me the rest to chomp on—sometimes while running around the house.  And while the adults were still relaxing at the table, we kids would climb underneath and crawl around on the crosspieces of the table legs. Then we’d come up for air to have cookies and pie.

In CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, my holiday romantic suspense, I’ve tried to recreate the holiday atmosphere from those long-ago dinners. Only because I’m writing fiction, I can make it even better. Well, not at the beginning, where my heroine Chelsea Caldwell sees a ghost on the road when she’s out picking up Christmas decorations for her aunt.

Ghosts and murder take up a fair amount of the book. But when my hero and heroine aren’t sparring about the reality of the supernatural, they’re enjoying the holiday spirit at Aunt Sophie’s B&B, the House of the Seven Gables. I had so much fun designing the Christmas decorations—garlands adorned with Eastern Shore ducks and a stunning tree that my hero and heroine decorate together. I put lots of glitter on it—and lights. That was always a sore point for me as a kid. Because my mother had heard about Christmas tree fires burning down people’s houses, we couldn’t have anything electric on ours. You’d better believe that when I grew up, the first tree I decorated had lots of lights.

I’m sure you have a ton of holiday memories, and if you’re a writer, you put them in your books. What are some of your favorite traditions that you still enjoy?

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Christmas Ghost Stories

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Mixing ghosts and Christmas? Why not?

I should tell you that I’ve had a long association with ghosts. Well not personal encounters but fictional ghosts.

When I was seven and eight, I hung out with a bunch of neighborhood kids. Most of us lived in two apartment houses on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. An older boy named Martin from around the corner was also part of the group.

Back in those days, we’d go out to play and stay for hours. And when it was time for dinner, my mom would stand at the back window of our apartment and call me. If I was outside, I’d hear her and come home.

But sometimes we would sneak into a nearby parking garage. It was already dark and spooky in there, and Martin would make it spookier by telling us ghost stories. I’d sit with my back against the wall, trying not to shake as he talked of horrors rising from the grave and ravaging the living Then I’d run home as fast as I could, imagining the ghosts right behind me.

My next encounter with ghost stories was also with an older boy, who lived up the street from us after we moved to a house in the next school district. He had a stack of horror comic books. With them, I didn’t have to imagine monsters climbing out of their graves to attack the innocent (or sometimes the guilty). I could see drawings of them—which scared me more than the earlier ghost stories. But they also fascinated me.

Fast forward to my career as a writer. I still like ghost stories, but now I’m the one in control. And my paranormal are also romances, where the hero and heroine vanquish the specters before their HEA.

The ghost stories I like best are set in the holiday season where I get to intertwine warmth and joy with an exciting suspense plot and a sexy love story.

My first foray into Christmas paranormal was CHRISTMAS CAPTIVE, where Jordan Campbell is in a coma and being held captive by his greedy relatives who are hoping to kill him. Hannah Andrews is hired by Decorah Security as his nurse because she’s able to get into communication with him when nobody else can. Not only that but she visits the ghosts of his past. It’s a supernatural story with a totally happy ending.

My new release, CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, is also a ghost story, set in a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In this book, the heroine, Chelsea Caldwell, has been communicating with spirits since she was a girl, but she’s tried to deny that talent because a lot of people in town thought she was lying and mocked her. As the story opens, she encounters a dead woman who is desperate for justice. At the same time she must deal with Michael Bryant, an investigative reporter and guest at her aunt’s B&B who wants to prove that she’s making it all up. Naturally, since I write romantic suspense, they must work together to solve a murder. And when Chelsea is in terrible danger, Michael must trust a ghost to help him save her.

It might seem strange to mix ghosts and Christmas. But if Charles Dickens could do it, so can I.

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Diving Into the Setting

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There’s a charming town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that I love to use as a setting for romantic suspense stories. It’s called St. Michaels, but when I write about it, I usually change the name to St. Stephens. If I’m going to commit murder in a town, I don’t want to burden the residents with my crimes. And if I want to move a couple of buildings around, nobody is going to write me a letter complaining I got it wrong.

When Patricia Rosemoor, Ann Voss Peterson, and I decided to write a paranormal Christmas trilogy, with a murder mystery running through all three books, I suggested my favorite location. But because we were doing a series that wasn’t connected to any of my other works, we agreed to call the town Jenkins Cove. Then I made another suggestion: “Let’s all take a research trip there. You fly to Baltimore, and my tour director—Norman—will drive us over.  We can stay for a few days, eat fabulous Maryland seafood, and steep ourselves in the nautical atmosphere.”

I did a pretty good selling, job, and they both agreed.

It was a wonderful research trip with a lot of great opportunities for adding local color to our stories. (Mine’s called CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, and one of the characters is a desperate ghost who keeps trying to contact my heroine.)

               A restaurant where you can arrive by boat

We ate at a rambling crab restaurant where you could come by boat and tie up at the wharf outside.  We toured the downtown area with all the touristy shops that sold everything from tee shirts to duck decoys, handmade pottery, and silver jewelry. We found a graveyard and a warehouse to use as locations for foul play. On a boat trip up the Miles River, we spotted the grand estate featured in Ann’s story.

A graveyard that photographed spooky when there was no mist in the air

And one evening, I had a truly spooky experience.

We were staying at a B&B right on the Chesapeake Bay, a few miles out of town. After dinner, Ann asked if we wanted to go out and help her look for a location where she could commit murder (fictionally, of course.)

                                      Bed and Breakfast

Norman and I went with her. It was a warm summer night, and we tramped around the grounds and out onto the pier. The moon was so full and bright that trees and bushes cast shadows. And as I walked through the silvery light, I kept having very spooky sensations.

When we came back in, I asked, “Did you feel like you were walking through places where the air was colder than others?”  Ann said, “Yes.” Norman said, “No.”  I think he’s too logical to feel anything spectral.

But I knew those icy spots were going to add a nice touch to the ghost story I was writing.

You can research a place on the Web. But there’s no substitute for actually going there and soaking up the atmosphere for yourself.

Does the setting of a book make a difference for you?

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Welcome to San Francisco

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When Dick Gregory died last month, I stared at obit pictures of him, seeing a scruffy guy with a long white beard and gaunt face. He didn’t look much like the comedian I had seen perform at the Hungry I in San Francisco years ago.


Bob Fitch Photography Archive

Back then he was clean-shaven, on the portly side with short dark hair, and wearing a business suit.

That was in June of 1962, the year before my husband and I wed.  One of his sisters was getting married in his hometown of Santa Barbara, and my grandmother paid my way from D.C. to L.A. so I could be in the wedding.

We took a cheap cross-country red-eye flight, a prop-driven plane that stopped twice—in Chicago and Denver.  O’Hare had just been built, and it was a labyrinth of an airport.  I know because there were no meals on our flight, and we decided to fortify ourselves with sandwiches. We had to run through endless corridors to get to a concourse where we could buy food—then sprint back so we wouldn’t get left behind. We should have waited until Denver which was a tiny rural airport about the size of my high school auditorium.

The wedding in Santa Barbara was on a Sunday, and Norman and I were staying an extra week in California. We wanted to drive up to San Francisco together, but I could see his mom was uncomfortable about an unmarried couple going off alone. So we decided to take his youngest sister with us.

She was only fifteen, but mature for her age. Could we waltz her into some of the clubs we wanted to visit?

She’d brought along a fancy dress, and I helped her put on a lot of makeup. Then we took her to the Hungry I where we sat at small table, a few yards from the stage.

Dick Gregory came out and did a comedy routine, and I can only remember a couple of jokes. He talked about what it was like to be a black man who had moved into a formerly all-white suburb.  One day when he was mowing his lawn, a neighbor came over and asked, “What do you charge for yard work.”  Gregory replied, “I get to sleep with the woman who lives here.”

Another quip was, “I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no old white guy would come to my neighborhood at night.”

Those were pretty daring commentaries for the time.

Then there was our next stop. Norman insisted on taking us into a club where we could see the ladies room—wallpapered with pages from the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. (Side note: My dad was a psychiatrist, and that book was on the shelves of our den. I’d already read it.)

After that, the trip was a little more mundane. Good food is always high on Norman’s list.  We got ice cream at Blum’s (a San Francisco landmark long since closed), ate at a prime rib restaurant and drove up Telegraph Hill.

Back then I hadn’t written any books, but I think it’s my novelist’s mind that remembers all those details years later.

Rebecca York’s latest Decorah Security novel is Boxed In.

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Finally, a Book Where I Can Use My Experience

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No, it’s not the murder I got away with.  (Just kidding.) It’s the sexual advice column I ghosted for three years. (Not kidding.)

I have a five-alarm romance, Bedroom Therapy, in the Love on Fire collection on preorder now.  ( http://a.co/7uFNSgi ) It’s about a psychologist, Amanda O’Neal, who is tapped to write a sexual advice column under the pseudonym of the previous author—after the woman is murdered. A detective, Zack, is investigating the murder, and since this is a steamy romance, he and Amanda are wildly attracted to each other and get into some very heated and, um, kinky scenarios together.

The book starts with a letter from a reader —

Dear Esther,

I have a problem, and there’s no one I can talk to about it. My husband is in the Navy, and he’s on a three-month cruise. Sometimes I get so lonely that I don’t know what to do. And sometimes I get so hot for him that it pushes me over the edge. I mean, I have to make myself come. It feels good when I do it, and I always pretend he’s making love to me. But afterwards I feel guilty. What should I do?

Sincerely,
Lonely and Hot in Norfolk

I made that letter up, but long ago, when I wrote mostly nonfiction, I got the job of ghosting a sexual advice column in a national women’s magazine. Since it wasn’t under my name, I can’t tell you which magazine. But every month the author and I would get together to read letters asking for advice. She’d sketch in answers, and I’d write them up. After I’d finished, I’d give them back to her so she could make any corrections.

Obviously this was quite an education for me. And I still do remember some of the letters all these years later. Actually, I paraphrased one of them in Bedroom Therapy.  You may think this monthly assignment was a fun job, but nothing stays fun when you have to do it on a regular basis. For one thing, a lot of readers had similar questions. How many times can you say that it’s okay to have an orgasm with your partner by manual stimulation or that a big penis doesn’t make a guy a good lover? At first, we worked around this problem by answering some letters from guys. But the magazine editor decided that since this was a women’s magazine, we could only take questions from females.

And then there was the month when the columnist had a dispute with the editor and refused to answer any letters.  I jumped in to write an essay on contraceptive methods—which my boss was willing to read and approve.

One thing we learned quickly was that readers were asking questions about one-night stands and brief affairs. My boss tried to teach them that sex should be in the context of a relationship. They absorbed the message, and we’d get letters that started off, “I had a relationship with a guy last night. . .”

Back then, I never thought my advice-columnist experience would be the basis for a novel. But when I was looking for a Love on Fire topic, I decided it was a natural.

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Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Grounding Research Is Vital for the Paranormal

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Writing paranormal romantic suspense gives me a lot of leeway. I can make up all sorts of things like dragon shifters who come from another planet or werewolf shifters who have to intone an ancient chant to change from man to wolf.

But the only way to make the fantastic parts of my writing believable is to ground the rest of the story in reality. And that means research.

Take my novella Wyatt, for example. It’s part of a three-book serial that Patricia Rosemoor, Ann Voss Peterson and I have on preorder right now at most eretailers.  In our stories, an old gypsy woman has cursed three young men because their fathers helped convict her son of a crime she knows he didn’t commit.

My story is the first one in the set. For police detective hero, Wyatt Boudreaux, the gypsy psychic chose blindness as his punishment.  And after she leveled the curse, he was shot in the head in the line of duty.

I thought it would be cool having a blind hero trying to discover whether the gypsy woman’s son was really guilty—and at the same time winning back the woman he lost because the old gypsy crone was her guardian.

But how was I going to make you believe the reality of my hero’s situation?  Luckily for me, the National Federation of the Blind is in Baltimore, and I was able to contact them for information. They have a series of booklets written by blind people, telling about their lives. And the details helped me understand how Wyatt would function. Also, I was also able to interview a blind married couple and see how they managed in their own home.

Something as simple as keeping the house neat and putting everything in its place is important, so they don’t trip over anything.  I had my hero do this—and also use their cooking methods.  To chop vegetables, he uses a tray to keep pieces from escaping. His stove has special markings on the dials, so he can tell the temperature. Cans have Braille labels. For trips outside the house, he folds his money in different ways to tell which bill is which. And because he lives in a small town, he has to get around using the services of an unreliable taxi driver.

An important point he mentions in the story—if you’re blind, you can’t know if someone is looking at you, which kept him from sneaking into the heroine’s bedroom at night when guests are in the house.

One other thing I also decided with a blind hero or heroine. I’m never going to try to write a person who was blind from birth. In Wyatt, I needed my hero to remember what things looked like—so he could recall them and give me visual touchstones to add detail to the story.

For example, he hasn’t seen the woman he loves in five years because the whole gypsy community hates him for his father’s role in the murder conviction. But he’s able to vividly recall her features.

I’ve always loved learning details that make my stories more authentic for readers.

What makes a story feel real for you?

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Weaving Reality into Fantasy

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I may write about psychotic killers and telepathic powers, but my books are always grounded in reality.

Yeah, sure.

Take Preying Game, my latest Decorah Security novel.  It all started when we attended a wedding in Chestertown, Maryland. It was a three-day extravaganza, held at a stately Georgian mansion with beautifully manicured gardens, located on a multi-acre estate along the Chester River.  The place was so cool that almost as soon as I got there, I started thinking about using it for the setting of a book.

I admit to sneaking in a few changes.  We were there for a wedding, but I wanted to make it the home of a guy who kidnapped and held women in an underground complex that I invented next to the main building.  But why was he holding them, and what was his plan for them?

Since I write romantic suspense, I didn’t want him doing anything yucky like making them sexual slaves. (Although I did pull that off in Dark Moon.) I decided he was forcing them to get into top physical shape so that he could make them worthy prey for his “big game” hunts on the estate. Yeah, he was a real nice guy.

And I did have to make a few changes to the environment as I went along.  My hero, Jonah Ranger, is telepathic, and he picks up my heroine’s distress call on the radio of an old car he’s fixing.  Alice Davenport has sent out a desperate plea for help, and against all odds, Jonah picks it up.

My first change was the name of the town.  I have a rule that if I’m going to say something awful about a place, I choose a different name.  So Chestertown became Carvertown.

Jonah strengthens his telepathic connection with Alice and manages to project himself to her prison. But since she’s in an underground complex, she can’t give him any clues to where she’s being held.  Finally Jonah, in his telepathic form, gets upstairs.  And because I needed him to see something out the window that would guide him to her location, I invented a rock formation that doesn’t exist in the Chester River.  But it is in my Carver River—a big boulder that looks like a giant upside-down boot.

My friends who hosted the Chestertown wedding loved that I’d used their venue for my story. In their honor, I came back full circle. After the bad guy gets what he deserves, one of his relatives takes over his property—and turns it into a location for weddings and other big celebrations.

I love weaving real details into my paranormal stories. And in this case, I had to choose those details carefully to hide a big secret from the reader.  Because the guy is a hunter, I researched rifles and decided on a Mauser for his weapon of choice. I also needed a topic for him and Alice to talk about when he forced her to have a lunch with him. He initiates a literary discussion on Thomas Hardy and Hemingway that comes from my own college classes on English and American literature.

I include those real details to bolster the world I’ve created. What makes you believe the paranormal elements in a story? Or are there books where you never buy into the weird premise?

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Make Your Own Christmas Tree Ornaments

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There are so many ways to decorate a Christmas tree.  When I was a kid, long drippy strands of tinsel, rounded balls, and lights with two-inch bulbs were in fashion.

Over the years, I’ve tried to create my own fashion statement with our trees.  When my kids were young, we made a lot of felt ornaments because they wouldn’t break when our cats climbed the branches.  Later, I got into blowing the contents out of eggs and turning them into ornaments with lace and paint. Then I discovered baked cookie ornaments. (Not edible cookies, but ones made from a mixture of flour, salt and water which the kids and I baked and painted.)

Another year, I adorned a ficus tree with an earring I wasn’t wearing.

ornament-161107-2-400wFor a few years after the kids grew up, I had no tree.  Then I figured, why not enjoy a decorated tree all year long? I decided to use the living Norfolk pine at the window behind the sofa.  Since I was worried that ornaments hanging from the branches might damage the tree, I wanted to make them as light as possible.  Which is how I began using cardboard.  And because I like cats, all of my decorations are flat cardboard cats.

I’ve got a couple of basic designs, which I embellish with a variety of items—including decorative pipe cleaners (which I also use for hangers), sequins, packaged colored glitter, glitter glue, colored feathers, decorative wire strands, and the like. Sometimes I make collages with layers of colored papers.  Other times I use paint.  Sometimes I draw the cats’ eyes. Other times I use sequins.

If you prowl around seasonal sales at variety stores, you can get a lot of suitable decorations cheap. (Some of my pipe cleaners are from a sale chain of circles that I took apart.) Or try walking up and down the aisles of a craft shop.

ornament-161107-1-400wPeople have asked me if I buy scrapbook papers for the basic shapes. The answer is no.  I use cardboard from any box that takes my fancy. The easiest to use are tissue boxes because they have an all-over pattern. But I also use tea boxes, cereal boxes, rice boxes and anything else around the house.  By the time you add glitter to these, you can’t read the advertising.  I was at a conference in Florida where housekeeping provided coffee packets every day.  I took a lot of those home and used them for my cats.

Many of my felines are standing up. Others are smaller and sitting down. For those, I might use the kings, queens, and jacks of old playing cards.

I like making cats.  But you can use any shapes you like.  Dogs, stars, flowers, fish, geometric designs. Go wild.

Do you make ornaments or other holiday decorations?  What do you like to create?

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website

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