Monday, April 04, 2011

Guest - Karen McCullough

Good morning! Today's guest is Karen McCullough who'll be talking about what makes the 'mystery' in every plot. Enjoy!

Oh, there's a giveaway too. Read on to find out how to enter.
There's Always a Mystery

I write in lots of genres, but if you look at my book list, you might conclude I'm primarily a mystery writer. And you'd be right, though one of my most recent releases is a paranormal Gothic romance novella. But in a larger sense all my books, even the Gothic HEART OF THE NIGHT, are mysteries.

In fact nearly all fiction is built around mystery. A good story has, at its heart, an interesting character or group of characters, with an interesting problem. What makes a problem intriguing and a story worth reading is that the solution to the problem isn't obvious. Which is why it’s usually true that the bigger the problem, the better the story. Even when a book doesn't have a crime to solve or a missing object or person to find, there should still be a mystery about how the characters' issues are going to be resolved.

In HEART OF THE NIGHT, my protagonist, Jess O'Rourke, is horrified to discover that a collection of books left to her library includes a diary that holds the key to laying a demon. The source of that information is an attractive but mysterious visitor who may not be entirely trustworthy. But when another mysterious patron begins to take her library apart and threaten the staff, she doesn't have a lot of good choices. She may not believe in the whole demon thing, but apparently someone else does, and they’re ruthless enough to sacrifice anything and everything to retrieve or destroy that one book.

HEART OF THE NIGHT features several layers of mystery. At the beginning Jess has no idea what's going on or why the “Reverend” is waging a hate campaign against her. Nor does she know what Gabe, the other mysterious man who comes into the library almost every night, wants. When she finds out who each man is and why they're both there, she still doesn't know where the book is exactly or how they'll be able to use it. And when she does find the diary, there are still more questions and issues to resolve before she can triumph.

So, I didn't write HEART OF THE NIGHT as a mystery. It's a Gothic thriller with romantic elements.  But neither the thrill nor the romance would work without the mystery.

Heart of the Night:

Coping with her father’s declining health isn’t the only challenge Jess O’Rourke faces as head of a small-town library. An old collection of books moldering in the basement may hold the secret to returning a demon to his own world. But that demon likes being where he is, and he’s recently learned the book’s location. He plans to retrieve it or destroy it, by whatever means necessary.

An enigmatic but attractive man who’s begun hanging around the library warns Jess about the book and the demon coming to get it. The only solution is for her to find the book first and use its directions to get rid of the demon. She’s dubious about the whole thing, but begins to search for the book. As the demon’s efforts to retrieve it escalate, Jess comes to realize that laying the demon may cost her more than just time and effort. It could claim everything she holds dear, even her own life.


About six-thirty, as Jess walked by the main desk, Carrie looked up from the computer and said, “Your boyfriend just came in.” 

Jess turned to where the man sat in the corner. As usual, he held a book open in front of him, but he wasn’t reading. Instead he stared at her with a brooding look that suggested both sadness and danger. He had dark hair streaked with silver, though he couldn’t be more than thirty. His gray eyes seemed permanently lost in shadows. Not quite handsome. The face was too angular, drawn too tight for that, but compelling, nonetheless. His demeanor was tense, wary, constantly on alert. 

A man haunted by unfinished business.  She wanted to laugh at herself. Where had that come from? She knew absolutely nothing about him except that he’d started showing up regularly each evening a few weeks ago. He always sat quietly in the same corner, watching her more than made her comfortable. And every night he left on his own just before closing time.

A longer excerpt and more information on order are available on my website at

Karen McCullough is the author of ten published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. Her most recent releases are A GIFT FOR MURDER, published in hardcover by Five Star/Gale Group Mysteries, HEART OF THE NIGHT, from Red Rose Publishing and available as an ebook from most sources, 
and the re-released ebook of A QUESTION OF FIRE. She invites visitors to check out her home on the web at and her site for the Market Center Mysteries series,


-- Lynda Again

I hope you've enjoyed today's guest. Her post is intriguing, isn't it? Leave a comment with your thoughts...AND if you'd like to be included in the giveaway Karen is offering a a trade paperback copy of the anthology BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON, which includes her novella, "A Vampire's Christmas Carol.":

1) Leave a comment here then
2) Send an email to Karen here
    In the Subject line, put: Star-Crossed Romance Giveaway
    In the body, put your name and address 

Good luck! 



Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Karen and Lynda,

I love gothic romance/mystery and was sorry when it went out of vogue. I know what a good writer you are and hope this will draw more attention to the genre.


Jacqueline Seewald
Fellow Five Star/Gale author

Pauline B Jones said...

Great post and so true! Without the puzzle/problem there is no story. And a librarian with a problem book? Fun!

Jess said...

Heart of the night is now on my TBR stack. You are a new author to me, but after reading this excerpt I'm definitely going to be looking for more of your work. I can't wait to read it!

Karen McCullough said...

Thanks to Lynda, first of all, for having me here today!
Jacqueline -- Thank you! Coming from a writer of your talent, that's a huge compliment and I appreciate it. I miss the traditional gothic romance, too.
Pauline -- Yes, I had a good time with the librarian/book thing!
Jess -- Many thanks. I hope you enjoy it!

Karen McCullough said...

I should add that the Gothic Romance Writers chapter of RWA has been writing a series of Gothic Novellas called the Shadowed Hearts series. There are some terrific stories in the group. You can find more info at the GothRom site: Click on the "Shadowed Hearts" button.

JackieW said...

Thanks for the info on your latest book. I belong to 2 Mystery Book Clubs and we have not discussed your books in either group. So I found a new author for us to discuss. We have not done Gothic Mysteries so that will be a new one for us.

Angelique Armae said...

Great post, Karen!

Lise said...

Intriguing post, Karen, and absolutely smack dead on, I'd say. I never thought of it the way you have explained, but definitely the "what's going to happen?" question makes every novel a mystery, of sorts.

As for Gothic romances I firmly believe the genre is back on track, thanks to several recent releases like the "Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker" series and other new titles that often blend varying elements such as horror and erotica with the tried and true "dark and stormy night" scenario. And judging by the success of projects like Jane Eyre (have you noticed how often it is referred to as "gothic"?) and Red Riding Hood (ibid), it's poised to take off. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Karen!

annalisa said...

I enjoyed reading your post, Karen. Your books sound really interesting. I would love to be included in your giveaway! :)