Simple question—double-edged answer. I was born on historic Overhome Estate in Southern Virginia, a working horse farm on beautiful Moore Mountain Lake. I lived there for two years until my parents were both killed in a car accident. My aunt and uncle, Helen and Madison Overton, adopted me and moved me to New Jersey where they were both educators. I have no memory of my birth parents; I have had the most wonderful upbringing and life with my adoptive ones. But, my situation did lead me to accept an offer from another uncle to come back to Overhome for the summer to act as an au pair to my then seven-year-old cousin, Jeff. I wanted to search out my roots—find out who Ashby Overton really was. What an eventful summer that turned out to be! You’ll have to read about it in A RED, RED ROSE!
2. Where do you live now and what do you do for a living? Is there something you’d rather be doing?
Oh, my life is so close to perfect, I can hardly believe it’s not a dream. See, I have my writing degree now and a job free-lancing, I’ve inherited Overhome Estate, my parents are coming to live here and—drum roll—I’m getting married at the end of the summer. What could I possibly rather be doing? Actually, there is one problem—and it’s a doozy. Overhome Eatate is in financial trouble. It’s up to me to fix it. I’d rather be doing almost anything than that.
3. What’s going on in your life right now? I’ve gone over every possible solution and the only thing I can come up with that has a chance of working to save Overhome is to sell off 50 back acres for real estate development. I know, I know...it might compromise my historic family estate, but there are simply no other options. Anyway, I’ve contacted a Realtor and I’m ready to go forward with the project. I haven’t told anybody, though. Not my fiance, not my parents, not my aunt who still lives at Overhome. I’ve already identified a spot of trouble with my plan. There’s an old cottage on the 50 acres I want to sell. It’s so covered in kudzu and hidden in a grove of trees that I didn’t know it existed until now. When I first approached the dwelling, I got a strange vibe that alerted my sixth sense. Even my horse noticed it. If my five years at Overhome have taught me anything, it’s to be wary of the spirit world all around us.
4. Is there someone special in your life? Well, DUH! Of course, my love, my intended, the gorgeous hunk of manhood that I plan to marry at summer’s end!
5. How did you meet? What is his family like? That first summer I spent at Overhome, Luke was the stable boy—actually the head groom—and he considered me a Yankee invader, I think. Of course, I thought HE was a country hick with a thick accent and bad hair. It took riding lessons with Luke so close to me every day, for us to get to know the real US. And it’s been the real us ever since. As for family, Luke is an orphan—just like me. He was pretty much raised by his Grandfather, Abe Murley. They lived in the guest house on Overhome Estate.
6. What’s keeping you two apart? Two things: Luke is finishing up his veterinary degree at Tech and he’s only able to get home when he works with a local vet. We make the best of our time together! The bigger problem is a little harder to explain. You see, with my plan to sell off acreage surrounding that ancient cottage, a mean and angry spirit has made it clear that I am going to have a hard time completing the sale. It actually physically attacks me or vandalizes the property whenever I move forward with my development plan. I am terrified that this negative force will somehow keep our wedding from happening.
7. What one thing could you do that would make you feel like the relationship will work out? Oh, never fear. Luke and I are solid, though I dread the thought that our marriage might have to be postponed until we get everything in order with Overhome’s financial situation. If we can purge the property and the cottage of the evil spirit—understand what is motivating all the negativity as a way to eradicate the problem, we’ll have a fighting chance of saving Overhome. And our wedding will actually happen on schedule.
8. Any last comments? When you live in an ancient house, you have to expect history to affect your life in the “now.” The people who lived there over the decades—who worked and loved and fought –the families and friends and, yes, even the poor slaves, especially the slaves—their aura, their souls, inhabit the very atmosphere you breathe every moment of every day. You cannot escape the past; understand it, learn as much as you can and revere the truth when you find it. Only then will you know your real place in the world.
A word about the author…
Susan has long been interested in Southern concerns about culture and society, as hard-felt, long-held feelings battle with modern ideas. She was able to explore these themes in her cozy mystery/Southern Gothic A Red, Red Rose, whose fictional setting is based on Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. Beneath the Stones is a stand-alone sequel to A Red, Red Rose. Susan is also the author of the award-winning young adult novel, Eaglebait.
When she is not writing, Susan enjoys boating, kayaking, golf and yoga at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. She and her husband love to travel, especially when grandchildren are involved.