Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties
by Susan Schwartz Genre: Ghost Stories
Charlottesville, Virginia, and its 12 surrounding counties are filled with history and charm. They also hold spirits who aren’t ready to leave their beloved homes or families behind. Visit more than 75 haunting locations with this experiential and historical guide. Shiver your way through haunted graveyards, mansions, parks, private residences, and other locations as you discover the past and learn of current lingering ghosts and the havoc they continue to instigate. Have you ever pondered about the spiritual implications from murders of olde? Think you might like to be pinched by a ghost or have your name called when no one is there? Interested in what a paranormal investigative group might find? Then make plans to explore these strange and frightening locations. Contact information is provided for those places allowing visitations. But when you visit, be ready for a haunting good time!
Susan Schwartz RN, MSN, MSHA has been an avid writer for around 10 years doing everything from writing freelance articles to editing manuscripts for other authors. She loves to write horror stories that have a twist at the end.
Her alter ego is a former Operating Room Nurse, current Nurse Educator who loves creating tales from the interesting and weird things she has seen. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Virginia Writers Club where she has served as President of the Richmond Chapter in the past. She also has two novels in the works, a paranormal romance and a medical thriller. In her spare time, she loves to read, crochet, and travel to such places as Italy, Spain, Australia, and Korea.
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I am an Operating Room Nurse/Educator who uses a lot of what I see and do for fodder in my stories. I have been married for 30 years and I have one son, Timothy, who lives in New York. I also have a menagerie of animals at home, including 2 rescue cats – Manchego and Speck, many many fish, and 1 adorable gecko named Zoey.
I started writing in 2006 when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It was a way to journal feelings and other thoughts. I joined the Virginia Writers Club where I met some great writers who taught me how word and phrase my work so readers would like it and want to read it. I started with short stories and now I have just published my first non-fiction work, Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Most people would say it is my OCD. I like things a certain way and hate when they are changed. I eat my food one thing at a time with nothing ever touching. I also don’t drink when I eat.
Tell us something interesting that has happened to you.
At the last Festival of the Book in Charlottesville this year, I saw this gentleman walk by my table, and I thought I recognized him. I stared for a moment, and I finally walked up and asked if he was in one of the Virginia Writers Club chapters. He said he wasn’t. I told him that I knew him from some where, I just couldn’t place him. I then asked his name. He told me Stephen King. I told him that he was definitely not Stephen King. At which point, he told me he was John Grisham. I was awe-struck. I recovered enough to ask if I could take a selfie, to which he replied, “Why sure.”
What are some of your pet peeves?
People who chew gum obnoxiously. Learn some manners!
Incorrect spellings and the abbreviated spellings of some words, such as U for you.
I don’t like sentences ending in a preposition, and I love the oxford comma.
Where were you born?
I was born in Richmond Virginia at the old Richmond Memorial Hospital in the late 60s. The area surrounding the hospital has changed an awful lot since I was there. Richmond is an ever-growing and ever-changing city. It has much to offer those who are visiting or looking to find a new residence here.
If you knew you would die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Reliving fond memories with family and friends would be my first thought. Leaving loved ones with a smile to remember me by is much better than leaving them with tears. I would like to be remembered for the good times and the way I made my way through many adversities in my life.
Who is your hero and why?
My childhood hero was William Shatner or Captain Kirk as we know him. He went into space traveling through vast galaxies in search of new life. I loved Star Trek as a child. When I finally got to meet him on the Star Trek Cruise in 2017, I was so excited. It is not every day you get to meet someone you have looked up to for such a long time.
What kind of world leader would you be?
I don’t think I would be very good actually. I would want the world to come together in peace and tranquility. With so many different opinions and outlooks, that is going to be hard to accomplish. I think being a world leader means you have to make allowances for those who think and worship differently while still realizing you are all part of the only race here on Earth: The Human Race.
What are you passionate about these days?
I am trying to do a little writing each day in the early morning before I go to work and the early evening when I get home. It has become a daily ritual so I am going to keep to it for now as it is working for me. I have two books I am writing and a number of short stories so I have to keep to the grind at present.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
I watch all my recorded shows that I miss during the week. I also play music in the background when I am writing or on the computer. I have an eclectic mix of classical, rock, pop, and country.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less.
Happy-go-lucky and mischevious
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my first short story, “The Sparkling Floor,” was published. I was so honored that someone included me in their anthology. It was my starting point of getting my name out there for the future.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Some of my more favorite movies are Always, A Perfect World, Clue, When in Rome, and most of the Avenger Series. I really enjoy comedies and action flicks.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Well, I write mostly short stories. Most of those could have something added to make them longer. I think it would probably be a half hour story for now. I would have fun going back and imagining a new direction to go. My last short story, “Blurred Line,” could probably be a great movie as it was a little over 8000 words. Again, we could always add more if needed.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
While researching my ghost and haunting books, I followed LB Taylor and Pamela K. Kinney through a lot of Virginia. I visited many locations found in their books and interviewed the owners of each establishment. It was quite fun to go back and find out something new was happening or how nothing had changed since the last person visited.
As a writer, what would choose as you spirit animal?
That would be a Hammerhead Shark. I imagine them hammering away at the story and getting it all written. The Hammerhead is my true totem animal, they have been with me since I was about 4. I have had others, such as frogs, elephants, seahorses, and bees. The Hammerhead has always stayed with me. I have many pieces of jewelry and stuffed animals in the form of the Hammerhead. I must say, though, they are quite hard to find sometimes.
What inspired you to write this book?
My good friend, Pamela K. Kinney, had written several already about Virginia, including Haunted Richmond I & II, Paranormal Petersburg, and the Historic Triangle with Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. Since I live close to Charlottesville, she suggested I do that area. So after two years, I finally decided I would give it a shot. Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties releases on May 31, 2019.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am currently working on another haunted Virginia book as well as a quirky kind of Richmond book. I am also working on several short stories and 2 novels – Paranormal Romance and a Medical Thriller.
Do you have any “side stories” about your characters?
Most are based on me and other family, some friends, and some acquaintances. Some events actually took place and some are made up, of course. I will never say who is who or what is real or not.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
I loved the travel and the research. I visited over 45 places in the Haunted Charlottesville book, and I interviewed most of those people myself. It was a fascinating journey across central Virginia learning about the different locations of cemeteries, Presidential homes, Civil War sites, and historic old houses that still stand.
How did you come with the title of your first book?
The title from my first book, Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties, came from the areas I covered in the book. Albemarle was heavily done so I named the book after the great city that encloses it.
Who designed your book covers?
My publishing company, Schiffer Publishing, designed the book covers themselves from pictures I had taken while traveling.
If you had to it all again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would probably try to add more locations and pictures, especially ghostly photos. They don’t always cooperate when you want them to do so. LOL!
Did you learn anything during the writing of your most recent book?
Yes, I learned how everything in the areas covered in the book are very interconnected in some way. Thomas Jefferson was an amazing man who had his thumb in almost every pie there was. It is neat to see how things correlate to each other in different ways.
I also learned how to write on a schedule with a deadline, how to do an index and bibliography, how to insert pictures, and mostly, how a book comes together piece by piece. It was a very interesting process.
If your book was made into a film, who would play the lead?
This is not really a book which can made into a film. However, it could be made into a TV show about haunted places throughout these different counties. Since my son has already had some experience filming in haunted locations, I would probably pick him to be my lead and explain about the history and hauntings.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes. Thank you so much for taking an interest and giving my book a read. I hope you will enjoy the locations and history and make plans to visit some of them yourself just to see what you get.
Do your characters highjack your stories or do you feel like you have the reigns?
In my two novels, I definitely give my characters free reign. They run amok and I usually enjoy their antics. I have gone back to read what I wrote and characters appear that I don’t even remember adding. A vampire showed up in the paranormal romance, but I don’t remember even thinking about adding him. That is the story writing itself, and I love it when that happens.
I usually know what I want for an ending so I back up and write from there with a little cajoling from my characters, who always seem to know where their story is headed. Amazing little devils.
Convince us why your book is a must read. Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties is a must read because it relates to people of all ages. There is something for everyone – Cemeteries, old historic homes, Civil War sites, and Presidential Homes. Go visit the aforementioned sites and see what happens for you.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Yankee Candle had one called Boo-Nilla, and another company called Spireside had Dusty Furnishings and Graveyard Grasses. I think these would fit well into the genre of the book.
What did you edit out of this book?
I took out a whole chapter on Buckingham County because it was going over the word count. I also took out several pictures that didn’t really add to any of the stories.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I would love to have a sit down with David Baldacci and ask him how to write a great novel, which he does quite well. He writes with red herrings and keeps you guessing until the end. I love that. Many others do the same – Kathy Reichs, Stephen King, Bentley Little, Michael Palmer, and Robin Cook.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
King & Maxwell series – David Baldacci
What book do you think everyone should read?
There are so many to choose out there. Some of my favorites that I could read over and over are:
Charlotte’s Web (EB White) – Friendship in many forms
A Separate Peace (John Knowles) – Another book about friendship and its intracacies
Sweet Liar (Jude Devereaux) – You can learn to love again after loss
To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) – Coming of age story
Catch 22 (Joseph Heller) – I laughed and cried through this one.
Harry Potter series (JK Rowling) – Coming of age wizard story, great friendships
Anne Frank’s Diary (Anne Frank) – Learning history so we don’t repeat it
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll) – A young girl finds merriment in another world
What kind of research do you do before writing a book?
For Haunted Charlottesville, I had to research the different locations and find out exactly where the hauntings were happening. I wanted to take pictures of specific sites and interiors. I had to interview the owners and ask about their daily experiences. I went through newspaper articles, book on hauntings, and several magazines to get all my information compiled.
Do you see writing as a career?
I think it could be if you sell enough books. That is the hard part these days. I was told a couple of weeks ago that over 30,000 books came out last year. You would have to compete with all of those in the market. It is not an easy job at all. I will tell you it is not easy to write and work 40 hours a week either. You just have to take the good with the bad.
Do you read yourself and what is your favorite genre?
I do read when I get a chance. I like comedies, paranormal, and thriller. I love ghost stories and tales that end with an unexpected twist that you never saw coming.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise?
I usually have some music playing in the background while I am writing. Sometimes, I will put one of my son’s plays on in the background. Since I have seen them many times, it is nice to listen, but not have to concentrate on the subject matter since I already know what will be happening. It isn’t as intrusive I think. I also sometimes get an idea from a phrase uttered or a specific word said. So it helps me more than it hinders
. Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going?
I write my haunted books one at a time because there is so much research to be done. I am currently working on another Virginia book, and my desk is covered in research right now. I have it organized into folders, but it is still a lot to cover.
For my short stories, I work on several at a time depending on their due dates. I usually can get them done quicker that way as the ideas come to me.
As for reading a book, I usually read three to four at one time. I get bored easy and like to flip back and forth between them. Thanks goodness for Kindles. They are a lot easier on the arms when carrying four books at one time.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
I sometimes will write out a draft by hand, then edit it into the computer. Other times, I will place all drafts in the computer and go from there. I have never used a typewriter for my stories. The last one I had broke many many years ago.
A day in the life of an author?
0630 Wake up and head to computer, write and catch up on email until 9A.
0900 Get ready for work
1100 – 1900 – Work
2000 – Arrive home and spend until 2130 working on stories
2200 – Head to bed and do it again tomorrow.
Advice you would give new authors?
DO NOT edit your own work. Go over your drafts carefully, but have someone else look over the manuscript as well. You can miss so many things because you know how it is supposed to read. After that, fix the edits and enjoy your brand new corrected story.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Procrastination. I have so many things I should be doing instead of writing. Checking email, looking at Facebook, doing laundry, sometimes you just have to say no to some things and get your writing done. It is not easy, but it is the only way you will get something written that you can get out there and market or sell.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes, I have it all the time until a thought hits me unexpectedly and I wonder why I ddn’t think of it before then. Sometimes, you just get stuck, and you may have to try another way to get through the block.
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