"Oxford Whispers is a haunting tale about the power of history, heritage and love." IndieReader Madison LeBon is dead set against the dead. Her fresh start at Oxford University is a brand new beginning. She finally has a chance to turn the page on her psychic powers and cumbersome voodoo heritage. Snakes, dolls, ghosts, and spirits: Farewell… Not quite. When the tragic lovers in a painting—the subject of her first history class—begin to haunt her, she must accept her gift before life imitates art. The lovers warn her against their own nemesis, a Puritan from the English Civil War. Unfortunately, said nemesis is now going all homicidal on Madison. College becomes more complicated when she falls hard for Rupert Vance, a troubled aristocrat and descendant of one of the characters in the painting. With the spirit of a murderer after her, Madison realizes that her own first love may also be doomed…
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The ‘spooky’ element in Oxford Whispers
Oxford Whispers is a New Adult Paranormal Romance. It tells the story of Madison LeBon, an American student at Oxford University, with psychic powers she prefers to ignore. But when the tragic lovers in a painting begin to haunt her, she must learn to accept her gift. Otherwise, life will imitate art and Madison's own first love will be doomed.
Although the plot revolves around a mysterious Pre-Raphaelite painting (a real one titled The Wounded Cavalier by William Shakespeare Burton), and my heroine has psychic abilities she has inherited from her creole family, her journey is still one that many of us (poor gift-less human beings) have taken—or are still walking on—in our early twenties, these “in-between-years” when you’re not a kid anymore but not yet an adult. First time away from home, first friends who don’t know about our background or where we come from, first jobs or job searches, and of course first love with the potential to become a long-term/lifelong relationship.
Oxford Whispers has a central mystery plot with a vengeful ghost, a reincarnated love triangle, and some Voodoo spicy flavor, but it’s also about independence, uncertainty, and building your own life.
That said, today I’d like to talk about how the ‘spooky’ elements in Oxford Whispers came to me.
I have a natural inclination for the occult and magic. My maternal family has gypsy roots to start with, but my heroine Madison has an even more powerful heritage to deal with since she comes from a long line of Voodoo Queens and Voodoo Priestesses. Voodoo-ism has always fascinated me. There are so many misconceptions starting with the clichés derived from watching James Bond’s Live and Let Die too many times ;-)
I was born in West Africa, where Voodoo originates. When I had to leave, aged four, I left a piece of my heart behind. Elizabeth was the name of my nanny. She looked after me as if I were her own, carried me on her back in the traditional African way. This proud and kind lady gave me one of my most precious possessions: a Voodoo gris-gris. It was a leather pouch with a small shell on top of it. She had hung it on a rough thread so that I could carry it around my neck. It was meant to protect me from evil spirits and bring me luck.
I took that gris-gris everywhere with me: Each time I took an important exam at school, on my first day in a new job, even when I went to hospital and gave birth to my daughter. Elizabeth passed away many, many years ago, but I know she still looks after me from above and uses a few Voodoo tricks to make my life a happier path to follow.
The idea of mixing Madison’s Voodoo heritage with psychic abilities came to me when I visited Louisiana and New Orleans… and, to be honest, in obsessing about True Blood. The storyline in which Lafayette is possessed with the spirit of Mavis (Season 4) teased my imagination. If you read Oxford Whispers, you might not see the similarities with Lafayette, but that’s how my story was born somewhere in a remote corner of my imagination.
Now, my book is titled Oxford Whispers for a reason… It takes place in misty, foggy, Jack-The-Ripper-y England. If Madison is a true daughter of the South, the ghosts who are haunting her are characters from seventeenth-century England, Royalists versus Puritans. I spent many hours at the British Library researching that period. The haunting is taking place in Tudor Manor houses and the dark cobbled streets of Oxford.
Why? Because I studied there and spent many weekends in its surrounding countryside of the Cotswolds. It was a natural place to choose as a setting because I was so familiar with it. And anyway, everybody knows that ghosts originate from Britain ;-)
Oxford Whispers offered me the opportunity to merge the many influences my own life is made up of. Africa and Voodoo, gypsies and psychics, Oxford… I’m not as exciting, pretty and smart as Madison, but I can’t deny she has a little bit of me in her.