I’m delighted to welcome another fellow Darkstroke author to my blog today. PJ McIlvaine joins me to discuss the themes of her latest novel and how it relates to her own history. I can’t wait to read this book for myself!
Violet Yorke and Me by PJ McIlvaine
I wish I could say that the core idea and themes of my debut middle-grade supernatural historical mystery novel Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl: Ghosts in the Closet, came to me in a bust of blind inspiration. But the truth is, and while it wildly dates me, it’s a culmination of over sixty years of living, writing, and reading.
I was a voracious reader as a child. Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Bobbsey Twins, you name it, I ate it up. Later, my tastes veered from romance to hard-core science fiction with side explorations into gritty thrillers/suspense. But at heart, I’m still a kid–a much bigger kid–but a kid.
I’ve always had a fondness/fascination with period pieces. Loved Poldark back in the day. Had an obscene obsession with King Henry VIII and his feckless wives. I loved reading about the rich and famous, the nefarious, and poor little rich girls like Gloria Vanderbilt and Barbara Hutton. The richer they were, it seemed the more tragic their lives were too.
I came from a dysfunctional family. My older brother and I were raised by my grandparents. Our parents divorced when I was maybe four or so but we kids weren’t told until years later. Another book, to be sure. So themes of alienation, abandonment, and long-held secrets that run through Violet Yorke aren’t just abstract ideas to me–I’ve experienced them.
So to be honest, Violet Yorke–or at least the idea of her–was always there, lurking beneath the surface like a shark. I was in the throes of writing several other books, but Violet shook her determined little foot and demanded to be heard. I put her off for as long as I could but I finally gave in. The plot came together quickly: I knew, being an orphaned heiress, that she had a tragic backstory, that she saw ghosts much to the consternation of her family, and that she’d survived Titanic only to crash her own funeral. And there could be no other era for her but 1912 Manhattan, stuck in the last gasps of the Gilded Age and when Mrs. Astor’s iron hold on Manhattan society would soon wane.
In a nutshell, Violet Yorke is a book I wished I’d read as a child. And since I envision this as a series, there are quite a few adventures in store for Violet. This plucky heiress will not remain silent.
She sees ghosts…but are they malevolent or friendly?
Poor little rich girl Violet Yorke has seen ghosts for as long as she can remember, but no one believes her.
Not stodgy Grandmother, who took charge of the heiress after her parents were killed in a failed robbery. Nor kind-hearted Aunt Nanette, or Uncle Bertie, a charming rogue. Not even the patient Hugo Hewitt, Violet’s godfather and trustee of her vast fortune.
Everyone dismissed the child’s insistence about ghosts as a harmless eccentricity—until the night her bedroom caught fire. Violet was promptly sent overseas, fueling her anger and resentment.
Two years later, a rebellious twelve-year-old Violet is on her way back to Manhattan on the doomed Titanic. As the ship sinks into the deep Atlantic Ocean, she’s put in a lifeboat by an apparition who rescued her from the clutches of a jewel thief. Presumed lost at sea, Violet shocks everyone by crashing her own funeral.
Following Violet’s recovery, Grandmother has grand high society designs for the girl, but Violet has other ideas. She’s determined to uncover the secret of what really happened to her parents. Then there’s the mystery of the moon-faced boy at gloomy Dunham Hall and his connection to the ghost on Titanic. Also hot on Violet’s trail is the jewel thief, the specter of her murdered governess, and a vengeful ghost lurking in Violet’s childhood home.
Being a poor little rich girl in 1912 Gotham isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in this delightfully dark and droll supernatural historical fantasy.
PJ McIlvaine Bio:
PJ McIlvaine is a prolific author/screenwriter/writer/journalist.
PJ is the author of the AmazonUS best-selling VIOLET YORKE, GILDED GIRL: GHOSTS IN THE CLOSET (April 2022, Darkstroke Books), her debut middle-grade supernatural historical mystery adventure about a sassy poor little rich girl/Titanic survivor who sees ghosts in 1912 Manhattan.
PJ’s debut picture book LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE (May 2019, Big Belly Book Co.), with illustrations by Leila Nabih, is about a determined little girl tired of eating with her annoying cousins at the kid’s table, only to discover that the grown-up big table isn’t much better. Her second published picture book, DRAGON ROAR (October 2021, MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing), with illustrations by Logan Rogers), is about a lonely, sick dragon who has lost his mighty roar and the brave village girl who helps him find it again. PJ is also under contract with Oghma Creative Media for a series of Creature Feature picture books (2023-2024) and with Orange Blossom Books for her debut Young Adult alternate history adventure set in Victorian London (Fall 2023).
PJ is also a co-host and founding member of #PBPitch, the premiere Twitter pitch party for picture book creators.
PJ has been published in numerous outlets including The New York Times and Newsday. PJ also does features and interviews for The Children’s Book Insider newsletter.
Also, PJ’s critically acclaimed Showtime original family movie MY HORRIBLE YEAR with Mimi Rogers, Karen Allen, and Eric Stoltz, was nominated for a Daytime Emmy.
PJ lives in Eastern Long Island with her family along with Luna, an extremely spoiled French Bulldog, and Sasha the Psycho Cat.