A Visit with Anne Roebuck

Dear Departed_4x6 Please tell my readers a little bit about your book. 

The Dear Departed is a magical murder mystery set in 1890s San Francisco.  A respectable young widow helps a stage magician catch a psychic killer who is preying on grieving widows.  But in order to do that, she must explore hidden realms where she is never sure what is real and what is only illusion?  And the stage magician who serves as her guide through that hidden realm is a man with strange, arcane knowledge and a disreputable past.  Is he her protector or her ruin?  Will she discover an awesome reality behind all the illusions or will she just end up on the Primrose Path to Perdition?


What genre(s) do you write in and why?

I suppose you could call what I write ‘paranormal’ but that term is a little difficult to define these days.  I write stories about magic — historically documented magic — that happens in the ordinary world and turns people’s lives upside down.  This is often more challenging than writing about magic that happens in a separate fantasy realm because you step on a lot of people’s cultural biases even if they don’t realize it.

Historically, such magic has been labeled as ‘occult’ and has been shunned and persecuted for centuries as evil and demonic.  In our modern era, this kind of magic is officially considered to be unscientific and therefore not real.  It is still persecuted, but as a fraud and a con game, or at worst, a symptom of mental illness. But these kinds of conflicts are what makes magic so much fun to write about.


Describe the genre of this particular title, and is it the only genre you write in? 

The Dear Departed is my first foray into the Paranormal Romance genre, but I also write YA historical fantasy.  My first published book was about a young wannabe magician in 15th France who is rescued from the Inquisition by the abbot of a monastery full of renegade wizards, alchemists, astrologers and mystics.  It was marketed as a ‘fantasy’ but it was actually historically accurate, so the bookstores didn’t quite know what to do with it.


Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

It took me thirty years (yes, that’s three decades) to publish my first book from the time it was first written.  It went through at least a dozen rewrites, revisions and rejections before it was finally published.  The Dear Departed also went through twenty years of revisions and rejections before it saw print.  Sometimes a book gets rejected not because it isn’t good but because the time isn’t right for it.  Years later, maybe the stars align in the right way and it gets snapped up.  I guess I just had to wait for the world to catch up with me.


Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring authors?

Just keep writing.  If a book is repeatedly rejected, put it away and write another.  I’ve noticed that if a book is rejected several times and you put it away for a few years, it quietly transforms into something wonderful.  If you bring it out a couple of decades later and revise it (sometimes extensively), it will often get snapped up by an eager editor who wasn’t even alive when the book was first written.  This happens with agents, too.  The young up-and-coming agent that turned down my YA fantasy in 1982 ended up selling it for me in 2007.  So, as Winston Churchill said, never give up.  Never.  Never.  Never.  Never.


The widows of Victorian era San Francisco are dying of decidedly unnatural causes.  To expose the culprit, Virginia Paley must partner with the darkly mysterious Jonathan Bradshaw and enter a world of occult rituals, unexplainable phenomena—and magical love.


Young widow Virginia Paley has no interest in attending the séances at The Society for Eternal Love, but the women of the society are dying mysteriously in their sleep, leaving their fortunes to Professor Arthur Chadwick, its charismatic medium. As her aunt might very well become the next victim, Virginia will do whatever she must to ensure that doesn’t happen. She will even join forces with the darkly mysterious Jonathan Bradshaw – a man who isn’t what he claims to be.

From the moment he spies her, Jonathan is smitten. But romance is impossible. Mrs. Paley is a respectable woman, and he himself is outside of society, an orphan, an ex-thief and a true wizard, able to hypnotize with a word and even separate his spirit from his body. No, he must instead remain focused on his goal, avenging his mentor’s death and preventing more murders. But, facing a foe with power over demonic forces and Virginia’s very life in the balance, love might indeed be the only salvation.


The gaslight on the wall burned low, leaving only the spectral glow of the astral lamps to illuminate the séance room. Virginia Paley felt her stomach knotting up in both fear and anticipation as the wind rattled the shutters, sounding just like someone—or something—was trying to get in. In the center of the circular oak table, a single red lamp glowed like an all-seeing eye.

Virginia shuddered. Why, oh why, had she allowed her aunt to talk her into this madness?

Six other people sat with her around the table‑—all women save for one lone man who occupied the chair on her left. She studied him for a moment out of the corner of her eye. Just her luck that the only man attending this absurd spectacle was not only handsome but was seated so close to her that she could hear him breathe. As though he sensed her watching him, he suddenly turned to her with a mysterious smile curling his full mouth.

His eyes met hers and Virginia caught her breath. A prickle of apprehension and excitement shot through her insides. The darkness shrouded his face, but his eyes reflected the ruby light within their azure depths, making him appear otherworldly—and disturbingly familiar. He looked like he had stepped out of a dream—her dream.

Was she gazing into the eyes of her secret fantasy lover?

No. She forced herself to turn away. Stop this right now. This was insane. The lover who haunted her midnight fantasies was not a real man. He was only a phantasm that appeared out of nowhere to invade the dreams of a lonely widow. Nothing more.

This man sitting next to her at the séance table was not her fantasy lover, she told herself firmly. She didn’t even know him. Her reaction to him was just one more ridiculous aspect of this silly séance. She abruptly released her hold on the man’s hand, grateful that the darkness prevented him from seeing the flush that burned her cheeks.

She simply mustn’t allow herself to be sucked into the insanity of this place.

Frowning in annoyance, she turned to her aunt sitting on her right. “Really, Aunt Marian.” She kept her voice low. “This whole business is getting absurd. Come. Let’s go home.”

“And miss a message from my beloved Henry?” Behind her pince nez, Marian’s blue eyes widened in alarm. She clutched the lace collar of her high-necked black gown with her gloved hand. “I wouldn’t dream of doing that.”

“Mrs. Salonius got a message from her late husband, too,” Virginia persisted. “And look what happened to her.”

“Now, now, dear.” Marian smiled and gave Virginia’s hand an affectionate pat. “It was just Rachel’s time to depart this life, that’s all. And isn’t it wonderful that she had her adored Hiram waiting for her in the Summerland of Spirit?”

Virginia shuddered at her aunt’s blissful expression. This wasn’t like Aunt Marian at all. And where on earth did the disturbingly vacant look in her eyes come from? Despite her aunt’s beatific smile, Virginia felt in the pit of her stomach that something was very, very wrong.


From her first poem at age 10 and her first short story at age 12, Anne can’t help writing about her two favorite things – magic and love.  An unrepentant nerd, Anne started out in biomedical research but ended up writing software manuals instead.  She spent many years as a member of science fiction and historical reenactment groups and has been at various times a Renaissance scholar, a druidess, a pirate wench, a saloon floozy, a belly dancer and a chain-mail-wearing warrior maiden.

Still, her first love is writing stories.  It doesn’t matter whether the story is set in the middle ages, Victorian times, the present day or far in the future.  If it has both love and magic in it, Anne will write about it.  Anne also writes young adult historical fantasy under the name of Ann Finnin.

A native of Southern California, Anne lives in the hills above Los Angeles with her husband Dave, and a dog of Indeterminate Breed named Rufus.









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