Audrey Eames is happy living the wanderer’s life. After a near-death experience in her teens, Audrey can see people’s past lives whenever her skin touches theirs, and afraid of being labeled delusional, she’s never stayed in one place too long or made any deep connections.
So, when Audrey’s estranged aunt dies and leaves her the historic Soberly Inn and Public House on the scenic Oregon coast, Audrey wants nothing to do with it. She is determined to sell the inn and leave town before someone discovers the power she’s been hiding from the world, but clauses in her aunt’s will seem to block her at every turn.
Yet once ensconced in Soberly’s small town life, the people—particularly the bartender, Kellen Greene—start to grow on her, and she begins to feel that maybe she’s finally found a place of her own. As accepting as the townspeople seem, Audrey fears their reactions—and Kellen’s rejection—and decides to keep her visions a secret. But all is not well in Soberly. Soon after Audrey arrives, people in town start dying in the same manner as in their past lives—but in this lifetime it’s murder. When suspicion starts to fall on Audrey and her new beau Kellen, Audrey vows to use her gift to find the murderer and protect the people she loves—before it’s too late.
Author Nicole Bross met up with The Big Thrill to share some insight into her debut thriller, PAST PRESENCE:
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
Character came first. The protagonist, Audrey, and her ability to see past lives came to life in my mind while listening to Live’s song Selling the Drama—”I know/I know/I’ve been here before.” The plot came to be after thinking about an interesting way she could use this talent: to solve murders! I was inspired to set PAST PRESENCE on the Oregon coast after a visit there five or six years ago.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
Thanks to the historical aspect of PAST PRESENCE, I learned lots of interesting facts about smuggling on the West Coast in the 1930s during Prohibition, as well as Russian rural life in the 1700s, childbirth and maternal mortality in the same time period, early self-publishing in Victorian England and so much more. I love research and enjoyed this aspect of writing PAST PRESENCE a lot.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
My book is a blend of mystery and paranormal, which are both genres I enjoy reading for pleasure. I think a touch of the supernatural makes everything a little bit more interesting, so I wrote PAST PRESENCE with the intention of using the unknown as an integral part of the plot.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
I started writing PAST PRESENCE in 2015 and abandoned it at 15k words due to a deep bout of depression. It took about 18 months to recover to the point where I felt I could start writing again, and finished the first draft about six months after that. My greatest opportunity was the chance to participate in the online Twitter pitch party #DVPit, for writers who identify as marginalized in some way (ADHD and mental health issues, in my case). Thanks to #DVPit I signed a contract to publish after only a few weeks on submission. I definitely see and appreciate how my greatest challenge also afforded me the chance to succeed because of the willingness of others to look specifically for writers who face additional obstacles in publishing.
Nicole Bross is an author from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with her husband, two children and one very large orange cat. When she’s not writing or working as the editor of a magazine, she can be found curled up with a book, messing around with her ever-expanding collection of manual typewriters or in the departures lounge of the airport at the beginning of another adventure. PAST PRESENCE is her debut novel.
To learn more about Nicole, please visit her website.