I confess. When I began writing the Teen Wytche Saga, my series of Young Adult sweet romances, my research consisted largely of eavesdropping on my daughter and her friends while I drove them to school. But as Brilliant Beautiful Daughter grew up, my novels and my inquiries became more complex. For example, researching SPELL FOR SOPHIA, Book 4 in the Teen Wytche Saga, forced me to step outside my comfort zone and return to New Orleans’s Psychic Undertow.
In the Teen Wytche Saga, a rebellious, shape-shifting spell book charged with aiding true love, morphs into a new type of magic with each girl who possesses it. In SPELL FOR SOPHIA, the grimoire’s shift to voodoo provides a clue to the whereabouts of Sophia, a missing teen.
New Orleans is one of the most haunted cities in America, making it a difficult place for a shaman like me to visit. Battles, plagues, slavery, and floods not only influenced the Big Easy’s culture, they account for its underlying paranormal forces and hauntings.
The French Quarter and nearby swamps are major settings in Sophia’s story. I gleaned what I could about the area from books and online sources, but several questions remained. So despite my trepidations, I returned to NOLA.
On a warm spring day, psychically shielded and with the intention that no ghosts or malevolent energies would accost me, I ventured forth with my list of questions. I was no match for the skeptical gatekeeper at Priestess Miriam Chamani’s Voodoo Spiritual Temple on Rampart Street. I could sense the priestess’s heavily protected presence beyond the front room that served as a shop. But I could not gain an audience. While lingering in the hope she would change her mind, I discovered the perfect shaman’s rattle, a magical tool I had been seeking for years. Perhaps the powerful priestess led me to it as a consolation prize.
I had better luck with Captain Brent of the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours. A heavy rain slackened almost to a halt as the nearly empty boat pushed away from the dock. The captain threw me several puzzled glances as I frantically wrote down almost everything he said, and then followed up with highly specific questions. Captain Brent didn’t appear too surprised when I finally explained I was a writer doing research. His invaluable assistance helped prevent a major error I had included in the first draft. Bonus: During the tour, I saw a stilt house that resembled the one I had written about in SPELL FOR SOPHIA.
I’m glad I braved New Orleans’s psychic undertow. My discomfort added authenticity to Sophia’s growing unease and the eerie atmosphere in the novel. Best of all, most ghosts gave me a wide berth. Only once did I get a supernatural chill and serious case of the heebie-jeebies.
Spell For Sophia
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