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The Story behind Whispers in the Branches by Brandy Heineman

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Brandy Heineman is our guest this week, sharing what inspired her to write Whispers in the Branches. On our writing loop, the conversation this week is about titles, and I love this title! Here’s a little bit about the book:

Tending a void in her heart that demands to be filled, Abby Wells uproots her life in Ohio to move into the ancestral home in Georgia. Now that her mom is gone, it’s her best chance to connect with the last of her family, and she can’t deny the pull of the supposedly haunted house. The seductive comfort of believing that ghosts could be real drives her search, but Aunt Ruby’s plans for Abby don’t include revealing secrets kept for seventy years. Oh, there’s dirty laundry she’d like to air—just not her own.

Indulging in the attentions of the house’s handsome caretaker helps numb her pain, but Abby’s ex-boyfriend won’t let go of the past. He hounds her about his new found religion in hopes of reconciling, but why reach for him or the God who couldn’t or wouldn’t spare her mom? In the stillness of the old house, the spirit world feels so close she can almost touch it.

But she doesn’t know yet that there’s more than one way to be haunted.

Oh, Brandy, I have chills. Please share with us what inspired the house that’s such a main part of this story?

While writing Whispers in the Branches, I decided I needed a spooky old house as a model for my story. Not a photo, but a real place I could wonder at in all its decrepit glory. I lived in a such a place when I was eight—a 150 year-old house in Watkins Glen, New York. I imagined parts of its weird layout into my narrative, but the exterior was too hazy—probably because we weren’t allowed to play out front, since the house sat too close to the road.

I now live in an Atlanta suburb where spooky old houses are in short supply, but eventually, I found THE one. From the ramshackle porch to the overgrown kudzu, it was the sort of place that a person inclined to believe in ghosts could easily imagine was haunted. Since my story follows characters looking for truth in the wrong places, it was the perfect inspirational setting. I’d take any excuse to drive past it, craning my neck to soak in the details. I thought it was vacant, so imagine my surprise one night on my way home when I noticed the lights on inside. I had no problem dreaming up a ghost for the place, but was shocked that someone actually lived there.

The kicker came after my book released, when my inspiration house went up for sale. Friends encouraged me to call for a showing, but I didn’t think it was right to take the listing agent’s time to satisfy my curiosity. That didn’t stop me from perusing every single one of the thirty-eight pictures they posted online, however. I like my version of the interior better, although if I had large piles of money to get rid of, I can’t say I wouldn’t consider it . . .

Brandy Heineman writes dual timeline novels from a Christian world view. Her passion for genealogy occasional inspires hare-brained schemes like a five-county research trip in a rented Mustang, but she usually sticks to sharing vignettes and research tidbits on her blog. Her debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, was a 2014 ACFW Genesis finalist and released the following year from Elk Lake Publishing. She currently serves as the Vice President of the ACFW North Georgia chapter, and she is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.

Brandy and her husband, Michael, reside in the metro Atlanta area with their two demanding yet hilarious kitties. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at brandyheineman.com.

Brandy is giving away an e-copy of the book. Follow the directions below to enter.

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Thanks for visiting us, Brandy! It’s been great to have you!

16 Comments

  1. Only the littlest children…others remember the family that abandoned it.

  2. There are numerous homes in Richmond VA that people say are haunted. Edgar Allen Poe museum is also known to be haunted.

    • Hi Melissa–thanks for reading! I always wonder how those stories come to be attached to places. I would like to visit Richmond VA someday to see if I can find where my grandfather’s parents lived.

  3. No haunted houses near me.

    Brandy, this story sounds intriguing!

    • Oh, I don’t know of any houses with that reputation near me, either. This area has a lot of growth and development and a few little protected historic districts. Of course, “historic” is relative–practically nothing around here predates the Civil War.

      Thanks for the kind words, Caryl! Glad you could visit with us! 🙂

  4. No haunted houses that I know of, but there is a story of the Underground Railroad and of a slave girl who in the fog of our mountains lost her way and fell to her death. They claim you can still hear her scream.

    • What a sad sorry, Lucy. I think oftentimes these stories originate as a way to make sense of the tragedies in life. Maybe that is why they so often feature some form of “unfinished business” or a continuation of sorts. If the story is still happening in a sense, then it leaves room for hope, counterfeit though it may be…

      I appreciate the interesting comment! Thanks for reading and visiting with us!

  5. There was a house down the street that was haunted. No possible other answer. It was a sad history too, which maybe led to active imaginations. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I’m sure there are several houses. But an old hospital is the most notorious and said to be haunted! It was a tuberculosis hospital back in the day! And no I haven’t visited! 😉

    • Ugh, I wouldn’t want to visit the hospital either! I read a book recently in which some teens went creeping around an abandoned mental hospital, and I hated that scene. Can’t imagine going in real life. I love history and nostalgia but that would be so sad.

      I’m glad you stopped by, Nancy!

  7. No, there are no houses near me that are haunted. There was a house about 45 minutes away that people used to say was haunted or “possessed” due to a number of suicides that took place in the house/on the yard. Eventually the town tore the house down.

    • Oh, how awful! That reminds me of an old story they used to tell at my college–something about some antique mirrors and a girl who died rushing for a sorority. Supposedly that was why the school disallowed Greek societies and switched to an inclusive “sister class” system. I was skeptical even then, as there were never any verifiable details to the story.

      As for me, I wanted to write about a character with conflicting desires–an intense need for “proof” of an afterlife, but too angry at God to seek Him–hence her fascination with a reputedly haunted house. An odd choice for Christian fiction? Maybe, but I think at times we are all susceptible to searching for “our” truth instead of God’s truth, and that leads to very dark places.

      Whew! Too much for a blog comment? I hope not. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Arletta!

  8. I do not know of any houses in my area that have the reputation of being haunted, but there is one house on main street that puts a mannequin up in a second floor window that looks spooky!

    • Sounds like they decided to have fun with it! If I could buy my inspiration house, I think I would restore it just enough so that it held onto its nostalgic charm, and turn it into a book shop. A different genre in every room!

      Glad you decided to stop by and comment, Janice!

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