Monday, January 16, 2017

On Characters: May I Introduce Poppy Thornton? by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

May I Introduce Poppy Thornton?


Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Poppy Millicent Thornton was born in 1899 to an upper-class family in Philadelphia; her father, a younger son, became a travel writer, her mother was a Suffragette. She has one, fairly obnoxious older brother, Tobias, who is the headmaster at a very upper-crust prep school for boys. Poppy, being college-educated instead of having gone to finishing school, is a reporter at the Philadelphia Clarion, an evening paper, something most of her family and some of her friends, disapprove of. After two years with the paper covering lady-like things like garden parties, great books, societies, and galas, she has recently been assigned to work the crime desk, in the first book of the Chesterton Holte, Gentleman Haunt Series, Haunting Investigation.

This has come about because there was an upper-crust man she knew socially who was found hanged in his dining room, which was at first considered a suicide, but turns out to be murder. Since Poppy can move about the upper-crust as one of them, her editor, Cornelius Lowenthal, keeps her on it, and she uncovers a complicated tangle of corruption and murder, and in the process is nearly killed herself. Luckily, she has an ally: Chesterton Holte.
            Chesterton Holte, as his sobriquet suggests, is a ghost. Poppy does not believe in ghosts, being a modern woman in 1924. Chesterton Holte, a Canadian academic and spy for England in World War I, is responsible for Poppy’s father’s death: he was killed by German soldiers in Belgium, having mistaken B. Oliver Thornton for Chesterton Holte, and now Holte is attempting to make recompense for depriving Poppy of her father. Having the capacity to move between the world of the living and the dimension of ghosts, Holte is able to provide Poppy with information from the murder victims themselves — when they can remember what happened to them. He shares his information with Poppy, and leaves it to her to find some way to verify his information. Holte is aware that a good portion of what Poppy learns from him cannot be explained in a satisfactory manner, coming from a ghost as it does. But Holte proves to be useful to her, and he becomes involved in her life.

            In the second book of the series, Living Spectres, Poppy is following up on the complicated fraud and Customs crimes she began to investigate in Haunting Investigation, and is moving from her Aunt Josephine’s house — it is considered incorrect for well-born young ladies to live on their own at that time — to her Aunt Esther’s house. Aunt Jo is a very traditional woman, distressed at Poppy’s work and her single state; Aunt Esther, on the other hand, is over 70, still unmarried, and is a world traveler. She is a much better fit for Poppy, and Poppy thrives in her company.
            Poppy often works with Inspector J. B. Loring, who is head of the Homicide Squad of the Philadelphia police. He has grown very fond of Poppy — a relationship that Holte encourages over Poppy’s many protests — and often shares information with her, and sometimes finds that what she has “guessed”, courtesy of Holte, is helpful, if bewildering in origin.
            And then there is Maestro. He is Poppy’s soot-colored cat, who, like most animals, can see and hear Holte, but because Holte is non-corporeal, Maestro cannot attack him, no matter how hard he tries. Maestro can be counted upon to hiss and swear in High Cat whenever Holte is around.
            Haunting Investigation and Living Spectres are available now. Shining Phantoms will be out next fall. Now that you’ve been introduced to Poppy Thornton, check my Facebook page for more information on Poppy’s forthcoming adventures…

Fascinating! This gives us a glimpse into the mind of a writer, as well as all the character research we tend to do while planning a novel. So, thank you, Chelsea! :)

Readers, let's take a look at one of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's books mentioned in her article, a paranormal historical mystery titled Living Spectres.


Here is the blurb.


Philadelphia, 1924

It’s been three months since crime reporter Poppy Thornton was left to die in an abandoned warehouse by her cousin Stacy, chief suspect in a high society murder. Rescued by the quick thinking of Chesterton Holte—her “gentleman haunt”—and Police Inspector J.B. Loring, Poppy is determined to get the real story and see justice done. But Stacy has fled Philadelphia with the widow of the man he is accused of murdering, and now an international manhunt is on for the suspected conspirators. As that search continues, Poppy, Holte, and Loring have a new mystery: the disappearance of GAD Pearce, 18 year-old heir to the Pearce fortune, who has vanished while traveling through Eastern Europe. The suspects range from the young man’s jealous siblings to a mysterious cult of Armenian refugees.

Once again Holte uses his ghostly powers to uncover answers and pass on what he learns to Poppy— who must then alert Loring without revealing her otherworldly source.

Is GAD still alive? Can Poppy keep her job despite social convention, the disdain of her male colleagues, and the dangerous attraction she feels to Loring? Will the authorities succeed in tracking Stacy down? What’s really going on behind the closed doors of the politicians and bankers who run the city and the state?

And as the search for truth takes Poppy and Holte deeper into a forest of dark secrets and official corruption, who will die next?


Check out Amazon's 'Look Inside' feature for an excerpt from this book.



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This looks riveting! 

Readers, don't forget to pick up your copy of Living Spectres!



Guest Blogger Bio


A professional writer for more than forty years, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has sold over eighty books, more than seventy works of short fiction, and more than three dozen essays, introductions, and reviews. She also composes serious music. Her first professional writing - in 1961-1962 - was as a playwright for a now long-defunct children's theater company. By the mid-60s she had switched to writing stories and hasn't stopped yet.

After leaving college in 1963 and until she became a full-time writer in 1970, she worked as a demographic cartographer, and still often drafts maps for her books, and occasionally for the books of other writers.

She has a large reference library with books on a wide range of subjects, everything from food and fashion to weapons and trade routes to religion and law. She is constantly adding to it as part of her on-going fascination with history and culture; she reads incessantly, searching for interesting people and places that might provide fodder for stories.


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