Two Outer Banks writers — sisters Devin Govaere and Laurie Keck — teamed up with a longtime friend and fellow scribe, Maggie McBay, to create a paranormal romance anthology, tailor-made for Halloween.
The book, “Halloween Magic,” is a collection of three novellas, each set in Forget-Me-Not, Oregon, a place teeming with denizens who have metaphysical, mystical, and otherworldly powers — powers that are at their zenith during All Hallows Eve.
As visitors to the town soon discover, Oct. 31 in this hamlet is a time when the boundaries between the real and the otherworld are blurred, the universe’s normal order is placed in suspension, and everything and anything becomes possible.
“The stories are all paranormal romances, but with three separate stories, other genres emerge from time to time,” Govaere says. “There’s humor, a bit of mystery, not to mention action and suspense.”
Keck says it’s a book that will resonate with anyone “who believes that dreams come true and that anything is possible. Basically, anyone who enjoys the romance of the Hallmark Channel.”
The authors considered several locations for the setting, but decided on the verdant pine forests and moody wilds of the Pacific Northwest. After all, if it’s good enough for Colin Meloy’s bestselling fantasy adventure series "Wildwood Chronicles," and Terry Brook's "The Sword of Shannara Trilogy" — not to mention TV's “The X-Files,” “The Librarians,” “Eureka,” and “Grimm” — Oregon must have some special mojo that inspires writers.
“It took a lot of planning from all three of us to produce the perfect town, but I think we came close,” McBay says of their book's fictional hamlet. “The setting is contemporary with several glimpses into the past.”
Govaere says, at the core, the authors wanted to create “a charming small town where anyone and everyone is accepted — even the strangest among us.”
“We deliberately tried to write stories that a wide variety of readers could enjoy. The books are lighthearted romance with a touch of tragedy and, of course, a happily ever after ending,” McBay says. “I think everyone from teenagers to grandmothers will find reading pleasure in these books.”
Her character, she says, “is a strong woman who, like most women, pushes on against the odds.”
• “Harmonious Haunt,” written by Keck, follows Fallon James, a young woman who is responsible for the town’s annual Halloween extravaganza. When Fallon secures an in-demand performer for the gig, he has no idea what’s in store for him. This is not a typical appearance, and Forget-Me-Not is not a typical Pacific Northwest community that just attracts a steady stream of hikers, bikers, and skiers. This town is also a haven for supernatural beings with talents specifically geared for All Hallows Eve. There’s little chance he’ll ever forget the town of Forget-Me-Not, Oregon.
• “Kiss the Sun,” penned by McBay, is centered on a once-avid rock climber — now battling a chronic illness — who travels to the town to tackle some of the most cutting-edge rock routes in the U.S. before her disease sidelines her for good. Her inner voice tells her the bouldering adventure — which by nature necessitates a structured spiritual discipline — might help center her and, therefore, prepare her for what is to come. But a chance encounter with a local sheriff’s deputy might just change her fate.
• In Govaere’s “Just Another Scarecrow Love Story,” a witch named Annabella Paxton and her three-year-old daughter, Mellie, are preparing for the town’s annual Scarecrow Trail event. Mellie chooses to name her scarecrow “Carter” and talks about him endlessly as if he’s very much alive and very charming. She regales her mother with stories about Carter, and Annabella begins to wish the straw-filled effigy was, indeed, a flesh-and-blood man. But there’s more to Carter the Scarecrow — and more to her young daughter — than Annabella knows.
“When we decided to start the series with stories for Halloween, I knew immediately I wanted to try a scarecrow, though I thought I was crazy for considering it,” Govaere says. “But once I started it, my characters just burst into life, and I knew it was going to be something special, not only to me but hopefully to others as well. My characters aren’t inspired by any particular people, but I’ve fallen in love with all of them and wish I knew them.”
Though each novella focuses on specific characters, Keck says characters in each of the novellas contained within “Halloween Magic” make cameos in the other stories.
“The characters do occasionally, and will most likely in the future, cross paths, if only in subtle ways,” Kecks says. “Future books in the series will introduce new characters, but the characters in ‘Halloween Magic’ might also make cameos.”
Like McBay, Govaere says she wanted to create characters that embody and celebrate female empowerment. In the case of her story, she accomplishes that through a mother/daughter bond of shared values.
“As a single parent, Annabella is responsible for her little girl's values and her growth into a kind and decent person. When Mellie shows a determination to help a complete — possibly even imaginary — stranger, Belle trusts her daughter, knowing her heart is in the right place,” says Govaere, the mother of two grown sons. “A solid bond between a mother and daughter can be the ultimate empowerment because supporting choices and actions shows real trust, even if a mother doesn't always understand her child's motives. In the case of Belle and Mellie, the trust between them grants their greatest wish.”
Keck says her protagonist is a self-assured woman, "but like anyone, she can also become flustered at times.”
Govaere and her sister have collaborated on other literary projects in the past, but Keck says she’s particularly excited about their latest writing venture, "and the opportunity to collaborate with both Devin and Maggie, whose work I admire," Keck says. "Together, we have so much fun creating a new world for our characters, and our readers.”
The trio is already at work on another Halloween-themed book entitled “Halloween Thrills,” which will be released before the witching hour.