Interview With J.H. Moncrieff, Author of City of Ghosts, The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts

City of Ghosts

On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.

Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.

Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.

As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.



The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts

Would you risk everything to save a stranger?

Off the coast of Venice lurks Poveglia, the world’s most haunted isle, steeped in centuries of innocent blood. A deranged doctor who took great joy in torturing his patients in life continues to rule his abandoned asylum after death.

Few go to Poveglia willingly, but medium Kate Carlsson has no choice. It’s her job.

While struggling to retrieve a young girl’s soul, Kate uncovers some shocking truths about the evil on the island that challenges her own convictions and morals—and even her life.

Is saving Lily worth making a deal with the infamous Doctor of Death, or is the price too high to pay?



Do you have a day job as well?

For the first time in my life, I can say no! I used to juggle writing fiction with jobs as a freelance journalist, publicist, editor, and marketing director, but once I won the Harlequin “next Gillian Flynn” contest, I decided it was time to follow my dreams of being a full-time novelist. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I’m a proud pantser—no outlines for me. A character will show up and start “talking” to me, and it’s my job to write down his or her story. It feels like I’m taking dictation from a real person. My novels are very much character-driven. I interfere in that process as little as possible.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

One of the challenges in writing realistic, flawed characters is that some readers won’t like them. For instance, Jackson in City of Ghosts is very sarcastic, especially when it comes to his innermost thoughts, so a couple of reviewers thought he was misogynistic, but he isn’t at all. What they took seriously was him joking around. I’m kind of glad I can’t go back and change things, because if I did, I’d severely weaken my characters. I’ve had to learn to accept that I’ll never be able to please everyone. If more people like my books than not, I’m happy.

Is anything in your books based on real-life experiences or are they purely all imagination?

My books are usually inspired by my travels. In City of Ghosts, Jackson and Kate are on a tour of China, so I definitely referenced things I saw and experienced on my own tour of China, though of course there was a lot less drama on mine! The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts is set on Poveglia, the most haunted island in the world, and I can’t imagine writing about that place without ever having been there. That was one terrifying research trip!

What project are you working on now?

I have a few projects in the works. I’m finishing up the third installment in the GhostWriters series, which will take Kate and Jackson to Egypt. Aside from that, I have a few stand-alone books I’d love to finish—a mystery, a psychological horror, and a dark romance. And I have a few manuscripts I’m shopping around.

Will you have a new book coming out soon?

Yes, the Harlequin book I co-wrote will be released on June 15th, and the third GhostWriters book will be out in October, just in time for Halloween. In total, I’ll have six releases this year! It’s both exhilarating and surreal.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Taking one writer’s (any writer’s) advice as gospel. For instance, a lot of writers will tell you that you have to outline, but that just isn’t true. Stephen King doesn’t outline, and he’s doing okay. But if you find it’s something you need to do, that’s okay too. Marketing too much. If you have a new book out, by all means let people know, but don’t send a DM to everyone who follows you on Twitter asking them to like your Facebook page. It’s spam, and it’s annoying. A good rule is 80/20—promote others 80 percent of the time, or at least talk about something other than your work.

Also, be willing to do what it takes to succeed. If you’d love to self-publish your novel, but you can’t afford a decent copyeditor or a cover designer, wait until you can. Crowd fund. Ask for publishing money in lieu of other gifts. You do yourself and your potential readers a disservice by releasing your work before it’s ready.

What was your hardest scene to write?

There’s a scene in Lost, my mystery novel (available for free when you sign up for my Hidden Library), where a young woman is gang-raped and murdered. The violence is integral to the story, and I would have done the character a disservice if I’d softened it, but it was incredibly hard to write. I was physically ill afterward. It still makes me cry.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The trips to China and Italy, definitely. I always get inspired when I travel.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Even though my current books are supernatural suspense, my first release was psychological horror, so I’m fortunate to have made a lot of friends in the horror writing community. Horror writers are some of the nicest, most generous, supportive people you will ever meet. They are my beta readers, my cheerleaders, and some of my closest friends. I am so grateful every day to have such amazing people in my corner. There are really too many to name in an interview, but I always include a lengthy list in my acknowledgments.

Author Bio

J.H. Moncrieff’s work has been described as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.

She won Harlequin’s search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016.

Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

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