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Harpers Ferry, W.Va., woman publishes 'The Problem with Power,' a paranormal novel

June 13, 2013
  • Alicia Drumgoole, who writes under the pen name Agnes Jayne, has released her first novel, The Problem with Power.
ylm / Yvette May Staff Photographer

Name: Alicia Drumgoole writing under the pen name Agnes Jayne

Age: 35

City in which you reside: Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Day job: English instructor at Hagerstown Community College

Book title: “The Problem with Power” 

Genre: Paranormal

Synopsis of book:  When her aunt’s death brings her home to her family’s estate in upstate New York, Emily VonPeer meets Nicholas Flynn, who arrives on her doorstep seeking answers for a slew of magically related murders tied to the VonPeer family.

Publisher: Crescent Moon Press

Price: $7.99 (Kindle), $14.99 (Paperback)

What inspired you to write about Emily VonPeer and Nicholas Flynn? 

Emily and Nicholas grew out of their settings. The places that you see in “The Problem with Power” are places that I used to see while running and hiking around my former home in upstate New York. One day, I ran by a large, white house where a young woman with long black hair sat on her porch with a gray cat and a stack of books surrounding her, and the image stuck in my mind for years. This memory later turned into Emily VonPeer. Nicholas Flynn began as a stock hero character, sort of a knight in shining armor type (the word “paladin” means knight or guardian), and his character grew from that idea. 

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Why did you want to write a book that involved the mythology of demons, witches and magic? 

I think that all writers need to write the story that’s in their head. I started “The Problem with Power” with the intention of penning a sweet, romantic novel that I could show to my grandma, only to find that the romance was a sidebar to the story that I wanted to tell. Every time I sat down to write, the plot started to twist and fill itself with ideas about battles and monsters and good versus evil. Likewise, I’m an English teacher, and I’ve always been fascinated with the story of Faust, which is a cautionary tale about a learned man who made a deal with the devil for power. Faust’s obsession with gaining knowledge that is outside the normal realms of human understanding leads to his demise, and this kind of idea is at the heart of the story. 

One thing I noticed is the setting you created for “The Problem with Power” is that it’s a regular world where these things are the norm. Tell me how you approached creating the world.

I started writing the scenes of the story with real-world buildings in mind, so it seemed to be a natural extension of these settings to write the characters into an almost normal place that is enhanced by magic. I also like the idea that there are things in our normal world that are not what they appear to be, and my imagination took off in that direction.

I thought it was interesting about the House, which talks to Emily, as well as the demon hunters, the Paladins. Are these commonly part of the mythology of your genre? If not, explain how you came up with them.

I have not seen this device used in the same way that I use it, though there are many books out there that feature “talking” houses or objects. When you first meet Emily, she is alone in her home, talking to herself. I thought it would be fun if the house started talking back to her, and the character of the House kind of created itself.

How long did it take you to write the novel? And tell me a little about the process of getting it published.

It took me about eight months of actual sitting at the desk to write the novel. I started by writing for an hour or so every week day, then I’d write one or two thousand words a day. Then I had to rewrite the first draft to tighten up the plot. After that, I had to rewrite portions that didn’t make sense or weren’t central to the story. When I thought that the story was done, I began sending our inquiries to agents, editors and publishers. I was contacted by Crescent Moon Press, who wanted more rewrites. So I fixed the book again, then sent it back to them, and they accepted it. The book was published a little more than a year later. All told, I wrote the book about four times.

You teach English at Hagerstown Community College. When you started writing, what words of advice that you give your students did you find yourself using for your own writing?

Writing a book is the same as writing an essay — you need to plan it, draft it, then revise the drafts until it sounds good. Prewriting is especially important in a longer work, because you can’t do something like leave a hairbrush on a chair in one scene and then on the dresser in another.

Did you have a message or theme you want to convey in the book?  

It’s OK to be weird. We’re all a little bit weird at the end of the day. 

Did you learn anything about yourself while writing this book?  

I learned that I have a lot to learn about writing, and that the only way to learn is by doing.

Are you working on another writing project?

I am working on a sequel to “The Problem with Power” and a novella. I hope to finish both this summer.

Is your book available in bookstores in our area? Where? If not, how can a reader buy a copy of the book? 

Paperback versions of “The Problem with Power” are available at Turn the Page Books in Boonsboro and The Black Dog Coffee Co. in Ranson, W.Va. The books are also available in both paperback and e-book versions online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Kobo. 

— Crystal Schelle, Lifestyle editor

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