Today, I am excited to welcome author Jaime Jo Wright to Interviews & Reviews. Jaime is the author of nine novels, including Christy Award and Daphne du Maurier Award–winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her husband.
Today, Jaime is going to talk to us about her latest book The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater (our book of the month winner for October) and Bethany House is going to give away on print copy to a lucky person in the U.S.A and I & R will be giving away one print copy to a lucky person in Canada!
Welcome to I & R Jaime!
Can you please tell us a little about your new novel The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater?
Jaime Jo Wright: Sure! Here’s a little synopsis: when Greta Mercy’s brothers disappear from the Barlowe Theater in 1915, she will do anything to uncover what threat lurks beneath the stage.
Decades later, revealing what really happened to the boys falls on Kit Boyd, who must determine whether she’s willing to pay the price to end the pattern of evil that has marked their hometown for a century. The story is definitely spooky but I always try to add some really nice depth to my novels. Lost Boys also explores other themes such as identity and the value of each person that I think readers will enjoy and identify with even if suspense isn’t their main genre.
The book features two female protagonists—Greta and Kit—who live about 100 years apart. What do these women have in common, and what are some key differences?
JJW: Both Greta and Kit are struggling with their place in the world. I tried to write the dichotomy between their social statuses and upbringings to emphasize that, regardless of where you come from or your past history, anyone can fight to feel secure in themselves. Greta is underprivileged and struggled to support four younger brothers while dancing in the shadows of her wealthy friends. Kit is financially stable with a solid upbringing, but her adoption as a baby has left internal questions as to her worth.
Barlowe Theater plays a prominent role in both timelines in the novel. What do readers need to know about the theater and its legacy?
JJW: The theater is a place where legends begin during Greta’s story, and where those legends have become haunted realities in Kit’s. It’s symbolic of the stark divide between the caste systems of society. The wealthy versus the poor, the pompous versus the humble, and all the secrets hidden in the dark places that no one else sees.
Is Barlowe Theater based on a real place?
JJW: Yes! Al Ringling, of the Ringling Bros. Circus, originated in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and he made his home there. He undertook the construction of the Al Ringling Theater on which Barlowe Theater is based. It’s a beautiful example of European architecture in the center of a small Midwestern town, and this lends to the place’s aura and uniqueness.
Library Journal described one of your previous novels as “delightfully creepy.” As a Mystery/Suspense author writing in the inspirational fiction space, how do you balance your novels to hit just the right note of spookiness without going too far?
JJW: I think it’s important to recognize that spookiness and creepiness is simply imagined entertainment and not necessarily a reflection of the actual spirit world. On the flip side, there is a world beyond what we can see, so I try to weigh entertainment value with spiritual accuracy. In the end, my measuring stick for spooky is often the “If this were Scooby-Doo, who would be beneath the bedsheet?” I think that classic cartoon totally nailed the creepy and spooky while
bringing in humor and humanity.
You’re no stranger to writing excellent “bad guys.” What’s the key to creating a captivating villain?
JJW: I study criminal psychology on the side, as well as actual crime cases. While I’m in no way an expert on the matter, the key is in pulling from actual events, partially because it’s more believable, and also because it unfortunately provides those other dimensions because the human mind is so complex.
Your novels usually spotlight a specific setting such as a castle, a lake, or in this case a theater—even so far as turning it into a character itself. Why is the location essential to your stories?
JJW: I believe our surroundings are often symbolic of what we’re experiencing in life. My hope is that the setting provides a point of view that will bring more depth to the story.
Why did you choose to set this novel in a theater?
JJW: Because I love the theater it’s based on, the Al Ringling Theater, but also because who doesn’t love a haunted theater? It was a challenge to create a ghostly story that didn’t mimic or even nod to the Phantom of the Opera. I wanted to bring the theater to life with its own unique tale to tell that hasn’t been told before.
One theme in The Lost boys of Barlowe Theater is the value of all human beings regardless of wealth, poverty, popularity, or lack thereof. How does this present itself in the book?
JJW: I hope I was able to show the flaws in every people group, along with their value. Truly one is no better than the other, and the combination of them makes humanity more powerful in loving and caring for one another. I wanted to show the difference between a successful union of people groups versus the abused nature when one determines its value is higher than the other’s.
Which character would you say you relate to the most, Greta or Kit, and why?
JJW: Definitely Kit. Much of Kit’s story is my own. From the fascination with ant farms and insects to the fact that I too was adopted. I wanted to bring awareness to infant adoption and the struggle with abandonment and disassociation due to that which is often disregarded because the child was an infant when adopted.
What lessons do you hope readers gain by picking up The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater?
JJW: Primarily that each human life is valuable, and that there is a treasure in loyalty to each other regardless of where we’re from. That there are those who choose to stick closer than a brother in spite of our wrongs, our pasts, our statuses, and so on.
What is something you’ve gleaned over the years from reading other authors in your genre that has improved your own writing?
JJW: I’ve learned to push the envelope on tough topics. I find the stories that resonate most with me are ones where the mystery goes just a bit further than we might be comfortable with, or a theme delves deeper into places we are hesitant to talk about, or even a crime is pushed a bit to the edge because humanity, after all, instinctively pushes those boundaries.
Can you share what you’re working on next?
JJW: I’m currently wrapping up edits on my next release that’s coming out April 2024, Night Falls on Predicament Avenue. It’s a story inspired from an early twentieth century newspaper article I read of a bloody crime scene discovered in an old house. My heroines are strafed with grief’s shrapnel. When they face murder, abduction, and the loss of those most precious to them, grief becomes something all the characters cannot avoid.
How can readers connect with you?
JJW: I’m all over social media. They can find the links at www.jaimewrightbooks.com, and I would love to have them check out my podcast at www.madlitmusings.com and my YouTube
channel MadLit Musings.
Thank you Jaime for visiting with us today and a special thank you to Bethany House for providing this interview.
And now, if you would like to win a copy of The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater, just fill out the form below. This giveaway will run until Thursday, November 9, 2023. Winners will be notified via email and announced here and on our Facebook page. Failure to respond to our emails within two weeks will result in another winner being chosen. THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.
Congratulations to Laura C. & Kristin G. You have both won a copy of The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater. Watch for our email!
It promises beauty but steals life instead. Will the ghosts of Barlowe Theater entomb them all?
Barlowe Theater stole the life of Greta Mercy's eldest brother during its construction. Now in 1915, the completed theater appears every bit as deadly. When Greta's younger brother goes missing after breaking into the building, Greta engages the assistance of a local police officer to help her unveil the already ghostly secrets of the theater. But when help comes from an unlikely source, Greta decides that to save her family she must uncover the evil that haunts the theater and put its threat to rest.
Decades later, Kit Boyd's best friend vanishes during a ghost walk at the Barlowe Theater, and old stories of mysterious disappearances and ghoulish happenings are revived. Then television ghost-hunting host and skeptic Evan Fisher joins Kit in the quest to identify the truth behind the theater's history. Kit reluctantly agrees to work with him in hopes of finding her missing friend. As the theater's curse unravels Kit's life, she is determined to put an end to the evil that has marked the theater and their hometown for the last century.