Monday, October 15, 2012

Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore by BonSue Brandvik: Interview & Excerpt: BTS Tour Stop



Title:  Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore
Author:  BonSue Brandvik
Publisher: Self
Length:  317 pages
Sub-Genres: Paranormal, Ghosts

Software developer Honor Macklin believes she’s equal business partners with her philandering ex-husband, but when family responsibilities take her to Florida, she discovers her ex may have cheated her in more ways than one. Spirits at the Belleview Biltmore hotel try to help Honor by invading her dreams to share memories from the life of Darcy Loughman, a young Victorian woman with big problems of her own. When the two worlds collide, Honor and her new lover, Josh, along with his clairvoyant four-year-old son, try to figure out how Honor can use lessons from the past to change her destiny.
The setting for this novel is te famous and currently endangered historic Belleview Biltmore Resort in Belleair, FL. The hotel was built in 1896 by one of Florida’s founding fathers, Henry B. Plant. The author is working with preservationists, hoping to find investors willing to save the wonderful, 820,000 sq. ft. hotel from demolition. For additional information, please visit: and/or

“Pearls” is Book One in BonSue Brandvik’s “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” series.

Amazon – (Kindle)  |  (Paperback)  ||  B&N – (Nook)  |  (Paperback)  


       Late in the afternoon, Honor Macklin took her checklist list out of her pocket and with a triumphant flourish, checked off the item “Clean-out Mom’s Kitchen.” Then she gathered up the day’s treasures, including the antique journal, and put them in her car. Remembering her hotel room at the Belleview Biltmore was quite chilly the night before, she went to her mother’s closet and grabbed an old-fashioned flannel granny-gown to sleep in, and then drove the short distance back to the hotel to order room service.
Belly full, bathed and dressed in her mother’s old flannel gown, Honor snuggled under the goose-down comforter, against the oh-so-soft pillows and began to read the faded text in the old journal. It began, “I long for a world so different than the one I inhabit…”
As she began to drift off to sleep, Honor became aware of a chill in the air and she heard voices coming from… coming from where? The hallway? Her suite? She tried to focus on the conversation.
“She has the journal. It’s time for her to know everything,” a woman’s voice said.
Honor rose from her bed to investigate and was amazed to find two women sitting in her parlor, clothed in full Victorian dress. Then it slowly began to sink in. They weren’t exactly what you would call solid.
“Who… what…” stammered Honor, startled almost beyond words.
“Good evening, darlin’,” the larger of the two women greeted her. “I’m Margaret and this is…well, this is Darcy. We see you’ve found her journal, gone from sight these many years.”
Margaret turned to face the thin, older woman. “It’s time, Darcy. You know it’s the right thing to do.”
“But what if she doesn’t understand?” The older woman looked worried. Her anguished eyes locked on Honor.
“She comes from good stock. She’ll understand,” the plump woman replied.
Suddenly, Honor found herself inexplicably fading from her hotel room, into a fog. She floated through the mist, enjoying the sensation. When the fog lifted, she was sitting at a cast-iron garden table with a cool breeze caressing her face.
She felt dizzy and a bit sick to her stomach, as if she had just stepped off a roller coaster. Desperately, she tried to orient herself to her new situation by focusing on a pink hibiscus bush nearby. She heard someone call out from a nearby path.
“A grand afternoon to you, Madam Darcy.”
Honor turned toward the voice and saw the heavyset woman who had called herself Margaret, waving at Darcy, who was seated across from Honor at the garden table.
Honor’s mouth hung open as she gazed beyond the courtyard to the original Belleview Hotel. She felt Darcy’s eyes upon her, pulling her attention back across the table.
Darcy spoke as though they were still in Honor’s hotel room, seemingly unaware their location had changed, or that she appeared to be several decades younger than she had been only moments ago…

 Hi BonSue!  I am so happy to welcome to my blog today.  Thanks so much for stopping by! How did you start your writing career?


I was a married mom at the age of 17, so my career didn’t take a normal route. When my daughter was little, I worked as babysitter, cake decorator, door-to-door cookware saleswoman, and cook at Taco Bell. After I was divorced at 22, I took a job as a cocktail waitress/entertainer so that I could be home during the day and serve as Girl Scout Leader and Room Mother. Then I went back to school and developed a successful career in the field of Human Resources. Decades later, I became disillusioned with being a workaholic executive, so I resigned to become a part-time HR Consultant, a Guardian Ad Litem volunteer for children, and novelist. Now I draw upon my assortment of jobs and my HR career to create interesting characters and storylines.


What do you think makes a good story?


I believe a good story must contain several key elements, blended together seamlessly. This includes believable, 3-D characters; at least one of which, readers will want to cheer for. Personally, I like lead characters that have a sense of humor without going overboard to be funny. I want them to be compassionate without being bleeding-hearts and to have a strong moral compass without being too conservative. Another key element for a good paranormal story is the ability to spark the imagination of readers, encouraging them to look beyond the reality of this world into the unknown and believe the story could happen – or at least wish it could happen.  Ideally, a good story will motivate readers to embrace characteristics, phrases or the philosophy of a leading character. For instance, in my books, I try to instill some simple truths I have learned during my life: No matter what trials and tribulations this world brings to your doorstep, you are never alone unless you choose to be; No one knows for sure what comes next in the eternal journey of life; Love really can be true and everlasting; and, as one of my characters, Margaret Plant says, “An intelligent woman with allies can accomplish anything!”

Tell us about your current series of novels.


The “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” series is paranormal, women’s fiction with romantic elements and a unique take on time-travel. The setting for the series is a real hotel – the Belleview Biltmore, in Belleair, Florida. This hotel was built for the super-rich, by railroad tycoon Henry Plant and his second wife, Margaret, in the year 1896. In addition to providing entertainment, I hope my novels will encourage readers to join the ranks of preservationists, hoping to save this one-of-a-kind, 820,000 sq. ft. hotel from developers who want to build townhomes on the property:


Book One in my series is “Pearls”  and it’s currently available on Amazon (paperback) and at all e-book outlets. Here’s the book trailer: and here’s the jacket cover blurb:

“Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” - Software developer Honor Macklin believes she’s equal business partners with her philandering ex-husband, but when family responsibilities take her to Florida, she discovers her ex may have cheated her in more ways than one. Honor’s life becomes even more complicated when spirits (not to be confused with ‘ghosts’) at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel start invading her dreams, taking her back in time to share memories from the life of Darcy Loughman – a young Victorian woman with big problems of her own. When the two worlds collide, Honor and her steamy, new lover, Josh, along with his clairvoyant four-year-old son, try to figure out if Honor can use lessons from the past to outwit her devious ex-husband and change her destiny.


Currently, I have four stories outlined for this series. In each book, someone will check into the Belleview Biltmore hotel with serious problems that will resonate with various spirits who inhabit the hotel. Only one character will appear in all four books: Margaret Plant, the wife of Henry Plant, the railroad baron who built the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. I’m currently writing the second book in the series, “Ripples”, which will involve spirits of the Prohibition Era. Future books include “Redemption” which is set in the WWII Era (when the hotel was occupied by the army) and “Nails,” which harkens back to Florida’s pioneer days and spirits who built the hotel.

Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it?


I was named by an angel who visited my mom in the hospital. Well, sort of, anyway. You see, I was born in the old days, when women were given good drugs and stayed in the hospital for several days after the birth of a child. As the fifth of six children, and the second girl, I was almost doomed to being named after my grandmother: Bertha Agnes. No kidding. Then my drugged-up mom dreamed an angel kept calling-out the name: Bonnie-Sue. The next morning, she decided to obey the angel’s suggestion. Later than night (after the drugs wore off) she heard the head nurse yelling for a candy-striper named… you guessed it… Bonnie-Sue. Although a far better name than Bertha Agnes, Bonnie-Sue was still too southern for my Leo personality, so I cut out the middle of the name and became BonSue. It suits me…unique, but a bit weird.


What books have most influenced your life?

“A Tale of Two Cities” – Charles Dickens – Which taught me that even a scoundrel can rise to the level of hero and that true love sometimes requires great sacrifices.

“Time and Again” – Jack Finney – Which taught me that time travel doesn’t always have to involve a time machine - all it takes is the belief that it can be done.

“Dances with Wolves” – Michael Blake – Which taught me that the most interesting life stories don’t necessarily involve famous people or events, and that love and humor can be incorporated even in the most serious storylines.

Are the names of the characters in your novels important?  How and why?

When I was younger, I met a woman whose real name was Candy Apple. I thought it was so funny that I started collecting names that had a double meaning and in each book, the name of at least one character will have a double meaning. For instance, in “Pearls”, the present-day heroine, Honor Macklin, kept her maiden name when she and her now-ex-husband married because his last name was Guard. In my current WIP, the present day heroine is named Lilyanna Thorne, and in my next book, “Redemption” the present-day heroine has a twin brother. Her name is Summer Tyme and her brother’s name is Justin.


You just won a huge lottery what is the first thing you'll buy?

I seriously buy lottery tickets, hoping to buy the Belleview Biltmore Hotel and keep it out of the hands of developers who wanted to demolish it to build townhomes. The first time I toured this historic hotel, I was almost overwhelmed by the echoes of the past that seemed to permeate the entire structure. I kept thinking, “If only these walls could talk, what stories they would tell!” In a flash, was inspired to tell the stories of women who had lived and worked in the hotel in days gone by. After researching the hotel’s amazing history, I decided the spirit of Margaret Plant would be the perfect character to help me blend the stories of women from the past with those of women hotel guests in the present day. Now, my fondest dream is that the hotel will be renovated and reopened so that everyone can enjoy the same experience of connecting with the past at this beautiful hotel.


Is there one passage in your book that you feel gets to the heart of your book and would encourage people to read it?  If so, can you share it?

   In her room at the Belleview Biltmore, Honor Macklin found it hard to concentrate on sorting through her late mother’s paperwork. Images of Josh Lancing’s hard body and dark blue eyes kept creeping into her thoughts. She took a cool shower and slipped into her flannel granny-gown; then began sorting through the old paperwork. Once she focused, the job went quickly. Near the bottom of the box, she found a picture of herself and her sisters when they were very small. They were sitting side-by-side on a swing set, with their father pushing them, each in turn. Honor clearly remembered the moment captured in the photograph. She leaned the picture against her bedside lamp, lay back and closed her eyes, wondering how much more she would have cherished days like the one in the photograph, if she had known how few of them remained. At the time, it had never occurred to her that her father wouldn’t always be there with them, but a month later, his sudden death broke her mother’s heart.

   She didn’t notice the fog gathering around her as she drifted to sleep until her reflections were interrupted.

   “Your mother wouldn’t have changed anything about her life with your father, even if she had known exactly what would happen in the end.”

   Honor was more indignant than frightened. She marched into the antique parlor that adjoined the bedroom suite and found the semitransparent Victorian woman, Margaret, sitting exactly where she had been the night before.

   “How would you know how my mother felt about anything?” she demanded.

   “Because she told me so,” Margaret replied.

   Honor was confused. “Are you trying to tell me you’ve talked to my mother’s ghost?”

   “No, darlin’- I expect your mother took the lighted path as soon as she died. But while she was alive, she used to visit me every month or two. We talked for hours at a time.”

   Honor sat, even more confused. “I don’t understand,” she mumbled.

   Margaret poured her a cup of tea and slid it across the table. “It’s a long story, but one that’s worth hearing, if you want to know.”

BonSue Brandvik lives with her husband in the tiny, but historic town of Belleair, Florida. When she isn’t writing, BonSue volunteers some of her time to lead Clearwater Writers Critique group, and to serve as the Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board for her town. She is also a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem, advocating for children, and she volunteers as a docent at the Heritage Village Living History Museum. She also offers to speak to various groups on topics ranging from “The Art of Weaving Historic Facts into Works of Fiction” to “Ghost Stories of the Belleview Biltmore.”
BonSue also works with preservationists, fighting to save and restore the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel; the inspiration for a series of novels she is currently writing. She published the first novel in that series, titled “Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore, Book One,” earlier this year and now she’s hard at work on the next book in the series, titled: “Ripples.”
Before devoting her life to writing, the majority of BonSue’s career was dedicated to the field of Human Resources, but she held a wide variety of jobs on the way to that career, including babysitter, cake decorator, door-to-door saleswoman, model, cocktail waitress/entertainer, and secretary. The people and experiences from those jobs help her develop interesting characters for her novels.
When it comes to leisure activities, BonSue enjoys reading, photography, gardening, golf, camping, and helping care for the family koi pond. She is also addicted to Facebook and “Words with Friends.”


Next few stops

Oct 15Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews
Oct 23Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm
Oct 25Bunny’s Reviews

Enter for a chance to win your choice of a Print or Digital copy of
Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore.
This giveaway is open internationally!
Comment on this post for a bonus entry.
Follow the author on Twitter for another bonus entry.
Giveaway ends November 17th 11:59 PM Central Time.


BonSue Brandvik said...

Laurie - Thanks so much for hosting me on your site today. It is such a wonderful site, I'll have to linger a while and check out all of your Halloween-related posts!

JuneA** said...

I enjoyed the interview & the excerpts!Adding this to my TBR list, thanks for the chance to win!

Goldenmane said...

This sounds like a marvelous read! I love the paranormal and I really love the old hotels from the Gilded Age. I wish you success with saving the Belleview Biltmore haunted? If so, have you tried to enlist aid from celebrities who have appeared on the various ghost hunting reality shows? If you could refurbish it and advertise it as haunted, you'd probably have guests hanging from the chandeliers.

Dita Škarste said...

Thanks for making it international, I really appreciate that.
This seems to be a very good read since I`ve always enjoyed paranormal genre :)

Karen Arrowood said...

This sounds like a really great book! I love paranormal, but sometimes get tired of all the werewolves and vampires. I am definitely adding this to my TBR list!

TerryH said...

I'd love to read this book. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend an auction of the contents at the Belleview Biltmore before it closed. It's so great reading about a place that one is familiar with. Thanks for the opportunity!