I met Rochelle Jewell Shapiro at a book launch where I literally knew no one, not even the host. I arrived late, after Rochelle had finished her reading and moved on to the Q&A portion of the afternoon, which included a little psychic fun. I sat in the middle of a circle of women who meditated and then called out things that came to them about me. Of the responses, I thought Rochelle’s actually was the most spot-on. Of course it was. She’s the psychic.
Rochelle’s novel, KAYLEE’S GHOST, follows a phone psychic named Miriam whose family does not always treasure her gifts, and her clients, who don’t always value it. Miriam’s struggles to please the family while still be true to herself is a familiar dynamic that kept me intrigued. And though psychic, Miriam doesn’t have all the answers, and makes several mistakes of her own.
I asked Rochelle to answer a few questions about KAYLEE’S GHOST…
1. Your first novel was also about Miriam, and became an award-winner. Did you intend for KAYLEE’S GHOST to be a sequel to MIRIAM THE MEDIUM? And if so, does Miriam have more stories that readers can look forward to?
Kaylee’s Ghost can be read all on its own, but, it does feature Miriam Kaminsky, a phone psychic like me, and her family. But characters grow just as people do. In Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) Miriam is the mother of a rebellious teenage daughter, Cara, and in Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012) Miriam is a grandmother and Cara has a daughter of her own. The clashes continue, but the stakes are different. In this saga of five generations which Kirkus review called “an intriguing mix of family drama and contemporary fantasy, the dead are still quite opinionated about how the living should live. I already have 175 pages of a first draft of a third novel involving Miriam. As in color field painting, when the artist puts a red square on a green canvas, it has a completely different effect than on a blue one, different parts of Miriam come out when she’s faced with new characters and new situations.
2. I know that after working with a traditional publisher (Simon & Schuster), you decided to go indie for your second novel. Can you tell us what were the benefits and pitfalls to this change?
Frankly, I think it was a grief reaction that made me decide to go Indie with Kaylee’s Ghost. My first agent who sold my novel left the business. It took me time to get another agent. The one I landed turned out to have her own ideas about what I should be writing, such as a non- fiction book about being a dog psychic. “It will sell,” she assured me, never mind that although dogs often pad their way into my visions, I am not a specialist in communicating with dogs. “Woof, woof.” So I got another agent, the best in the world, I thought. A top New York agent who owned his own agency and was fun-loving and encouraging and had umpteen years in the business, representing tons of bestselling authors. “Everyone will want to read Kaylee’s Ghost, he’s said. Three months later, he died, leaving me bereft and with a manuscript to peddle to yet another agent. I had just turned sixty-five and said to myself, Enough already! The pit falls of self-publishing for me is that I’m not tech-savvy. Oh, I can do a lot, but there’s so much I can’t and although I can find biblical and Freudian symbolism in the work of Henry James, for example, when I read tech material, my eyes glaze over. I would love to find an Indie publishing consultant. “Hello, anyone out there? Hello?”
3. You’re also a working psychic, and when we first met you mentioned that people sometimes try to get free readings from you. How do you handle the lack of respect for what you do?
I’ve learned to chuckle over it. I say to myself, “You can’t blame a girl/or a guy for trying.” Listen and you’ll hear guests at wedding receptions trying to get free legal advice from some lawyer who just wants to eat his stuffed derma in peace. You’ll hear parents asking eating disorder therapists what to do about their daughter’s vomiting while the therapist is working on a mouthful of chopped liver. It’s human nature. But it is frustrating when a reporter calls purportedly to ask me about my novel and instead wants to know if he’s going to become editor –in-chief and when? Or when I agree to do a radio show about my book and the host only wants to know which college her
daughter will get into. I earned my chops as a writer. I’ve been writing and publishing since 1985 and I even teach writing at UCLA Extension. So please, after you ask me if you’re going to sell your house by April, please ask me about the structure of my novels, how the plot comes to me, or whatever else you might ask a writer. Thanks so much. . .
4. Do you have any advice for people who want to try to access the more spiritual and psychic parts of themselves? Meditate! Meditation allows you to hear the contents of your mind and possibly the contents of someone else’s. I meditate at least once a day by sitting still and paying attention to my breathing, letting thoughts drift in and out, in and out. Uh, oh, is that the wind I hear or someone else breathing?
5. Finally, what question haven’t I asked that you’d like to answer? I wish you had asked if I do book clubs. The answer is YES. There are challenging and fascinating discussion questions in the back of my book. I do them by phone. You can make arrangements and we can do a conference call by contacting me at my website at http://rochellejewelshapiro.com.
In Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012), Grandmother Miriam, a phone psychic like me, is thrilled that her granddaughter, Violet, seems to be psychic, and wants nothing more than the chance to mentor her the way her own Russian grandmother had done with her. Kaylee’s Ghost is a family saga of five generations where the ghosts are quite opinionated about how the living should live. But it’s also a story of how a psychic’s mind works, how visions arise. Miriam’s daughter, Cara, a modern businesswoman remembers all too well the downside of living with her psychic mother, digs in her heels about Violet being her grandmother’s pupil. As things become more fractious in the family, Violet is torn between her mother and grandmother, until Miriam’s gift backfires, bringing terrible danger to those she loves. Can Miriam put things right in time, or is it already too late? Like Miriam Kaminsky, all of us want our children to be gifted. I once saw a cartoon in The New Yorker of a teacher behind a desk in the midst of a parent-teacher conference. As the teacher studies the student’s records, he tells the parents, “I’m sorry to inform you that your child is definitely on the charts.”
Kaylee’s Ghost is not only a story about life here on Earth and the Hereafter, it is also a story of how all of us need to forget what others want of us and discover and claim our own identities.
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is the author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) and Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012.) She has chronicled her psychic work in The New York Times (Lives) and Newsweek (My Turn.) Articles have been written about her gift in Redbook, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times Long Island Section and in the Dutch magazine, TV Gid. Aside from her psychic practice, she teaches writing at UCLA Extension. http:// rochellejewelshapiro.com
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro http://rochellejewelshapiro.com