And My Homage to a Terrific 1947 Film
By Jeff Salter
No self-respecting Southern girl takes second place to a spook.
How can Levi focus on his attractive colleague when he lives with a beautiful ghostess?
The 1947 movie, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” had always been a favorite of mine — just the right touch of spookiness and that gorgeous, moody musical score. I greatly admired the strength and courage of Lucy Muir and loved the growing relationship between her and the spirit Captain Gregg… after she insists on taking Gull Cottage (despite knowing it was haunted).
Once I decided to write a ghost story, I wondered how different that film might have been if it was instead a man moving into a place haunted by the ghost of a woman. Since I loved the movie so much, I decided to borrow most of the names of people and places… though none are used in the same way. [For example, in the movie Lucy lives in Gull Cottage… in my novel, Levi teaches school where Mrs. Gull is the principal.] I paid close enough attention that anyone reading my story who is also familiar with the movie will recognize the names but realize they now represent someone or something completely different.
Well, in early 2014 under the direction of CR staff member Opal Campbell, several of us authors in the Clean Reads stable got together and built the small town of Magnolia Alabama — which our publisher had suggested as the setting for a new series of titles. As originally envisioned — at least the way I understood it — any of us on-board could set a novel or novella in Magnolia as long as we observed the newly established parameters of the town and area. [And there was still plenty of room for modifying the details of the town as each story came out.] We even identified many of the buildings — and several of its people — in Magnolia’s downtown. The more we developed it, the more excited I got about placing a story there.
I no longer remember precisely when we more-or-less finished our work on the fictional town of Magnolia, but I vowed to be the first to complete a story set there. And apparently it was around that time that I decided how to approach my ghost story — so it was natural for the two projects to come together. On Feb. 23 that year I began work on my tale and had it mostly mapped out before the end of that month. Originally I envisioned a novella of approximately 30,000, but by Mar. 11, I had finished the first draft, which had grown to nearly 50,000 words.
By April 7, I’d completed the second draft; by May 9, I’d completed the third draft. I can’t find a specific date for the fourth draft, but by May 19, I’d completed the 5th draft. Along the way, I got a lot of assistance from my beta readers — especially my brother, Charles Salter — and my wife, Denise Salter, was also extremely helpful in the design and features of the Ghostess’ 1914 hotel suite. I also received technical assistance from Runere McLain (about ghost hunting) and from Larry Tuttle (about steam engine trains).
It was either the 5th or 6th draft that I finally submitted to our publisher, Stephanie Griffin — by then, the story was over 60,000 words. It was later contracted and by Oct. 10, we’d completed three rounds of edits and were working on the galleys. The novel was released later that same month.
I dedicated this novel to my daughter, Julie Moers, who had watched the film with me more than once (and enjoyed it nearly as much as I did… I think).
“The Ghostess & MISTER Muir.” Novel, only $3.99 in digital formats; paperback coming soon (price will vary). Clean Reads, 2014. Part of the series, “Heart of Magnolia.” Inspired by the wonderful 1947 movie, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.”