Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Catherine's Cross

Today's special guest is Millie West. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Millie has a background in aviation, as well as in real estate, and has owned and been the broker of her own company. A licensed pilot, Millie was one of the first pilots hired by United Parcel Service when they started their flight crew department.
An artist in her own right and a collection of regional art—especially from Charleston—Millie is a supporter of charitable organizations, higher education, and the preservation of South Carolina’s historical treasures. A South Carolina history buff, Millie has spent countless hours exploring the rich historical vestiges of her home state. She has viewed many treasures of the past by taking less-traveled paths into the countryside that was inhabited by Native Americans hundreds of years ago.

Her love of the fascinating, complex, and compelling history of the South is expressed in her writing.

Millie resides with her family near Columbia, South Carolina, and is an active participant in her local writers’ group, the Chapin Chapter of the South Carolina Writers Workshop. To learn more about Millie West and her first novel, The Cast Net, and her latest release, Catherine’s Cross, visit


I noticed your book takes place in the Low Country of South Carolina. What is it about that particular region that lends itself so well to your book's plot?
The Beaufort, South Carolina area is perfect for the plot of Catherine’s Cross. Beaufort was founded in 1711. Over the centuries, a number of taverns were located along the waterways in Beaufort County, especially the Beaufort River and the Morgan River. Beer and wine bottles were thrown into the rivers after consumption. I have been visiting Beaufort for about twenty years and have seen these ancient bottles for sale in antique stores after they were recovered by divers. In my novel, Jenks’s identical twin sister dies while diving for artifacts in the Beaufort River. Bottles weren’t the only things she found.
Civil War Period: In the fall of 1861, the Federal Navy invaded Beaufort, Port Royal, and Hilton Head setting up a naval base that would be maintained throughout the war. Catherine’s Cross is a fictitious gold crucifix that was from the collection of Catherine the Great. A wealthy plantation owner, Luke Elliott, purchased it for his daughter, Iris, on a tour of Europe prior to the war. Early in the Federal occupation, the cross and other valuables were stolen from the Elliott plantation home by Union soldiers. According to legend, a ship bound for a northern destination sank near St. Helena sound with the cross on board—going to rest at the bottom of the sea—until, it was recovered.
Also, there are descendants of Gullah people (descendants of African slaves) who play an important role in my novel, spiritual advisor Meta Jane Andrews and her sister, Ida Mae. Meta Jane and Ida Mae are in possession of old diaries written by their ancestor, a slave, Joseph Andrews. These diaries document the Civil War period in Beaufort and include a valuable reference to the lost cross of Iris Elliott: Catherine’s cross.  Another figure, the old fisherman, Mose Lafitte, represents purity and honesty.

Can you tell us something about the Gullah culture and background, for those of us who know nothing about them?
The Gullah culture is unique to the Sea Islands of South Carolina, and Georgia. For many years, the Gullah people (descendants of African slaves) were isolated from the outside world, but due to development on these islands, their culture is changing.  Check out this link: Let me know if you need more information.

What type of research did you go into for the medium in your book?
The psychic, Meta Jane, is a composite of several people I have heard of and read about over the years. I gave consideration to an experience a friend of mine, Laura, had when she went to a psychic. After the death of her neighbor, who supposedly died after falling down a set of steps, Laura started to have a recurring nightmare. In the dream, the dead woman would appear to my friend and tell her to instruct her daughter, (the dead woman’s daughter) to continue to do what she was doing. My friend spoke with the dead woman’s daughter about her dreams. What her daughter was doing was engaging the Raleigh Durham police to investigate her stepfather for murdering her mother. The police investigation concluded that the stepfather had murdered his wife by repeatedly bludgeoning her in the head. The fall down the stairs was actually a push down the stairs. (This murder investigation was in the national news several years ago.)
In Catherine’s Cross, Gigi appears to Jenks with a gold cross with red stones on a necklace around her neck. A voice repeats the word twins. As Jenks discovers, she and her late sister are not the only set of identical twins important to the story.

Please tell us romance fans about the romance in your book. On a scale of 1 to 10, how hot is it? And why did you want to have their romance at that level?
Romance in Catherine’s Cross: I would say the romance level in the book would be about a level three. There are no explicit sex scenes in my novel. The reader knows Seth and Jenks are lovers, but I do not want to get into heavy descriptions. I prefer my readers use their imagination. 

Will there be more of Jenks in future novels?
There could be more of Jenks in future novels. The cross was the only piece of Gigi’s treasure that was recovered. The rest of what Frank Hiller got away with is still missing, and a sequel could result with a search for the other artifacts. We could hear from Seth and Jenks again!

When Jenks Ellington experiences a sudden, alarming sense of panic about her identical twin sister Gigi, she has to wait until nearly midnight before learning the reason for her unease: Gigi has drowned while diving for artifacts in a Low Country river near Beaufort, South Carolina. Although Beaufort County detective Seth Mason is suspicious of Gigi’s diving partner, there is no evidence of foul play. But, when Gigi’s Port Royal home is broken into and ransacked, Jenks discovers two clues—one of which leads her to the home of a local Gullah medium.

In a painstaking search for answers, Jenks delves more deeply into her twin’s life. Along the way, her bond with Detective Mason reaches unexpected depths. And what secrets could medium Meta Jane be holding? Was Gigi’s death really an accident?

A sneak peek of the first chapter is available here:



Millie will be awarding autographed copies of Catherine’s Cross to three randomly drawn commenters (US only) and a $20 credit to buy any book through BQB Publishing’s online store to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: 

Follow Millie here: