Friday, October 30, 2009

Cleo Coyle Talks with a Real Ghost Whisperer (and shares a Halloween recipe for Kettle Corn)

HAMLET - Act 1. Scene V.
Ghost: Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing/
To what I shall unfold.
Hamlet: Speak; I am bound to hear.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know me as the author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries. As it happens, I also write a 2nd mystery series called the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries in which a prim, New England widow named Penelope McClure solves murders with the help of a dead private detective who was gunned down in her bookshop sixty years before. (To learn more about my Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, just click here or on the book cover.)

Because of the popularity of my ghost series, Random House recently approached me to blurb a debut novel co-written by the real ghost whisperer, Mary Ann Winkowski. Needless to say, I was honored to be asked.

Mary Ann is an amazing woman. She served as the inspiration for the creation of The Ghost Whisperer television show starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Mary Ann still serves as a consultant for the show. (It's an excellent show, by the way. If you've never caught it, you're in luck: It's on tonight -- and every Friday night at 8 PM on CBS.)

So who is Mary Ann Winkowski?
To virtually meet her now, hit the play arrow
in the video below and remember...

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”

If you would like to meet Mary Ann in person,
drop by her Web site and check out her book signing schedule
for November by...

Mary Ann's new novel (just released by Random House) is titled The Book of Illumination: A Novel fom the Ghost Files, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it; to wit...

"An authentic ghost whisperer reveals the workings of her mind and heart in this absorbing novel that sheds light on earthbound spirits in need of guidance home. An illuminating tale."

~ Cleo Coyle

Click here or on the
book cover to learn more...

I was also very happy when Mary Ann agreed to answer a few of my questions about her work and her new book...

CLEO: In your novel, The Book of Illumination, your main character Anza O’Malley, can see and speak with the dead. Her grandmother also had this psychic gift and helped Anza develop it when she was still a young child. Anza, of course, is based on you and your own experiences. When did you first discover your gift? Like your fictional character, Anza, did your own grandmother also help you develop it?
MARY ANN: I think the best answer to this question is that when I was seven I discovered that not everybody could do what I could. Believe me it was an eye opener. My grandmother had been taking me to funerals of friends and relatives from the time that I was four, so I just naturally assumed that what I did was not something special. My grandmother was my teacher and my mentor from the very beginning. She realized what I could do, and she helped my gift to grow.

Photo (left) of Mary Ann at age 2
with her Grandma Maria.

Photo courtesy of
Click on the picture to visit Mary Ann's Web site.

CLEO: In your experience, what are some of the principle reasons spirits stay behind here on earth? Is it always their choice?

MARY ANN: It is always unfinished business in one form or another. A young mother dies suddenly. Obviously she does not want to leave the future of her children to someone else, she chooses to stay. A suicide victim wants someone to know why they took their life. A homicide victim wants some sort of justice. Someone who values an earthbound procession and refuses to leave it behind. The reasons go on and on. In death as in life we have a marvelous gift called free will. At death we do have the choice to cross over or remain.

CLEO: I love the title of your novel, The Book of Illumination, because the story is not only about searching for a priceless, stolen illuminated book, but about helping earthbound spirits cross over into the light. Like Anza, can you really re-create a light for the spirit to cross over? What do you think that light is exactly? Where does it come from? Where do you believe a spirit goes when it walks toward the light?

MARY ANN: My grandmother taught me how to create the white light. The hardest part about learning how to do it was making the opening big enough for a spirit to go into, and keeping it open long enough for them to cross. I believe that the white light is a gift for all of us from God. It is there for all of us to use for protection. I know I could not have gotten through my two daughters learning how to drive without the white light. There was not a time that they left the house that I did not cover their car in the white light. I never get on an airplane without first visualizing the white light covering the plane. I believe that there is an afterlife. The light is present for all people who die. I would visualize it as being the way for our spirits to travel from our earthly plane to the next level. I sincerely believe that there is someone at the end of the light with a clipboard directing where you will go. I do not believe that we enter at the same level.

CLEO: What made you decide to team up with Ms. Foley and write The Book of Illumination?

MARY ANN: My book agent Jennifer Gates introduced us. I love Maureen’s style or writing. She has a marvelous work ethic and I truly enjoy working with her

CLEO: You’ve said that all children can see spirits. What would you advise someone to develop this gift? Can it be developed after childhood?

MARY ANN: I was very fortunate to have my grandmother in my younger years. She gave me the guidance and kept me on the right track. If your child has a gift, I think that it extremely important to be supportive, but not overbearing. Let the child develop the gift at their own pace. Never be critical or over analytical. If the gift remains after childhood I truly believe that if a person works hard enough they can redevelop it.

CLEO: Thank you so much to Mary Ann Winkowski for joining us today at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

And finally...below is my Halloween recipe for you: Cleo's Kettle Corn. I'll be popping up this sweet, crunchy treat tonight, just in time to watch The Ghost Whisperer. I hope you'll enjoy some, too, while you read Mary Ann's new Book of Illumination!

To Get Cleo's Recipe for
Sweet Kettle Corn

The recipe will appear in PDF format.
You can print it out or save it to your computer.

For more of my recipes or to find out more about the books
in my Haunted Bookshop or Coffeehouse Mystery series,
click this link to my virtual home at


~ Cleo Coyle
author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries

& The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries as Alice Kimberly

To leave a comment,
click the comment link below...


  1. Congratulations!
    And Happy Halloween to you too!

  2. A haunting interview, Cleo. Thanks for sharing Mary Ann! Wonder if she sees more ghosts than usual on Halloween?

    ~ Krista

  3. Creepy interview! I love ghostly things and will look forward to discovering the show. I saw a ghost once when my son was a baby....scared the poo out of me!

    Thanks for the kettle corn recipe, Cleo! We love that stuff over here.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. I didn't know Mary Ann had a fiction book! I am currently reading her non-fiction book. It's fascinating.

    My kids beg for kettle corn whenever they see a booth selling it. Nice to know I can make it at home!

  5. Thank you, Mary Ann, for joining us. I love Ghost Whisperer and also believe in white light. I'll look for your book.

    And now for some kettle corn.

  6. Wow, fascinating interview! Thanks for joining us Mary Ann. When my youngest was about 2 - 3 she used to talk about the "color angels" that were always around. We had a feeling there was something to what she was saying, but had no idea how to keep her from losing it....

    Really cool stuff!

  7. What an amazing gift you have, Mary Ann. I can't wait to read the book. Thanks for the Kettle Corn recipe, Cleo. YUM.

  8. What an intriguing post! Somebody once asked me if I believed in ghosts and I didn't quite know what to say. At the time I said, "I don't want to think about it too much"! Cleo, what do you think Jack would say to that?

    I'm looking forward to the next installment of the Haunted Bookshop series. You can be sure I will enjoy blogging about Pen and Jack!

    Happy Halloween!

  9. awesome interview, it sounds very interesting! have a great Halloween