Harwich Author Crosses Mystery And Romance In Latest Novel

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Local authors

Author Katie O'Sullivan. COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH — Author Katie O’Sullivan of Harwich has published prolifically across several genres including romance and young adult.

“I started out writing romance, but began a young adult series when my fourth grader complained she wanted to read one of my books,” O’Sullivan said in a recent email interview.

Her latest novel is “Ghost in the Machine” (Windmill Point Press, 2020). If you enjoy fiction set on Cape Cod, O’Sullivan is an author for you. She has even written a series of four romance novels in the “Hot Hunks Steamy Romance” series and set them in Chatham. Yes, Chatham.

“I decided to set almost all of my stories on Cape Cod so I could take advantage of all the natural beauty around us, and use it as an excuse to visit all the beaches, shops, bars and restaurants I use for the stories,” O’Sullivan says.

“Ghost” was originally published as a short story for a Halloween anthology. “The main hero, Jack MacDonald, is a state trooper and related to the other MacDonald cousins I write about in the Hot Hunks series. I’d written a previous book featuring a psychic heroine, and did a lot of research at that point about what it’s like to see and hear ghosts.”

When O’Sullivan got the rights to the short story back from the publisher, she revised, rewrote and lengthened the story. She says she has always found it easier to start with anything other than a blank page. “Deadlines are also a big motivator for me,” she adds.

O’Sullivan knows something about ghosts. She says her own house in Harwich was haunted when her family moved in. “We often saw the ghost of an old man wandering around the house at night,” she says. “He stuck around for years… for a while I was obsessed with ghosts and collected other people’s true-life ghost stories for my blog.” After the house was remodeled, the O’Sullivans’ restless ghost, believed to be a previous owner who died in the house, finally found peace.

“Ghost in the Machine” opens in October on “Suicide Alley” (the two-lane section of Route 6). A Barnstable County Correction Facility clean-up crew finds a garbage bag lying by the side of the road. Bloody fingers are sticking out of the bag. Things heat up when Jack MacDonald of the state police enters the coroner’s office in Bourne. The coroner, who can hear the whispers of ghosts, appoints Jack to notify the next of kin — the “Jane Doe’s” sister Maggie is a student in Worcester. When Jack and Maggie meet, sparks fly, and the action soon moves to the house Jack shares with his brother in Chatham.

O’Sullivan grew up in New Jersey, but her parents bought an inn near Killington, Vt. when she was 18. After she graduated from Colgate University, she moved to Boston. That’s where she met her future husband, who had summered at his parents’ house in Chatham. In 2000 the pair bought their own house in Harwich and moved there full-time in 2006. Their three children — one an Air Force pilot and two still in college — attended Harwich schools and Nauset High and think of themselves as Cape Codders. But “I know we’re all washashores,” O’Sullivan says.

While she describes writing fiction as her “passion,” O’Sullivan works full-time for a high-tech company called Five9, writing proposals for the sales team. “Totally different kind of writing, but I like to joke that I'm helping ‘romance’ our customers. Prior to working for Five9, I spent five years as the editor of CapeWomenOnline, a local online magazine.”

As with many fiction writers, her journey into publishing her work was rocky. She took a novel writing class with Nicola Burnell, publisher of CapeWomenOnline, through Nauset Community Education, and joined the non-profit group Romance Writers of America. After launching her career by writing romance, she followed up with her young adult Son of a Mermaid series “which has three books so far (‘Descent,’ ‘Defiance’ and ‘Deception’), and I’m hoping to get back to it soon but I’ve been having a lot of fun lately writing shorter romance novels.

“I decided to go the small publisher route because I’m an impatient person and thought it was a quicker road to publication. My first three publishers went out of business without me getting the royalties owed. It’s a cut-throat business.”

What does O’Sullivan herself read? She says her reading is eclectic.

“I adore YA, but also read widely in lots of genres including paranormal and historical fiction. My recent favorite series is romantic suspense – the ‘Cold Justice’ series by Toni Anderson, which features FBI profilers. Think Criminal Minds with some steamy romance thrown into the mix.” She also recently read and loved “The Sugar House” by Kat Szmit, The Chronicle’s former sports writer.

Meanwhile, “Living on Cape Cod inspires me every day. Walking on the beach with the dogs, watching the sunset over the ocean, I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. I also love talking to people and listening to their stories.”

O’Sullivan’s books can be ordered through local booksellers or online.