Amberrose Hammond doesn’t look scary, but she scared me. As I listened to her presentation on ghostly legends, I was delightfully frightened and intrigued. You can be, too, if you read her books. Welcome, Amberrose! Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Amberrose Hammond. I was born and raised in Michigan and have always had an interest in the strange and unusual. I was the little kid reading ghost stories in the corner of the library, watching Unsolved Mysteries when it was on TV, and counting down the days until the Halloween season began. I found a local ghost hunting group in the year 2000 and have been pursuing the paranormal ever since.
After a few years of paranormal investigation, I learned the “living” are still scarier than the dead, and rather than going into people’s homes and buildings looking for paranormal occurrences, I started to research topics on my own, mainly on Michigan’s ghosts and legends and started my website Michigan’s Otherside in 2006. The website features ghost stories, legends, mysterious creatures, strange locations and some old true crime.
Your website is fascinating. Talk about the books you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your books? How did they develop?
A publisher found my website and contacted me, wondering if I was interested in writing a book about Michigan’s ghosts and hauntings. That was an easy, “Yes!” So my first book, Ghosts and Legend’s of Michigan’s West Coast” was published in 2009. While doing research for that book, I got hooked on browsing old digitized newspapers or still hanging out at libraries, perusing the microfiche. I started to collect old forgotten crime stories that were just too wild. I was shocked they had been forgotten or never written about and before I knew it, I had built a massive collection of strange and unusual stories from Michigan. My other two books were born from that research: Wicked Ottawa County (2011) and Wicked Grand Rapids (2014).
What food or beverages do you turn to while you are writing? Are you a stress eater on deadline or a “lack of inspiration” eater when ideas are not flowing?
Coffee, coffee and more coffee. I don’t know what it is about that drink, but I do my best writing while always having a cup next to me. I wrote the majority of my last two books in a coffee shop. Although I will admit during the last 24 hours I had to meet my deadline for my second book, I may have switched to whatever alcohol was in the house.
LOL I understand completely! What kind of response do you get when you tell people you are an author?
This is a strange one for me because even though I have been professionally writing and speaking since 2009, I still feel strange telling people I’m an author, as if saying that sounds pompous or pretentious. I’ve talked to other writers who feel the same way, so I don’t feel so strange about that anymore, but it’s still odd for me to refer to myself as an author.
Of course, when I tell people I write, the next question is, “Oh! What do you write about?” And then I have a choice to make. Do I tell them that I write about Michigan history, which immediately puts a glazed look of boredom on their face, or do I say, “I write about ghosts and true crime.” And then the questions and stories come pouring out of them because everyone has a ghost story, even if the story didn’t happen to them, it happened to a friend, or a relative, or their second grade teacher. Sometimes the stories are excellent and you are excited as they retell a chilling moment that happened to them, and sometimes, all I can do is just nod and smile at someone…just nod and smile…then look for my exits. It can be safely assumed by anyone that I have met some very bizarre people while working within the paranormal field!
Your topics can be controversial. What conflicts did you find as you put your books together? Conflicting opinions? Resistance to your writing the books? Something else?
When writing about the paranormal, it can be a free-for-all. The paranormal can’t be proven, or tested in a lab (yet) so everything is subjective to the extreme. It boils down to belief and personal experience for many people on whether or not they believe paranormal things happen in our world. And everyone has an opinion. I mean everyone. So when I write anything about ghosts, I try to be as objective as I can, and neutral, allowing the readers to make up their own minds about the story, and that can be tricky, but it’s also something I’ve been complimented on.
Writing about local true crime also came with some frustrations. As a history researcher, there is nothing more annoying than hitting a wall and not being able to figure out what happened to a person in my story or getting specific details that would be helpful because those details were, sadly, never recorded and now they are lost somewhere in time.
It was also frustrating finding minor errors in my books after they were published. Sometimes it was just small grammatical errors that most would just gloss over, but then there were other things someone would point out to me, such as I said “3rd Street” and it should have been “4th.” Or recently, someone pointed out to me I had the wrong tombstone photo in my first book. The man’s tombstone was actually right next to the stone I had taken a picture of. I couldn’t believe it took someone seven years to point that one out to me! But those little things are just lessons and I have no problem admitting to errors I may make in my research.
Worse than not being able to find things I’m looking for is finding those things I was looking for after my book was published. Libraries, colleges and local history societies are digitizing more and more of their old newspapers, photos and data at a steady pace and I have found little bits and pieces of my stories and photos that suddenly showed up after publication that would have been amazing to have had during my writing phase.
The other strange bit about writing local history is that I am mindful about the family that may still be around. I want to be respectful to their ancestors and to the fact that people can be sensitive to the past, even if it was fifty or more years ago. I wrote about Mina Dekker in my Grand Rapids book that is still an open cold case from 1938, and the only reason the family let me use her actual high school senior portrait in my book was because I wasn’t giving the story a “ghost” angle. I was just reporting on the story for a new generation. Many like to suggest her ghost now haunts the place she was killed at, and it’s sad for family members still alive to think about that.
What surprised you as you wrote these books? What amused or angered you?
I think what surprised and angered me was when reviews started to come in for any of my books. For the most part, 99% of my reviews are positive, but then there are those first couple “negative” reviews. I had a young girl leave me a one star review on Goodreads on my ghost book because ‘it wasn’t scary enough” or someone else suggested, “For this person being a paranormal investigator, they didn’t really prove these hauntings exist.” Well buddy, if I could prove they existed I think I’d have the top bestseller in the world. But reviews just come with the territory and I can take a few pointers from the negative or I have to just ignore them because every author has to deal with opinions about their works and you can’t please everyone.
I’ve heard when you get your first negative review, it means you’ve “arrived.” You have a great attitude about reviews. How did writing this book change you or change how you look at the world?
I’d say the one thing that my writing has changed about me was vanquishing my fear of public speaking. I don’t write books that generate substantial royalties or have publishers wanting to give me advances, so I make extra money from speaking about my research. When I was in school, I was never the student who was excited to speak in front of the class — I was terrified!
But now after 60+ speaking engagements, I have grown comfortable with talking to groups and even enjoy it! I really enjoy sharing my stories with people and entertaining and perhaps “freaking them out” a bit. I also love to make people laugh so folks who come listen to me are always surprised at how much they laughed during my talk (but in a good way.) I don’t take myself too seriously because I talk about some pretty bizarre stuff.
I certainly enjoyed your presentation. Yes, I did laugh, and I was inspired to keep writing mysteries and ghost stories. Thanks for visiting with me today, Amberrose.
Amberrose’s books are available at Amazon and on her website
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