The Cotton Plantation in the Cotton Family Series is inspired by a Colonial Plantation home in Southern Maryland called the Sotterley Plantation. As a little girl, I would go on field trips to Sotterley and was always spell-bound by its beauty and history. It is the oldest standing Plantation in the state of Maryland dating to the early eighteenth century and is now ran as a museum. It sits on the Patuxent River and also boasts acres of land with barns, cabins, and other buildings from bygone eras.
When I first began writing Familiar Spirits, Book 1 of the Cotton Family Series, I knew the setting would be based on Sotterley. It was automatic and instinctual. Like a voice was telling me, Sotterley is your Cotton Plantation. And so I listened. I researched and reviewed stories and photographs of Sotterley Plantation and knew it was the perfect setting for Lucy Cotton and her horde of witchy family members. BUT in order to make the setting come to life, I also used some memories of my life on a farm in Mechanicsville, Maryland.
As you can see, not only do history and folklore inspire me, but some of my own personal experiences, as well. Although, I do try to use my imagination as much as possible so as not to allow myself to get lazy in my writing.
The Cotton Family Plantation is haunted, and you would know that if you’ve read my books. It is VERY much haunted by not just one ghost but by many. Just as the Sotterley Plantation. Some of the ghosts on the Cotton Plantation are evil and menacing, while others are simply stuck in the strange land between here and there. Trapped in the twilight, so to speak. One of those trapped ghosts is little Dollie Cotton. A young girl who died from consumption (Tuberculosis as it’s known in modern times), who believes she is still alive and lives in the Cotton House with her family.
Another friendly and wise spirit who pops up occasionally on the Cotton Plantation is Trudy Foster. A wizened old woman with a cane, a hunched back, and long wily hair. She typically has a piece of mystical advice for Lucy Cotton or a magical gift of some kind. She returns to the woods just as fast as she came.
Last we’ll discuss the presence of the most infamous ghost on the premises…Peter (some of you might know him as another name) but no matter what you call him, he is evil and his goal is to destroy Lucy and her namesake. Some of the attacks on Lucy and her family made by this demonic entity are inspired by movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, and also real-life hauntings. For instance, the idea that playing the piano will keep the spirits at bay was actually taken from the story of the Haunting of Summerwind. Summerwind was a plantation home in Wisconsin that burned to the ground in recent years, but before its destruction it was rumored to have been extremely haunted. One of the hauntings circulated around a young family in the 1970s in which the man of the house was plagued by the ghosts. He would play the piano in the house non-stop and became completely obsessed with the piano. When asked why he wouldn’t stop playing he would respond “to keep the spirits away”.
I’ve spent nearly my entire life studying the paranormal and witchcraft so you will find that my books have a large plethora of ideas and concepts from folklore, history, and actual paranormal events. Stay tuned for the next installment where I discuss my inspiration for the characters in the Cotton Family Series!