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Launchpad: THE GHOST IN THE HOUSE, by Sara O'Leary

"This beguiling page turner of a novel is a story for all seasons—the seasons of the year, and yes, the seasons of our lives." —Christy-Ann Conlin

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Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today, Christy-Ann Conlin is championing The Ghost in the House, by Sara O'Leary.

Conlin writes, "This beguiling page turner of a novel is a story for all seasons—the seasons of the year, and yes, the seasons of our lives. Fans of Virginia Woolf, Henry James, and Emily Dickinson will love this tale of Fay, told in a seamless cresting wave of a narrative which breaks in an unexpected ending. The book opens with Fay at home, but nothing is quite right, not what she’s wearing, or that she’s lying on top of the piano. I don’t want to give away the surprising plot and its twists, so trust me when I say that Fay is not quite at home in this world, and not quite sure who has invited her back.

Book Cover The Ghost in the House

"She tells her story with hushed crescendos, poetic turning points, moments of heartbreak and downright hilarity. The writing is cinematic, and it’s easy to imagine the story as a film. What I enjoy so much about The Ghost in the House is the ghost metaphor as an examination of female invisibility — the invisibility particularly unique to adolescence, and encountered again, at the paradox of mid-life, where a sense of invisibility is what creates true vision.

"If you want a book which has you flipping through the pages to find out what happens, this is for you. If you want a book which speaks to the ephemeral nature of life—that there is no ideal life but instead, a perfection and uniqueness forged by our choices and flaws—The Ghost in the House is for you. It is a memento mori of a creation, a reminder to us of the truth that we are only alive in the moment, and the moment passes quickly. The story urges us to look back with kindness and to look forward with courage.

"As Fay tells us, "life is wasted on the living." Don’t let that be the case, The Ghost in the House suggests. Embrace your phantoms and live now."


49th Shelf: What particular something have you managed to achieve with this book that you’re especially proud of?

Sara O’Leary: Since I’ve wanted to publish a novel since I was a child, I would say that just seeing it into print was achievement enough. I may just take it easy for the next few decades.

49th Shelf: Tell us about your ideal reader, and where you imagine them reading your book.

SO: To be honest, I’ve had to get past being horrified the idea of people reading the novel. I know this is pretty much the opposite of how I’m supposed to feel, but publication week was marked by me flinching every time I opened a message from someone enthusiastically proclaiming, “I’m reading your book!”

I’m finding the experience very different from publishing children’s books in that I’m getting far fewer photos of cute toddlers being read to or fondling book covers with their pudgy, dimpled hands! But now that I’m hearing more from people who actually have read the novel, it’s been lovely really. I do like making people laugh and I also like making people cry (is that wrong?). I’ve now been told that the novel has achieved both these things and so have stopped fretting quite so much.

49th Shelf: What authors and works inspired you on your journey in creating this book?

SO: I was inspired by my many friends who have already published novels. They made it look so easy! The truth is, I was lucky to have friends who were willing to read and give notes at various stages which was enormously helpful. I’m not one of those people who think you need an MFA to write but I do think one of the things it gives you is a really good set of writing friends and they can see you through some fairly dark days.

49th Shelf: What’s something you know now that you didn’t know when you set out to write your book?

SO: That no matter how many disclaimers are made, there will always be those who assume that the characters in a novel must be based on real people. Oddly, while I have no problem inventing people, I do find physical settings difficult and so the house in the book has more than a passing resemblance to a house where I used to live in Vancouver. I added the conservatory, though. If you’re going to have an imaginary house then why not have an imaginary conservatory as well?

49th Shelf: What detail were you happiest to include in the book?

SO: A long time ago my husband and I used to go to the annual book sale at McGill and one book that I always remember picking up was an old volume called The Gist of Swedenborg. I still think that is one of the funniest titles I’ve come across (along with Cooking with Pooh, which is a classic). I enjoyed putting that book into the hands of the young man that the narrator first meets reading in a pub.

49th Shelf: What bookstore are you most excited to walk into and see your book displayed on the shelf?

SO: Last year I went into Paragraphe Books in Montreal to buy Marina Endicott’s The Difference on pub day. And while I was there, I took a photo of the “O” bookshelf in the fiction section because it made me happy to imagine my book there. Paragraphe has changed locations since I was a young and new to Montreal and studying writing at Concordia but it feels like a point of continuity in my writing life. And when my own publication day came and went, it was sad not to be able to make another visit to see my book join the others there.  

49th Shelf: Who are you most grateful to for support in bringing your book into the world?

SO: My family put up with a lot while I was writing this book. After spending the day writing in the voice of a woman who was suffering from being dead, disgruntled, and invisible to those she loved, I’m afraid my own loved ones may have found me somewhat difficult company.


This beguiling page turner of a novel is a story for all seasons—the seasons of the year, and yes, the seasons of our lives.



Book Cover The Ghost in the House

Learn more about The Ghost in the House:

What if a ghost were haunting your house? What if you were the ghost?
Everything in Fay's life is perfect—living in the house she dreamed of as a child, married to a man she loves, and planning her life as an artist. Her life seems full of possibility. Then, late one night, Fay realizes that something has gone wrong.
Things have altered in the house and some­how time, and Fay's husband, Alec, seem to have gone on without her. Fay--who thought her life was on the verge of beginning—finds it has abruptly ended. And she comes to learn that sometimes the life you grieve may be your own.
This glimmering and darkly comedic novel explores both the domestic and the existential, delving into the dark heart of marriage and the meaning of a life.

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