Frequently Asked questions
What kind of book is Stuck?
It’s a middle grade paranormal novel—middle grade because its readership is fourth though eighth graders, paranormal because a ghost is a character.
What is Stuck about?
When fifth-grader Jacie Addison is called to the office, she thinks it's because she slapped Nicole Fannerby who'd ridiculed Jacie's mother. Instead, her father is there with bad news—Jacie's mother died earlier that morning. Jacie is stuck in her grief, but she and her father look after each other. In June, Jacie goes to horse camp—where she's stuck with Nicole. At her birthday dinner in July, her father gives Jacie a locket and introduces her to Liz, his former high school sweetheart and now fiancée. Jacie, angry about her father’s decision to remarry six months after her mother’s death, is soon stuck with her future stepmother in a five-hour drive to a farm in Virginia. When Jacie can’t stand being stuck with Liz’s obnoxious nephews, she retreats to the woods and encounters Callie, a ghost stuck on earth until she locates her daughter. The locket’s history and a bit of sleuthing help Jacie find the information Callie needs. Before Callie leaves, she promises to send a sign if she finds Jacie’s mother on the other side. When Jacie has almost given up hope, the sign arrives in a way she never imagined.
Long Version (Warning: Spoiler alert):
When fifth-grader Jacie is called to the office, she thinks it’s because she slapped Nicole Fannerby, a bully who’d made fun of Jacie’s mother’s baldness from chemo. Instead, her father is there and tells Jacie her mother died earlier that morning. In the following months, Jacie is stuck in her grief, but she and her father look after each other and their house as best they can. In April, she encourages her father to attend his high school reunion. In June, Jacie goes to horse camp, where she’s stuck with Nicole but conquers her fear of riding and wins a ribbon at the camp horse show.
The day after Jacie returns from camp—her eleventh birthday, her father gives her a heart-shaped locket with her mother’s picture inside. At dinner that night, he announces he’s marrying Liz, a woman he dated in high school and whom he met again at their reunion. Jacie, still mourning her mother, is devastated. The next day her father gives her more bad news: his job no longer exists, but Liz has gotten him a job where she lives—five hours away. Nicole’s mother, a real estate agent, puts a “For Sale” sign in the lawn.
While her father packs up and finishes his job, Jacie is stuck with Liz for five hours on the drive to Liz’s Despite Liz’s efforts to make Jacie happy, Jacie decides not to speak to Liz and decides to run away. But the old farmhouse is surrounded by woods, and Jacie sees no way out.
When Liz’s seven-year-old twin nephews arrive for a visit, they make Jacie’s life even more miserable. To escape the twins’ teasing, she runs to her favorite place in the woods and cries, “Mom! Mom! Where are you?”
Callie—a ghost, whose spirit is stuck on earth until she learns what became of her baby daughter, Mariah—hears a child call for her mother and runs toward Jacie. Callie, who doesn’t realize she died when she fell from a buggy while returning from a party in 1910, is stuck near the place she died until she finds what became of her young daughter, Mariah.
Scared of each other at first, Callie and Jacie soon take comfort in each other’s company. Jacie decides to find out what became of Mariah. At the local library, Jacie learns about area history and about ghosts, but she can’t find anything about Mariah.
Meanwhile, Jacie has to deal with the twins and their pranks. When the twins destroy a picture Jacie drew of her mother, Liz makes some rules. That evening, the twins —after daring each other to go into a very old outhouse—fall through the rotted floor and get stuck. Jacie helps get them unstuck even though she doesn't want to. However, she makes them promise they’ll leave her alone, and they now treat her much nicer. Jacie is relieved when they go back home.
Liz encourages Jacie’s interest in art, but when Jacie draws a picture of Callie, Liz is shocked because it looks like the only photo she has of her great-great-grandmother. She accuses Jacie of going through her things. When Liz shows her the photo of Callie and another of Mariah, Jacie is able to solve the mystery. Callie's granddaughter—who never knew her birth mother—is Liz’s mother.
The next morning, Jacie leads Callie to the old cemetery on the hill. Callie sees her grave and her husband’s grave and realizes she is indeed dead. Jacie shows Callie the picture of Mariah, and Callie notices she wears a locket—the same one that Jacie now has and which originally belonged to Callie. When Jacie brushes away the grass covering a fallen tombstone, they realize that Callie’s husband had remarried not long after Callie’s death. Jacie thinks Callie should be angry, but Callie is glad that he found someone to take care of him and Mariah. After Callie promises to send a sign if she finds Jacie’s mother, she goes toward the light. Jacie, left alone, wonders if her mom would be happy that her dad is remarrying. By the time she returns, she knows the answer.
Meanwhile, Liz is preparing for the wedding, and Jacie will be a bridesmaid. When guests arrive, Jacie is delighted that Crissie is among them—but she doesn’t tell Chrissie about the ghost. The wedding is interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Fannerby and Nicole. Mrs. Fannerby has sold the house and has brought papers for Jacie’s dad to sign. He invites them to stay for the wedding. At the reception, Nicole is nicer to Jacie than she’s ever been, and Jacie feels sorry for Nicole.
After Liz and Dad return from their honeymoon, Jacie waits for the sign Callie promised her, but gives up hope. Meanwhile, Liz surprises Jacie by arranging for two camp horses to spend the winter at their farm. The man who delivers them also has something else—the sign that Jacie has been waiting for.
Stuck is an unusual title for a book. How did you come up with it?
Everyone in the book is stuck. Jacie is stuck in grief about her mother’s death, stuck in anger at her father for remarrying so soon, stuck with Nicole at school and at camp, stuck with Liz, and—for a while—stuck with Liz’s obnoxious nephews who become stuck in an old outhouse. For a while, Jacie’s father is stuck without a job. Liz is stuck with a step-daughter who resents her. Then there’s a ghost who is stuck on earth.
What are some of the themes in Stuck?
There are a bunch, but here are the big ones:
- Coming to terms with a parent’s death: Jacie is stuck in grief when her mother dies unexpectedly.
- Adjusting to a step-parent: Jacie is stuck with Liz.
- Leaving home: Jacie leaves home temporarily to go to camp; then she leaves home for good when her father decides to remarry and relocate.
- Bullying: Jacie is stuck with Nicole both in school and then at camp.
- Belief: At first, Jacie only believes what she can see.
The major theme might be resolution. All Jacie’s problems are ultimately resolved.
You like to set your stories locally, don’t you? What about Stuck?
Most of Stuck is set in Union Hall. Smith Mountain Lake is important to part of the story, and I use a few locations at the lake. Some of the action takes place in the library in Rocky Mount. And The Grove—Rocky Mount’s most famous haunted house—is mentioned.
While Stuck is for middle graders, would adults enjoy it, too?
Women will enjoy it—especially mothers of eleven-year-old daughters or women who have suddenly become step-parents. I think a lot of the grandmothers in the Smith Mountain Lake area will enjoy reading it—and discussing it—with their granddaughters.
Many women my age know at least one man who remarried very soon after his wife’s death. There’s even been a study that shows widowers who have been happily married are likely to remarry soon. I know many women who have step-children or step-grandchildren. I think they’d relate to parts of this book.
Is there anything real about the novel?
Some of the settings are real—Union Hall, Smith Mountain Lake, The Grove and the library in Rocky Mount. And, of course, the gravestone that sometimes emits a ball of light—but that’s actually in Penhook, not Union Hall.
A ghost plays a big role in Stuck. Have you ever seen a ghost?
No, but I’ve smelled a ghost’s perfume at The Grove in Rocky Mount. But I know people who’ve seen ghosts, and I sometimes take pictures that have orbs in them. For decades I didn’t believe in ghosts, although my maternal grandmother believed and I think once even saw the ghost of her deceased sister. I didn’t really become a believer until that day at The Grove.
I live near the grave with the tombstone that emits a ball of light. I’ve never seen the ball of light, though.
Are any characters in Stuck based on real people?
Not a one. All are fictional.