When Susan McCauley stepped off Disney World’s Haunted Mansion ride at three years old, she begged her parents to take her again. Spooky inspiration was brewing inside McCauley, an award-winning writer and producer of paranormal, fantasy, and horror films and novels. Her heart-pounding Ghost Hunters middle-grade paranormal-mystery series has become a must read for enthusiasts of haunting stories. Fans are anxiously awaiting the September release of the fourth book, Ghost Hunters: Swamp Witch. With a feature-length film in development and Merlin’s Apprentice slated for publication in January 2023, the Texas native’s talents span many facets. She was the line producer of the Emmy Award nominated Civil War short film “Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier”. Plus, her short story, "The Cask," was made into an award-winning short film. When she’s not writing or producing, you’ll find her traveling, practicing Taekwondo (she’s a black belt), or cuddling up with her three cats.
I chatted with Susan to ask eleven questions that will give you an inside look at the author behind the books.
1. How would you describe yourself in five words?
Curious, adventurous, intelligent, kind, tenacious.
2. Have you ever visited any haunted places, and if so, where?
Yes. I’ve visited several places in England reputed to be haunted, as well as places in Louisiana and Texas. I’ll say more about this in my next answer.
3. Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes, and I’ve had a few experiences that made me believe. I won’t go into them all right now, but here are a couple I’ve had. . . Once I got a feeling that there was a lady in grey on a stairwell at Leeds Castle in England. When we got upstairs, and without telling the guide what I sensed, I asked if there were any ghosts in Leeds Castle. The guide told me there was a lady in grey often seen on the stairs. Of course I’ve also done ghost tours in New Orleans, but one unexpected experience was at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. My husband, son, and I were staying there on the way home to Texas from Florida, and while we were having breakfast in the room (this was during COVID), a throw pillow levitated, then flew a few feet across the room. That was followed by the pillow below it doing the same thing. My son and husband were sitting at a table, and I was on the bed. We were all several feet away from the pillows. So, that was interesting.
4. Have you ever met any celebrities?
I lived in Los Angeles and studied acting and screenwriting for several years, so I met quite a few actors/celebrities. I met Jeff Goldblum while working on the film Powder while I was still living in Houston, and he invited me to study acting with him at Playhouse West in North Hollywood. So, I studied acting with Jeff for a couple years. When Jeff was away working on films, my sub was sometimes Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural). And Vince Vaughn came in to audit our class once. I was an undergraduate student with Jim Parsons at the University of Houston. He was a theater major and I was a theater minor, but we were in the same college algebra class together. At the time, I was friends with Jim’s roommate, actor Derek Cecil. I’ve also met John Travolta, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Jensen Ackles, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Malcolm McDowell, George Clooney, Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Joseph Fiennes, and Alan Rickman. I attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London with a few actors who’ve become somewhat well-known in recent years: David Dawson, Ben Whishaw, and my friend Bertie Carvel, who won the Tony for his performance in Ink in 2019.
5. Do you like writing or producing better?
I definitely prefer writing. I don’t mind creative producing when I get to pull the creative elements and people together, but I really dislike the money part of producing. I don’t like asking people for money, struggling to raise money, dealing with numbers, or all the legalities involved with producing. I just love creating.
6. How long have you been practicing taekwondo?
I’ve been practicing taekwondo for just over three years. My son and I became black belts in May, and we will test for 1st degree decided in August.
7. What was the best thing about living in London?
I loved all the art, theatre, and culture in London. There was always so much to do, and so much wonderful theatre to see. I also loved the history there.
8. What was the last tv show you binged watched?
The Last Kingdom. I loved everything about the show, including the actors. I also think that director Jon East is brilliant.
9. Did anyone give you one piece of advice that stuck with you? Who was it and what was the advice?
Jeff Goldblum used to tell us to always return phone calls – regardless if it was an agent or an assistant. He said you never knew where someone would end up, and that people were moving up and down the Hollywood ladder all the time. So, he advised us to always be courteous when speaking to people and to return calls. (I think the same thing applies to emails today).
10. What is the best room in your house for reading?
My bedroom is the best place for me to read. I typically read at night once my son and husband are asleep and our cats have been fed. It’s the little time I have without immediate responsibilities, and I get to escape. (If I try reading in my office, my cats bat at the door or try to chew my computer cables.)
11. What are you working on now?
I’m currently awaiting copyedits on Ghost Hunters: Swamp Witch, the fourth book in my Ghost Hunters series. I should be fully done with that one by the end of July. I have my debut picture book, Trooper at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a sweet book based on a true story, coming out in December 2022. And, the first book in my new middle grade fantasy series, Merlin’s Apprentice: The Mage, will be released in January 2023. So, lots of upcoming releases. I’m planning to work on a pilot episode based on Ghost Hunters: Bones in the Wall this summer, and then I’ll get to work on book 2 in the Merlin’s Apprentice series once school resumes in August.
To find out more about Susan's books visit https://linktr.ee/susanbmccauley
Her web site at http://www.sbmccauley.com/
Connect with her on Instagram @susanbmccauley
On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SusanBMcCauley
Journey to Zentobia
When ten-year-old Maggie and her older brother Peter discover a portal inside a rainbow, they stumble through it and end up in another world. But Zentobia is not what it seems. A sinister plot is brewing, and the amateur detectives are the only ones who can stop it. With danger on their trail and mysteries emerging, can they keep Zentobia safe before time runs out?
Perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
All magic is banished in Zentobia, but when an evil leader wants to bring back dark magic, Maggie and Peter risk it all to stop him. They join forces with the villain’s sneaky daughter who possesses a powerful secret. When Maggie’s instincts prompt her to investigate a hidden underground tunnel, she discovers a mysterious book carving that holds the answer to the future of magic. Before long, the siblings unravel more clues about Zentobia, including why it’s connected to their hometown by a rainbow. Can they stop the biggest threat Zentobia has ever faced and make it back to Hailsville, or will dark magic destroy the world forever?
With exciting twists and turns around every corner of this children's book, the journey for Maggie and Peter is just beginning.
Return to Zentobia
The action-packed sequel available now on Amazon!
Ten-year-old Maggie Miller discovers the Book of Magic is the key to defeating a villain and embarks on a quest to stop a sinister plot in this sequel that’s perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
After foiling a villain’s attempt to bring back dark magic in the mysterious world of Zentobia, Maggie and Peter learn a new threat exists. When the villain’s daughter sends Maggie a plea for help to locate the Book of Magic and save her mom, the siblings travel through the rainbow portal to rescue their friends in this action-packed sequel to Journey to Zentobia.
Securing the Book of Magic is no easy task, even for a seasoned amateur detective like Maggie. The book contains a powerful spell that will prevent dark magic from destroying Zentobia and spreading to Maggie and Peter’s home, but it’s buried deep in a maze of enchanted tunnels.
During their quest, dangerous beasts hunt them, vines transform to monstrous creatures, and rising flood water blocks their path. A wrong turn dumps the group into a secret world that’s evaporating by the minute. Casting a spell with an ingredient that’s hidden in an enchanted boneyard offers their only hope to return to Zentobia.
And when the villain’s daughter discovers she is the heir to the Book of Magic, will she deliver the spell to defeat her father? Or will someone unleash a bigger scheme with Maggie and Peter’s hometown as the target?
The Jessa Becker Files on Kindle Vella
Read the first three episodes for free!
New episodes each week.
When mysterious hit-and-runs rattle neighboring towns, investigative reporter Jessa Becker fights for a front-page story. After the bodies vanish, Homicide Detective Chase Donovan recruits Jessa to help solve the case and restore his disastrous love life. But danger emerges when they infiltrate the secret auction of a devious scientist who claims to raise the dead. Worse yet, Jessa is exposed as a target. With the biggest story of her career on the line, will she land it, or die trying?
Journey to Zentobia Five Star Reviews!
"What an enchanting, magical adventure! I had so much fun!
I absolutely loved this. I loved the sibling relationship b/n Maggie & Peter, & it made me miss my own brother. Lol I also loved the idea of the portal being in the end of a rainbow! So creative. The world building was amazing, & I felt like I was flying around w/them in Zentobia in my own flying shoes! Very atmospheric! I LOVE Zentobia-the rainbow, the waterfalls, the shoes, the talking animals, & so much more all sound so amazing! The story flowed so nicely, & there was always something happening, & high stakes as well-which make for a fast-paced read. Themes of friendship, family, never giving up, & doing what’s right. Highly recommend! Such a fun, exciting read. That ending has me needing a book 2 now! Loved it & want more. Can’t wait to see what happens-I’m assuming there will be a book 2🤞🏻Absolutely beautiful cover by Kim Dingwall as well!💜"
- Reviewed by Belle's Middle Grade
"Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro is an exciting, colorful sci-fi fantasy adventure that children will fall in love with. This author sifts together all the elements kids love, and some adults will find this engaging and entertaining as well. The writing is full of energy and emotion, with unexpected plot points and encounters. The pacing is just right, and young readers will instantly be locked into the story, thanks to the author's imagination and good instincts for what kids look for in a sci-fi fantasy adventure. For a pulse-pounding read, young audiences will love Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro.
It is a must-read."
- Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers’ Favorite
"This is such a brilliant middle grade read! I dove straight into it, after reading the blurb and think it is a brilliant story for young readers. It has a great level of detail, with fun and exciting characters. The story flowed so well and stayed exciting and fun throughout. I read portions of it to my daughter, and she loved it, thinking it was loads of fun. It is definitely one that I want her to read, as her reading level rises. Overall a great read and definitely one I recommend!"
-Natural Bri's Reviews
"Aimed at middle readers, the book has plenty of action and a lively style. Young readers will find this a reader-friendly selection, with the occasional vocabulary-building challenge to keep them on their toes."
- The BookLIfe Prize
"I bought this for my 10 year old son as he loves fantasy and adventure stories and I thought he'd like to read this. This book has got him completely absorbed it's amazing. He's not a particularly quick reader, gets bored very easily and drops things very quickly but NOT with this book! It's been days now and he is completely absorbed it so great to see he is getting so much enjoyment out of it. I've got my daughter asking if she can read it next... absolutely!! All I can say to you is, do buy it they'll love!" - Amazon review
"If your child loves fantasy fiction this is a great book to choose. My 9 year old loves the colorful characters and storyline. She's a big fan of The Land of Stories series (Chris Colfer) so Journey to Zentobia was a great find to compliment her taste."
- Amazon review
"My daughter really enjoyed reading Journey to Zentobia so much, and she didn't want to stop reading it!!! It was such a fun, intriguing, and captivating story with so much excitement and adventure! While reading this magical fantasy book, you feel like you are joining the main characters as they embark on such an enthralling and enchanting journey! Author Stacy D'Alessandro incorporates so much creativity, vivid imagination, and thrilling adventure into this lively and animated story. It is a wonderful and fantastic book for both kids and adults, and we really hope that there will be a sequel in the future!"
- Amazon review
Journey to Zentobia Book Trailer
Return to Zentobia Book Trailer
Stacy is a freelance writer who specializes in writing feature and business stories, press releases, author bios, newsletter and web site copy. To chat about a project you need help with or ask about pricing information, contact her direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Routine trips to Disneyland with her daughter played a role in Stacy's passion for storytelling.
Her daughter inspired the idea for Journey to Zentobia on a road trip home from one of their visits to the happiest place on Earth. They would pass a piece of paper back and forth in the car and each write part of a story. Her daughter's idea for a brother and sister to transport back in time through a rainbow portal stuck with Stacy for almost two years before she sat in front of the computer and began to write Journey to Zentobia.
Though she changed her daughter's original idea of the main characters going back in time to ending up in another world, the credit still goes to her innovative, young mind.
When she wasn’t working on this children's book, she wrote freelance stories for
newspapers and magazines. Prior to that, she worked in the public relations
industry in Las Vegas for more than 25 years.
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