Back in Time for a Date: Writing for Young Adults by Tony Lee Moral

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Tony Lee Moral who is visiting with us to talk about his newest book Ghost Maven.

Back In Time for A Date: Writing for Young Adults
by Tony Lee Moral

Imagine you could go back in time and date someone from another century? That’s an experience sixteen-year-old Alice Parker finds herself in when she meets Henry Raphael, a 100-year-old ghost in the body of a seventeen-year-old sailor in my novel Ghost Maven. I’ve written three books on Alfred Hitchcock, the Maestro of Suspense, so I adapted his principles of mystery and suspense when writing for young adults.

Believe it or not, there was a time before the internet, before cell phones, before emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. There was a time of old-fashioned dating. Guys and girls use to write each other love letters – yes love letters! And this wasn’t like 100 years ago, but as late as 30 years ago.

Hitchcock was great at using locations to their best advantage and allowing them to advance the plot, such as the town of Santa Rosa becoming an important character when concealing a murderer in Shadow of A Doubt. Similarly in Ghost Maven, Monterey and Pacific Grove provide the perfect setting for this step back in time, as they are among the oldest towns in California and the whole of the West Coast. The past is evoked everywhere, from the white Victorian clapboard houses, to the tin canneries, the churches and the oldest store building in the state.

Both Alice and Henry have a shared appreciation of nature, and see tremendous beauty in the ocean, but also realize its power and danger. I was sure to choose locations to help form the setting for the development of their relationship. When they go to the Monterey Aquarium, they marvel at the moon jellies, and go searching among the Asilomar rock pools for sea creatures during low tide. Subliminally they also have other things in common, including favourite colours like purple and the same tastes in mid 19th Century literature. When Henry writes Alice a love letter it is on old-fashioned scented lilac paper. They embark on a romantic courtship, involving ballroom dances, first kisses, coffee dates, writing love letters, walks along the beach, and having picnics.

The Monterey Peninsula is also rich in supernatural folklore. As well as my own personal experiences of the bay’s beauty, I was lucky to have a built in backdrop of ghosts and strange sightings to draw upon. Point Pinos is also the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast, and is actually thought to be haunted. Like Vertigo’s bell tower, it seemed the perfect place for the novel’s climax and for pivotal scenes in the book.

A romantic novel should also maintain the mystery and suspense about a character, particularly the love interest, and mirror real life when you are getting to know someone for the first time. Think of the two couples falling in love in Vertigo and Marnie. The central mystery of the book for Alice and the reader is who is Henry and where does he come from? Anything that doesn’t advance the plot or reveal character should probably be cut. In early drafts I had scenes of Alice in the outdoor markets of Monterey, but these were indulgent and were the first to go. Strive for more immediate scenes and less narrative summary.

You don’t always have to wrap everything up in a neat bundle at the end of your story. Sometimes it’s better to leave things unresolved, which Alfred Hitchcock called the ‘Ice box syndrome’, referring to the moment when a couple discusses the plot or something troubling them, and they reach into the ‘ice box’ or refrigerator. At the end of Ghost Maven, the mystery is what happens to the central characters and are they still in danger?

Ghost Maven is the first in a Young Adult series by Tony Lee Moral published by Saturn’s Moons Press, an imprint of Cactus Moon Publications.

Alice’s mother passes away and with her father and little sister, Sophie, she moves to Pacific Grove in California. Alice is deathly afraid of the water despite living in a community surrounded by it. In order to push through her phobia, she joins the Kayaking club in high school.

During a routine kayaking drill, a fog rolls in and Alice becomes disoriented, losing all sense of direction. A large wave turns the kayak over, dumping Alice into the icy-cold pacific. She nearly drowns when a young man dives in after her. . .Henry Raphael.

After Henry’s rescue, Alice gains more than her life. Henry is a beautiful seventeen-year-old or more accurately, one-hundred-seventeen years. The relationship between them takes Alice on a journey for which no one could prepare her.

Long distance relationships are difficult – how can Alice bridge a divide between planes? Henry died over a century ago but lives on in the fourth plane of existence waiting for an opportunity to atone for past deeds that caused the death of his ship’s entire crew. Their vengeance still hanging over his head, Henry and Alice learn their love will be tested by more than the passage of time and living in different dimensions.

About the Author:
Tony Lee Moral is a mystery and suspense author who has written three books on Alfred Hitchcock.

Ghost Maven Website | Author Website | Facebook Fan Page

Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


  1. Congratulations on your new book!

    I had no idea that people still wrote love letters to each other as recently as 30 years ago. That’s fascinating.

  2. Thanks Astilbe, I’m glad you found the article interesting and hope you enjoy reading Ghost Maven

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