Q&A: Local Ghost Hunters Prepare to Tell Tales at Gaithersburg Book Festival

Karen Yaffe Lottes and Dorothy Pugh, authors of "In Search of Maryland Ghosts," are featured authors at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Editor's Note: This Q&A is part of a series conducted by the Gaithersburg Book FestivalIt orginally appeared on the GBF website.

Karen is a historian and museum educator. She worked for many years as education director for the Montgomery County Historical Society (MCHS) and is currently a museum consultant. She has developed site-specific and county-wide local history programs, including “In Search of Ghosts,” one of the first history-based Halloween programs in the Washington, DC, area. This is Karen’s first book, although she has published extensively on the history of Montgomery County, Md., in MCHS publications as well as in local newspapers. She lives in historic Washington Grove with her family and several furry companions.

Dorothy has had a lifelong interest in history which she was able to turn from hobby to vocation when she volunteered for many years at the MCHS’s Library and Archives as an assistant librarian and researcher. She has researched and written extensively about the history of Montgomery County. Her article “Ghost Stories of Montgomery County,” published in the Montgomery County Story, led her to the realization that most paranormal happenings can be tied into the history of a house or place, thus creating an intriguing story.

GBF: What are the best books you’ve read recently?

Karen“Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English” by Natasha Solomons, “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson, “The Story of English” by Bill Bryson and “The Complete Memoirs of US Grant.”

Dorothy: I am currently enjoying “The Presidents Club” by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. I have recently read “Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War” by Maya Jasenoff; also “1491″ and “1493″ by Charles Mann; and “1938: Hitler’s Gamble” by Giles MacDonogh.

GBF: What was your favorite book as a child?

Karen: It’s hard to remember what I read although I do remember reading the Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander multiple times. I enjoyed 19th century adventure novels by authors like Stevenson and Scott and mysteries.

Dorothy: My favorite book as a child was “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

GBF: Why do you enjoy attending book festivals, either as a presenter or audience member?

Karen: As this is the first time I will be attending as a presenter, I can only say that I am very excited to be part of an event I have enjoyed attending for several years. As an audience member, I like hearing about how the author came to write the book. What was the initial inspiration? How was it a challenge? The passion they bring to their presentation sometimes is what makes me want to read their book.

Dorothy: I am looking forward to being a presenter at the forthcoming Gaithersburg Book Festival as that enables my co-author, Karen Yaffe Lottes, and me to get our book before an audience.  Book festivals seem necessary these days as there are few book stores around anymore.  Festivals provide a place where people can easily meet authors and browse their books.  It is much more satisfying than trying to find literary content on the internet.

GBF: Have you been to the D.C. area before? If so, what is your favorite thing about it?

Karen: I grew up in DC, so I have been in this area my whole life. However, before I started working at the Montgomery County Historical Society, I wasn’t as attuned to the Maryland part of the Metro-area, being DC-centric. Now I am all about Montgomery County and its little eccentricities. I love that there are so many parks; the Agricultural Reserve, going to Homestead Farms and picking berries; the history (of course) and those wonderfully unique little neighborhoods.

Dorothy: I moved to the D.C. area almost 60 years ago. I love it! Being a history buff, I relish the many historical spots and research facilities of this area. So much history, and so many museums, libraries, archives, historical societies, etc. Mostly free – very different from the rest of the country.

GBF: What is the most difficult, or challenging, aspect of being a writer?

Karen: I would say the greatest obstacle for me is thinking of myself as a writer. And then actually doing the writing and believing in it. I always thought of myself as a museum educator and historian. Writing came later and was a way to share the history I love.

Dorothy: The challenge to me as a writer is whether I’ve found the very best word, the very best phrase, the very best sentence for what I want to convey.  Also, have I arranged things in the best order?  Then it’s up to the reader.  Will they want to read what I’ve written?  That’s the biggest challenge!

The Gaithersburg Book Festival takes place on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall. Karen Yaffe Lottes and Dorothy Pugh present from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Dashiell Hammett Pavilion.


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