Hello beautiful souls! Maureen Leurck Kilmer (friend of Julie’s and author of Hex Education and Suburban Hell) joins us for a fun Halloween episode as we not only chat more about her books, but also Maureen’s inspirations behind her writing foray into the horror genre. Maureen also leaves us with heartwarming Angel Stories revolving around her family on the Other Side and the unexpected ways they’ve shown their love and protection.
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Julie Jancius (01:43) : Hello, beautiful souls. Welcome back to the Angels and Awakening podcast. I’m your host and author, Julie Jancius. Friends, today I have a very special guest. She’s my friend, but she’s also an author, Maureen Leurik. Our girls are friends and she just came out with a new book, which is just huge. Your first book. I remember going through the airport and mom was, you know, that’s so and so’s mom’s book. Um, and we knew you guys back then. But, um, I don’t use any of the kids names on the podcast.
Maureen Kilmer: Got it. Yeah.
Julie Jancius (02:20): So you have Hex Education. And we don’t normally talk about witches on the podcast, but I thought, what a fun thing to do for Halloween.
Maureen Kilmer: Happy Spooky. Um, Maureen, thank you. Thank you. And thank you for having me. It’s so great to be here.
Julie Jancius (02:37): You know, one of the things that I just love too, I don’t know if you know, there’s like a third author who publishes a lot of books in the subdivision, but there’s three of us. And I love that our girls get to see that writing can actually be a profession because I didn’t think it really could be back in the day.
Maureen Kilmer (02:57): Right, exactly. I mean, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, um, since when I was little. I was such a voracious reader and was always like, this is what I want to do. This is who I want to be when I’m older. It’s definitely a profession. You need to have a little bit of a thick skin for it, but there’s nothing I would rather be doing.
Julie Jancius: Yeah, 100%. So we’ve got a lot to dive into here. And Maureen’s got some angel stories, but I want you to start by sharing what Hex Education is about. Like, give the listeners a little background.
Maureen Kilmer (03:33): So Hex education is about three lapsed witches who dabbled, um, with some spells and witchcraft– more like wish fulfillment, I would say, when they were in college, just kind of having fun with it. Um, and then it started to work. They passed their midterm, their crush talked to them, kind of thing. So then they started to ramp it up. Um, and one night it got out of hand and they started a fire that burned down their dorm. So fast forward 20 years later– and no one found out that they were the ones that had caused this fire. Fast forward 20 years and the main character, Sarah she’s living a great life as a luxury realtor on the north shore. She’s, you know, married to an adoring husband, has two twin teenagers. And there is a reunion, a commemoration anniversary ceremony for, um, when the fire occurred. And she is reunited with her old coven. And while they’re together, the magic sparks again between them, but it kind of gets turbocharged.
(04:40) So whereas before, Sarah was still using magic kind of in secret to help make school lunches. And instead of doing the Target run, your fridge just stocks with food. Who wouldn’t want that? Um, but after she’s reunited with her coven, everything goes turbocharged. So her fridge is stocking 30 pounds of lunch meat. Her cat starts talking. So it’s a little bit of suburban hijinks there. So she and her coven need to work together to figure out how to kind of calm the magic down.
Julie Jancius: Amazing. This seems so fun.
Maureen Kilmer: Thank you. It was a lot of fun to write.
Julie Jancius (05:15): Yes. Because your books tend to be more supernatural. I know that you’re going to do like a third one. Will there be an element of that in the third one? And I don’t know if people– if you don’t know Maureen, um, you should totally follow her over on Instagram and wherever you want to send people for your website. But do you– couple questions. There’s a movie that’s going to be tied with one of these.
Maureen Kilmer (05:43): Fingers crossed. Yes. I have no control over it. So, I mean, I’m hoping it actually happens.
Julie Jancius (05:49): Oh, my goodness. So tell us about that. And then will there be kind of like a supernatural element to the third book? And how did you kind of like, what interest did you have before to kind of even start writing the books.
Maureen Kilmer (06:08): Oh. So one thing I want to note is that I write under it’s my mom’s maiden name. So it’s Maureen. Kilmer is, um, my pen name, so to speak.
(06:17) So the movie stuff with suburban hell, um, it was a lot of fun to kind of go through that process. So it’s been optioned for development, which means that, um, these producers in this studio have the right to make this piece of IP, so to speak. So we had several offers from different producers, but the one we went with is Paul Feigue and Sam Raimi. Paul Feigue did Bridesmaids and every kind of female comedy movie kind of in the past, like, ten years almost. Um and Sam Raimi, evil Dead, Poltergeist, all the big horrors. We have one comedy and one horror working together. They pulled in, um, Joanna, the screenwriter and showrunner from the show The Bear, which I absolutely love. She’s supposed to be working on the script. There was the writer strike that just ended, thankfully.. Just so you know. I’m just waiting to hear where we are and what’s going on. I, unfortunately don’t have a lot of pull. People are like, oh, can’t you be an extra in the movie? And I’m like, maybe.
(07:22) It was a really fun process. I got to meet everybody over Zoom, um, which was also hilarious because they’re all these big Hollywood people, and I’m in my house in the suburbs. I was wearing sweatpants that I bought at, um, the grocery store at Aldi. Um, and they’re great sweatpants, but it was never more obvious to me that I am not living a Hollywood lifestyle. My dogs are barking in the background. And they’re all –Paul Feige joined the call. He was on, know, Sam Raimi’s doing sound mixing in Berlin and know, wearing sweatpants from Aldi. So it’s been a really fun process. We’ll see what happens. Hollywood is so weird and unpredictable. So I’m hoping that things work out. And then what was your second question was about? The third book?. Yes.
Julie Jancius: Yeah. Will that include, like, a supernatural element?
Maureen Kilmer (08:16): Yes. Yes. So the third book is, um, it’ll be out next summer, and it’s called Nightmare of a Trip. And it’s about a couple who it’s basically National Lampoon’s vacation meets Poltergeist. So it’s about a Midwest couple who are journeying with their kids down to well, it’s Disney World, but it’s not called Disney World because I don’t want Disney to come after me. Um, so they’re going to Magic Land and road tripping there, and they pick up a ghost along way. So it’s been a lot of just I’m revising that one right now. And that’s been a lot of fun. I’ve taken road trips with my own kids, and there is enough horror there without adding a ghost. So it’s been fun.
Julie Jancius (08:58) : You’re hysterical. And I was laughing before about the Aldi sweatpants on because I’ve got my TJ. Maxx sweatpants on right now, and great. Yeah, it’s fantastic. So when it comes to this, what got you interested in writing books around this topic or genre?
Maureen Kilmer (09:16): So I grew up watching horror movies, and I actually had a babysitter when I was, like, six. Um, I don’t think she was brought back, but she let me watch Poltergeist. And I was like, this isn’t scary at all. I mean, it was scary, but I thought it was just cool. And so growing up, always when I would have sleepovers, I would be like, who wants to watch Halloween? No one wanted to watch Halloween but me. So I’ve always had this love of horror and writing.
(09:50) When I sat down to write Suburban Hall, it actually first started as a story just about neighbors solving a mystery. We live in a great subdivision, great area, you know, wonderful people. But there was something about suburbia where everybody knew everybody’s business. A little bit good and bad, but also good– Hey, my kid is homesick from school, can your kid pick up the homework? Kind of thing. So good and bad. So I started just writing this suburban mom mystery and I was like, something is missing here. And then it came to me. Oh, a demon. And I knew I could use that as a way to talk about some of the larger issues and larger things that moms face. Horror isn’t really the scariest. Things about horror aren’t necessarily Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger or whatever. There’s something very real there. With Michael Myers. And it’s, yes, there’s a crazy person stalking babysitters, but it’s also about being that babysitter and being in charge of children on your own and coming into that responsibility. And all horror kind of or paranormal starts from a truth and a fear and then it’s taken onto this really big elevated stage that probably will never happen.
Julie Jancius (11:12): Okay, so I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on the podcast before, but I don’t watch horror flicks. The one that I have watched, uh, Scream. That’s about as intense as I can do.
Maureen Kilmer: And that’s intense. So credit..
Julie Jancius (11:31): Um, but I never thought of it from that perspective. But I could totally see that where it’s maybe, I don’t know, therapeutic for some people.
Maureen Kilmer (11:42): It really is. And it’s something where you can explore if you’re into horror, you can kind of explore those fears from a safe distance because it’s done in this elevated way that it’s like, well, that probably won’t happen, but you can still kind of see that fear portrayed, but just in this almost ridiculous manner. And I also think that as, uh, society, sometimes we tend to look for those kind of horror stories when something either kind of dark is going on in our society or we’re kind of moving past that. Like going through the pandemic. Horror is having a huge explosion right now because people are like, okay, I’ve dealt with real life horror stuff for so long, maybe I want to read about a demon moving next door.
Julie Jancius (12:29): Yeah, that is so fascinating. Well, I know like, in the spiritual community, a lot of times we talk about surrender, releasing, acceptance. And I know that I’ve written about this before where in order to go to those places and really almost like, uh, unlock a very deep energy within myself, and I know that this goes against what they say with manifestation, but I have to go to the worst case scenario for myself, and I have to say, okay, actually, it’s been happening recently. I’ve never had panic attacks, but I’ve started to have a couple and I start crying and I can’t breathe, and it’s been very intense. But I’ve had to let myself go to the worst case scenario, really let myself sit with that because I think I’m putting too much pressure on myself right now.
Maureen Kilmer: Totally.
Julie Jancius (13:31): Well, you know when you’re writing and you want it to be good, but then you’ve been looking at it for so long and this is just crap, and you’re thinking, um, to yourself, like, I don’t know, you just get doom and gloom with yourself very easy. But back to my original point. It does release something when you go, okay, this isn’t the end of the world. Like, if this option, for whatever reason, if it did or did not work out, I am going to be fine either way.
Maureen Kilmer: Totally.
Julie Jancius (14:06): Did you find that at all with horror for you? Like, it releases something that allows you to live more, like when you’re releasing that fear?
Maureen Kilmer (14:17): think for sure I do that too. And I’ll have to consciously tell myself, what is the worst thing that could happen, whatever it is, even if it’s something minor. And then I quickly figure out what the worst thing that could happen would be and then go, and would I be okay? And the answer is always yes. And it’s like going through that then releases me from having to– I wouldn’t want to say worry about it, but having to stress as much. Because if whatever I’m doing, if the worst thing happens, or if I fail, I know that it’ll still be okay. So it’s almost like you have to push yourself to that point and go, See? I’ll be fine. And then, of course, I mean, the worst thing possible usually never happens, so it’s usually okay, but it’s like giving yourself that safety net. Uh, going like, no matter what happens, I will be okay.
Maureen Kilmer (16:14): As far as exploring that with horror. Yes. And in a larger sense, publishing in general, I feel like it’s such a difficult industry that you’re constantly– the worst case scenarios do happen a lot, but you keep going and you keep pushing, and hopefully you’ve learned from whatever has happened and you just keep going. And that’s kind of what sustained me throughout my entire career, through all of my professional relationships, is that you just keep going. Because the worst thing to me with writing would be to not write. So you just keep going.
Julie Jancius (16:58): Yeah, well, actually, that’s what the book is about. Okay. So, um, to kind of move the conversation in a different direction, I know that you have a brother who’s on the other side, and I’m so sorry for the loss. I know, though, that he’s come throughto you all in your family, just in different ways. So I wondered if you’d share those angel stories with us.
Maureen Kilmer (17:25): Sure. And actually, one happened recently. It was on the day that Hex Education launched. Um, we were doing a book signing at a bookstore here. And I’m not someone who loves public speaking. Well, I don’t really know anybody who loves public speaking, but I’m used to sitting behind a computer and being by myself as opposed to standing in front of people and being professional. So I was really nervous. And, um, that day I was getting ready in the afternoon, kind of pulling some stuff together, and I wanted to bring a framed picture with me to kind of put on the table, um, where I’d be giving my talk and doing my signing. It actually was a picture of my cat because there’s a talking cat in the book, and I was going to bring a picture of my cat, who was the inspiration. It sounds so ridiculous.
(18:16) So anyway, was looking for a picture frame, and I couldn’t find an empty one. I didn’t want to have to go buy one. So I went in my garage and in this box of stuff I found this eight by ten picture frame. It looked like it had some stuff in it. I was like, whatever, I’ll take it out. This doesn’t need to be perfect. So I opened up the back of it and I pulled out what was there. And the picture had been turned around, so I couldn’t see what it was, but so when I opened it up, it was an eight by ten picture of my brother from when he was in college. And I have no idea how it got there. The frame must have been from my parents, I guess, at some point. And somehow it wound up in my garage and somehow it was the frame that I opened up. But I knew immediately it was him. He was a very funny guy, always playing jokes and pranks on people. And I immediately knew that I could picture him laughing about this being like, oh, are, you know, a kind of a dorky picture of me from college and it totally made me laugh. And I was like, hey, Chris, what’s up? Um, and it made me feel know, I still, of course, had to give the talk and all. It definitely was his way of saying, like, good job.
Julie Jancius (19:31): That’s amazing. You know, what was coming in, though, while you were talking is you guys, I’m so sorry about this too. Um, Elle wanted to go make a care package for Paige, uh, like the day that the dog passed away in the spring.
Maureen Kilmer: Oh, my gosh.
Julie Jancius: But I feel like the dog misses the cat. Like, as you were talking that entire time, I feel–
Maureen Kilmer (19:57): She loves the cat. Yeah, she did. The cat absolutely hates her. Well, the cat hates everyone. But she would always try to be friends with Rosie, and Rosie does not want to be anyone’s friend. At all.
Julie Jancius: ]Well, your puppy on the other side said, um, they wouldn’t let up. Uh, it wasn’t just your brother. It was both of them.
Maureen Kilmer (20:18): Oh, sweet Lucy. Yeah, when we lost Lucy, it was over the summer. She was my dog. She was only three. It was like one of those horrible scenarios where it was like, ten days from where she was fine, and then she looked a little sick, and then she was really sick, and it was just so shocking. But I did have this sense after she passed that certainly I knew when she was here, she’s here for me. I’m her person, and she’s mine. And I had this sense of when she passed. So, uh, we got her about a year after my brother passed. He passed about four years ago-ish. Um, we got her about a year after that. And part of that was like an emotional support dog for me. Um, and when she passed, I was absolutely devastated, but I had this sense of, like, she thought I was okay, so she knew it was okay to move on. Yeah, I could tell that she was like, you’re good now. Not fixed and perfect, but certainly or she was like, I got you through. Um, so now I must go.
Julie Jancius: Oh, I just have chills right now.
Maureen Kilmer (21:35): And my next book is dedicated to her because I was in the middle of writing it when she moved on, um, so I was like, well, she’s definitely the next– she gets the next book. Sorry, kids, I’m not dedicating this one to you. It’s to the dog.
Julie Jancius (21:50): Oh, I love that. I love that. That’s so sweet. Any other good stories you want to share of Chris coming through?
Maureen Kilmer (22:00): So I have another one. It actually relates to the dog too, to Lucy. I, um, was walking her this must have been last summer. And I would always take her for walks around the neighborhood just to get out. And she was, like, so furry and cute. Everyone would always stop. But one time we went down a street that I don’t think we had been down before. And there was this little Chihuahua that was playing in, um, someone’s front yard and came right up to Lucy, and they were sniffing each other. And I was like, okay, because she wasn’t normally super friendly with other dogs, but they were getting along. And then I’m kind of standing there, and the owner comes out, and it’s this man, maybe in his 60s. He has kind of longish gray hair. He’s barefoot. He’s wearing a Grateful Dead T shirt. And I’m talking to him for a few minutes. He’s the nicest guy. And I just had the best feeling in talking to him for a few minutes. And I’m noticing his Grateful Dead shirt, um, which is a band that my brother Chris loved. And I was just getting such good vibes from him. And so I went to leave, and he asked me my name, and I told him, and he said, it was nice to meet you. My name’s Chris.
(23:10) And I was you know, it was just one of those moments where you’re yeah, yeah, for sure.
(23:20) Uh, and we have a lot of stories. So, my family moving to my greater extended family, we have a thing in our family. This isn’t just with my brother– with dimes. I don’t know if I’ve heard apparently other people have this, too. But it started with– grandmother growing up, would tell my mom and her siblings whenever they left, to bring a dime, because that’s how much a phone call cost. So if they were out and ever needed help or needed to talk to her or call someone, they would have a dime to do so from a pay phone back in the olden days. And so after my grandmother passed, my mom started to find dimes in really weird places, like, where they shouldn’t be. And a lot of times, it was like if she was going through something or it was like a big life moment, good or bad. And so she started to find these, and she realized eventually that they were from her mom saying hi. It was the phone call. It was the lifeline. And so I was raised with anytime you find a dime, that’s Grandma saying hello.
(24:32) And so with my first child, I had a really terrible delivery. It was a C section. I was fully put out for it. It was a pretty traumatic delivery. But after it was done and everyone was okay, I was in the room, and my husband and I are exhausted, and he goes to open the like, you know how they have those chairs that fold into beds, like, for the husbands, presumably to sleep in, or the spouses? And so he opens it up, and, like, sitting in the middle was a dime. I was like, hey, Grandma, thanks. Yeah, I made it through.
Julie Jancius: Oh, my goodness.
Maureen Kilmer (25:09): But, I mean, we have so many stories like that from my family. My aunt was in driving in a terrible snowstorm, didn’t think she was going to make it. She came home and a dime fell out of, um, the cuff of her pant leg. Things like that. All of us really do have a connection to everybody that’s moved on and fully are invested in all of that.
Julie Jancius (25:31): I love how your family really continued that tradition. Before, it was kind of like popular trendy, per se.
Maureen Kilmer (25:42): Oh, yeah. This has been right because I feel like now it’s definitely something people are more open to talk about. Whereas before it was very like, maybe don’t mention this to anyone kind of thing. But, I mean, it’s always been a part of my life. It was never weird or strange to me. And that’s how I’m raising my kids. The joke now is, of course, like, well, why does it have to be a dime? What about inflation? Can we have a quarter? Can we have a dollar coin?
Julie Jancius: Let’s up the ante a little bit here, guys.
Maureen Kilmer: And there’s no payphones anymore.
Julie Jancius: That is, uh, hysterical. Oh, my goodness. I love that. Oh, Maureen, I love you and your family. You all are just amazing.
Maureen Kilmer: Thank you.
Julie Jancius: Tell everybody where they can find you and your work and your books.
Maureen Kilmer (26:33): Wonderful. Um, so my website is Maureenkilmer.com. I am on Instagram as authormaureen. Um, my Facebook is just more personal. It’s pictures of my family and things like that so but to connect with readers, um, Instagram or my website would be wonderful. And I would love to hear from anyone.
Julie Jancius: Yay. Will Hex Education. I’m going, uh, to the airport tomorrow. Will that be at the airport this time, too?
Maureen Kilmer: I don’t know. I have no control over distribution with my publisher. It might be, it might not be.
Julie Jancius: I’m taking a picture next to it if it is. Oh, thank you so much for being on the show, Maureen.
Maureen Kilmer: Thank you so much for having me. Julie. I really appreciate it.
Julie Jancius: Of course. All my love. Yay.
Maureen Kilmer: Thank you.